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Why Thailand Is A Top 10 Jailer Of The Entire World

  • Written by Charles
  • August 10th, 2016
  • 4 min read

People might be shocked to learn that in rate of prison population, amongst all 221 listed countries, Thailand is in the top 10 worst jailers out of all the world's nations, jailing a huge 474 out of every 100,000 residents. Only Turkmenistan is worse in Asia. So a good question re the Land of Smiles, is why this is true.

In other words, 1 out of every 210 Thais is in jail right now, almost as bad as in Russia (#10 on the list), but of course not as bad as Yank-land USA, which has 1 out of every 144 US residents in jail (#2 in the world, behind only #1 Seychelles).

In South-East Asia, most all other countries are fairly light jailers – next after Thailand is Singapore at #63, a little ahead of New Zealand at #69. (Anglo countries jail a lot even with low crime – too much 'law' perhaps; in Western Europe, Britain is the worst jailer at #102, though nearly all of Eastern Europe has much more jailing than the UK.)

Lightest jailer in South-East Asia is Indonesia at global #175, between Norway & the Netherlands. Wonderfully, less than 1 out of every 1400 Indonesians are in the slammer.

Why so much jailing in Thailand? Is there really so much more crime than in the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia … ?

On this issue, I have a theory, after discussing with a friend the issue of the crime & murder rates in North America & Central & South America, which have nearly all the top 50 highest-murder-rate cities of the world … only South Africa has some top 50 murder cities which are not in the Americas.

Some may be surprised as to which countries in the Americas have the lowest murder rates … Their 4 low-murder countries are: Cuba (a very big jailer at #7, worse than Thailand); Chile (#52), Canada (#114) and … drum roll … the USA (#2). Surprisingly, the USA has an extremely low murder rate outside of a few cities, but global media is USA-dominated, hence we always hear about USA killings & see the videos.

So it seems it is not the guns. Canada & especially the USA have huge amounts of legal civilian firearms, but have a much lower murder rate than Venezuela, Brazil, or most other nations in that region. Venezuela is the worst, and Mexico, with tight 'gun control' has 3x the murder rate of the USA.

The trick in statistics is the citation of 'gun murders' … in much of the Americas, it is knives or clubs, so yes, not 'gun murders', but the victim is dead just the same.

(Britain has, quite seriously, some current 'knife control' advocates, with the slogan 'Save a Life, Turn In Your Knife', seeking to ban many common chef's 'weapons'.)

The two big 'gun-owning' continents are North America & Europe – there are maybe 100 million legal civilian firearms in the EU (gun policy org keeps some statistics) – and yet these 2 continents have some of the lowest-crime countries with Canada & Western Europe.

Getting back to the 'Why' of crime & jailing in Thailand … Considering crime in the Americas, the contrast between low-crime Canada (with lots of guns LOL), and the rest of the Americas, is the slavery heritage … It seems that there are social consequences of slavery, that linger for generations after slavery is abolished. The most slaves of all in history, were imported to Brazil (4 million vs. under 1 million to USA) … and Brazil today has no less than 5 of the most murder-ridden cities of the world.

In Europe, there is a big difference in crime & prison populations, between Eastern & Western Europe. Western Europe is low-crime & most of the Western Continent has 1 out of 1000 jailing numbers … Eastern Europe, however, has significantly much more crime & much more jailing, led by Russia.

The historical difference one can note, is the heritage of serfdom, which really functioned like slavery. In Western Europe with its commercial cities, serfdom died out hundreds of years ago … But East of Germany, serfdom actually got worse after the Renaissance, & lasted till the 1800s.

And this is where Thailand comes in. Throughout centuries of Thailand's relatively stable & unconquered history, Thailand was a feudalistic society, a society of 'serfs', not in the European sense that they were tied to the land … but they were, however, tied to the service of a local, usually non-royal, 'nobleman', to whom they owed obedience & in exchange received some 'protection'.

Feudalism was worse in Thailand, precisely because Siam was unconquered. For the other countries in ASEAN – the South-East Asian group – they were more subject to conquest & wars & upheaval … which had the side effect of re-setting social relationships once the fighting was over. In other words, older feudalism arrangements didn't continue.

Thais, on the other hand, had unbroken centuries of imposed feudalistic loyalty … and as shown in both Eastern Europe & in the Americas, that type of subservience in recent centuries, seems to show itself today in practices of high crime or high rates of prison incarceration.

It may be that in friendly Thailand, the actual crime rate is not so monstrous … but perhaps the Thai authorities still have some rather 'feudal lord' views about 'punishing the serfs'.

For those who might want to look at the global prison rate statistics in a list, that page is here.

– Charles