Having travelled to many countries on various continents, I have to say that I cannot remember a place where there seem to be so many policeman. It is not to say that Thailand is a police state, but they do seem to be on just about every corner, and if you are driving, you really do see them everywhere. I’m no mathematician, but I’m sure that in terms of probability, it doesn’t take much time in country before you are likely to find yourself forced to deal with them. I have had to deal with them twice, once they came looking for me, and once I went looking for them and that is in addition to the odd traffic infringement, or two, or three or...
It is a time of nervousness for any farang, dealing with officialdom in Thailand, but especially so when dealing with the boys in brown. Rumours abound of rampant corruption, innocent folk being fitted up for crimes they didn’t commit and an unjust system whereby in a dispute between a farang and a Thai, the chances of the farang winning, or even coming out relatively unscathed, are about as likely as watching an elephant somersault over the skytrain. Are these rumours justified, or are they a bunch of urban myths and old wives’ tales? Just what happens when we get in trouble in Thailand?
The first thing to remember when dealing with the Thai police is to be as polite and respectful as possible. If it is you who has to go and see them, it goes without saying that you should prepare for the occasion and dress neatly. Being loud, boorish or rude is a big no no, in fact it is absolute madness when dealing with the Thai police, irrespective of how they treat you, whether you are making a complaint, or they are dealing with allegations against you.
A lot of potentially less serious disputes are settled at the police station between the parties concerned. These can range in seriousness from a minor assault to property damage type cases. Lets just say that in a drunken rage, you destroy a hotel room. Don’t laugh, it has happened a few times if my email inbox is anything to go by. In such a situation you would likely end up at the local police station where the police would listen to all parties and try and mediate so a fair settlement can be reached. In such cases, it is highly recommended that you try to settle it there and then. By doing so, any pending charges will be dropped and the situation is settled. A document will be signed to the effect that both parties deem the situation over and agree that no legal action will follow.
If you are ever arrested, you'll be taken to a police station and likely charged with the said offence. Once you have been formally charged, there is no going back and it would be most unusual for the charges to be withdrawn. You have the right to a lawyer and as you are likely unfamiliar with the legal system and processes in Thailand it is STRONGLY recommended that you retain someone. Choosing a lawyer can be a little difficult and you're probably best advised to contact your embassy who have a list of lawyers. Remember, your embassy are not lawyers and cannot really offer legal advice, rather just point you in the right direction. While one should cooperate with the police, it would pay to keep your trap shut until you have legal representation and for heaven's sake, don't sign anything you don't understand! One small slip up and you could effectively crucify yourself. The Thai police do seem to play the "just sign this and it will all be over game". Don't!
There seem to be two different types of lawyers, the cheap and nasty, and the seriously expensive who charge fees not indifferent to what we'd pay at home. I am told that you get what you pay for.
Getting bail in Thailand is relatively easy, but it is also awfully expensive. It is unlikely that a farang will be granted bail at less than 100,000 baht and the norm, even for the most minor offences, is 150,000 200,000 baht. Yep, such high bail is often requested in cases where even if found guilty, the accused might be expected to get a fine of just a few thousand baht. If you can’t post bail, you could find yourself stuck in a police station cell, or off to the IDC, basically a really nasty environment for some time! Amounts of 500,000 baht for bail up are not unknown. Also, while most people get their bail back without a hitch, some people have had problems.
One of the usual conditions of bail granted to a foreigner is that their passport is held by the Thai authorities. There is a misconception that in the case of a foreigner being granted bail, that he / she foreigner could go to their embassy, request that their passport be returned to them allowing them to quietly slip out over the nearest border, either never to return, or to return many years later on a new passport. Eliminate such nonsense from your mind. Such assistance by an embassy to get one of their citizens out of the country and to avoid the due legal process of Thailand would throw up a political storm. Remember what happened in Cambodia earlier this year? An Australian accused of certain heinous crimes was assisted by his embassy to exit the country. However, this created a huge furore in his native Australia with, I believe, the Minster of Foreign Affairs getting involved and arranging for him to be extradited straight back to Cambodia! If you screw up in Thailand, don’t think that you can just call in the “the passport is the property of my government and you have to return it to the embassy who will give it to me and I’m running to the nearest border trick”. That one doesn’t work!
