“Floors are covered with fish bones, saliva and cat vomit, so my feet are black”

harrycomp01

New Mandala spoke about it this week end. But I think all Thailand related blogs should publish it.

Here is a letter written by Harry Nicolaides, the australian convicted of lese-majeste (3 years jail).

The letter was published by the Sydney Morning Herald.

The medieval price an author pays for insulting Thailand’s monarchy

From the hell of his Bangkok prison cell, the writer Harry Nicolaides reveals the horror of his daily battle to survive.

We are woken at 6 and counted in the cell. Mine is 12 metres long and just over four metres wide, holding 50 or 60 prisoners, mostly Thais, mostly murderers and rapists. The cell has one toilet, which is a hole in the ground, and poor ventilation. I sleep in a face mask because tuberculosis and pneumonia are common. I’ve been in this jail for five months, since my arrest in September.

My book, Verisimilitude, was a rather clumsy first attempt at fiction – only 50 copies were printed and seven sold. I love Thailand and respect the royal family. It was never my intention to offend anyone.

For breakfast I have soy milk and a biscuit. The prisoners wash and shave around troughs covered in grime. The water is changed once a week. Then there’s assembly. We stand to attention as the Thai flag is raised. We’re asked to pray to a large gold Buddha. I use the time to collect my thoughts and think about my loved ones.

The guards make long speeches in Thai. I imagine they’re about prison etiquette. I’m then taken upstairs with other foreigners to clean another cell block. After that we’re at leisure for a while. I used to walk around, but I can’t help but encounter the weak and the feeble – such as men with TB, languishing on benches. It deadens me. So I try to spend my time replying to the many letters I receive. Letters keep me alive.

We are allowed one 30-minute visit a day, but not on weekends or holidays. The hardest part is returning to my cell after a visit from family or friends. I break down when I think how they’re suffering.

At 12 the lunch bell rings. The food is mostly fish bones in hot water, extremely spicy, with rice. I’ve tried it and felt unwell. I can’t afford to fall sick – the mental strain is enough – so my family send me some chicken and a salad every day. There are 20 or 25 cats that run into the mess hall before the prisoners. Some men put cigarettes in the cats’ mouths or do other unspeakable things to them. I am barefoot most of my day. It is partly a security measure so we can’t climb the electrified, barbed-wire fence, and partly custom. But the floors are covered with fish bones, saliva and cat vomit, so my feet are black.

I am led to court in shackles and chains. It’s positively medieval. They’re degrading and they bruise and lacerate the ankles. They make you feel you’re guilty.

They say that it is easy to get to someone in a prison like this, so I am always on the alert. I have met some colourful characters, like Viktor Bout, the suspected Russian arms dealer. He’s an unassuming, softly spoken man. He gave me some garlic the other day – and a manuscript of his life story to edit. I haven’t looked at it yet. Lots of people give me manuscripts about their lives and cases. They seem to think I’m a BBC journalist, of all things.

At 4pm we’re locked up until 6am. My patch is about a foot wide, the length of my body. I cannot move to the left or right without pressing on another person. I cannot stretch out my legs without kicking someone.

On the king’s 81st birthday I saw fireworks in the distance. Some prisoners had tears in their eyes, praising a man they regard not just as their king but their father. I may not be Thai, but I am a son, and I know what it means to love a father. I am applying for a royal pardon. I pray the king learns of my plight so I might enjoy his grace.

When I’ve finished my chicken, Thais beg for my scraps.

The fluorescent lights stay on at night, so I sleep with a box over my head. I toss and turn on a thin mat on the hard floor. And this, too, shall pass, other foreigners tell me. It’s an old adage and true. But time passes very slowly here.

25 Responses to ““Floors are covered with fish bones, saliva and cat vomit, so my feet are black””


  1. 1 chinesethai 9 February 2009 at 10:29 am

    He did it to himself. This is no heroic act at all. Nobody cares about his fate. Let New Mandala and few troubled foreigners squeal.

    Thais are now enjoying the news that Britain, Japan, and China (Who said China loves Thaksin because he is an ethnic Chinese?) have all slapped entry ban on Thaksin, the man of hope for those republicans. It is now very likely that the U.S. will follow suit.

  2. 2 Marvo 9 February 2009 at 12:37 pm

    @ chinesethai:
    We take it you’re no advocate of freedom of speech or expression of opinion then… oh I’m sorry, I forgot, you freely express yours every day.

  3. 3 ThaiCrisis 9 February 2009 at 12:39 pm

    It’s impossible to defend your position CT…
    He didn’t do it to himself… He’s just the victim of an inane law mixed with political issues. Everybody know it.

    He is not a murderer, nor a rapist, nor a thief.

    For that matter, he must be released and then expelled from Thailand. As soon as possible.

    The country can’t afford another international scandal… The more they wait… the more the situation will be like a boomerang.

  4. 4 chinesethai 9 February 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I am not saying I either agree or disagree with the law. If he really fought for 101% freedom of speech, then he should have accepted the consequence because he already knew what the outcome would be at first place. He looked for trouble.

