This is an account of my recent incidents with Thai immigration.
I was returning to Thailand from a job that I was sent to in the Bahamas to inspect a boat that had ran onto a reef. After inspection of the boat I informed the client that I couldn't do anything about it and that I was returning to Thailand.
On the 7th of June 2019 I flew from Fort Lauderdale in Florida USA to London, then onto Bangkoks Suvarnabhumi airport. Upon my arrival at the immigration desk I was asked a few questions as to why I was in Thailand ? and then I was informed by the immigration officer that she believed that I was looking for work in Thailand and that I had insufficient funds to stay in the kingdom. I then started to produce evidence to prove that I was working for a company based in Hong Kong and proof of funds that far exceeded the required amount needed by immigration. All this was waved aside and not even inspected, I was then escorted to the immigration offices inside the airport and I presumed it would all be clarified in there. How wrong I was..... I was met inside the office by three immigration people who then told me that I was going to be charged under sections two and three which were Insufficient funds to stay in the Kingdom, and working in Thailand. On the desk I was sat at there was a charge sheet already made out with the charges on it and I was told to sign it, this I declined. In the meantime a member of ground staff from British Airways turned up, the airline I had flown from London with, and the airline member then proceeded to jab his finger on the charge sheet and told me to sign it, this I declined again as I had not broken any laws.
I continued to explain to the three immigration members that I had not broken any laws and have evidence that their charges were unfounded, this they ignored and didn't even inspect. This situation went on for about an hour between the immigration people and the BA staff member and when they finally realised that I wasn't going to sign the charge sheet, I was then escorted to the containment cells in the airport. The cell stank of urine and was to say the least dirty and smelly, I then got onto my phone and informed my company of my predicament and also the British embassy in London as the embassy in Bangkok was closed as it was late Friday and would not open till Monday.
So just to recap, I had travelled twenty hours flying from Nassau, Florida, London, then Bangkok and now was sitting in a jail cell under false charges, not exactly what I expected from a country that I have lived in for over twenty five years, which I've previously worked on the largest projects in the country as a professional Engineer, on the Skytrain project, the underground project, PTT, and latterly the extension to Suvarnabhumi airport, all with work permits I might add, which I can supply.
Anyway I settled into the situation and was hoping that shortly someone would see what had happened and would sort the situation out, that never happened and I ended up staying there for five days on a diet of two rice meals a day and no shower and change of clothes all for the princely sum of 750 bht a night. While I was in the cell the British airways staff came around for days trying to get me to sign the charge sheet and accept to pay for my return flight back to England at a price of 600 pounds. I declined BA's offer over the five days until on the fifth day a member of Thai immigration informed me that if I did not fly back to England now as they wanted, then I would be arrested the moment I was released and would be imprisoned for two months in immigration jail and then would be banned from Thailand for 99 years...…...
I'd had enough of this madness with Thai immigration and requested BA come to the cell which they did, I then purchased a flight back to England for 600 pounds one way and thought i'd be better off outside rather than sat in this stinking third world toilet of a jail. I might add that I did not sign the charge sheet and left of my own request.
On the day of my departure I returned to the immigration office and found an elderly lady officer whom I showed my passport to, she remarked that she had no idea why I should of been detained and was very sorry for my ordeal, I asked her if any record of this incident is on immigration computer record ? she informed me that it wasn't.
I was now in the hands of BA whom I asked if I could have a shower ? no was the answer that came back from the manager of BA ground staff, I informed the BA individual with me that no way was I getting onto a long haul flight after five days in a urine stinking cell and subjecting the passenger to great discomfort, the individual who was with me apologised for his manager and very graciously asked the cleaning staff in the airport if I could use their facilities to have a shower, this I did and had to put on the same filthy clothes as my bag with fresh clothes was at the departure gate. We then proceeded to the departure gate where my bag was retrieved and I was given fresh clothes in front of the passengers waiting for the flight, I then went into the toilets at the departure gate to change, treat like a common criminal in front of the waiting passengers.
I was then taken to the aircraft door by the BA staff member who handed my passport to the stewardess at the door.
I'm a Engineering consultant, i'm 53 years old, and I've been traveling internationally for thirty years now to all corners of the globe, and I can honestly say that I've never seen anything like this in all those years, or being treat as disgustingly.
The saga continues, I returned to England and at the suggestion of the elderly lady in immigration renewed my passport and purchased a ticket for Kuala Lumpur knowing that Malaysian immigration has always been reasonable. I landed in KL and then proceeded to Penang where I thought i'd better check if the passport was ok and applied for a tourist visa at the Thai consulate, this i obtained without a problem and assumed that the passport was ok and indeed there was no record of the Suvarnabhumi incident. How wrong could I be !
I returned into Thailand via Pedang Besar and received no problem from immigration and went back to BKK where I live and just thought I'll write the whole incident off as just a bad experience, but i'd only been in BKK a week when I was offered a job in Malaysia so I booked a flight through Don Meung and obtained a re-entry permit on my week old tourist visa just incase I might have to return in the near future.
Having seen things change in Thailand over the past few years I thought it wise to get a job in Malaysia with the corresponding paperwork so that if things got really bad I would just stay in Malaysia full time. Anyway to obtain a Malaysian work permit you have to leave the country twice, initially to apply for the certificate, then a second time to get the permit placed in your passport. As I had a Thai two month tourist visa I thought the second border crossing i'd do at Had Yai so I proceeded to Pedang Besar again as i'd had no problem last time and I had three days left on my visa and I only needed to cross the border and come back to activate my work permit.
I placed my passport on the immigration counter and the nightmare re-started, the officer would not allow me into the country just to cross the border, she then proceeded to ask me for all documentation which she waved away as it was produced, document by document, I later found out she couldn't read English ! The situation got a bit fraught at one point and a Malaysian policeman came over and asked what the problem was, as Pedang Besar is not Thailand, the immigration officer waved my open return flight ticket in his face along with my work permit for Malaysia and asked if they are real ? He told the immigration officer that yes the ticket is real and the work permit is for the state railway of Malaysia, to which the officer replied to the Malay policeman that she didn't want to know anything about Malaysia ! I'd had enough of this individual by this point as had the Malay policeman who gestured for me to come over to him, he stated that the officer was crazy and he's seen lots of this going on recently and it was a good idea if I just came back to Malaysia, I gathered up all my documents and passport not wishing to have another passport ruined by Thai immigration. As I was leaving the Thai immigration officer had basically turned deranged and was now plowing through the records on her computer, and low and behold what came up ? the incident from Suvarnabhumi, big smiles all round as she'd finally found something to pin on me.
I stayed around for a short while trying to explain the incident but it was basically like talking to the wall.
I'd already collected my documents so I just walked back to Malay immigration and re-stamped in with a welcome back sir, in sharp contrast to my recent dealings with Thai immigration.
I currently live a work in Malaysia and have no fears now of crossing borders and encountering irrational individuals who seem to be dead set on destroying peoples travel plans and passports, indeed I've been told recently that Thailand's current policy is that westerners are not welcome anymore. This really doesn't bother me as I saw the writing on the wall years ago.
How sad that a country that I've lived in more than half of my life, which I've helped over the years on infrastructure projects I can't return to having being falsely accused, falsely imprisoned, and now being victimised for absolutely nothing.
I have a girlfriend of over ten years who is suffering with an illness at the moment, my possessions are in Bkk, and now as an innocent man who has never been charged with a criminal offence I now have to prove my innocence at great expense.
Truly an incredible situation, my only consolation is that at least I didn't have another passport destroyed and I currently live in a country that welcomes foreigners...…...