Sunday, April 26, 2009

Self-exiled Aussie dies in Bangkok Immigration Prison

A Melbourne man who preferred to live in a crowded Bangkok immigration cell rather than return to Australia has died.

Colin Hansch, 61, told Thai authorities he would rather stay in jail than return to Australia, even though he only slept on a mat and received a small serve of rice and soup each day.

"I've not been back to Australia for 30 years. I don't want to go back. I've got nothing to go back to," Mr Hansch said last year.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed Mr Hansch's death in a police hospital in Bangkok.

The spokesman declined to reveal the cause of death.

People who visited him in the detention centre say he probably died from an overdose of prescription medicine.

Mr Hansch, a computer engineer who left Australia decades ago, refused offers by the Australian embassy in Bangkok to issue him a limited Australian travel document to allow him to return to Australia.

It is believed he wanted a passport so he could again leave Australia.

Mr Hansch had been detained at the Immigration Centre in Bangkok, near the Australian embassy, since September 2004.

He was transferred there, supposedly pending deportation, after serving two years in a Bangkok jail for assault causing bodily harm that related to a dispute with a bar girl in the tourist resort city of Pattaya.

There are about 25 Australians among thousands of foreigners being held in Thai jails, most of them for drug related offences.

Nicholas Zemlianski, another elderly prisoner from Melbourne, is believed to be unwell in a prison hospital in Bangkok.

Australia has an agreement with Thailand that allows prisoners there to be transferred to Australian jails but the process is intensely bureaucratic and there have been only a handful of exchanges.

- The Age (Australia) / 2009-04-23

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