BANGKOK – Thai Immigration Police forced a British English teacher to spend a week in a Thai jail cell after his hand gel leaked onto his passport meaning he couldn’t leave the country.
Gavin Topley, 30,Â from Bournemouth, England, was travelling in South-East Asia when he was prevented from entering Vietnam because of the damage to his passport.
The issue meant he overstayed his visa in Thailand and he was thrown into a detention centre cell where he says conditions were awful.
Mr Topley, 30, said his hand gel spilled in his bag on his way to Heathrow Airport earlier this summer, causing the watermark on his passport to run.
The smudge didn’t stop him from flying to or entering Thailand, where he travelled for a number weeks, before heading to Vietnam, where he was planning to teach.
But after a Vietnamese border guard spotted the damage, he sent him back to Thailand, where Mr Topley’s visa had expired.
Authorities in Bangkok refused to let him extend the visa and he was locked in a small detention cell with up to 35 other inmates for a week before eventually flying back to Britain.
Mr Topley, a former Army veterinary technician, told MailOnline: ‘There was no window and the population of the small room was very transitory. At some times there were 35 men and women in the same room.’
The cockroach-ridden cell only had 14 beds which were cleaned just once a week, meaning Mr Topley spent each of his six nights in the cell sleeping on a mat on the floor.
After being sent back from Vietnam, he was ushered into this cell at Bangkok airport
He befriended other detainees in the centre and had photos taken with them on his phone
Mr Topley was forced to sleep for six nights on a mat in the corner of the cockroach-ridden cell
He added: ‘I was allowed to keep my phone and had my mum and sister crying on the other end of the line, so I tried to put a brave face on it, but it was very grim.’
During his time in the cell, friends in the UK set up a jokey ‘Free Gav’ campaign, posting pictures with the slogan online.
The Foreign Office eventually managed to get him on a flight back to Britain, but his bag was mislaid and he has missed out on hundreds of pounds in lost earnings.
Mr Topley said: ‘I think I just got a border guard on the wrong day. I had travelled both from Britain into Thailand and in and out of Cambodia on the passport without anyone else complaining.’
The incident has not put him off travelling in the region however, and he is now back in the UK getting a new passport and visa to return to his job in Vietnam.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: ‘We provided assistance in this case and are pleased that the situation has now been resolved.’
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