    I have had numerous discussions with friends and acquaintances. Although the Royal Family members are not divinely perfect and protected by the lese-majeste law, we rather have the status quo than to scrap the law and the country risks descending into an anarchy (in the very nice name of a “Democratic” Republic).

    And if Thailand will have to undergo a radical change one day, it must be decided among Thais only. No outside interference is welcome. This principle should apply to China, Myanmar, Lao, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, and other nations too!

  5. 5 A.F. 10 February 2009 at 1:30 am

    Why is the focus always on Harry Nicolaides instead of the obvious need for reform of the Thai prison system? By both the letter and the spirit of the law, he’s guilty. The only question is whether the conditions in which he and other convicts are held are appropriate.

  6. 6 Bedwyr 10 February 2009 at 7:45 am

    “And if Thailand will have to undergo a radical change one day, it must be decided among Thais only. No outside interference is welcome. This principle should apply to China, Myanmar, Lao, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, and other nations too!”

    What crap.

    Get out more lad. The world is becoming a global village and nobody with any sense retains isolationist ambitions. This is like saying that the fate of the dog is decided by the fleas that happen to live on its back.

    If the world left Thailand to Thais alone it would be the same shithole it was 100 years ago instead of the marginally less shitty hole that it is now. You people do very nicely thank you from the countries and people that help you do what you can’t do yourselves – like educate your children, provide your people with food, build things, that sort of thing; and yet you continue to pretend that being Thai represents some kind of superiority.

    Idiot.

    Bedwyr

  7. 7 chinesethai 10 February 2009 at 8:00 am

    Giles Ungpakorn is another one who has fled charge to Britain. Unlike Thaksin, Giles is a British citizen.

    This proves once more that his call for scrapping the Lese Majeste law is not sincere and has nothing to do with freedom of speech. By colluding with a crook like Thaksin, he openly indicated his wish to turn this country into a republic.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/09/professor-thailand-charged-king

    The fact that he supported the carnage on Oct 7, 2008, proves that he is not as humane as most stupid democracy activists believed.

    I am fine if Thailand has to undergo a change but I cannot accept if this country fell into the hands of these coward, selfish people, who falsely claimed they fought for Thai democracy. At last, he has shown that he just fought for himself. Shame on him!

  8. 8 chinesethai 10 February 2009 at 8:03 am

    Aung San Suu Kyi is the REAL one. But Giles and Thaksin are just FAKE goods.

  9. 9 whoopla 10 February 2009 at 11:52 am

    chinesethai:
    October 7th: Pantamit did it to themselves. This is no heroic act at all. Nobody cares about their fate. Let the PAD and few troubled elitists squeal.

  10. 10 chinesethai 10 February 2009 at 2:10 pm

    whoopla:

    If PAD (Pantamit) really did it for unjustified, dishonest cause, they could have broken up. But they are still there, united. They are fighting for justice for those who were killed and amputated.

    In contrast, the Red Shirt People (UDD) are breaking up. In-fighting is now their usual activities. They fight for Thaksin’s money. What would you describe about Kwanchai Praipana VS Jatuporn Prompan’s feud????

    And what would you describe about Republican Somkiart Tangnamo’s attack on fugitive Giles Ungpakorn, who has been Somkiart’s long time friend???? Like Thaksin, Giles is NO champion of democracy. He is just a selfish man, who pretended to be a human right activist. He was ready to betray his friends anytime. And he did it!

    Read what he said today.
    http://www.prachatouch.com/content.php?id=17817

    This is even published on Prachatouch Online, a Pro-Thaksin newspaper.

    ThaiCrisis, perhaps you would be interested to have your Thai friend take a look and translate it for you. Many of these political developments are somehow absent from English language media because the situation here changes rapidly.

  11. 11 Insanity 10 February 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Thais urged to use web to inform on anti-monarchists

    Thailand’s Government has set up a special website urging citizens to inform on anyone criticising the country’s monarchy.

    The website – http://www.protecttheking.net/ – encourages Thais to show their loyalty to the king by protecting him from what it calls “misunderstandings” about him.

    -BBC Feb 6, 2009

  12. 12 Marvo 10 February 2009 at 8:04 pm

    FOR GOODNESS SAKES! When the hell are the “powers” going to listen to their divine leader telling them all that he himself is NOT beyond criticism. Does directly ignoring the directives of the king come anywhere near “Lese-Majeste” out of interest?

    Following and trying to understand the implementation of archaic and insane Thai “laws” relating to the monarchy is like bashing your head against a wall just for the fun of it.

    Maybe we should all stop talking about the king in case there’s a snitch here on TC, itching to use Insanity’s link above – I mention no names…

  13. 13 ThaiCrisis 10 February 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Well Marvo, I know it’s very frustrating. And scary as well.

    This is why, whatever it takes (and the head against the wall, that hurts indeed), we should talk about it and try to understand.

