September 7, 2015 / 1:10 PM / 3 years ago

British academic detained in Thailand over old plagiarism row

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand has held a British academic in a crowded cell at Bangkok airport since Thursday, even though the agency that got him put on an immigration blacklist after he accused an official of plagiarism six years ago says he should be freed.

The academic, Wyn Ellis, faces deportation even though he has Thai citizenship, is married to a Thai and has lived in the Southeast Asian nation for 30 years.

“They are looking after me well, the immigration officials have been apologetic,” Ellis said in a telephone call from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, where he has shared a cell with about 15 other people for five days.

“They call me ‘professor’. But it’s a little crowded and the lights are on 24-7.”

Ellis, who works for the United Nations in Thailand, was blacklisted without his knowledge in 2009 after he complained to authorities that the then head of Thailand’s National Innovation Agency (NIA) plagiarized from a study Ellis had conducted.

Immigration authorities showed Ellis a letter sent by the former NIA head, Supachai Lorlowhakarn, in late 2009 describing Ellis as a “danger to Thai society” and accusing him of forgery, stealing government documents and plagiarism, Ellis said.

The NIA last week told the immigration department that it had revoked the letter from Supachai. But getting Ellis off the blacklist would take time.

“The NIA sent a letter to the immigration department on Sept. 4 stating that the British man should not be on the blacklist and he should not be detained,” said an NIA official who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media. “It will take time to get the process done.”

Ellis said he had been coming and going to Thailand without any problem, but had lost his Thai passport on a recent trip to Britain and Norway. When he returned to Thailand using his British passport on Thursday, he was detained.

“We will send him back to Oslo because that is where he was before,” said police Major General Suwichpol Imjairat at the immigration bureau.

“We has been blacklisted. We have to push him back.”

Ellis, who is working on a sustainable rice program with the United Nations, said immigration officials told him it could take two or three months to sort out his status.

“I hope I will be removed from the blacklist,” he said. “I love Thailand and have committed the best part of my working life to Thailand.”

Reporting by Simon Webb, Khettiya Jittapong, Pairat Temphairojana and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Robert Birsel

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