Harry Nicolaides speaks

harry-tearful1After the jump, two brief newspaper articles based on interviews Harry Nicolaides has granted since his release.  Most interesting to me is this paragraph from the first article:

Harry admits that an article by him published in Eureka Street, a Melbourne based publication, alleging that Thai police turned a blind eye to the importation of child pornography from Burma, may have impacted on his situation, “It may have put me on the radar, I knew I was always provocative but at worst if anything at all happened I thought I would be deported, never jailed.” 

From the Greek-Australian newspaper Neos Kosmos:

FORMER Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE) staffer, Harry Nicolaides arrived in Melbourne on Saturday after almost seven months in a Thai prison and fell into the arms of his father Socrates and brother Forde. Harry’s first priority is to try to come to terms with what occurred to him and the shock of his mother’s stroke. “I cannot stop crying” he said to NKEE.

Asked if he can describe what he is feeling Harry said, “I am bewildered, I am dazed and I have lost touch with my feelings and my ability to relate to my environment.”

Harry was informed about his mother’s stroke an hour after his release, “I am overwhelmed with concern about my mother, my brief feelings on release of epiphany and exquisite joy dissolved when I was confronted with the news of my mother’s stroke – I am in a state of shock and disorientation.”

“She was overcome with emotion, she was crying when she saw me” added Harry.

Harry received a royal pardon, last Thursday for the crime of lese majeste, a law punishing any insult to the Thai royal family. Harry was sentenced to three years jail for a paragraph in his self published book Vesrimilitude that talks of a fictional Thai prince’s alleged infidelities.

Harry was aware of the Thai law; “I knew the law existed but not in my wildest dreams did I think that they would take me seriously enough to drag me into the ordeal that I have experienced. I wrote that book three years ago.”

Harry admits that an article by him published in Eureka Street, a Melbourne based publication, alleging that Thai police turned a blind eye to the importation of child pornography from Burma, may have impacted on his situation, “It may have put me on the radar, I knew I was always provocative but at worst if anything at all happened I thought I would be deported, never jailed.” 

Harry describes what he felt when he was in prison, “like falling in a dark hole. It was an experience of shock and disbelief so unfamiliar to anything I could even imagine.”

In fact, the last day before being released Harry fell into a sewer hole leading to a large cesspool, “If not for the holding on to a rusted and flimsy man hole wires I would have been submerged in human excrement.”

He describes the prison as being like a “prisoner of war camp that you see in movies like The Great Escape, with gun turrets and barbed wire everywhere”.

“The conditions are impossible to comprehend or believe, it shocked me and disgusted me, it was like the worst of Bangkok’s slums only a hundred times worse,” Harry says.

He talks of the process of “suspending humanity and allowing for a form of numbness, a mortification as all I could do is fulfil my basic human needs.”

“In prison I encountered many people and experiences that could have easily nurtured antipathy in me towards the Thai people, but I never lost sight for the reality that this was an extreme situation and that the essential goodness of most of the Thai people”

Harry expresses his feelings to NKEE of being in a prison “surrounded by foreign culture and a language I did not understand, I was in prison within a prison, we had to prostrate ourselves in front of prison officials.”

Harry adds, “I need to rise above some of those feelings, my partner Jiantana who is Thai helped me tremendously in the process.”

But Harry’s antipathy to the prison guards is hardly veiled, “The guards are lazy, corrupt and self servicing and they beat people for no reason. I remember near the last day when we were eating they picked a poor Thai man and made him bend over and beat him with a heavy wooden pole across his back. When I asked some Iranian prisoners who spoke some Thai why they were beating him, they said because the prisoner had not finished laundering the guard’s clothes in time.”

His mind will always be seared with images of prisoners “left to die from TB or HIV instead of being treated”, or corrupt Thai guards humiliating prisoners and the eternal stench of the prison.

While in prison he met a number of foreign nationals one of the being Viktor Bout the infamous weapons dealer depicted by Nicolas Cage in the film Lord of War.

“I was the unofficial correspondent Victor Bout who ran an airline serviving all the African nations and is now awaiting extradition to the US.” He also shared a cell with one of the world’s leading drug king pins now awaiting extradition to Australia.

While Harry maybe considering the writing of a book about his nightmarish experiences in a Bangkok jail, his main focus for the time being is to become normal and to assist in the care of his mother.

NKEE has sought an exclusive in-depth interview with Harry Nicolaides which will be appearing soon.

Eureka Street itself has finally gotten around to mentioning the Nicolaides case, though only in the course of a movie review. 

From The Australian, 23 February 2009:

SAVOURING freedom after almost six months in a Bangkok prison, Australian writer Harry Nicolaides woke yesterday in his parents’ house to the sound of his father making breakfast.

Instinctively, Mr Nicolaides, 41, slipped out of bed and crawled into his father’s still-warm sheets and knew he was home.

“It was the most luxurious and comforting feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Mr Nicolaides said after flying into Melbourne on Saturday following a pardon from Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

After a harrowing time in prison and news that his 75-year-old mother, Despina, had suffered a stroke that has robbed her of speech, Mr Nicolaides’ fortunes may finally be turning.

In an exquisite irony, after being sentenced to three years’ prison in January for insulting the Thai monarchy in a work of fiction that only sold seven copies, would-be publishers of his experiences have been among the well-wishers calling his father Socrates, 83.

While banned from writing a journal while held, Mr Nicolaides has been able to document his experiences in long letters to his parents that he said prison censors had been unable to read because of his bad handwriting.

But after witnessing daily brutality and deprivation for 5 1/2 months, Mr Nicolaides said he was too emotionally traumatised to start talking to publishers, and the only thing that counted was being home and seeing his parents.

“My emotions have just withered,” he said. “The only emotion that did register was on seeing my mother and seeing her cry. In a sense we are both paralysed.”

News of Mr Nicolaides’ pardon came shortly after he had almost drowned in excrement after falling through an old manhole cover above the prison sewer on Friday.

Only his leg getting caught stopped him from falling completely into the sewer.

After surviving that, and just as he was bedding down for the night, he was told he had been pardoned and was taken to a room where he had to kneel before a picture of the King.

 

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2 Comments

  1. cymast

     /  February 25, 2009

    Surely Nicolaides isn’t considering returning to Thailand AND considering “the writing of a book about his nightmarish experiences.” Even these interviews would put him on Thailand’s kill list.

  2. acilius

     /  February 26, 2009

    The child pornography industry is organized crime, and I’m sure the child pornographers who have used Tachilek would like to put Nicolaides on their “kill lists.” Apparently that racket operates more freely in Thailand than elsewhere, and Nicolaides can’t turn to the Thai authorities there for protection. So I’m sure you’re right to say that it would be extremely bold of him to go back to Thailand.

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