‘Chefs Behind Bars’: Thailand turning prisons into tourist attractions

Thailand wants to turn dozens of prisons into tourist destinations, local media has reported, as part of a government program purportedly designed to provide inmates with skills and work experience they can use upon release.

Under the unorthodox scheme, inmates will perform activities for visitors, such as a cooking contest called ‘Chefs Behind Bars’, as well as making items that can be sold as souvenirs. Five prisons across the country are participating in the pilot project, according to the Bangkok Post. Thailand’s Justice Ministry said that if the project is successful, 72 prisons – making up 50 percent of the nation’s detention facilities – will eventually feature tourist attractions. 

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin noted that many of the country’s prisons are conveniently located near major tourist spots, making them ideal destinations for visitors. He said that if the prisons become a hit with the public, the government could use them to promote Thailand’s tourism industry. 

Somsak insisted the initiative would benefit inmates, arguing that prisoners would be able to develop valuable skills that they could put to use once they had served their time. He acknowledged, however, that not all prisons would be suitable as tourist attractions. In March, a group of incarcerated Thais set fires as part of a failed escape attempt, reportedly sparked by rumors of a coronavirus outbreak in the prison. 

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