Saturday, December 3, 2016

Story about my detention and deportation from Thailand to Hong Kong

Basheer Naveed

I left Hong Kong for Thailand on 26 November 2016 to attend a conference on Balochistan and problems faced by minorities Pakistan. I traveled by flight number TG 601 that arrived in Bangkok after 3 pm.

I checked in at Hotel Miracle and in the evening there was a marriage party at the hotel. Some friends, and others and I settled down in a smoking room because no other place was available for us to sit.
In the smoking room it was dark. There were around six to eight of us. We noticed how two local persons came closer to us and started taking photographs of us. We thought they had assumed we were from the marriage party. When they were taking photos, the lights were switched on. We did not give importance to any of this.
Next morning, November 28, Sunday, as we were taking breakfast in the hotel restaurant, two different persons were taking photos of us. This time there were four of us, including myself. Then we realized that something is wrong. Some participants also complained to us that two Pakistanis have been standing at the exit door inside hotel and taking photographs and making movies of our conference participants.

At this time, the hotel manager, along with other staff members asked to sit with us; she informed us that the meeting had been cancelled by the police and that we would have to go to meet the Superintendent of Police, (SP), to talk.
We three persons, Munir Mengal, the organizer of the event, Ms. Claudia, a German lawyer, and I went to meet the SP. The SP, who is himself a Colonel, and another colonel, a DSP from the Intelligence agency, and many other officials were present. The SP told us he was enjoying Sunday but because of you all coming here, I came. When we arrived he was already in his office.

The SP interviewed all of us by asking names, profession, and country names. He was from time time-to-time writing something and consulting other officers and forwarding papers to us to write down details of our qualifications. The Officers took in all our passports. 

The SP said that you all are on a visitor’s visa and are holding a conference which is not allowed under the Military government. Munir Mengal, showing his visa on his French passport, showed how he had a visa from Thai Embassy in Paris for the conference. But officers refused to consider it saying it may be from the Embassy but all of you are now here in Thailand.

He finally wrote a one and half page note saying that he suggested we cancel our event. He reminded us that he has not ordered so but suggested the same. He asked us to sign it. We agreed to sign but Mengal refused to sign, as he was on a conference visa.

After two hours of argument at the Police Station we were asked to leave the place. We were not mal-treated during the detention. We then returned to our hotel, a 15-minute drive.

As we were discussing winding up our conference and leaving the hotel, around six to eight officers from the Thailand immigration department arrived at the hotel. They held long meeting with us and then handed over a letter to Megal, saying that his visa had been revoked and he would have to leave BKK or that he could challenge the order till November 29. Mengal was arrested and taken into custody.

In the meantime, the hotel lobby, which was very big, was filled with local uniformed and plainclothes officers including two Pakistani intelligence officers. The Pakistanis were all the time taking photos and making videos; they were even following us inside the lobby toilets.

The harassment was multi-pronged. At around six pm, the same day, another organizer, Mr. Bilal Baloch, was taken into custody and sent to Airport; he was quickly deported to Paris. However, the chief organiser, Munir Mengal, was not deported immediately. He was taken into detention, and only deported the next day, in handcuffs.

Seeing the situation at the hotel, I left for downtown with four of my friends and returned in the late hours of the night. We thought there would not be any security danger, as we had all cancelled the Conference. My four friends tentatively booked a room downtown for me. After returning to the hotel, we friend decided that participants could leave the hotel and head back to their country.
Next morning, November 28, Monday, which was supposed to be the first day of the Conference, there were uniformed and plain clothed personnel all around.
My four friends left the hotel after breakfast and I handed over a sum of $ USD 2,684 to them. This was earlier give to me by Mengal. I told them I will join them and activate my room booking.
Hotel manager and other staff then asked me to pay the bill, and I asked them to make a statement with regard to the same, which I would then send to the organizer so that the organizer could adjust it for me.

Two Pakistanis, who had been taking my pictures at the time, asked me if they could take a close up picture and whether I could pose for them. I asked them why they had have taken dozens of pictures of me, and they said it is their duty. I asked one of them whether he is from the Embassy of Pakistan; he said he works for one institute. This was a clear message to me that he is working for the ISI.

