Nepali Times
"I will never leave Nepal again"


My desire to become rich led me to Thailand. Eleven years ago, I had been making enough money for my family with the small business I ran. My daughters were just five and six years old.

When my friend invited me to Bangkok in 1993 to start a garment export business, I jumped at the chance of striking it rich. For two years I did quite well. It was around 1995 while touring Yuham with my friend that we came across six of his Thai and Burmese-Nepali friends. We were having tea in a restaurant when suddenly the Thai police came and arrested all of us.

I had no idea what was going on. I didn't speak their language but my friend assured me there was nothing to worry about. They took us to a police station in Bangkok and interrogated us individually. I was made to sign a document I could not read. The police officer slapped me when I requested translation. I had no choice but to sign it. They took me to Bankwang prison where I was confined for 18 months without trial.

I found out that the six Nepalis I was with that day had been involved in a robbery of a Sikh's house. They confessed to the crime and received 13-year prison sentences. I did not admit to the crime, so the judge sentenced me to 17 years and eight months of imprisonment. I defended myself with the help of a government lawyer but he did not make much of an effort, the prosecutor was more aggressive and provocative in his depositions.

All my friends testified that I was innocent and not a part of their gang. The daughter-in-law of the Sikh household, who had been at home during the robbery, had seen their faces. She told the police that I was not among them. During the court proceedings the police stated I was innocent but the prosecutor turned it all around. The other family members were made to say they had seen me. The daughter-in-law was not brought to court. The judge listened to the prosecutor and delivered his final verdict on 29 August, 1996.

I was transferred to Lard Yao jail for a crime I had never committed. All I thought of was my 21-year-old wife and two young daughters. I did not know how they would survive without me. I had no future.

An American charity worker named Ben Parks and some missionaries helped me keep my hopes alive. Nine years later on 29 October, because of the efforts made by the activists, I was pardoned by Thai King Bhumibol and returned home without serving the full sentence.

So many Nepalis are serving life imprisonment in Bankwang and Lard Yao. Many of them are innocent and have been framed or were picked up by mistake like I was. Their trials were a sham, like mine was. Some, it must be said, were turned in by fellow-Nepalis. I met at least 16 Nepalis in both jails serving sentences from 15 years to life.

The human rights situation in Thai prisons is very bad. Our personal letters are opened and read by the prison authorities. Letters can only be written in English. The food is stale and dirty. I once found a dead mouse in my vegetable curry.

It was strange returning home. My daughters had grown into teenagers and they felt awkward calling me "Bua". But now I have time to get to know them. I have learned my lesson. I will never go after money again. I will be satisfied with what I have. The best lesson I learnt in prison is to live my new life to the fullest, to savour every moment with my family and be thankful for this gift from the Almighty. I will now find fulfillment by helping those less fortunate than me. I will turn into a social worker and I'll never leave Nepal again.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)