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Rommani Nart prison museum

  
  - darkometer rating:  8 -
 
A former prison in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand, now partly converted into a museum – and an exceptionally dark one at that, its section about capital punishment in particular. 

>More background info

>What there is to see

>Location

>Access and costs

>Time required

>Combinations with other dark destinations

>Combinations with non-dark destinations

>Photos

 
More background info: this former corrections centre and maximum security and remand prison for Thailand's capital Bangkok was built in 1890 – and what the present museum covers mostly pertains to the olden days of a brutal retribution system of corporal punishments and executions. Not that Thailand is over this altogether – there's still capital punishment … and its "modern" method is also covered in the museum.
 
Don't get the place confused with the infamous "Bangkok Hilton", which is the Bang Kwang Central Prison (where apparently such a museum used to be housed), although sometimes the Klong Prem Prison is attributed this epithet too. Both are still functional.
 
This prison, on the other hand, was closed and mostly demolished between 1987 and 1992, except for a couple of watchtowers and two blocks. These now house the museum – the rest of the former prison grounds have been turned into a rather pleasant little park (if it wasn't for the backdrop of the prison remnants …).
 
 
What there is to see: the museum consists of two main parts, one cell block (block 9) and a mixed purpose complex of buildings in which the larger part of the exhibits is housed on two floors. On entering this main part of the museum you're asked to take your shoes off and the lady in attendance will gleefully direct you to the upstairs section about executions.
 
En route you are greeted by a skeleton … a sign says: "Uncle Tow who devoted his body to the prison for people's awareness of their mortal lives". If you weren't aware of this yet, then this museum will do its utmost to remind you.
 
Labels and texts are in Thai with translations into English added to most of them. The quality of the English is, well, shaky … which somehow even adds to the gruesome-ness …
   
It starts fairly harmlessly, a first room has a couple of models of the complex before and after it was partly demolished and turned into a park and accompanying photos … then it's on to the executions. There are dummies of executioner and soon-to-be-executed prisoner in poses forming a scene of an imminent beheading. Photos on the wall show the result in the most gory explicit graphicness. Real execution swords are on display too.
 
Next there's a similar life-size diorama of an execution by shooting – which is somewhat less taxing and bloodthirsty (the victim, tied to a pole, is shielded from the shooting executioner's view by a screen marked with a red dot he has to aim at.
 
In the next room we move on to the present day: "Execution of bed". Puzzled? Well the exhibit is a kind of leather stretcher onto which prisoners would be strapped for lethal injection, as the sign further explains: "… An execution had been changed from shooting to injection since 12 December 2003". You just about get the picture. Americanization also on the death penalty front … Even though it's less graphic than the beheading images, I still found this exhibit the most chilling …
 
Downstairs are crude drawings (with even cruder English explanations) of the most ingeniously and imaginatively cruel torture methods, plus various artefacts and more gross images, but nothing beats that executions section …
 
Back outside a soldier marches visitors to the cell block building – the clack, clack, clack of his metal heels added an eerie realism to the atmosphere …
 
In the cells block a woman leads visitors round the exhibits, partly indoors, partly along a wall with cells open to the elements on one side. Various dummies undergoing more imaginatively cruel torture can be seen … and also one cell in which the dummies are being "caught" mucking about with drugs. Big mistake! Especially in Thailand – as the guide gleefully underscores …
 
All in all it's a strange experience visiting this museum, but without question a pretty chilling one … not one for young kids (or squeamish adults either), that much is certain …
 
 
Location: in the Samranrat district of Bangkok, about half a mile (800m) east of the Royal Palace. Address: 436 Maha Chai Road.
 
Google maps locator:[13.7489,100.5033]
  
 
Access and costs: relatively easy to get to, free entry.
 
Details: to get to the park that the museum is located in, you can walk the ca. half mile (800 m) from the Klong boat stop at the Tha Phra Athit pier, past the Phra Sumen Fort and down Maha Chai Road. Or from the Democracy Monument (see monument to the 1973 uprising) walk south, round the left side of Wat Suthat (with its giant swing outside) and then down Thanon Unakan to get to the park entrance – the museum is straight across at the far end of Rommani Park.
 
Opening times of the museum: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
 
Admission free. Shoes have to be taken off inside the main museum building's interior.
 
No photography allowed inside the museum.
 
   
Time required: between half an hour and a full hour should normally do.
 
 
Combinations with other dark destinations: see Bangkok.
 
 
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see Bangkok.
   
 
 
  • Bangkok Rommani Nart prison 1Bangkok Rommani Nart prison 1
  • Bangkok Rommani Nart prison 2Bangkok Rommani Nart prison 2
  • Bangkok Rommani Nart prisonBangkok Rommani Nart prison
 
   

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