The Language of People Smuggling II

Spending time with kids in a West Javanese village whose father has been charged with People Smuggling and sitting in an Australian Prison. They have not seen their father in over 18 months

My apologies to those who had gone to the previous link sent out for ‘The Language of People Smuggling‘ and weren’t able to read the article. Due to legal reasons, I was required to pull the story until the case was over.

An historical decision was made in Queensland today in regard to one of the cases that is mentioned below.  The Supreme Court judge threw the case out of court due to what he believed to be a lack of evidence to support the Crown’s case. It’s a small light at the end of a long tunnel after some very tiring days trekking across Indonesia gathering evidence to help repatriate some of the hundreds of poor Indonesian fisherman and unwitting laborers (including minors, some of whom tell stories of rape in Australian detention) that are sitting in maximum security Australian prisons, facing 5 years mandatory incarceration (eligible for parole after 3 years).  Most of these Indonesians have fallen victim to agents working for smuggling rings that target the poorest villages in Indonesia, making them a ‘once in a lifetime offer’ to do a ‘fishing’ job.  A ‘fishing job’ that unbeknownst to them was planned to go awry from the get-go.  The average Indonesian fisherman / rice-farmer ends up sitting in Australian prisons for over 18 months and will have wasted millions of Australian’s tax-dollars before they even get to take their case to trial.  

Should you have any questions, I welcome your contact: http://stujay.com/contact/.

Stuart Jay Raj on top of the recently active volcano Mt. Bromo in East Java in search of people smugglers

This post is going to take you on a journey that not many people have had the chance to take.  From my experience spending time with people smugglers in prison, the courts and tracking their families down back in Indonesia, you will have a chance to take a glimpse into the mind of a people smuggler, understand the smuggling business model and smuggling routes, get an insight into the money and business generated from people smuggling and learn how to speak their language.

The Exodus

In 2010 in the midst of the political turmoil that was paralyzing Bangkok, I made the reluctant call to move my family to Australia.  It was a tough call. I had my TV show and other work in the media in Thailand, I was on the board of the Foreign Correspondents Club, my consulting and training business was going well across the region and almost everything aside from politics looked like it was on the up and up.   On the down side, my two kids then aged 5 and 6 didn’t speak a word of English and I was spending  long stretches of time away from them … and ‘Bangkok Life’ was beginning to become just a little ‘too’ crazy – now that’s saying something!

In the end, we decided that Australia was the best solution.  We sold our house, furniture and the kids parted with their nanny, maid and beloved Shitzu named Kung-Fu.  We moved to Australia and I unknowingly began my journey into the murky world of People Smuggling and the Escheresque labyrinth that they call the Australian Legal System.

Everybody Needs an Interpreter

Life in Australia was a big reverse cultural shock for me, and I was getting desperate to get a taste of my ‘old’ life back.  Over the past 16 years, I had worked as a simultaneous interpreter in Indonesian, Mandarin and Thai for the UN, government agencies, NGO’s and companies across Asia.  90% of the interpreting work I did was conference interpreting and had a particular ‘glamour’ factor.  I figured that getting into the interpreting scene in Australia would be the best way to hit the ground running.  What I soon found out was that the interpreting scene in Australia was very different to what I was used to… and very un-glamorous.  Where I would normally be with delegations, diplomats, CEO’s and Miss Universe, in Australia I found myself  interpreting for mothers that had just given birth, teaching them how to breast feed correctly, and describing where middle aged ladies’ rashes came from to doctors.  I also interpreted for the courts, normally for drunk driving charges against foreign students run amok  and even for one lady that had brought in illegal seed specimens into Australia from Thailand and was under threat of imprisonment.  This was the world of ‘Community Interpreting’.

The Australian Labour Government’s Warm Welcome to People Smugglers

Just when I thought that breast feeding and festering rashes was becoming a little too much, interpreting started to become interesting.  I had arrived in Australia just as the number of boat people arriving at Christmas island was beginning to soar.