If you are arrested and charged for a crime you did commit and they have enough evidence to send you to the monkey house, you may wish to consider pleading guilty. A guilty plea immediately halves the sentence, something that is written into Thai law and I believe applies to all crimes. Failing to successfully defend the case would see you do twice the time, that is assuming it is an offence punishable by jail.
Plea bargaining does not seem to happen in Thailand at all. So, if you run someone down on the back of your bike while screaming around the back roads of one of the islands as drunk as a skunk and are subsequently charged with murder, don't think that you can avoid 25 years in the slammer by pleading guilty to a lesser charge such as manslaughter or driving under the influence. Once you have been charged with a certain crime, that is the one they will try and prosecute you for.
And when you are eventually found guilty, because, generally speaking, they do not make a habit of arresting foreigners without a fair bit of proof, then you will likely get deported – and deportation is at your expense! Yep, you have to pay not only for your ticket out of your country – which usually has to be all the way to your home country (though some people fly to Singapore and come straight back!), but you also need 1,100 baht, that is a 600 baht fee for your escort from IDC, the Immigration Detention Centre, to the airport, plus that 500 baht departure tax! Yep, you might be wearing shackles when you are paraded through the departure area, but you still get must pay for the privilege of using the airport! If you are unable to pay or raise the funds, you might just sit and rot in IDS. Don't worry, you'll have plenty of friends there who are doing just that… Seriously though, IDC is perhaps the last place you want to end up and is described as hell on earth.
If found guilty of a crime outside of Bangkok, you will be taken back to the local police station after the trial. From there, you will await transportation back to the IDS in Bangkok which in a worst case scenario could be up to a month. Yep, the police wait until they have enough wretches to fill up a whole vehicle to transport you back to the IDC where you will be processed and deported which could, in a worst case scenario, be up to a month! In such cases, it may be possible to arrange for an escort to take you back to Bangkok. This essentially involves paying a cop to take you back. From a distant province it would mean a couple of airfares, one for you and a return for him. From a nearby province it might be a run in a car. The cost of this is very negotiable but figure around 10,000 – 15,000 baht.
Generally speaking, if you are sentenced to less than two years prison and it is a first offence (in Thailand), the sentence will be deferred and as long as you do not commit an offence in the next two years, any offence, you will not serve that jail time. Prison sentences in Thailand tend to be much more severe than in the West. Remember the former toll-booth employee who was convicted for stealing 78,000 baht (from memory) and was found guilty and sentenced to 45 years in prison. Yes, 45 years!
When a foreigner is found guilty of a crime, their embassy or consulate is usually advised, as is Immigration. This usually happens, but not always. Once the information is with your embassy, goodness only knows what happens with it.
It is commonly said that if you get involved with drugs in Thailand, try and pay the officer off and while your wallet may take a hell of a hit, you will be let go, and able to face another day. Funnily enough, while rumours abound of policeman being paid off to look the other way, it seems that very few officers will accept a bribe when it comes to drug offences, especially from a foreigner. If you are arrested for a drug related offence in Thailand, you are in very hot water indeed. Needless to say, it is probably best to avoid them at all costs.
As a foreigner arrested in Thailand, you can expect to pay more than a Thai would, not at the time of being fined, but at every other step along the way, from bail, to legal fees to all other expenses. But you can also expect to be treated fairly and reasonably as the last thing the local police want to do is to draw attention to themselves for treating a foreigner badly. That is unless you are one of those Russian bank robbers who blew away a cop in a Pattaya bank earlier this year – no doubt they got a good old working over in the cells, and good job too I say.
As guests in Thailand, we really should do al that we can to follow the law. Any foreigner who breaks the laws here is asking for trouble and we all know the reputation that Thai prisons have. I personally have found Thai police on the whole to be friendly and fair with the one glaring exception being the traffic police. That lot make it a real habit of accusing you of things that you never did! To me, the Thai police are very much like the Thai public, generally very nice, unless you seriously piss them off, in which case they have the potential to get very nasty indeed.
Where is this pic?
Last week's pic
This week's pic
It was Sukumvit Soi 12
FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:
* The first phase lasted for me about one year. You just go and look everywhere in the country. Everything is so great! The people are friendly, open-minded, smiling, full of good-will, interesting, honest, admirable.
