I lived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from 1986 until 1990. I made friends with a recruitment agent named Mansour. He had an office behind the Hotel Al Nasr off Hamdan Street in Abu Dhabi.
Mansour was from Damascus, Syria. He had a fabulously beautiful wife and three lovely children, but they remained most of the time in Syria, while he worked in Abu Dhabi in his recruitment business. Mansour was not lazy. He was always working fanatically hard on some big project involving thousands of workers.
The recruitment business involves bringing workers from various Asian countries to work in Abu Dhabi. The local Arabs do not work, except in government positions or as nominee "local partners". When a company needs a worker, they go to someone like Mansour. He has catalogs in big notebooks of every kind of worker, with their photos, bio-datas and passport photocopies. Most of the men workers are in India and Pakistan. Most of the women workers are in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
If a prospective employer wants a worker, he goes through the notebooks until he finds someone he likes. He then pays Mansour a fee, takes the passport copy of the person, and goes to the Jawazad (Immigration Office) to apply for a visa for the worker. If the visa is approved (which involves great difficulty as many people are trying to get jobs in Abu Dhabi), then he brings the visa back to Mansour and pays more money. Mansour then sends a pre-paid airplane ticket to the worker and the person arrives on a flight. The visa, which is a separate document not stamped in the passport, is brought to the airport by the employer. The employer hands the visa through the window. The airport officials bring the worker out from the airport transit lounge.
The employee has been recruited by another agent in his or her own country. That agent offers jobs in Middle Eastern countries in return for a fee. The agent will often obtain a passport for the person, since the prospective employee usually does not know how to do such things.
This is where Jinda Yaichampli came in:
I often went to see my friend Mansour in his office behind the Hotel Al Nasr in Abu Dhabi. Mansour had helped me and my family get our own visas when we first came to the United Arab Emirates. Of course, he had charged us a big fee for this, but he had gotten the job done.
Always, Mansour had beautiful women working in his office. Mansour had a taste for the finest women. He had the most beautiful women imaginable doing clerical work in his office. I never saw an ugly one there. Perhaps that is why I often came there.
Every time I went to Mansour's office, he asked to borrow money from me. He knew that I was a rich man (as I was at the time). He offered to write me a post dated check for the money. He desperately needed about $30,000. However, I never loaned money to him, although I had it. On this day in late 1989, however, Mansour told me that he had just gotten back from Thailand. He had a new business partner there. They had signed a contract together. His counter-part in Thailand (whose name I now forget) had signed a contract to provide Thai workers to Abu Dhabi. The contract involved huge numbers, in the hundreds of thousands. Both Mansour and his counterpart in Thailand had provided press releases to the newspapers of their countries and had gotten articles published about this.
Mansour had also brought with him a notebook filled with information about workers living in Thailand. He showed me the book.
I went through the book. I found the photo of a girl I liked. She was not beautiful, but I usually do not pick the most beautiful girl. Her name was Jinda Yaichampli. She was from Korat, a town North West of Bangkok.
Mansour gave me the bio-data. I was living in Fujairah at that time, so I took the passport photocopy to the Jawazad in Fujairah. For some unknown reason, they rejected Jinda. They would not give her a visa. Apparently, the reason was that she was from Thailand. They never said this directly, but they apparently believed that all girls from Thailand are prostitutes. They told me to bring someone from the Philippines or Sri Lanka instead.
I objected to this. I went to the Ministry of Immigration in the capital, which is in Abu Dhabi, to make my complaint. The ministry agreed with me. There are many Thais working in Abu Dhabi, they said. Why not in Fujairah? The ministry official called the Jawazad in Fujairah, wrote a paper for me and sent me back to Fujairah. However, when I got back to Fujairah, it was the same thing. They still would not give me a visa for Jinda.
This went on for months. The Director of the Jawazad in Fujairah was away on vacation. I waited for him to come back. However, when he finally got back, he rejected the visa application, too.
Finally, Mr. Tayeb, a man from Bangladesh who was working for a shaikh, told me that if I paid the Shaikh 1000 dirhams (about $254 US dollars), the Shaikh would get a visa for Jinda. I paid the Shaikh. Still, I had to wait, as these visas take time.
In mid-1990, I started having family problems. I took my family on what was supposed to be a trip to the Philippines and Hong Kong, but by chance we wound up in Bangkok. My mother got sick and had to be hospitalized there for several weeks.
While waiting for my mother to recover, I happened to think about Jinda. Why not go and actually meet this person, I thought. I did not have her address, because the recruitment agent keeps that information for himself, so that the employer will pay his fees before the worker arrives. I called Mansour to ask him for Jinda's address. Mansour told me that he did not have her address and that the only person who had the address was the recruitment agent in Bangkok, who had been killed. Yes, it was true. Somebody had killed that man, not long after he had signed that big contract with Mansour. Mansour gave me the address of the agent.
I went to the agent's office, which was on the south side of Bangkok. A woman was there. She thought that I represented a worker, demanding his money back. At first, she refused to talk to me. Apparently, this recruitment agent had taken money from many, many prospective workers. Almost none of them had gotten jobs and now they all wanted their money back. This led me to believe that perhaps one of these irate job seekers had killed the agent.