Here is a table of the boats of asylum seekers arriving in Australia between 2002 and 2011 (taken from http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/bn/sp/boatarrivals.htm)

 

Year Number of Boats Number of people (includes crew)
2002 1 1
2003 1 53
2004 1 15
2005 4 11
2006 6 60
2007 5 148
2008 7 161
2009 61 2849*
2010 134 6879**
2011 (to 30 June) 28 1675***

Under the previous Howard government, asylum seeker boats dropped from 5516 people in 2001 to only 1 boat arrival in all of 2002 under what was called ‘The Pacific Solution‘.  The Labour government came into power under Kevin Rudd in 2007.  The number of asylum seekers jumped from 6 boats (60 people) in 2006 to 134 boats (6879 people) in 2010.  There are many reasons put forward by all sides as to why the number of boat arrivals has risen so high.  After getting to know all the players involved, I think I’m in a unique position to understand why the numbers are the way they are and what might be done to put the breaks on.

Coming Face to Face with People Smugglers

Whether working for the AFP, DPP, Legal aid or Corrective Services, all roads led prison - where I got to really know many of the Indonesian People Smugglers as people.

In June 2010, I was called into Brisbane Magistrates Court to interpret Indonesian for my first of what would be many people smuggling cases.  Over the following months, I worked with the courts, Legal Aid / lawyers from assorted law firms, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Corrective Services Queensland,  SERCO (Private organization that runs detention centres), GEO Group (Private organization that runs the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Facility in Brisbane), other government agencies and media / news organizations.

The ‘Sandiwara’ of the Australian Legal System

Definition of ‘Sandiwara’: play, drama, theatrical troupe, pretend, play-act

Sitting with Indonesian boat crew prisoners day in day out in court and in prison has some lighter moments.  They often manage to find humour in what is going on around them and many of them have described the whole process that they’re going through as a ‘Sandiwara’.  Many of them can’t believe that this whole performance has been put on in their honour.  To truly appreciate why they feel this way, you have to for a moment at least, put yourself in their shoes.

An Indonesian 'Wayang Kulit' Shadow Puppet. Many of the Indonesian prisoners are gob-smacked by the 'Sandiwara' that is being put on all because of them.