* The second phase lasted also about one year, when I discovered the reality beneath the surface. Then you think that Thai people are greedy, liars, rude, uneducated, racist, ungrateful, lazy, stupid, bigot, hypocrite, uninteresting.
* But now I've reached the third phase. I still realize that honesty and truth are right and priceless values. But everything has its price, and without corruption, greed and stupidity you would never be able to go to bed with beautiful young girls every night. You would be in a perfect country, such as Luxembourg, bored to death. So when some Thai people is rude, racist or greedy with me, I just think that I earn 20 or 30 times his salary, and that they never went to school more than 5 or 6 years. I even feel a bit of pity for him, being so stupid. And I smile inside myself, thinking of all the pleasures the girls of Thailand will give me that night.
* So what will be the fourth phase? Marrying a Thai girl? (Heaven forbid!)
The cream of the crop work Bangkok.
Ladies in Bkk who work with farang – both in and out of bars – are decidedly more attractive than those who ply their trade in Pattaya. They also are decidedly more resolute in their financial demands. Is there
a pact among Bkk freelancers NOT to accept anything under 1,000 baht for short time; 1,500 baht all night? Local freelancers (in Pattaya) will negotiate down to 500 baht (sometimes for all night) – or less if they are
motivated by drug addictions.
How would the locals survive the New York underground?
What’s up with BTS posters encouraging skytrain passengers to offer their seats to children? When I was a kid growing up in New York, my parents taught me to give it up for women and elderly passengers. Furthermore, educational posters should aim at those on the platform waiting to board. They should be instructed to clear the doorway while passengers disembark, THEN board the train.
Quite a property portfolio!
The mess on Soi 4 is only mimicked on the driveway of Nana Plaza from 11pm – 2am with the nightly freak show. Management refuses to do anything. They just take their rental profits and build Sheraton Hotels. It could be said that The Sheraton Grand Sukumvit is the hotel that NANA built…While at social functions this Indian Family doesn't advertise they own NANA.
Despite what I (and many others) say that business is off in NANA, I am advised by a very reliable source that one of the liquor suppliers for Nana Plaza bars confirms that sales of liquor to these bars in each of September, October and November were higher than last year and actually set all time records! And if everything continues the way it is going, December is going to top it again. This comes from a very reliable source and I have no reason to disbelieve it, although I find it very surprising.
It seems that the condom message is getting through to those who frequent Nana. Condom sales at he Nana Minimart now exceed 75,000 baht each month.
A certain bar manager was crossing Sukumvit last week when two Thai men on a motorcycle pulled up and stopped abruptly, and hurriedly displayed their Thailand Drug Enforcement Agency ID before asking what drugs he was carrying / using! The said fellow was patted down, his passport examined before he was allowed to proceed. The police stated that they thought he was Arab and left. These random police checks are no longer the odd isolated incident.
The lot in Nana Plaza once known as Vixens is going to get going on the building side soon. The delay is connected to the long awaited and much anticipated construction of the bridge and the rebuilding of the ever popular Lucky Luke's. However will they find time to close Lucky Luke's for renovations? The new name for the the second floor bar which is likely to be an open air establishment is Bahama Nana.
As if Nana Plaza doesn't already have enough problems, it would be a blind man who hasn't noticed the ever-increasing amount of katoeys there. They accost customers trying to enter or exit Nana Plaza and the pickpocket threat is always there. I believe that Cascade and Obsession are now made up entirely of katoeys now and more seem to be springing up in other bars. It was Patpong that was once known for high numbers of katoeys, but Nana seems to be following Patpong in many respects – and that isn't good.
By the way, a positive thing must be said in favour of the Crown Group. While they put up prices recently to 125 baht for a standard drink, it should be noted that they have just changed from well gin and vodka to Gordon's Gin and Finlandia Vodka so you do get something for the price increase. I just wish they'd do a better job of telling people that!
There is a new single shop bar in the works on Soi Cowboy. The no doubt appropriately named bar will be known as Spice Girls and construction is to start soon. Rumours leaking out suggest that it will have features not dis-similar to some other bars. The ceiling will apparently be like Mandarin, neon like Blue Wave etc.