    Because, even if you think that it’s absurd, inane, insane, this whole mess (and Harry is not, unfortunately, the only individual being trapped), is not the result of chance, or the Providence, or a statistical accident through history.

    Of course not.

    There is a will. A political will behind. There is an idea, a plan. Even though after we can clearly see, on a practical level, that the issue becomes difficult to control. Even by those who have created it.

  14. 14 Robuzo 11 February 2009 at 3:04 am

    Marvo: “Does directly ignoring the directives of the king come anywhere near “Lese-Majeste” out of interest?”

    Thanks for posting that. Sometimes I wonder if anyone else has noticed. Do these people respect the king’s wishes or not? Clearly they have their own agenda, which involves lese majeste of a higher order than GJU or some would-be novelist (of whom an example is clearly being made for the benefit of overly opinionated farangs). The Tokugawa Shogunate comes to mind.

  15. 15 Bedwyr 11 February 2009 at 4:02 am

    The agenda is plain. What people do is much more important than what they say.

    What people have done is extremely clear, and yes, it is scary to think this can happen in a country the US regards as a democracy.

    I feel very sad for all the good Thais in Thailand whose destiny and fortunes are decided by the people who are in charge.

    But it is interesting to see ChineseThai shed his facade of reasonableness and revert to type. I doubt he has any credibility left in here, but I suggest we all take Marvo’s advice and be guarded. I believe someone among us would not hesitate to add our names to the snitches website.

    How typical of the Thai way. All smiles and bonhomie to your face and a knife in your ribs when you turn your back.

    Bedwyr

  16. 16 Rockderk the Great 11 February 2009 at 4:32 am

    CT, you’re not related to Imtiaz Muqbil by any chance, are you?

  17. 17 Insanity 11 February 2009 at 7:06 am

    Thailand Crisis is an intelligent, informative, fun filled blog that, I hope continues to flourish. So it is with regret that I will no longer comment. I don’t wish to be misunderstood or, cause misunderstanding and classified as an anti-monarchist which I am certainly not. I have great affection for this country & only wish for it the best. “Long live the King.”

  18. 18 chinesethai 11 February 2009 at 10:44 am

    Rockdert the Great:

    Who’s he?

  19. 19 Bedwyr 11 February 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Pity. Insanity has been a good contributor to this and other blogs.

    Sorry to see you go dude.

    Bedwyr

  20. 20 World Citizen 11 February 2009 at 6:29 pm

    The more serious problem for years is the continuing abuse of this law for political purposes because the law allows anybody to accuse anybody else of violating the lese majeste principle. Unlike the defamation law, in which only the injured party can bring charges, lese majeste has become an easy political weapon.

    As regularly stated in the Blog the lese majeste law continues to do more harm than good to the monarchy.

  21. 21 Marvo 11 February 2009 at 7:01 pm

    @ Insanity, don’t leave us. Your input adds sanity to the insane proceedings we all witness day in day out. Your reference to
    “http://www.protecttheking.net/” – doesn’t imply that you are or not anti monarchy and there is no misunderstanding. I think the majority of people who are vocal about the subject are not anti monarchy, they are just “anti” the system and the way it is (ab)used in the name of who seems to be a more decent bloke than those directly under him who “serve” him.

    I do wonder if the widening of the scope and the lubrication of these Lese-majeste powers NOW is in some way a preparation for what is perceived to be a future necessity for more rigidly controlling and clamping down on “undesirable discussion” AFTER the succession.

    Before long, just debating the way the Lese-Majeste laws are enacted will be classed as breaching “national security” and we’ll all be in the slammer with Harry. I’m quite looking forward to meeting all you fellow posters.

  22. 22 World Citizen 11 February 2009 at 7:22 pm

    This reminds one of: Monty Python – The Spanish Inquisition

  23. 23 Rockderk the Great 12 February 2009 at 1:59 am

    CT: He’s a Bkk Post writer who, like you, uses twisted logic to wave the flag for the wrong side.

  24. 24 Insanity 12 February 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Bedwyr / Marvo
    Thank you for your kind comments and support, it is appreciated.

    Marvo, sadly, and disturbingly so , I think you are correct – “widening of the scope and the lubrication of these Lese-majeste powers NOW is in some way a preparation for what is perceived to be a future necessity for more rigidly controlling and clamping down on “undesirable discussion” AFTER the succession.”

    As to meeting fellow Thailand Crisis Bloggers – I think this is a splendid idea. However, not in a dwelling that requires us to pick our teeth with fish bones!

  25. 25 Crusader 9 March 2009 at 9:40 am

    “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who can think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”

    H.L. Mencken, 1880 – 1956, one of America’s most prominent writers

    Does anyone know the author of this one?

    “The world is a mental asylum run by its worst inmates.”


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Thailand Crisis

Coup, Economic slowdown, Terror In the South... The situation is worsening in Thailand. Bumpy road like often before.

But this time, it's different.

The key to understand the present turmoil is the inevitable... succession of King Bhumibol.


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