Convicted South African drug trafficker writes letter from inside Thai prison

A 23 year old South African woman serving a long prison sentence for drug trafficking wrote an eloquent letter offering a glimpse into how it feels to be locked away in Thailand.

Ashley Oosthuizen was found guilty of international drug trafficking after she signed for a package containing MDMA at the restaurant she worked at in Koh Samui, ‘Hot in the Biscuit,’ in late 2020.

The young expat denies any involvement in the drug operation and claims that her then-boyfriend Tristan Nettles, from America, ordered the MDMA from abroad. She said she was unaware that the package contained drugs when she signed for it.

Initially, Oosthuizen was sentenced to death. Then, her sentence was reduced to life imprisonment before being reduced again by Koh Samui Court in August last year to 33.4 years.

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Thailand rejected extradition pleas to have Oosthuizen transferred to prison back home, citing a lack of an extradition treaty between South Africa and Thailand.

The young South African was first incarcerated at Koh Samui Prison and then transferred to Nakhon Si Thammarat Prison in December 2021.

Oosthuizen’s mother posts updates about her life on the Facebook page A Voice For Ashley Oosthuizen.

During Ashley’s stay in prison, she has learned to speak, read and write Thai fluently, her mother said.

Yesterday, a letter from Ashley was posted on the Facebook page…

“The idea of making my life a work of art appealed to me since that very first moment of inspiration, and although I don’t quite recall its origin, it made a lasting impression on me.

“The very notion of a life replete with resplendent colours and a myriad of moments overflowing with a vast array of figures, faces, words, voices and experiences absolutely charmed and delighted me! And though vaguely aware of those inevitable shadows, tints and irregular lines that make their way into every piece, I never fathomed what it would be like to live through them in reality.

“But perhaps for this particular period of my life, it is the sudden shock followed by such longevity that causes me, at times, to only see the abyss and then forget that this isn’t the picture in its entirety.

“To prevent myself from falling into that abyss, I’d very much like to step back, step out and come and take a fresh look at it – but in my confinement, there is nowhere to step out to, and so I must turn inwards and look Upwards. And I draw my strength from three simple words: nothing is permanent.”

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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