But there is a change in the air at Soi Cowboy. This little lane of nonsense is looked after by the good folks at the Thonglor Police Station who have the reputation for being a little more relaxed than some of the police from other areas. Word on the street is that a lot the bars have been warned that there is to be no showing. Inquiring as to how long they will be closed for if they are caught showing the response was simply, you will be closed, period! Those lovely Long Gun dancers and their erotic shows may really be a thing of the past, resigned to a place in Bangkok's naughty nightlife folklore.
I have to laugh at the way Thai people get confused when a farang asks to see something written in Thai. This happens to me often. If you can read and write Thai, it allows you to pronounce the words correctly because you can read them, see the consonants and vowels and generally get the tones right, or close to right at least. Some Thai people look at us as if we were aliens when asking to see Thai words written in Thai. I maintain for some of them, they do not look at it as just their language, but also a secret code.
Why do I keep hearing about English teachers in Vietnam earning $US25 per hour, paid in real deal greenbacks. Yeah, I know the odd teacher earning that here, but it is far from the norm. There is something seriously wrong when teachers over there are earning that sort of money and the bulk of English teachers here struggle to get $US10 per hour, yet Thailand is a fair bit wealthier than Vietnam.
Club Electric Blue on Walking Street, Pattaya, celebrate their first anniversary on January 9th, 2004. There will be a free buffet and all are welcome to help them celebrate.
A good chunk of a soi 8 Pattaya hotel went up in flames earlier this week so if you have reservations for the Hi Five Hotel, it might pay to confirm them.
The Hollywood bars on floor 3 of Nana Plaza have introduced a happy hour on all beers and spirits. From 7.00 PM until 9.30 PM you can get a drink for just 95 baht, probably the best deal in Nana at that time. This special promotion will run into the New Year.
There was an interesting piece on Thai TV earlier this week that unfortunately I just caught the ass end of and as such, the details are not entirely clear. Anyway, it was a mini report about relationships between farang men and Thai women that went on to report that 2,289 girls from the province of Udon Thani had married German guys, presumably registered the marriage that is. That is girls from Udon only and guys from Germany only. These girls were asked why they had decided to marry German guys and they said that these guys had a lot of money, marrying them would give them greater status and that Thai men were selfish in relationships! Nothing too much new there, but it is interesting that the topic of farangs marrying Thai women, especially women from Isaan, is being reported more and more often TO A THAI AUDIENCE. There was a report about this, also in Thai only, not so long ago on the website manager.co.th.
And the other issue that has been getting a lot of press is the mooted 1:00 AM closing time. If this does come about – and it really looks like it will happen, all night spots may well be forced to close at 1:00 AM! I always thought 2:00 AM was reasonable, but 1:00? Hmmm, is Bangkok going to become the new Singapore? Maybe the government really believes that farangs spend all day in the heat, visiting the temples and buying lots of gems and other precious stones to sell at huge profit back home – and after a day in the heat, who would want anything more than to hit the sack early?! Though how much farang nightlife venues have been factored into the decision to close entertainment venues early is hard to say. I just do not see how closing venues an hour earlier will change much? It seems to me that many businesses will suffer, not just the entertainment venues themselves, but the other businesses and vendors that operate at that time of night. For the average farang living here, I cannot see this making much of a difference, but for many farang tourists, it might tip the balance away from Thailand as a holiday destination, and I am not necessarily talking sex tourists here. Plenty of people who like to party until late are not interested in working girls. It would seem that Thailand is trying to rapidly change its image and that has got to be a good thing but they might have a few hiccups along the way… The 1:00 AM closing is due to kick off on January 22nd, a bit over three weeks from now!
