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Pattaya Daily News

04 February 2009 :: 21:02:51 pm 1726

Australian Lese Majeste Offender Reveals All

The Australian journalist imprisoned for lese majeste offences, who recently received a royal pardon and returned home, has some dire stories to tell of the conditions in the Bangkok prison where he served seven months of a three-year sentence.
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Harry Nicolaides, a former staff writer for the English Edition of the Austalian-Greek newspaper, Neos Kosmos, returned to Melbourne on February 21, 2009, after his release from Klong Prem Central Prison. Minutes before being deported he had learnt that his mother had recently suffered from a stroke, which put him in an emotional mood for his return flight.

On arriving at Melbourne, he first reiterated his shock on hearing the news about his mother, then he thanked the Australian government for having helped to arrange his pardon,

About his prison experiences, he said he is angry about his ordeal, adding, I am angry, I am frustrated, I am perplexed” saying further that he was still bewildered and dazed from the experience.

The Causes of Harry’s Arrest
Harry Nicolaides was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport on 31 August, 2008, just as he was about to leave Thailand. He was charged under the lese majeste law with offending the Thai monarchy in his self-published book, ‘Verisimilitude’ where a passage talks of a fictional Thai prince’s alleged infidelities.

He commmented that I knew the law existed but not in my wildest dreams did I think that they would take me seriously enough to drag me into the ordeal that I have experienced. I wrote that book three years ago. He had sent the manuscript of his novel to the Thai authorities before its release in 2005 for them to approve the disputed section. (The offending passage may be found in Wikopaedia under ‘Harry Nicolaides’).When they failed to contact him, Harry went ahead and paid for 50 copies to be printed, of which only seven were sold.

He surmises that he may have first come to the notice of the authorities over an article by him published in a Melbourne-based publication, Eureka Street, where he had accused Thai police of having turned a blind eye to the importation of child pornography from Burma. Harry had also previously published an expose on the grim reality of life in Saudi Arabia, in The New Statesman, under the title “Conspiracy kingdomTeaching English in Saudi, Harry Nicolaides discovered a land of black markets, Black Label and beheadings”.Although Harry maintains he was surprised by the severity of the Thai authority’s reactions to his novel, a colleague at Mae Fah Luang University, Heath Dollar, alleged that Harry had including the passage as a marketing publicity stunt, knowing it would be provative and violate Thai law. However, in the Australian newspaper, WA today, Harry’s Australian lawyer, Mark Dean, asserted that “his client should never have been arrested and had been used as a political pawn as Thailand went into crisis last year.”

Life in Prison
Harry describes his actual prison ordeal as like falling in a dark hole. It was an experience of shock and disbelief so unfamiliar to anything I could even imagine. Further describing the Klong Prem Central Prison, Harry likened it to a prisoner of war camp, complete with gun turrets and surrounding barbed wire. The conditions inside he regarded as being a hundred times worse than the ‘worst of Bangkok’s slums’, ‘impossible to comprehend or believe. It shocked me and disgusted me’.

Here are a few significant details of individuals and prison life
• The guards are lazy, corrupt and self servicing and they beat people for no reason. Apparently, one inmate was severely beaten by guards for not having finished laundering their clothes in time.
• prisoners were left to die from TB or HIV instead of being treated,
• corrupt Thai guards humiliated prisoners
• Harry was the unofficial correspondent for Russian national, Victor Bout – the alleged arms dealer
• Harry shared a prison cell with one of the world’s leading drug barons, currently awaiting extradition to Australia

As a final comment, Harry describes the “eternal stench of the prison”, which ironically transferred itself to him the day before his release when he fell in and almost drowned in an excrement filled sewer.

Harry intends to write a book about his ordeal, which unlike ‘Verisimilitude’ will no doubt become a best seller.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : Legal

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