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Nepalese man pleads for retrial

CHANDRA Kumar Rai, a 32-year-old Nepalese man, is in jail for drug trafficking, but it is questionable whether or not he should really be there.

Rai was represented pro bono by a lawyer who by his own admission was completely green. Moreover, he was arrested on questionable evidence and under ambiguous circumstances.

"We do not have concrete evidence, but have found hints that some of the Nepalese convicts in Thai jails are innocent of the crimes they have been convicted of," said Nepalese Ambassador to Thailand Janak Bahadur Singh in an interview with the Nepali Times.

Rai, in a letter to the president of the Supreme Court, pleaded innocent and urged that his case be reopened.

"I'm begging Your Excellency not to allow the greed, corruption, and inept attitude of the police to deny me fair justice."

Evidence against Rai is flimsy at best. Brought to Thailand by an agent who promised him work in South Korea, Rai was left stranded without money for two months.

When he contacted the Nepalese Embassy on July 27, 1993, the embassy merely recorded his complaints and refused to buy him an air ticket back home, Rai said. The embassy did not even contact his family for him, he said.

Rai's troubles began when he met a man named Raju who claimed to be Nepalese, he said. With no place to stay, Rai was happy to find a Nepalese friend and excited at the prospect of a job, he said. He talked with Raju until late at night and then went to sleep at his place, he said.

Rai says he had no idea that Raju was actually involved in a conspiracy to transport heroin abroad.

The next morning, Raju and an accomplice were arrested at Don Muang International Airport, caught red-handed with heroin hidden in a bag.

According to Rai's lawyer, Munmine Dutanajarn, an identical bag and more heroin were found hidden in Raju's room, where Rai had spent the night.

"I told them I didn't know what was in the bag," Rai said.

However, the Thai justice system decided that the evidence was enough to convict him. Munmine also agreed that there was sufficient evidence. Because Rai spent the night at Raju's home he had to know him well enough to know that he was a drug trafficker, the court decided.

The pay involved was also found to be unusually large.

"I believe that Rai was a participant in the trafficking process, " Munmine said.

The Narcotics Control Board said they had uncovered evidence that Rai and his alleged partner, Jivan Thapa, were ready to transport the drugs abroad.

During the entire process, from arrest to trial, Rai was underrepresented and much of the time lost in an alien language. At first he was questioned through a translator, but then he was told to sign a statement written in Thai.

Rai said the officer questioning him offered to release him if he paid Bt20,000.

Rai had no money, so after seven days he appeared in court and was charged with heroin possession and trafficking.

"I was so surprised I nearly collapsed in court," Rai said.

Rai said that his lawyer knew no English. Munmine was even absent the day Rai's verdict was handed down, and several letters asking him to begin an appeal were to no avail, Rai said.

Foreigners are often subject to abuse in the Thai justice system, said Colonel Peerapan Premputhi, deputy superintendent of the Police Department' s International Division.

"Language barriers and ignorance of their rights are the main reasons," he said. "Not all people are pure, especially the police, " said Kasem Charvaivit, attorney director-general for narcotics cases.

Nepalese prisoners are often subject to abuse by prison officials, unconfirmed reports say. Thapa, for example, is deaf in one ear from a beating in the Bang Kwang Central Prison. However, Thai officials claim that it is the Nepalese government themselves who do not want the Nepalese prisoners transferred back to their native country. "Maybe it is because our government wants to make an example out of them," an official in the Nepalese embassy conjectured.

Example or not, Rai is spending his eighth year in a foreign prison and still pleading for justice. "It's not good that my life is ruined in this way in something that I have never done in my life or know anything about," concluded Rai is his seven page letter.

Archived from WORLDSOURCES ONLINE, INC., A JOINT VENTURE OF FDCH, INC. AND WORLD TIMES INC.


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