The French Connection
“Teerak, can you help Tia’s sister with her application for a visa to go to France?” the wife asked me one morning over the breakfast table.
The thing about being a farang in Thailand is that your Thai wife thinks you are a super hero and there is nothing you cannot do.
First of all, I am not French and second if Tia’s sister has a problem with her application or it gets rejected, whose fault do you suppose that will be? But, of course you can’t refuse and I agreed to help if I could.
Tia’s sister came round to the house clutching a bag full of papers and her passport. She had collected these documents from the French embassy and needed help filling out the forms. The forms, of course were printed in French and Thai. We had half a chance, the women could read the Thai and I got the chance to dust off my O level in French which I got in 1976.
Tia and the misses are old friends. Tia comes round quite often. I didn’t know until now that she even had a sister. Her name by the way was Sujindra.
Sujindra is twenty eight. I know this because her date of birth was is in her passport. Whether or not she really is Tia’s sister is impossible to say. Tia is in her early forties and there was no obvious family resemblance.
In truth, Sujindra is a good looking girl, (so is Tia actually) but she had a poor grasp of English. She knew not one word of French but the plan was that she was going to France to marry her boyfriend, live there for a year then they would both come back to Thailand to live here permanently. Uh, huh.
We got down to the business of filling in the forms.
About half way down the page was a question asking for the details of the person in France who would be responsible for the applicant. Sujindra handed me a copy of her boyfriend’s passport. I unfolded it and was mildly surprised to see the wrinkled face of a fairly senior Frenchman staring back at me. I scanned the page for his date of birth and had a little chuckle to read, 1936. The old geyser was seventy years old and by any standards was a very lucky old buzzard to have pulled such a pretty young bride as Sujindra.
Further down the form was a question asking if the applicant had ever visited France or any other EU country before. I ask Sujindra the question.
Her face took on a puzzled expression. “What is the right answer?” she asked me.
This is a very common thing in Thailand. You have a question where there are two possible answers. Them being ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. If you ask a Thai a yes or no question, their response will invariably start with “well, it’s like this…..” This one was no different.
After about ten minutes of detailed discussion between Sujindra and the wife, we managed to ascertain that indeed she had been to Germany before. The next question on the form was ‘When?” This prompted a further prolonged discussion between Sujindra and the wife and finally Sujindra released her answer, which was that it was “a long time ago”. I deemed this might not be exactly the answer that the French Embassy had in mind and pressed Sujindra to be more specific. After a few more ‘a long time agos’ she finally came through with the date of April 2004.
OK. Now we were getting somewhere. “Visa number” the form quite reasonably requested next.
“Is the visa in your passport” I asked flicking through the pages of Sujindra’s passport.
“No, this is a new passport. Visa in old passport.”
“OK” say I “Do you have your old passport with you?” I asked more in hope than expectation.
“Yes, but that one cannot use now.”
“Yes, I know but I can still take the visa number from it.”
“No. Old passport have different name. Cannot use anymore.”
She handed me her old passport that contained the German visa. It was indeed Sujindra’s passport. Her picture was a bit of a give away but the name in it was completely different. Not just her family name but her first name too. I had too many questions now and decided that maybe it was better that we declared that she had not visited any EU countries before. Telling the truth in Thailand is so damned difficult sometimes.
So finally we completed the form to Sujindra’s satisfaction and it looked as clean as it was possible to make it. I wanted to know more about the old Frenchman and what Sujindra was really up to. Not just because I’m a nosey sod but I was intrigued about the passport in a different name business.
“Your boyfriend” I began “He’s a good man?”
“He have good heart” she replies.
Me : “You could have chosen a husband nearer your own age couldn’t you. Hell you could have chosen a husband nearer MY age. He’s a bit old isn’t he?”
Sujindra : “He old but he good. I no like young husband. Anyway, he not stay long. Maybe ten year, not more.”
So that was it. She would go to France, marry this guy and wait for him to die, then bag the inheritance. That was her plan.
I wanted to know more about the passport in a different name. It turned out that Sujindra or whatever her real name was, had been nicked and jailed for prostitution in Singapore. When she was released she was deported and her passport was stamped to the effect that she was not allowed re-entry to Singapore. Her solution to that problem was to simply get a new passport in a different name. This can be done with ease and is quite legal in Thailand, apparently.
It crossed my mind that maybe the old Frenchman should know what he was taking on here but I dismissed the idea of grassing her up. The fact is that if she makes him happy and is prepared to stay with him until the end of his days then what is really so wrong with that. It’s better than him ending up in some old folks home being spoon-fed milk and bananas by some stone-faced matron. I know I’d rather be shagged to death in my Pattaya condo than die of boredom in a Marseilles geriatric ward. And so what if he leaves her all his money, as they say ‘there are no pockets in a shroud’.
Perhaps 10 years if we’re talking natural causes, but with slippery steps, or her doing the cooking, it could be a lot sooner!