The Anatomy of a People Smuggler’s Journey

  1. Poor villager living below poverty line as a farmer or fisherman making around USD$1.00 – $1.50 per day (when there’s work) to support an extended family, often living in squalor with communal toilets, open sewers, no running water, no clean water and sick children to take care of;
  2. An ‘agent’ either introduces themselves to the men in the village, or to a respected person in the village and tells them that they work with foreigners who of course have money and is looking for people to help out on a fishing and / or tour boat crew (often to ‘Pulau Pasir’ which is the Indonesian name for ‘Ashmore Island’.  Most Indonesians are unaware that Pulau Pasir is actually Australian territory);
  3. The ‘respected’ people or the agent, recruit men in the village.  Villages have a very structured hierarchy and to reject an offer made to you by an elder would be an insult and for most would be unthinkable.  The average villager is offered between 3 million and 10 million Indonesian Rupiah (between USD$300-$1000) for what is anticipated to be a 5-7 day job taking the foreigners around.
  4. The boat is often waiting fully stocked with fuel, noodles and water while the offer is being made and in many cases, the villagers have a window of only a few hours between agreeing to the deal and having to set sail.
  5. A portion of the money is paid to them upon departure which is often left with a family friend to take to the family, or they will drop off the money themselves before the journey.  In many cases, they don’t have a chance to say goodbye to their wives and children.
  6. In many cases, the full amount of money is not paid to the family as the full amount was dependent on them making a round trip.  This was never to be the case, as the ultimate goal for the organizers of the smuggling rings is to intentionally have Australian Customs or the Australian Navy intercept the boat in the contiguous zone (zone where both Indonesia and Australia have dual authority), or in Australian waters, so that the asylum seekers will be taken into custody and the Australian government will be forced to process their refugee asylum applications due to Australia’s international obligations.
  7. The boat will often leave from South / South East Sulawesi (Muna), Surabaya (East Java), Tanjung Pinang (Sumatera) and make their way to Kupang (West Timor) and / or Roti just near Kupang.  In many cases, their ‘minders’ jump ship at these last ports and I have worked on a few cases where the ‘minder’ has literally jumped ship in the middle of the ocean just after leaving Roti and telling the Indonesian cook / mechanic to take the rudder and just keep driving the boat straight for another 7 hours or so.   In this particular case, the Burmese / Rohingyan crew were said to have threatened the man left holding the rudder saying they had paid good money for the journey and they intended to reach their destination (which in many cases was made aware to the crew members only after the journey had commenced).  The routes taken by the smugglers vary.  Afghanis have often been living in Pakistan for many years.  They organize the trip with an agent in Pakistan and then take a route either back through Afghanistan, or fly to Dubai, then onto Thailand or Malaysia.  If flying into Thailand, they make their way to Malaysia by car or boat.  In Malaysia their passports / ID are collected and they lay low in a safe house waiting for the connection to Indonesia.  They might go to one of many places in Indonesia.  Often by boat, then a long bus / van ride.  They usually end up at another holding / safe house for several days until they get word in the middle of the night that the boat has arrived.  They then wade out into the water, take small boats in the darkness out to the boat that will take them on to Australia.   For many of the Indonesian crew, they start to smell that something is fishy when they realise that their ‘minders’ have anchored the boat offshore and don’t go into the port that they were told was their destination.  By this time, they have already received a portion of their money for the job.  Between having received the money already and through the cultural trait of not questioning orders from people higher up the food chain, they are compelled to go along with the show.
  8. The boats often have severe leaks and often need one crew member dedicated to pumping the water out of the bilge.  Bad weather makes this even worse.  While these boats are seen as being in bad condition when compared to western standards, they are seen as being quite good vessels in the eyes of the crew – often in much better condition than the boats that they’re used to sailing or paddling on.
  9. After several days of traveling, the boats will see an airplane flying above them.  This is a sign that Australian customs / navy will soon intercept them.
  10. Customs or the Australian navy sends a boat out to intercept the smuggler’s boat.  They board the boat and transfer the passengers to the navy / customs vessel.
  11. The passengers and crew are then taken to a larger Navy ship that travels for a few days to Christmas Island.
  12. Passengers and crew are detained at Christmas Island.  Asylum seekers, usually from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Burma (Rohingyans) are detained separately from the crew.  The asylum seekers’ applications for asylum are made and processed.  A high percentage of them are successful allowing them to live in Australia legally and receive benefits from the Australian government
  13. Boat crew (Indonesians) are transferred from Christmas Island to Darwin Detention Centre.   They stay here for a while and receive new clothes and ‘welcome packages’.  The smuggler’s boat is usually destroyed.
  14. Indonesian boat crew are then dispersed to different capital cities’ police ‘watch houses’ in capital cities across Australia.  The watch-houses are very cold places – both physically and emotionally.  It is here that they are officially charged by the Australian Federal Police.  Once charged and their possessions are taken, they appear immediately in the Magistrates Court.  The Magistrate reads the charge to them and remands them (without bail – as they have nowhere to stay and no legal right to stay) to a maximum security prison to await trial and / or sentencing if a guilty plea is made first.
  15. Indonesians are sent to maximum security prison.  Two Indonesians were beaten within an inch of their lives by Australian prisoners in late 2010 at a maximum security prison in Brisbane, so for a time, the prison had to go on lockdown while Indonesians were walked through the prison.  Upon entry at the prison, they go through a ‘welcome’ interview in the ‘tissues and tears’ room at the prison, then go through a psychological examination and a health examination.  Many of the Indonesians have found out about health conditions like diabetes and TB during this time and are treated for it in prison.
  16. The prisoners are given a ‘welcome’ pack of bedding, clothes and cigarettes
  17. They make AUD$16 per week in prison that is used to by toothpaste, cigarettes etc.
    1. Because of the secure phone system used by the prison where all phone conversations have to be monitored and recorded – which they say is especially expensive for international calls, the Indonesians don’t have the luxury of speaking regularly with their families.  It costs around AUD$23 for about a 5 minute conversation back home.  This is out of the budget for nearly everyone, so most lose contact with their wives and children.  According to Muslim law, many of the wives legally divorce their husbands after not having been supported for over one year.  Many of the prisoner’s family members have become ill, moved overseas or died unbeknownst to the prisoners.  There are no books or reading materials in Indonesian in prison.
  18. If the prisoners plead guilty, or are found guilty they will receive a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years with opportunity for probation after 3 years under a charge like “Facilitating the bringing to Australia of 5 or more people with reckless disregard as to whether they have a legal right to be in Australia”.
  19. In Brisbane, once a guilty plea is made, or they are found guilty, they are moved to a different facility (usually Brisbane Corectional Centre) which is often a very different environment to Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre.  There is the opportunity to work and make a little more money at BCC, though I have spoken to some prisoners there who have gone from good spirits weeks before to suicidal.
  20. Their final detention centre is determined and they are sent to that centre for the duration of their detention.
  21. In the case that they do not plead guilty, there are many more court appearances as they move up the different courts until they finally reach the District Court where it goes to trial.  If it goes to trial, a jury is chosen with all the players in ‘full costume’ (according to the Indonesians…. It’s quite a spectacle seeing everyone in robes, wigs and shouting out at each other).
  22. If they are found guilty, same process happens as if pleaded guilty.  There might be a chance that because it was taken to trial and wasted more money and time, that a longer sentence is given.

