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BP: IMMIGRATION / AN IMMIGRANT
- Subject: BP: IMMIGRATION / AN IMMIGRANT
- From: suriya@xxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 18:14:00
May 10, 1998
IMMIGRATION / AN IMMIGRANT RECALLS HIS
A trip to Thailand
Embassy pledged help 'but never came
Adecade ago, a young Pakistani left home for Bangkok full of
optimism for a better and happier life.
Mirza Akhtar Mahmood is now 35. A dreadful ordeal in a
country he never wanted to live in has made him a totally
Confined to a small room in an old hotel in Yaowaraj with no
money and no passport, Mr Mahmood is a prisoner of his own
fear of being forced back to slave-like conditions.
He was allegedly tortured in Thai prison, deported to Burma
instead of to his homeland, worked in a potato plantation using
hands, not shovels, to dig the soil, and became the slave of a
Thai policeman and his brother.
Mr Mahmood, a science student of a Pakistani university, never
thought he had to spend years, rather than days, in Thailand
when he arrived here in 1988.
A friend who came with him promised that he would receive, in
just a few days, documents that would take him to Japan to find
a job there, an arrangement he had paid $4,000 for.
But immediately after they landed in Bangkok, the friend
When his tourist visa nearly expired, he had to look for a job and
found one in a tour company. Throughout his two years at the
firm, he went out of the country every three months to renew his
Mr Mahmood started studying Buddhism and finally decided to
enter the monkhood at Poo Yong Temple, Nakhon Nayok, in
1991, fully realising he had shut the door to his homeland.
"I have done wrong to the Islamic religion. In converting, I have
turned into a criminal. If I went back home, I would be killed,"
Mr Mahmood defrocked in 1992 because his visa expired and
he had no money to renew it. He headed back to Bangkok, this
time, however, like an illegal immigrant.
He rented a room in a slum and worked as a tour guide because
he can speak several languages.
The end of his freedom was the beginning of his agony.
He was arrested in 1995 by an immigration policeman in Bang
Rak and was sent to an alien detention centre where the
environment was hostile.
He said some police officers colluded with a Sri Lankan lawyer
to defraud each prisoner of 3,000-4,000 baht by lying that they
would help arrange for a return to his or her country.
Mr Mahmood said the mafia in the prison was so powerful that it
could assault anyone who refused to come under its control and
get away with it, without being punished by the police.
"The mafia took off my clothes, took all my valuables and
threatened me a lot the first day I was there," he said. He was
attacked several times.
Pol Maj-Gen Veera Pithakpol, then deputy commissioner of the
Immigration Police Bureau, had to order that he be detained
separately. But he could feel safe for only a little while.
After he told the Sri Lankan lawyer to return the money to the
aliens he could not help, he was put back into the same cell with
the mafia and suffered a new round of physical and mental pain.
He said an officer hit him in the head with a baton and took his
passport, which he has never seen again.
The mafia, he said, put a drug into a glass of liquor mixed with
Pepsi and forced him to drink it, after which he lost
consciousness. He awoke in hospital with a knife wound in his
abdomen, and five hours later was sent back to the detention
Officials from the Pakistani embassy visited him once and
promised to help send him back home. "But they never came
back," he said.
In July 1996, Mr Mahmood was sent to Burma via the border
district of Mae Sot, Tak, with 14 illegal Burmese immigrants.
He believed the police at the detention centre wanted to
"How could I live there? I can't speak Burmese. I'm not a
Burmese. It's like they were sending me to my death," he said.
The Burmese themselves did not want to go back. After the Thai
police left, he and the 14 Burmese crossed back into Mae Sot.
They went to a Thai broker who demanded 4,000-5,000 baht to
send them back to Bangkok. None of them could pay and all
agreed they would find jobs in Mae Sot to collect some money
The broker found them a backbreaking job in a potato
plantation. Working from dawn till dusk, they had to collect
potatoes using their hands to move the soil instead of the shovels
and climb up a hill to load the 50kg sacks onto the trucks with
pay of two baht per sack.
Mr Mahmood said he and his Burmese friends could no longer
stand the hard work after five months and decided to escape to
Bangkok. They pooled all their money, having about 3,000 baht,
which they used to buy food and torch lights.
They walked through the jungles and climbed up the mountains
at night and hired pick-up trucks to take them to safe places. But
they were eventually caught at a forestry police checkpoint.
The Burmese were sent for detention elsewhere, while Mr
Mahmood found himself a slave of a policeman at the police
kiosk there for five days.
A police officer, identified only as Preecha, came and said he
would be arrested if he tried to escape. He said Preecha took
him to his riverside house in Tak.
"I had to do everything. Washing dishes, cleaning the house and
After about a year, Mr Mahmood said Preecha took him to
Nakhon Pathom and left him with his brother Pinyo, who did not
treat him any better.
One day, he told his master he was too tired to work. "He was
angry. He kicked me out of the house. He paid me nothing."
His co-worker felt sorry for him and gave him 500 baht which he
used to travel to Bangkok.
Mr Mahmood said he could not return to Pakistan because of
his conversion to Buddhism. "I would be killed," he said. His
brother has cut him out of the family.
He wanted his passport back and help from a private
organisation. "I don't want to go back to the detention centre.
That old nightmare still haunts me."
Pol Maj-Gen Veera, meanwhile, said he remembered receiving
complaints from a Pakistani that he was assaulted and ordered
him to be put in another cell. He also received complaints about
the seized passport but, he claimed, investigations found they
Chidchai Wannasathit, the Immigration Police Bureau
commissioner, claimed that he is in the process of cleaning up
alien detention centres by moving out unscrupulous policemen
and ensuring fair treatment for prisoners.
However, Pol Lt Gen Chidchai said he could not find evidence
to substantiate Mr Mahmood's accusation that his passport was
taken by a policeman.
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Last Modified: Sun, May 10, 1998