[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]


May 10, 1998



              A trip to Thailand
              turns into
              nightmare for
              young Pakistani

              Embassy pledged help 'but never came

              Anucha Charoenpho

              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
              different man.

              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,"
              he said.

              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
              eliminate him.

              "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
              were groundless.

              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.


© The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. All rights reserved 1998
Contact the Bangkok Post
Web Comments: Webmaster 

Last Modified: Sun, May 10, 1998