 

Detaining Indonesian People Smugglers Does Have its $$UP-Side$$

"I know it's tough that they go to jail and all, but just think of how many people that their imprisonment is helping"

When some of the people involved in the people smuggling cases have heard that I have started to do things to address the issue outside of just being an interpreter, I have received from more than one person (in jest of course) a comment along the lines of “Don’t do that, if you stop the boats coming, we’ll all be out of a job!”

Remember that these Indonesians are paid around $300-$1000 for the whole ordeal.

Each passenger from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq or Burma will have paid on average $10,000 – $15,000 for the journey.  This fee covers the bribes, costs of the ‘legal’ travel documents that they carry all the way to Malaysia where they are ‘collected’, the airfares and other travel costs from their place of origin, the fees paid to the agents and recruiters and lastly, the wages paid to the boat crew or ‘mules’ which are at the lowest rung of the ladder.

Now compare that to the costs that the Australian government pays for:

  • Navy, customs intercepts and transfers
  • Detaining them on Christmas Island
  • Transfers to Darwin
  • Transfers to Capital City Watch-houses (SERCO) across Australia
  • Detention Centre keep – have guards, Correctional Services officers, nutritionalists, doctors etc
  • Judges, Barristers, lawyers
  • Other Legal fees
  • Interpreters
  • Chartered flights – By Australian Law, no more than 2 detainees may fly on a commercial flight, so often planes are chartered to take detainees around.  The detainees might be the defendants themselves, or may be the asylum seekers that are being flown in from all parts of Australia as witnesses to give evidence at hearings and / or trials
  • Catering
  • Hotels to hold up the witnesses who are giving evidence.  There was an issue several months ago where a group of Afghan asylum seekers wanted to protest and not give evidence after they were upset because the Crown refused to pay for 6 porno films that one Afghan gentleman had watched on the 4-5 star Hotel’s PAY-TV system the night before.   I am uncertain who ended up paying the bill, but the Afghanis did end up testifying.
  • Logistics Companies
  • Specialist testimonies
  • Other Miscellaneous costs

Is Mandatory Detention the Solution?

Given that some barristers alone cost around $6,000-$10,000 per day, interpreter bills are looking at around $2000+ per day and all the legal fees for preparation etc, by the time these guys finally get sent back to Indonesia, I shudder to think how many billions this has cost the Australian tax payers.  There are 300-500 Indonesian crew members being detained at the moment all at different stages of their legal proceedings.  Depending on how far they take it, each Indonesian could be costing the Australian government up into the millions of dollars on their maintenance and legal fees / logistics alone.  All this, and the number of boats arriving is increasing!  Makes you wonder whether mandatory detention is the solution.
In fact, I have been in a few court sessions where the High Court judges have also questioned both the efficacy and constitutionality of mandatory sentencing.
One argument goes:
They are charged with ‘recklessly’ bringing 5 or more people to Australia that didn’t have a right to come to Australia (I.e. didn’t have a visa). 
Supposing they knew they were bringing them to Australia.  Some upon being interviewed have said that they knew that these people have been tortured back home and are coming to Australia because they know Australia receives refugees.  
Would not that then mean that they THOUGHT that the refugees had a legal right to be in Australia?
This was later rejected and there were many long winded deliberations about what exactly ‘reckless’ means.  Language is a funny thing – it can mean the difference between being captive or free.

