Tuesday, 25 January 2011

'Our Prison cell was like a cage for birds'


via CAAI

Mon, Jan 24, 2011
The Nation/Asia News Network

Tainae Mungmajon, Samdin Lertbutr and Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth briefly recount their experiences after being arrested in Cambodia for trespassing.

Tainae viewed his detention in a Cambodian jail as life lesson and reaffirmation of Buddhist teachings on the law of karma.

"In my cell, I had time to think about issues like why good people are denied what they deserve and why bad people get the rewards," he said.

Thainae, a newsman and follower of the Santi Asoke Sect, was one of the five Thais freed from a month-long detention in Phnom Penh and returned home on Saturday.

He was recounting his experience at Prey Sar Prison to supporters of the Thai Patriots Network.

After the Cambodian authorities took him into custody for trespassing at Banteay Meanchey opposite Thailand's Sa Kaeo pronvince, he said he had a hard time reconciling his bad fortune as he was a devout Buddhist.

"I am not a bad man nor a drunk nor a foul mouth nor a bully, yet I found myself in prison," he said, attributing his misfortune to bad karma of the past.

"About 20 days in prison were an atonement for the bad things I did during my childhood, before I turned vegetarian and did good deeds to overcome past sins," he said.

He said his prison cell was like a cage for birds, helping him to understand their plight.

Compared to the other detained Thais, he said he considered himself more fortunate because as a single man he had no worries about loved ones. He said some news reports had exaggerated that he missed his wife and children. This was inaccurate since he was not married, he insisted.

To overcome idleness in his cell, he said he spent time excercising and keeping fit. His cellmate Veera Somkwamkid gave him an invaluable advice, saying he should view his detention as a rare opportunity to take a break from a busy workload, he added.

He said he spent about 20 hours per day cooped up in his cell. Wardens allowed him only a three-hour walk in the prison yard.

"Even in the open yard, I felt like a dog under the tight leash of the wardens," he said.

Samdin Lertbutr said his ordeal on the first day of his December 29 arrest was difficulty in getting his message across - Cambodian authorities took him into custody inside Thailand.

"My statement was I was still inside Thailand, therefore I could not answer their question why I had crossed into Cambodia," he said yesterday.

The Cambodians took the seven Thais from Bantaey Meanchey to Phnom Penh. They arrived at the Cambodian capital around 11pm and were interrogated till 2am.

Samdin said that because of the fatigue and late hours, he told the interrogators to write whatever they wanted as he reserved his right to testify in court.

The next morining, prosecutors took statements from him and other detainees disregarding the interrogation of the previous night, he said.

He said the Thai ambassor to Phnom Penh was helpful in arranging legal assistance for the detainees.

After consulatation among the seven, they agreed to be represented by defence lawyers seen as pro-government because they believed what happened was a misunderstanding and strayed accidentally into Cambodian territory, he said.

In regard to legal costs, he said certain Thai businessmen in Phnom Penh helped pay expenses.

Among the detainees, MP Panich and activist Veera Somkwamkid were assigned to VIP cells while Samdin and two others shared a small cell. Two female detainees were held in a separate cell.

Samdin said he realised he had unwittingly crossed about 55 meters into Cambodia after viewing the map shown to him by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who paid the Thais a visit in prison.

"I immediately called my friends in Thailand to inform them."

-- The Nation/Asia News Network

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