(Note: There has been a gap in Gary's blogs to us as we have had difficulty getting letters and parcels to him in Bang Kwang and he getting letters to us unless they went via a 3rd party)
Sadly my initial hopes regarding my book have been scuppered. The original intention was to have it published before being repatriated. This didn’t work out and as I have now fully experienced the physical repatriation experience it behoves me to document it. As far as I can tell only 2 other Britons have written accounts of the process from attending the handover ceremony to the Wandsworth Marshals, to being delivered into the FNIC(First Night in Custody) cell on E Wing.
Whereas Lester and Scotty, the two who have documented the process, knew their actual date of repatriation for weeks beforehand, my day was mired in confusion, due in part because of the floods affecting Bangkok.
Originally I was scheduled for the end of November – later leaked to me by the screws as being 30/11/11. As the Bangkok floods worsened NOMS and the Embassy decide to postpone the transfer and we (Michael Connell) had been scheduled for 8 days earlier) were told on the 18/11/11 that our 'new' dates were fr sometime in the first quarter of 2012.
Michael and I went ballistic as, for complicated and unnecessary reasons, Britons are only credited with half of the time spent in Thai jails off of 'Time Served' by NOMS – effectively increasing the licence portion we need to serve. Both Michael's and my groups of supporters raised their lances and jousted against NOMS and the FCO and our schedules were bought back into line.
Thinking that my day was to be 30/11/11 all of my plans; room leaving party, handing out of property that I couldn’t take back to Blighty etc; were centred around that day. It came as a surprise when Golf – my Kapo mate working in the D3 office – at 9am on the 28th frantically started to call me over the buildings tannoy. Sure enough the ceremony was due to kick-off at ten and I had 30minutes to get packed.
The most important item on this part of the agenda was getting into my 'going away' kit. This was a tee-shirt and a pair of shorts I had had since my Bombat days 9 years ago. Both had been the sole items of clothing I had possessed for about 1 year and they were used when the lads in Bombat gave them to me to cover my nakedness. Nine years on and they were hanging in ribbons from my body; Well almost! The Nepalese had been warned as to this part of my 'Game Plan' (and my reason thereof) so were not shocked by my appearance. However the Thai lads were staggered. More so because they correctly perceived it as a deliberate insult to the senior officials attending the ceremony.
My 'uniform' had a far more subtle purpose though. As part of the handover ceremony both the British Embassy and the prisoner being repatriated are supposed to formally thank the Bang Kwang Director and the Department of Correction (DOC) for taking such good care of the inmate during the time in the Hilton. The entire ceremony is videoed and, as has happened in the past, should the prisoner later claim about the cruel and inhumane treatment they suffered in Bang Kwang, then both the Embassy and the DOC had the inmates counter testament ready on file. Dressed as I was neither the Embassy nor the DOC could risk filming the handover.
Such was the stick that I stuck in the bureaucratic wheel that many of of the rituals usually indulged in were abandoned . There was also a spin off benefit to my deportment. All of the D3 lads; Thais, Farang and Nigerians were heartened to learn that protest was alive and kicking in one small part of Bang Kwang – Building3!
Whilst the Thais were sufficiently intimidated to forego a full bells and whistles handover ceremony during which the Farang is videoed as thoroughly penitent and anxious to absolve the DOC of any further claims of abuse they have undoubtedly been subjected to by the screws, my ceremony was completed within a record breaking 10 – 15 minutes. Very much an anti-climax in retrospect.
The escorting marshals weren’t bemused by my style of dress, and after the conference room emptied I was read the Riot Act by Senior Prison Officer (SO) Winpenny, the head of the escort team of 3, a stand off between two strong minded individuals. The impasse was resolved by Arthur, the Marshal charged to be my personal body escort, a couple of humanitarian words from him and the repatriation was back on course.
From the conference room I was then; much to my surprise, handed an envelope containing just over 9,000Baht (£200) which was the balance remaining on my prison coffee shop account. Added to the 4,000Baht in cash I thought I might be needing as 'Gate Money' for the Kapos – charged by them as a 'toll' to all those leaving Bang Kwang, I now had 13,000Baht to hand should an opportunity to escape arise in IDC. Although not a fortune, enough money to spirit me away to Laos. No Such Luck.
The marshals then handed me over to the Thai screws taking me on the 45 minute drive to the IDC located on Sathorn Road, There was very little evidence of the much broadcast Bangkok flooding that all the recent brouhaha was all about. Maybe Michael (who had gone back the previous week) saw more.
Other though then keeping a 'weather eye' open for evidence of the flooding, my main efforts were being put to having the screws stop briefly so that I could buy us all a beer or two. It was just my luck though that these 3 screws were the only ones in all of Thailand who didn’t like a drink. To add insult to my injury, none of them would accept a reasonable drink (Bung) to quench my thirst with a medicinal Beer!
We finally made it to IDC, sadly none the worse for wear, more's the pity.
“Caecorum in Patria Luscus Rex Imperat Omnis”