Paradise Entertainment on Sukhumvit Soi 4 in the Raja Hotel complex would like to inform us that they had their soft opening jut recently. Paradise City Roadhouse, loosely based on a 'Coyote Ugly style bar' and named after the track by Guns 'n' Roses, features aged roadhouse decorations with a mezzanine floor that doubles as a stage for live music on special event nights. In the bar there is what is believed to be the only full length 22 foot long American shuffle board in Thailand and a tournament specification arm wrestling table. The table, whilst available at all times, will later be used in a 5 meter diameter 'arena' which currently houses a mechanical rodeo bull but the arena can also be used for other events as it is totally water proof. Let your imagination run on that one! Paradise City Roadhouse also has an open hot dog kitchen serving foot long beef dogs made to an American / Italian recipe which was apparently provided by the hot dog and sausage council of America. Coming very soon will be authentic recipe Coney Island sauce, chilli sauce and other homemade dressings and pickles. The sounds are rock and blues which during the day will thankfully be kept to a comfortable level and towards midnight when the impressive lighting system comes in to it's own, 'club sounds' are the order of the day. Current hours run from 6 PM though Paradise City will open from noon in the very near future. This project has been put together by Eddie and Graham (formerly of The Living Room) and they welcome you down to Paradise City where they claim the beers are cold and the girls are pretty! While I wish them very well in their new venture, the history and success of bars who have set up in the Raja Complex area in the past is not so good. I'm sure Megabreaks, the classy pool hall, will do ok, but bars with girls do not seem to boom there. Still, I hope this is the venue that changes that.
On Xmas Eve many bars in Bangkok which had been given permission to open until 6 AM closed at the usual time or just after due to a lack of customers! It'll be interesting to see if the same thing happens on New Years Eve. Some bars have raised the barfine price up to 1,000 baht before midnight at which time it drops to 600 baht. Other bars have said that they will not even allow barfines to be paid until midnight. It seems to get worse and worse for the poor old punters. Still, one can understand why the bar owners implement such policies.
The Cave, that B+D place in Sukhumvit Soi 33, opens a new branch in Pattaya on the third road near the Buffalo Bar. It is housed in a freestanding building with plenty of parking and as per the Bangkok branch, it is all black dress. Now, at the risk of sounding like a begging pervert, if you would like to know more about this place, you'll have to all chip in to send me along. At 900 baht for the first drink (at least in th Bangkok branch), this place is a little out of this poor teacher's price range.
I got the fright of my life when I was walking through Siam Square earlier this week. There were these REALLY hot Thai girls dressed up in tight tops and hot pants and boy did they look the part – and they had gogo written all over them! Have the gogo bars moved to Siam Square during the day time, I wondered. I then noticed a KFC symbol… It seems that KFC have introduced a new sandwich called the "gogo sandwich". Boy, did they have me confused – and I bet that I wasn't the only one.
We have read in the Post and in various places online that all of Siam Discovery Centre is one big free hot spot for wi-fi, that is wireless internet offered for free, assuming that you have the necessary hardware. But can anyone actually get it to work? I got it going once but it was super slow and the signal strength was really weak which meant that the connection kept dropping. I notice various other people trying to get it working there in Siam Discovery Centre and having little success. I also noticed that it is not advertised anywhere in the mall. What's the story? Has anyone got it working for a period of time and at a decent speed?
Was that Trink's last column on Friday? It would seem to be a very nondescript way to end a truly magnificent career covering Bangkok's nightlife over a period of almost 40 years. It seems a shame that he was not given a big finale, that is of course assuming that that was his last column.
Mrs. Stick's Corner
Each week, Mrs. Stick is pleased to answer your questions about Thai / farang relationships and general issues that baffle the average Westerner in Thailand. Mrs. Stick likes to think of herself as an open-minded Thai lady so go ahead, ask anything because you won't shock her. Please send questions for her, via me, at the usual email address. Two questions will be chosen each week and answered in the following week's column. The responses are hers and NOT mine although I may attempt to correct her English from time to time. If you would like to thank her for her advice, she has a nasty addiction to wine, any wine, she tells me. Please note that I may not necessarily agree with what she says and unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email. Questions to her have been a bit thin recently so don't be shy to send in your queries.
Question 1: When a bargirl marries a farang do they marry for love or money? Does love have any part in their decision? I only ask because during my visit I met a guy from Germany who we will call Hans. Hans was in love with a bargirl and they had talked of marriage. He was heading home to work on the paperwork to take her back with him. I spent a lot of time with this couple because the girl I was seeing worked at the same bar as Hans' girl. I heard the two of them talk about kids, etc. I was in country for 2 weeks after Hans left and I noticed that his girl was with another guy. This guy was talking about marriage too! When I asked my girl about this she said that the new man was able to marry sooner than Hans. So is it all about who can get them out of the bar first or does love play a part?
Mrs Stick says: How can I answer this question? I know very little abut prostitutes. Ask my husband – he knows more about this than I do.