Refusing to Leech off of Others’ Misery

Many people involved with the cases justify them making good money off of these imprisoned crew members going through the legal system by saying “They did the wrong thing – and if it wasn’t them, it would be someone else”.
Coming from Thailand and understanding what conditions and backgrounds these Indonesian crew members have come from, I find it very difficult to just sit still.
In early 2011, I contacted the Australian Minister for Immigration’s office looking to see whether I could set up a meeting with the Minister Chris Bowen to discuss my experiences with the boat people and possibly working with my media people back in Indonesia and SE Asia to work at a grass roots level to deter villagers from being duped.  I had a few plans in mind that have been effective in the past.  I was involved with the MTV EXIT Human Trafficking project across Asia a few years ago, and through employing the services of high profile, respected celebrities, awareness was raised to key demographics pertinent to Human Trafficking.  I thought I could do something similar in this case should the funding be available.
I also wanted to see if I could get funding to provide some basic language and visiting services to the Indonesians detained around Australia.
I ended up speaking with Chris Bowen’s spokes person Sandy Logan.  Sandy was very pleasant and put me in contact with several people from SERCO and DIAC.
When I contacted these organisations however, I was stonewalled and it went no-where.

Traveling to the Ends of the Earth to Track People Smugglers’ Families Down

I didn't realize my hunt for People Smugglers' families would take me on a hike to the top of a Volcano. I was ill-prepared, wearing only my recently purchased Colorado Memory-Foam Flip-Flops. I am happy to say that they passed the test of fire and made it all the way up and down the mountain. Language certainly takes you to some amazing places!

It was only over the past few months that I found a kindred spirit in one lawyer that works for a very reputable law-firm that had taken on several of the defendants’ cases.  I had heard that he had made two trips already to Indonesia to build a case for his client.
I had just finished a trial with one gentleman that ended in a hung jury and will have to go back to trial.   I love languages, and especially abstract ones.  This guy was from the Muna district in SE Sulawesi.  I started learning some of his dialect with him (to his amusement).  It opened a door up where he started to share a lot with me.  During my time with him (almost 3 weeks), I learnt about him, his family, the smugglers, the recruiters and of course a great deal about his native Muna tongue and Muna culture.
I called his family back home to let them know how the trial was as I had done for many of the prisoners in the past.  It costs me 10 cents to call Indonesia with no time-limit, where it costs them more than a week’s wages to call home for 5 minutes.
Just after I had spoken with his family, I received a call from that lawyer asking me if I was interested in accompanying him to Indonesia to do a fact finding mission for several defendants.  The catch was that if I did that, I would have to sacrifice the thousands of dollars that I would have made interpreting for them during their trials.  In turn, I would appear as an expert witness.

How to Locate People Smugglers Without an Address

Outside the home of one Indonesian People Smuggler being detained in Australia. There is no running water, the toilets are bamboo raised stalls above the canal that supplies water for cleaning and washing to all the houses. There are open sewers all around the house, people sleep on the dirt and since the husband has been in prison, this particular mother wakes at 11pm, waits for work at the rice mill from midnight to 7am. If work is available, she makes $1.00 per day, then goes home to send her kids to school and look after another sick child. Despite this, this was one of the happiest places I have been in a long time with villagers giving us a warm welcome. The jokes and laughter didn't stop.

In Early November, we traveled to Indonesia and traveled to three cities all across Java.   I organised some cars through some of my old clients in Jakarta and we proceeded to Indramayu and Serang and finally Bromo in East Java over the span of about a week.  We didn’t have exact addresses.  That didn’t matter.  As soon as we got to the general vicinity of the villages, a couple of questions to some random people on the side of the street and a few minutes later, we were being welcomed in the houses of the people smugglers.  It was amazing how easy it was.
We were welcomed very warmly into all of the villages.  Despite the squalor that they were living in – open sewers, bamboo stalls that acted as toilets that opened into the main waterway that supplied water to the village and that kids were bathing and swimming in and despite the fact that when there was work available, the farmers would make around $1 per day and the fisherman around $1.50 per day, these villages were some of the happiest places I’d been in for a long time.
The question was asked by the lawyer in one village “If you were given enough money to fly to Australia, would you know the right steps to take in order to get the ticket, the right documentation and travel?”
The group broke into raucous laughter and one of the gentlemen responded “Why on earth would I want to travel to Australia? If you gave me that much money, I would buy a buffalo of course! … or at least a goat”.

