David McMillan is the only westerner to have escaped from Bangkok’s Klong
Prem prison, and the book “Escape” (ISBN 978-981-05-7568-7, Monsoon Books,
June 1, 2007) written by him, purports to be a record of his life behind
bars and the escape itself through them.
After reading the entire book, I have had to come to the unfortunate
realization, that by comparison, having never having been on the run, I have
lived a somewhat sheltered life. I have never had to pre-record telephone
conversations to my own mobile phone from a telephone box, to give my
pursuers the wrong information. Nor have I needed several passports in
different names. How dull!
The book begins with author McMillan being apprehended in Bangkok’s
Chinatown after he thought he had given narcotics officers the slip in Don
After his arrest, he is taken to a detention center and then to Klong Prem
prison. After reading a few novels about life in the “Bangkok Hilton” I was
rather taken aback at the relatively pleasant life enjoyed by the author.
Money may be the root of all evil, but the evil can certainly make life a
lot more bearable with it. For example, he has servants, has his shirts and
shorts cleaned and pressed every day, and food brought in from outside.
Interestingly, the outside kitchens are generally owned by the guards. Ah
well, what goes around, comes around.
Author McMillan gives some very good sketches of the fellow inmates, all
held together by the restraints of penal servitude, and their chains. He
also does not spare his obvious dislike of the prison visitors from the
various embassies, and especially his own Australian Embassy. What he seems
not to grasp is that multiple drug-running offenders are probably not the
ones that the Embassies warm to most!
The escape itself required an enormous amount of planning, and the
cooperation of others, both within and without the prison. McMillan seems to
gloss over the external network, but he was in constant contact with his
people on the outside, and when he did escape was able to pick up another
passport very quickly, taped to the back of a mirror in a toilet in
The book is exceptionally well written, and by the end I was wondering why
David McMillan (if indeed that is his real name) had taken up a life of
crime, rather than that of being a writer. I then thought about all the
money he seemed to have at his disposal - when apprehended he had $44,000
with him - and the answer was self evident. Writers do not walk around with
$44,000 at their immediate disposal, plus credit cards in different names
that all seem to have money waiting at your local friendly ATM. “Escape”
begs to be made into a movie, with a James Bond style of character as the
An entertaining tale, even though the actual escape only takes up the last
50 or so pages. McMillan does hold you right the way through to the end,
with his descriptions of life as we don’t want to know it!