The woman said that the agent had not been murdered. He had been killed in a car accident, along with his wife. She showed me a newspaper article. There seemed to be something suspicious about this.
Anyway, I still wanted my Jinda.
I asked the woman about Jinda. She opened up a big trunk under the desk. The trunk was filled with boxes of passports: hundreds of passports.
I went through the boxes, looking at each passport. There, in one of the boxes, I found the actual original passport of Jinda Yaichampli.
I asked the woman for the passport. She said, "Go ahead. Take it." She had no use for these passports, she explained.
Now, I had the passport. Still, I did not have Jinda.
I had found Jinda's address with the passport. The address was in Korat. I hired a taxi driver who could speak some English. He agreed to drive me to Korat and to find Jinda for me.
It was a long trip. We spent the night in a motel outside of Korat. The next morning, we went to look for Jinda.
Jinda did not actually live in Korat but rather in a small village about 30 miles south and west of Korat. It took a long time for my driver to find the place, but he did.
I found Jinda's family. When they found out who I was and why I was there, they were rejoicing. Jinda was going to get a job in Abu Dhabi! Her father was especially happy about this. I took photos of the entire family.
An old man was there. He talked about Abu Dhabi. At first, I could not believe that this old man had ever heard of Abu Dhabi. However, when he started describing names and places in Abu Dhabi, I realized that he knew the place well. It turned out that he had been a worker there years ago. I later learned that back in the 1970s there were a lot of Thai workers in Abu Dhabi. The place had actually been built by Thais. However, as the economy had improved in Thailand, Thai workers had become too expensive. For that reason, employers in Abu Dhabi had started hiring workers from India and Pakistan, who were cheaper.
The problem still was that I had all of Jinda's family, who were so happy to meet me, but I did not have Jinda. They told me that Jinda had left in a truck bound for Bangkok just a few hours before my arrival.
No problem. I would catch up with her in my taxi. Jinda's father gave me the address where she was going in Bangkok.
My taxi driver took me to Bangkok. We found the address. Nobody was there. The house was empty. However, not more than 15 minutes after our arrival, a pickup truck drove up with a bunch of people riding in the back. They all got out and started to enter the house. I walked up to them. "Hello, Jinda", I said to one of them. She just about jumped. It was just after dark. Imagine being approached by a stranger who knew her name.
Through my driver, I explained to Jinda who I was and why I was there. I also gave her her own passport, which she had never seen before, because the recruitment agent, the man who had been killed, had obtained it for her.
I gave Jinda the telephone number of the hotel where I was staying. She told me that she would decide what to do and would call me there.
The next day, I received a call. It was Jinda. "Jinda not going" was all she said.
About two months later, I decided to follow up and see what had happened to Jinda. I located her living in an industrial area south and west of Bangkok, about half way to Pattiya. It was difficult to reach her new home. I had to walk across planks and boards through almost a marsh to reach her. This time, I brought my daughter, Shamema, with me. Shamema liked Jinda very much. I had also brought a different driver with us.
By this time, Jinda was working on an assembly line in a nearby electronics factory. She was living with a man, who appeared to be her boyfriend. Jinda appeared to be about two months pregnant. I took a photo. Judge for yourself.
Jinda told her story to the driver, who translated to me. Her father had wanted her to work in Abu Dhabi, because he had heard that it was a good place. She and her father had paid 30,000 baht (more than one thousand US dollars) to the agent for the job. However, now she did not want the job. She was going to stay in Bangkok. She had forgotten about the 30,000 baht. I left, after taking her picture.
I still wonder: Was that recruitment agent really killed? Did he really die in a car accident? Or, did he simply fake his own death and the death of his wife so that the two of them could disappear with the millions of baht which they had taken from workers looking for jobs in Abu Dhabi?
In September, 1990, I went back to Abu Dhabi. The first thing when I got there, Mr. Tayeb from Bangladesh called me. He told me that Jinda's visa was now ready. I had almost forgotten that I had paid 1000 dirhams to the Shaikh to obtain a visa for Jinda. However, now it was too late.
Just think of how different Jinda's life might be today if I had been able to obtain that visa for her back in 1989, when I first applied, when she was still living with her father, and before she moved to Bangkok and became pregnant with her boyfriend. Jinda would probably be in America now.
I also went to see my friend Mansour. "Mansour is away from the office now", a beautiful Filipino girl sitting in his office told me. However, soon I found out the truth. Mansour was in jail. I met Mansour in Abu Dhabi Central Jail. He had borrowed money and had written a post-dated check for the money for about $30,000 US dollars. When he could not make good on the check, he had been put in jail. He would stay there until he could pay the money. This is normal in Abu Dhabi. I even met the man, an airlines travel agent, who had put him in jail. Mansour had written the check to the travel agent for airplane fares to bring workers from the Philippines.
Shortly thereafter, I went to America. I know nothing about what ever happened to Jinda, to Mansour, to Tayeb or to the Shaikh after that.
Haji Mohammad Ismail Sloan