"Why on earth would I want to travel to Australia? If you gave me that much money, I would buy a buffalo of course! ... or at least a goat"

This goes to show you the world view of these people.  They are poor and just living everyday is full of risks that normal people in the west wouldn’t have to face in a lifetime.  They understand that in Indonesia alone, there is such a disparity between the rich and the poor, if someone came and offered them a job with ‘foreigners’ that had money, most would jump at the chance.  It’s all part of Rezeki – the income or benefit / sustenance one receives in one’s lifetime due to work, luck or other reason.

Coming back to the Sandiwara concept.  It is truly baffling to try and comprehend everything that is happening to them when they reach the Australian Legal System.  Taking a job on a boat as a cook or a mechanic would have been just as risky in their minds as taking a job as a window cleaner on a big building, or as a construction worker on a local construction site.

Underage Prisoners and Rape

Your average people smuggling case takes enough of an emotional toll on you especially when you build bonds with the defendants over time.  It becomes especially hard when you see some of the even darker things that go on in the legal system and in the prisons.  There are several cases where minors have been detained in maximum security prisons.  For many of these, bone density scans had been done, though the conclusions from these have been described by many to be not accurate.   I was involved in one case recently where an application for bail was successfully made for a 15 year old that had been in a maximum security adult prison for over a year.  There are stories of rape of several of the minors within the prisons during their stay in prison.   This is very disturbing and I hope that more will be done to address the issue of minors in prison.

Are they Really Refugees?

Rick McPhee's 'Go Back To Where You Came From' Programme on SBS

There was a controversial television series that aired on Australia’s multicultural TV station SBS entitled “Go Back to Where You Came From“, produced by Rick McPhee at the Cordell Jigsaw Group.  I highly recommend watching the series via the SBS website: http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/goback.   In Australia, part of the whole debate over the boat people is whether or not Australia should be providing asylum to these people.  Rick brought some very hard hitting issues to the table and took some average ‘Aussies’ on a journey through the different stages of being a refugee in Australia – all the way from settled refugees living happily in Australia, back to the refugee camps in Africa and then to the war torn areas of the Congo and Iraq.   These were very real refugees, and I think anyone would find it hard trying to find a case against Australia giving them asylum.
In many of the cases that I have been involved in however, one question that I continuously struggle with is where do real refugees find $10,000 to $15,000 for the trip to Australia?  I know what it’s like living in Asia, and it’s hard enough for an average businessman or executive to save up $10,000 to $15,000.
I have also spent a lot of time among the Burmese community in Malaysia including the Rohingyans.   Many of them that end up on the boats to Australia have lived in Malaysia for over 20 years, have families, Indonesian or Malay wives, speak fluent English, Malay, Burmese, Rohingyan and Bengali and have been living quite comfortably in Malaysia for a long time.  The question that I struggle with is “Are these people really refugees?”.   I know that where they have come from has been a bad place and they have been in many cases tortured and abused.  I’m trying to understand for myself where the line is drawn between being a refugee, and when you can consider yourself ‘safe’.
I hope that the efforts that we are putting in will make at least a small dent in the right direction toward solving the People Smuggling issues that is up in the headlines every day in Australia.  We hear a lot about the treatment of Australians in Bali who have been caught with drugs and the conditions that they live in.  The latest was of a 14 year old that was found with a small amount of cannabis.  The Indonesian government actually gave some slack to the boy and has let him stay in a different detention centre in a room that his parents can stay together with him.  He can order pizza and other food, and in many respects, seems a lot more humanitarian than the treatment afforded to the suspected Indonesian minors that are being held up in Australia’s maximum security prisons.
This has been an amazing journey for me, and one that I think will be going on for a while to come.  I’m keen to hear your thoughts on the issues raised in this post.  Please feel free to comment or mail me via the link in my website – http://stujay.com/contact/
Profile photo of Stuart Jay Raj

Stuart Jay Raj is a polyglot who specializes in the languages and dialects spoken in South East Asia and China. His talents have allowed him to earn a professional living as a simultaneous interpreter in Thai, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Indonesian, among others, providing language and cultural training for multinational companies in the region and hosting his own TV programme on Thailand's Channel 5. He holds a degree in Cognitive and Applied Linguistics from Griffith University and has become an expert in the field of language acquisition with a strong track record of success. Stuart's background knowledge of Sanskrit, Khmer, Lao and various Chinese dialects and minority languages enables him to present a fascinating and unique perspective on the Thai language which makes everything fall logically into place.