Tommi’s Thai jail terror
- Credit: Archant
A MAN is recovering in Weston after being thrown in a Thai prison for nine days and deported without warning.
British-born 50-year-old Tommi Stephenson, of Knightstone Road, had been living in Thailand for almost 14 years before police officers dragged him from his home and threw him in a tiny cell with eight other inmates for nine days without being given food or water.
He claims he then had to pay corrupt officials 70,000 baht (about £1,200) in bribes to get a flight back to England.
Mr Stephenson said: “I was in shock, absolute shock. For the first week I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me. It was bizarre.
“You don’t expect to be expelled from a country in such a harsh way.
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“I was kept in a three by three metre room, with no windows, and bars on one end. At one point there were nine of us sleeping in there on the floor. They don’t provide food or water, you have to provide it yourself from the outside.
“I was in there nine days solid - you are in the cell 24 hours a day. Occasionally they would let me out to go to the visitor room, but often they would make visitors shout through the bars at me.
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“If the prison system was like that in England, they would all be empty.
“I’m in two minds at the moment about whether to go back after the way they treated me.”
Mr Stephenson moved to Thailand and took up work as a swimming pool engineer. His troubles began when he took over a job from a Thai contractor, who went to the police to report him for a passport oversight.
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Mr Stephenson has to get his right to stay in the country extended every 90 days, but he had stayed a couple of months extra without getting his passport stamped.
He was arrested and fined in court, but then arrested again after the hearing and detained before being deported.
He said: “I was given a small fine for overstaying but I didn’t expect to get kicked out of my house and thrown out of the country.”
Mr Stephenson called some friends between court hearings to tell them he needed money, and they raised some cash by holding a charity event and selling various items.
He added: “I had to rally round my friends and I had to pay immigration and police to get me out of prison.
“They admitted in front of me that it’s the way it is there. The Thai police are so corrupt.
“The only time they respond to a crime is if there is money in it.”
He said he paid money to both police and immigration, giving them a ‘backhand’ to allow him to fly to Kuala Lumpar, where he could then fly to London.
Mr Stephenson is hoping to get help from the British Government after landing in the UK last month with only the clothes on his back, but has struggled to win any aid despite having lived in Britain until the age of 34.
He said: “They have refused me habitual residency in the UK, and I can’t appeal until April. I can’t get benefits without it, and I can’t get a job either.
“I landed in England with nothing. All my possessions, three motorbikes, the house I was renting, are all in Thailand.
“Everybody I have spoken to is shocked that I’m not entitled to any help.”