The same day when I told everybody to leave hotel yourself and make arrangement themselves.

At around 3 pm I went to lunch out in the City and subsequently returned. Some officers from Immigration asked me to speak to them. One introduced himself as an intelligence officer. They said I was now in their custody. I told them that tonight I am leaving back to HK.
They were pleased to hear this and said you are very cooperative, so no problem they would arrange my night flight. One of the officers then asked me to collect my luggage from room; he then, with all his men, followed me to the room. I collected all my things and packed. I went to the washroom and he did not allow me to lock the washroom. He began knocking and shouting at me to open the door. Finally, when he saw me again after I emerged, he was happy.

As we were going from the lobby, one official trying to push me and I stopped him and told him to watch what he was doing. Then I was taken in their van, and from here I tried to contact AHRC Executive Director Bijo Francis and other friends through my cell phone. At one point, the Officer threatened that he would confiscate my cellphone, so I stopped talking into the phone and kept it between my legs and kept sending messages.
After a long drive, I reached at Immigration office building and we went up to the 5th Floor, where I was dealt properly. I was served tea and they were happy that I was cooperating. After half an hour they asked me o follow them, as they would take me to a higher boss who would then recommend my departure on the next flight, as I had offered to pay the ticket.

In this room, they interrogated me and asked me many questions. They even did not know about Balochistan; the Chief of that Immigration office told me he is doing his actions on the orders of the government.

I asked him which government – Thai?
He laughed.
Then, I asked, Government of Pakistan?
He laughed again and nodded his head in affirmation.
They then gave me a letter that the Government of Thailand had revoked my visa to Thailand.
I helped him and told him to write what he wanted to write.
Suddenly, after a phone call they received, I felt that something had changed.
They asked me to follow them.
The Officer took again in the same van. We reached a place, where it was told to me that they will talk to their big boss and then they will take me to Airport. But, suddenly, they put me in a detention center.

They were not looking happy with their actions. I immediately took my picture behind bars and sent the same to Bijo Francis. At this point, they snatched my cell phone and pushed me to a cell where already more than 15 persons were sitting on the floor. I was asked to put my luggage outside and take off my shoes. The small room was fully packed and no one was listening to me. I had to find a place to sit, which I did next to a very old man who may have been above 85 years. He looked like a foreigner, sitting on a wheelchair, his nose was flowing, and he was coughing and sneezing all the time with loud sounds and he had an unpleasant smell.

After two hours, two plainclothed personnel arrived and started taking names. Among them was my name. We were asked to stand in a que and take off our shirts. I asked them what I had done to take off my shirt. They forced me and asked two persons to deal with me. I took off my shirt, and they took photos from all sides and gave me a card that had my name and ID number and other details.
Here, I was again served with a letter that stated that the Thailand government was forcibly expelling me. I was happy that there was no reason for them to detain me in Thailand.

Then I was asked to join another que where many persons were sitting; they asked me to sit down, I refused, but one plainclothes personnel called me and said, you are shifted to room number 4. Then that took me, along with so many prisoners, to the second floor of the building. All were sent to room number three, but I was sent to room number 4. Other prisoners were saying I was lucky to be sent to number 4, other wise in room 3 they first beat the prisoners then admit them.

Room number 4 is about 40 feet long and 14 feet wide; 136 prisoners were already there. I was 137th one. All of them were Pakistani asylum seekers except two or three from Sri Lanka and India. Here were Pakistani Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, and also two persons from a militant religious organization who was involved in killing Shia and Ahmadis. But in prison all were happy friends and supported each other.
I hardly found a small place to sit. By this time it was 8.45 pm, one Ahmadi arranged a temporary place for me along with a Shia man. It was very difficult to sit over there. For the whole day I could not take food and was not feeling hungry. Around 1 am I was allowed to lie down between the legs of sleeping persons, but I could not sleep and worried that whether I will be released next day or would be sent back to court. If sent back to court, then it might take many days to get release is what I thought.

When I was discussing with Pakistani prisoners, they were thinking that I was telling lies that I have a valid visa and documents and was still sent to the detention center. I told them that I am ready to pay the amount for a first class ticket to go. The prisoners quickly asked the barrack leader, a Srilankan of 26 of age, that I want to go on my own expenses. The leader said he would take me to jail authorities next day at 10 pm and tell them.

