Monday December 29, 2008 -
By PHILIP GOLINGAI and MEERA VIJAYAN
Serving time: Nigerian prisoners leaving the Bang Kwang Central Prison in Thailand to return to Nigeria where they will complete their remaining jail sentence. Malaysian prisoners in Thailand are hoping for a similar deal.
BANGKOK: Ask 29-year-old Dennis Ooi what his wish for New Year is, and he would say it is to be incarcerated in a Malaysian prison.
For the Penangite who is now in “Bangkok Hilton” — the nickname for Bang Kwang Central Prison in Thailand, one of the most notorious prisons around — any jail in his homeland is most welcome.
He is among many Malaysians in Thai prisons who are appealing to the Malaysian Government to sign a transfer treaty with Thailand to enable them to finish their jail term in their homeland.
Ooi, who was charged with importing drugs in 2003 after selling 700 Ecstasy pills to a Thai contact who turned out to be an undercover policeman, told The Star in a recent interview that he badly wanted the transfer treaty because the jail sentence in Thailand was too harsh.
Not knowing to read and write the Thai language, Ooi claimed that he was made to sign an admission so that the death sentence would be reduced to a life term — which is 50 years in jail.
He also said that although his brother paid a Thai lawyer 1.5mil baht (about RM150,000) to represent him in the Thai court, the lawyer did not turn up.
Ooi felt it was unfair for him to languish in prison for 50 years for signing the sheet that stated he imported drugs. He also said that the Thai prisoners and prison wardens did not like Malaysian prisoners.
He said the Malaysian prisoners got the idea for the transfer treaty from Nigerians who serve a minimum time in Thailand and return home to serve their remaining term.
“We feel sad when we see them go home. We are serving the same sentence but they get to go back because their government has a transfer treaty with Thailand,” he said.
In early October, Ooi through a Jesuit priest, Father Olivier Morin, sent appeal letters signed by a few hundred Malaysian prisoners to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and to the foreign ministry.