Harry Nicolaides Speaks Out From Prison



The Sidney Morning Herald posted a letter from Harry Nicolaides today detailing the dire living conditions he has had to endure in a Thai Prison. I’ll post an excerpt below and you can read the letter in its entirety at The Sidney Morning Herald Article The medieval price an author pays for insulting Thailand’s monarchy.

Please also visit Bring Harry Home, a website by Harry’s friends dedicated to Harry’s release, where you can sign a petition to the Australian government and also donate much needed funds for the cause. Harry doesn’t deserve the punishment he has received and hopefully with more people talking about his case a Royal pardon will happen sooner.

After reading about his dreadful experiences in a Thai prison and how all the prisoners are treated I think it’s high time Amnesty International got more actively involved.

An excerpt from Harry Nicolaides letter:

The Sydney Morning Herald
08 February 2009

From the hell of his Bangkok prison cell, the writer Harry Nicolaides reveals the horror of his daily battle to survive.

We are woken at 6 and counted in the cell. Mine is 12 metres long and just over four metres wide, holding 50 or 60 prisoners, mostly Thais, mostly murderers and rapists. The cell has one toilet, which is a hole in the ground, and poor ventilation. I sleep in a face mask because tuberculosis and pneumonia are common. I’ve been in this jail for five months, since my arrest in September.

My book, Verisimilitude, was a rather clumsy first attempt at fiction – only 50 copies were printed and seven sold. I love Thailand and respect the royal family. It was never my intention to offend anyone.

For breakfast I have soy milk and a biscuit. The prisoners wash and shave around troughs covered in grime. The water is changed once a week. Then there’s assembly. We stand to attention as the Thai flag is raised. We’re asked to pray to a large gold Buddha. I use the time to collect my thoughts and think about my loved ones.

The guards make long speeches in Thai. I imagine they’re about prison etiquette.

I’m then taken upstairs with other foreigners to clean another cell block.

After that we’re at leisure for a while. I used to walk around, but I can’t help but encounter the weak and the feeble – such as men with TB, languishing on benches. It deadens me. So I try to spend my time replying to the many letters I receive. Letters keep me alive.

We are allowed one 30-minute visit a day, but not on weekends or holidays. The hardest part is returning to my cell after a visit from family or friends. I break down when I think how they’re suffering.

At 12 the lunch bell rings. The food is mostly fish bones in hot water, extremely spicy, with rice. I’ve tried it and felt unwell.

I can’t afford to fall sick – the mental strain is enough – so my family send me some chicken and a salad every day.

There are 20 or 25 cats that run into the mess hall before the prisoners. Some men put cigarettes in the cats’ mouths or do other unspeakable things to them.

I am barefoot most of my day. It is partly a security measure so we can’t climb the electrified, barbed-wire fence, and partly custom. But the floors are covered with fish bones, saliva and cat vomit, so my feet are black.

I am led to court in shackles and chains. It’s positively medieval. They’re degrading and they bruise and lacerate the ankles. They make you feel you’re guilty.

They say that it is easy to get to someone in a prison like this, so I am always on the alert.

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5 Responses to Harry Nicolaides Speaks Out From Prison
  1. Mike
    February 8, 2009 | 8:02 am

    Talen I just read the full article. Unfortunately I don’t know the full background to the case, but I believe he came here voluntarily before arrest/trial etc.

    I think naive is a word that I would use both for the book and his subsequent return to Thailand.

    I hope for his sake HM the King grants a pardon which is possible given the Monarchs view’s on the law.

    Mikes last blog post..Rubbish in Thailand

    • Talen
      February 8, 2009 | 2:42 pm

      Naive does come in to it to some extent. Harry wrote the book in 2005 and there is literally one sentence in the book referring to a Thai prince in a fictional manner. He really should have known better but he didn’t.

      He only sold 5 copies or so of the book and it was forgotten. I’m pretty sure he never thought he would have been arrested when he arrived.

      The real problem here is the Thai government who are using this law against anyone anyway they can in the past year or so. They are hauling people in left and right for police interviews and I think 4 or 5 people are in jail now awaiting trial on lese majeste crimes.

      The real scary bit is that the people they are looking at now in a lot of the cases are bloggers and such.

  2. Hoo Don
    February 8, 2009 | 11:20 am

    A very powerful, well constructed post. I hope it adds weight to the Free Harry Nicolaides Campaign. The prison conditions sound awful. Any prospective first time visitor to the LOS who gets hold of this story, might very well be put off.

    Hoo Dons last blog post..Chilli Chilli Bang Bang

    • Talen
      February 8, 2009 | 2:44 pm

      Well remember…the Thai government is mounting a publicity campaign through their foreign embassies to educate foreign travelers about the lese majeste laws.I’m sure they will have a nice pamphlet written in Thai for everyone.

  3. Windmill
    February 11, 2009 | 5:05 am

    Free Harry will get my vote.

    What’s done is done. I feel sorry for Harry and hope that no bodily harm befalls him while he’s serving his prison term.

    Can’t imagine that in this Age and day, we still have Dungeons and Dragons kind of prison environment.

    Windmills last blog post..Why Valentine?

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