This is not what Tom Tana's stay in prison looked like (Supplied)

What it’s like to get stuck in a Thai jail

Beatings, unhygienic overcrowding, no ventilation and bad food: Welcome to one Kiwi’s experience of a prison in Thailand. This piece was originally published by Newshub

Thomas Tana had really messed up bad this time. Being led by guards to his cell at the Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok, he didn’t know what to expect.

He sat down inside the filthy 4x10m room and guessed there had to be at least 120 other people there also; some, like him, who had failed to follow Thailand’s visa conditions as well as vagabonds accused of overstaying, smuggling drugs and murder.

Tana lay down and drew a harrowing comparison to the tropical paradise he had been exploring just days earlier as a newly-hired barman with free accommodation and alcohol, now issued a blanket to sleep on the cold squalor floor.

The 28-year-old had been sold a dream – a bar job that wasn’t going to make him a lot of money, but offered an easy-go lifestyle between golden sand and blue skies.

“Just party, have a good time and do a bit of work,” Tana recalls being told.

It sounded so easy, too easy, so Tana asked his new boss about the visa situation.

“You don’t have to worry about it,” he said. “Everyone does it.”

He accepted it was a “little bit dodgy” but had the reassurance he needed and left Perth, where he had been living for four years after growing up in Christchurch and living in Auckland for two years at 21.

Tana had only been working on Koh Phi Phi at a tourist-heavy, small bar in the city filled with beer pong tables and PlayStations for one week when it was raided on October 20 last year.

“They came in one night and they saw me working on the bar, taking money, giving drinks. That’s pretty much a real big no-no,” he told Newshub.

Thai officials took Tana, as well as an Englishman working at the same bar, into custody on October 20 and the pair were told they were going to be deported.


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