Every time I’m in Chiang Mai, I make a visit to Lila Thai Massage. The massage house was established by the director of the Chiang Mai Women’s Prison as a rehabilitation programme for former prisoners. While imprisoned the inmates learn Thai massage and are able to apply their skills once released in order to learn an honest living. The masseuses are highly skilled and friendly. Many are young and beautiful and it’s hard to believe they were ever convicted of crimes warranting prison sentences.
Being my curious self, I asked my masseuse why she was imprisoned. Thankfully her English was good enough to tell me her story which I found to be quite heartbreaking.
She was in her early 20s and was almost finished with university. She had less than a year left. She went to visit a friend. Her friend and her friend’s mother were selling methamphetamine out of their house. The police arrived, raided the house, and she was arrested under the pretense that she was involved in the drug activity. She tried to explain to the police that she was just a visitor, but her friend said nothing in her defense and she was taken into custody. She spent her life’s savings trying to dispute the charges with a lawyer. Nothing ever came of it. After three years of imprisonment, she was released. She was never acquitted. Her son had to live with her mother while she was in prison and she was never able to finish her education. She now works at Lila. Her hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sometimes she doesn’t wrap up until midnight. While I will never know if what she told me was the truth, I had no reason not to believe her. She was kind and humble and told her story quite matter-of-factly.
She now carries a felony and is restricted in what she can do for work. Her son still lives with her mother but she is able to work to support the family. While most of the masseuses at Lila have most likely committed crimes, it’s hard to know which ones were convicted justly.
A woman by the name of Naowarat Thansrisutharat established Lila Thai Massage in order to help released inmates reintegrate into society. She was frustrated with the public stigmatizing inmates and restricting them from certain types of employment. She saw that this stigmatization was leading to further criminal behavior because the women couldn’t successfully reintegrate. So she founded Lila in an effort to break the cycle. The women employed at Lila are highly trained and have each completed 180 hours of professional training. By supporting Lila, you are helping women rebuild their lives and earn a fair wage. You are also helping them reintegrate into society, reducing their stigmatization in society. You are also guaranteed to get one of the best massages in Thailand!