Nepali Times
Letter from Bangkwang

Dear Editor,

I am writing you this letter in the hope that something can be done about us Nepalis in foreign jails. I also hope to be able to warn other Nepalis not to make the mistakes I did that landed me in Bangkwang Prison in Thailand.

My home is in Gonga Bu, and the reason my English is good is because I did my high school in Kalimpong. In 1991 when I returned to Kathmandu, I got into bad company of neighbours who smoked and got drunk regularly. My mother wasn't very happy with my new friends, and she was sad that my younger brother was following in my footsteps.

She asked me to get a job so I would stay away from my "goonda" friends. I got a job with a hotel in Thamel to pick up guests at the airport, then I got promoted to receptionist. I quit because I couldn't take leave when I wanted. I was back on the streets.

One day my mom asked me if I would like to go to Bangkok for a few weeks with some people who are into handicraft and jewelry exports. I didn't even have a passport, but they fixed it all for me. Bangkok was great, I enjoyed the nightlife and it was easy to forget my girl-friends in Kathmandu.

A few days later, the guys who brought me here told me we were leaving for Jakarta. We got to the airport and I was handed a bag which they said contained gifts for their Indonesian friends. I did not suspect anything because they had been so nice to me.

The customs officer tore that luggage apart, and brought out three big plastic bags with white powder. I turned around to see where my friends were, but they had disappeared. I was charged with trying to smuggle heroin and sentenced to 50 years. The Nepal Embassy was nowhere, and I did not get a fair trial. I was sent to this maximum security prison, where I met many other Nepalis with similar stories to mine.

I cursed my own stupidity and my fate. I have now been here eight years. Now, let me describe to you the conditions here. Unlike the other inmates, we don't get proper treatment because our government and embassy does not care for us. Our daily meals are rotten, we don't get enough food. We work for other prisoners just to earn some pocket money. We live here with 7,000 murderers and drug addicts, they don't understand English, we survive on Rs 20 a day donated by charitable people, and never know where our next meal is coming from. Our belongings are constantly being stolen, we bathe in water that gives us rashes, we don't see the vaguest display of human warmth and goodness around us. We are chronically depressed, and sometimes feel we are going mad.

In the past few years, many more Nepali brothers and sisters have joined us here and their stories are identical to mine. They have been betrayed, cheated, or dumped by the middlemen who promised jobs in Japan. There are 12 of us here, and 100 more in other jails in Bangkok. This jail is for prisoners with 30 years and above.

Prisoners from other countries are transferred back to their countries because their country has an extradition treaty. But not Nepal. There are some of us who have already spent 20 years here. That is a lot of time for a stupid thing we did accidentally when we were young.

As far as I know, two Nepalis have already died here and four others (including myself) have TB. Our families in Nepal are praying night and day for us. Through this letter, we would like our sarkar to take some time to get us out from here. The Thai sarkar is ready to have an extradition treaty with Nepal, but our sarkar is not taking any interest. If there is a treaty, we can go to Nepal and complete our sentence in a Nepali jail. At least if we are in Nepal we can get support from our families. Whoever reads this letter, please put pressure on the Nepal sarkar to bring us home.

We made mistakes. We were young and stupid. And unscrupulous people took advantage of our innocence. All these years in jail has taught us a lesson. We are now eager and willing to change ourselves for a better tomorrow. Our parents are getting older, and we took the risk of going abroad so we could earn money for them. Our imprisonment has pained them greatly, and we deeply regret with sorrow what we did.

There is nothing for us here. Our biggest fear is that Nepali society may not accept us back. But we are determined to earn our self-respect and help our country. Many of us here are sick, and we don't want to die here. We want to come home and have a meal or two of alu-chiura and dal bhat before we leave this earth.
My message to young Nepalis is to be smart and never to be tempted by the promise of instant riches, and never fall into this trap. This is a dead end.

Dear editor, thank you very much for your precious time and for printing my letter. It means a lot to us.

Sincerely yours
Puskar KC ("Nima")

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)