More than four years after he carried out the first and only attempted hijacking at Chek Lap Kok airport in a desperate bid to return to his Golden Triangle village, the mystery gunman is stuck in Hong Kong in diplomatic limbo. Todd Salimuchai, 34, has been rejected for asylum by 17 countries, including Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, which the opium-poppy- growing region straddles, as well as the mainland. No nation wants him, mainly because of his criminal record. He was released from jail this month after serving a prison sentence for the hijack on July 31, 2000, in which he took a cleaner hostage and took over an empty Cathay Pacific jet, holding police at bay for 21/2 hours. The Immigration Department is still trying to determine his place of origin so it can send him back, or at least confirm that he is truly stateless. Police originally thought he was from Myanmar, but its consulate in Hong Kong denied that. Even today, immigration officials say they cannot authenticate Mr Salimuchai's claims about his origin. He has maintained he grew up in a poppy-growing village of about 200 people called Hassan, on the edge of northern Thailand along the Mekong River. The village does not appear on available maps and it is unclear whether, if Hassan exists, it belongs to any country or is in a disputed region with no government control. 'He has no travel documents. We believe he has not told us the complete story, so we have to keep trying to find out the facts,' a department spokeswoman said. But Mr Salimuchai said he just wanted to go home. 'I can't work here. I don't want to live here. I am still wearing the same clothes as the day I was arrested.' He has to renew his temporary stay permit every week to avoid arrest but is not allowed to work. He lives in a tiny flat in Yau Ma Tei paid for by a friend of a friend he met in jail, and he relies on food from charity group Christian Action. Mr Salimuchai revealed to the South China Morning Post why he sneaked into Hong Kong. His village elders, he claimed, sent him to the city in March 1999 to track down a Hong Kong drug lord who took off with opium worth US$800,000 grown in his village without paying. He said he was smuggled into the city by a Thai national, but they failed to locate the drug lord after three months and he was arrested in a routine identity card check. He was jailed as an illegal immigrant in June 1999 and released a year later. Since his nationality was unknown, he could not leave. In action described in court as a 'desperate cry for help', he sneaked into the airport and triggered the first hijacking response by the police special duties unit. 'I know what I did was stupid,' Mr Salimuchai said. 'I had guns pointed at my head. I won't break any law this time.' He was jailed for five years in February 2001 after pleading guilty to carrying an imitation firearm with intent to commit a crime and false imprisonment. A specialist in immigration and refugee law, Mark Daly, said there were precedents in which Vietnamese refugees with criminal records were granted amnesty to reside in Hong Kong after their overseas asylum claims were exhausted.