Thai Authorities Have Held This British Academic at Bangkok Airport for Five Days Straight


Thai Authorities Have Held This British Academic at Bangkok Airport for Five Days Straight

by Charlie Campbell



Dr Ellis sent the BBC a picture of himself in detention at the airport


Wyn Ellis says he is trapped in a “Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare”

Over the past five days, Wyn Ellis has been woken several times each night by guards bursting into his cell at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Through the fog of sleep he’s watched as one of his 30 or so bunkmates is roused from narrow cots and hustled out the door toward deportation and a waiting airplane. “I’m going to have nightmares in the future about this,” the 57-year-old tells TIME by phone from detention.

Ellis is an unlikely figure to wind up in immigration purgatory. A Welsh academic who consults on sustainable rice production for the U.N. Environmental Program, he was detained on Thursday after airport officials found his name on an immigration blacklist. He now finds himself in the middle of what he deems a “Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare.”

It all stems from a 2008 legal dispute with Thai academic Supachai Lorlowhakarn, who Ellis proved in court had plagiarized his work, among others. Before being sacked in disgrace, Supachai, then director of Thailand’s National Innovation Agency (NIA), managed to get Ellis added to a list of foreign undesirables barred from entry to the country.

However, as Ellis had a Thai passport owing to his Thai citizenship — he has lived in Thailand for three decades and is married to a former Thai civil servant — this listing went under the radar of immigration officials. That was until Ellis returned from vacation in Norway last week.

He had misplaced his Thai passport and so was forced to present his British one, which drew the attention of immigration officials to the list. They detained him and, after he refused to purchase a plane ticket back to Oslo, marched Ellis to the crowded, windowless holding cell where he remains.

“There’s stench of urine and the toilets are unbearable — overflowing and flooded,” he says. “And then there are the cockroaches.”





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