Mr Stick says: As prostitutes spend more and more time in the industry they start to see sex related to money, and whenever they "give sex", they expect to get some sort of payment in return. Given that marriage infers a lifetime of sex with just one partner, then perhaps money will be their primary motivation. That is not to say that a bargirl will not marry for love. Bargirls tend to come from the lower ranks of Thai society and these people are much more practical about things so yeah, money tends to be the big motivator.
Question 2: I have gone on dates with many Thai women over the past year. Almost all of them are 27-33 year olds, have good jobs, own a car, etc. The problem is that I find it very hard to take any of them seriously when they say "I love you" after knowing them for less than two weeks (sometimes just a few days). If a Thai woman is interested in a Thai man, will she make the same declaration of love just as quickly? Do the women not understand that this is a serious statement when spoken to a farang?
Mrs Stick says: There are most likely two major reasons why a Thai woman would say "I love you" to a farang so fast. The first is that presumably she is saying these words to you after she has slept with you. She is saying she loves you to try and make it ok that she slept with you so fast, at least in here own eyes, if not yours too. After all, if she slept with you when in fact she didn't love you, that would brand her a slut in the eyes of many Thai people. The second major reason is that she is saying this to try and somehow catch you, possibly even trap you by making the relationship get to a point where there is commitment expected, faster than it really should. No, Thai women do not say this to a Thai man so fast, but neither would they presumably sleep with him so fast either.
Question 3: In Thai / Thai marriages, what percentage of men do you think fool around outside the marriage? In turn, would a farang married to a Thai woman be held to a higher standard by both the wife and Thai society?
Mrs Stick says: I'm not really sure about how many Thai men play around but from what I see, and this is admittedly very limited, it is the upper class Thais who play around the most. If we look at the middle class, there seems to be a lot less straying. Also, in my opinion, the middle class have moved ahead in their way of thinking whereas some of the upper class still stick to the old ways witch suits them on many fronts. Remember, few Thais will marry across class. A Thai woman marrying a farang has MUCH higher expectations that he will remain 100% faithful. The other side of this though is that we both have to work harder in such a relationship because everything is different – and we BOTH have to work harder, together. Part of the reward for this hard work is the much higher expectation that he will not fool around.
I made many predictions this time last year about what would happen in Thailand in 2003. I’m not going to go back and review them all but am sad to say that at least one came true. I predicted that one high profile farang would become HIV positive. Well, it happened. It wasn’t reported in the press and isn't known to many but yeah, one high profile farang tested positive. No predictions for 2004 except to say that I imagine the Thai authorities will continue to look closely at farangs living here, and they may well take more of an interest in the internet, work permits, taxes and the overall number of foreigners living here. I also predict that we might see a change in the mix and behaviour of tourists coming here, something that one could argue we are seeing already. Various policy changes, enforcement of long forgotten laws and implementation of a few new subtle (and not so subtle) measures being taken by the Thai government are really putting the clamps on the naughty nightlife trade.
It has been a great year for this website and the column especially has hit new highs in terms of the number of visitors. The success of the column is due to the help to various people so in no particular order, I'd like to thank the authors Jake Needham and Steve Leather for their encouragement and support. Thanks go out to the following bar owners and managers who provide me with news and gossip from time to time: Boss Hogg, Cocktail Casey, Dollhouse Darryl, Misty's Andy and Electric Blue Andy. Of course, thanks must also go out to a few friends who tell me the real goss that the bar owners conveniently leave out: Whosyourdaddy, Blackie and The Mad Stockbroker. But to one person more than anyone else, special thanks go out to Dave The Rave who has gone out of his way to assist with gathering large chunks of naughty nightlife news for the column and who escapes a grueling work schedule to call me frequently, always trying to keep m in the loop. And to everyone who reads my nonsense ramblings, thank you for all of your feedback and encouragement in making this column become a big part of not just my Sunday, but my whole week. Without your help, the column would not be what it is today.
I wanted this week's column to be the longest of the year and it is, with the exception of a column in the middle of October which had a verbose trip report. If you've got this far without falling asleep, well done! Finally, I hope you are enjoying the holiday period and I hope that 2004 brings you all that you wish for.
Your Bangkok commentator for another year,