At 10 am, two jail wardens came and informed some prisoners that their visitors had come (means some friends or relatives had come to meet them). My barrack leaders informed them about my offer and then I was taken to the lower floor, where again I was asked to take out my shirt and wear a red shirt.
After some time, a lady officer from immigration came with my papers. But she came with a manager and one lady of the Miracle Hotel to settle the account of hotel. I had long arguments about how I was being held responsible for hotel accounts. She said you asked for the statement and the organizers are also deported, so they want to arrest me and other persons staying in the hotel till the expenses are recovered.

I asked them: did I book the hotel, did I sign any paper, did I reserve my room, did I deposit the amount for booking, and did I telephone them? All replies were negative from hotel ladies. The Manager said still 13 persons are there in the hotel. I told her why not cancel the booking of 13 persons and then check the deposited amount. If those are good enough to cover your expenses, then what is wrong? They calculated and found that it covered the expenses. They wanted my signature. I refused. When I had not booked then how could I sign? So all was settled, they informed authorities.

After more than an hour one officer came with papers to sign for my deportation. Here again, I was put behind bars where African people were lodged. I had to wait long. Suddenly the Sri Lankan barrack leader came and took me outside. This time one officer came out from room to smoke. After one hour I was asked by another lady officer to go to her room. There she was preparing paperwork for me, but she remained always busy on the telephone, taking instructions about me, particularly for deportation to Pakistan.
I gave her my Permanent Resident card of HK and offered to pay for first class ticket for my travelling. She made my papers with my sign and then she put deportation: to Pakistan. I argued about my residentship and employment. She sent me outside. I was this time thinking that if they sent me via Dubai, I will take flight for Hong Kong from there. I was making all plans for how to deal with the situation if I was deported to Pakistan. I did not take breakfast or lunch, however one prisoner gave me one apple, which was sufficient for me.

Again, the officer called me and started making new papers for my deportation, then again sent me back. This time she was smiling while talking with me; the other staff was also changed their attitude, but I could not understand why they were being so kind. I was again sent back to the detention place. After some time, one person came and asked me to re-fill the new forms, as in the previous forms deportation to Pakistan was written. I filled the forms and wrote Hong Kong in the column of place to be deported, so that no forgery could be made.

Again, the lady officer called me in and her behavior was totally changed and friendly. After 3.30 p.m., one immigration officer took me to the Airport in a van. All my documents, including passport, were with him. All the way he was asking me for a tip, which I promised to pay him at the Airport. He took me to the counter and did not allow me to purchase water or eatables. The check in was completed and immigration officer was not allowing me to talk to other counter staff
Then we passed through the Airport Immigration and I lost my jacket there; he did not allow me to turn back and get it. He was asking for tip (bribe); I told him to take me to a money-changer; he quickly followed, but the lady at stall was not there, he preferred to wait for her. I asked him to if I could have one sandwich. He reluctantly allowed me. After some time, moneychanger arrived; his attitude changed after he got an amount from me. When I was being taken downstairs to the immigration officer of the Airport, he asked for his tip at that point before us entering. I gave him 250 Bhat and he was satisfied and put me before the immigration officers.

I opened the packed and sealed sandwich; however, in there were two cockroaches; so I was again denied food. The new officer took me to the gate, where he handed over my documents in a sealed envelope to the counter and took a signature of receiving me there. The Airline Officer took me to the Airplane where he handed me over to the airhostesses and also handed over documents about me. During the flight, one airhostess told me that when flight will land I am supposed to be last passenger and she will hand over my documents to an immigration officer of Hong Kong.

As I landed, the Hong Kong immigration officer came and took all my documents and my ID card but was not allowing me to go to even the washroom. He took me to the Immigration office and asked me sit down outside, after sometime he came back and asked me do you know how to use you ID card for going out? I said yes. Then he checked. He asked me to show him, and I showed him that I am used to such a thing. He was satisfied and relaxed. He then took me to the conveyer belt and as I touched my bag, he handed over my passport to me, not the other papers.

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