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Prisoner exchange deal 'held up by govt'
22nd January 2007, 17:11 WST


Debbie Singh
The sister of the first Australian repatriated under a prisoner exchange deal with Thailand has accused Canberra of holding up the return of others, for two years in one case.

Debbie Singh's brother John Doran came back to Australia in 2003 to complete a jail term he received in Thailand for fraud.

His return came about six months after the exchange deal was ratified, but Singh said waiting times had blown out since then.

She said there were currently six Australians in Thai jails who had lodged applications to return.

"One of the applications has been in for two years and the rest range from six to 18 months," she said.

"I'm very frustrated on hearing that because I don't see what the problem is. Why has it taken so long?"

Singh blamed the delays on Canberra, saying that if family members weren't "constantly knocking on doors" things don't seem to progress as they should.

"It's red tape gone mad as usual," she said.

"This transfer treaty has been set up to bring Australians back and rehabilitate them so let's get on and do it."


Debbie Singh's book
You'll Never Walk Alone
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Doran was arrested in 1997 and jailed for 10 years for passing forged travellers' cheques in Bangkok. In Australia, a similar offence would have attracted a fine.

Singh said she spent years campaigning for the prisoner exchange deal, which was initially discussed by the two nations in 1997. It was finally ratified in September 2002.

Delays by Australian states had been seen as a key factor in the slow passage of the treaty, as prisons are a state government function.

Meanwhile, Doran was locked up in Thailand's Klong Prem prison, known as the Bangkok Hilton.

Doran finally returned home to Australia in 2003, where he served a further nine months behind bars and in that time received the medical treatment he didn't get in Thailand.

"He came out of the Australian prison looking like a normal everyday person and not someone out of concentration camp which is the way he did look when he was in Thailand," Singh said.

Singh, who has written a book based on her efforts to help her brother, says the bureaucracy holding up the applications of other Australians must be addressed.

"It seems to be this clog in the system at certain stages. We really need to have a good look at it and see why is it taking so long when the first case didn't," she said.

AAP

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