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In Thailand, make-up to alleviate prisoners’ pain

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Lillian SUWANRUMPHA – | Prontip Mankong, a former political prisoner, makes make-up using recycled cosmetics with former co-detained volunteers in Bangkok on July 24, 2017

Being able to wear makeup when in prison: a luxury in Thailand, a country with overcrowded prisons that holds the sad world record of female incarceration rates.

Former prisoners used their experience behind the bars to give others the tricks they had found to make their makeup, in order to regain some dignity.

At the heart of the project: 29-year-old Prontip Mankong, who spent two years in jail for lèse-majesté after taking part in a student play, considered a defamation of the royal institution.

During his detention, Prontip developed a recipe based on petrolatum and food coloring to make an ersatz of lipstick.

“The lipstick gave us confidence and allowed us to express ourselves, in a place where freedom is limited,” explains Prontip Mankong, released in August 2016.

Ⓒ AFP – Lillian SUWANRUMPHA – | Used lipsticks ready to be melted to make cosmetics for prisoners, in Bangkok, Thailand on July 24, 2017

With former co-detainees, she then had the idea to collect used lipsticks and melt them in order to make tubes of “second hand” for the inmates.

The residues of the lipstick paste are sorted by color, brought to a boil and then allowed to cool in molds.

They are to be distributed free next week in a Bangkok prison that has agreed to play the game with the association created by Prontip.

She sees the initiative as a way of alleviating the lives of women prisoners and of boosting their morale, particularly those whom relatives do not have the means to help financially to improve the ordinary prison.

Of course, they can work in jail, in clothing shops or in the kitchen, but wages are derisory.

And the inmates concentrate their spending on basic supplies such as sanitary napkins, shampoo or painkillers.

“Getting cosmetics is very difficult and very expensive,” Prontip told AFP, citing the black market for cosmetics.

Ⓒ AFP – Lillian SUWANRUMPHA – | Lipsticks made from recycled cosmetics for prisoners, in Bangkok, Thailand on July 24, 2017

“The money ends up in the pockets of the influential prisoners” who control this black market, accuses Prontip, whose beautiful assurance suddenly cracks to the evocation of his years of prison.

Life is especially difficult for those who, like her, have been condemned for lese-majeste, a taboo subject in Thailand.

– Beyond Makeup –

With her “Fairly-tales” organization, Prontip wants to go further than providing lipsticks to inmates: she hopes to organize make-up workshops with them, the opportunity to exchange about their lives in prison.

“I have lived this from the inside and I want to improve things. It is my habit, wherever I go, to want to make myself useful,” says the young woman, whose willingness to change a very Thai society Conservative has not been blunted.

Ⓒ AFP – Lillian SUWANRUMPHA – | Former prisoners, volunteers, make lipsticks from recycled cosmetics and distribute them to inmates in Bangkok, Thailand on July 24, 2017

“The campaign around the lipstick may seem light, but for me it is a starting point … The next step is to get better conditions for the prisoners,” with enough ” Water to wash, decent wages for those who work, makeup at a normal price, she details.

The living conditions in Thai prisons are indeed difficult, with overcrowded dormitories, including in women’s prisons.

Thailand has the highest rate of female incarceration, with 113 women imprisoned out of every 100,000 inhabitants, according to a recent report by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

This overrepresentation is due in particular to a very repressive anti-drug policy: women are often used by drug traffickers to transport drugs, and often end up with long sentences, several years in prison, even when they have not been arrested Than with some methamphetamines on them. A total of 82% of prisoners are in prison for drugs.

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