Stickman's Weekly Column June 20th, 2004

Divorce, Thai Style


One can't help but wonder about the wisdom of getting married in the West. With divorce rates in the likes of the US and UK at a touch over 50%, and the fact that the partner with the higher income and who brings more equity to the union, invariably the man, getting royally screwed in a divorce, then one really has to question the very wisdom of getting married.

We all know what happens in a divorce in the West, but just what are some of the issues involved in Thailand, specifically in a Thai / farang relationship. Is it much the same here, or is it different?

Talking to a friend recently about a couple who are having problems and are separated with divorce imminent, he joked to me and said that if you have to get divorced then this is the place to do it. His comments were completely justified.

There are several grounds for divorce in Thailand and some of them are a little different from what we are used to in the West. Cursing your spouse's parents is grounds for her to execute a divorce! Making your partner lose a serious amount of face is another and I think the term they use is something like a degradation of pride or dignity. Just what may constitute this is a moot point, but in a country where face and image is everything, this could be wide ranging. There are several other grounds on which divorce may be granted such as incarceration for more than a year and the inability to provide for your partner's naughty needs for a certain period of time, more than a year I think.

Where there is a major difference with the West in terms of grounds for divorce is adultery. If she sleeps around then he has grounds to divorce her immediately. However, if he sleeps around, it is not so clear. If he sleeps with a woman away from the family home, then this is not adequate grounds for divorce! (The ducks might get fed though!) However, if he was caught in bed in the family home with someone else then it is altogether something different and she then has every right to divorce.

What is interesting is that a no fault divorce is not that easy to get signed off. In the case of a no fault divorce, both parties have to go to the municipal office to sign off the divorce papers, though the staff there may well turn the request down. Even if they do grant it, every effort will be made by them to counsel the couple and attempt to make them change their minds.

And when it comes to settlement, things are not all bad for the guy, except where a house or other property may be involved. If there is a house involved and he bought it in her name (which is how must house purchases are made) and he did not take out a 30 year lease (a very good way to semi protect oneself), then he has no claim to it whatsoever. Laws limiting foreigners from owing land kick in and it is essentially gone. Well, the property is gone that is, though one could try and lay a claim for half of the house, the dwelling itself, which might get the presiding judge raising his / her eyes. All assets purchased after the registration of the marriage are split 50 / 50 and all assets accrued before marriage stay with the party who bought it.

Now some countries do recognise marriages in Thailand and some don't. So there are countries where a marriage registered in Thailand could be divorced in the West and those where such is not possible. In countries which recognise marriage in Thailand, there is a much greater chance that the guy could lose his shirt. If she can divorce you in the West, then you have reason to worry. In my home city of Auckland, New Zealand, there is at least one Thai lawyer who specialises in helping Thai women who want to divorce from their local husband and get a favourable settlement. From all accounts this guy is very well known amongst the Thai women there! I have little doubt that there are other Thai lawyers in cities around the world where there is a sizeable Thai population.

Pre-nuptial agreements can be used in Thailand and they must be presented and attached to the marriage registration documents at the municipality office at the time of registration of the marriage.

For some guys the idea of a potentially expensive and time consuming divorce is a bit much to bear and they do a runner back to their own country. Assuming she doesn't follow you, she can apply for divorce on the grounds of abandonment, for which she must wait for three years to lapse first. This could be a long time for a Thai woman whose body clock is ticking. If in her husband's absence she was to be a naughty girl with another bloke, notwithstanding that they are separated and him thousands of miles away, then she opens herself up to the possibility of not just being divorced by him, but being sued too! Yep, if one party stuffs up in a marriage in Thailand, they open themselves up to being sued too.

One could say that it is awfully negative to consider these types of things when one gets married although I personally consider it prudent to do so and bordering on foolish to completely ignore. Too many guys have been burnt for one to ignore things. The bottom line though is that generally speaking, divorce in Thailand is a lot less painful for a Western man than it would back in his homeland.

* I am not a lawyer and fully acknowledge that there may be some mistakes of a legal nature here. The material here is based on discussions with a Thai lawyer, and chatting with a friend who has "been through the system". If you find yourself in a situation where divorce may be a reality, it goes without saying that you should get a lawyer!

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic.

This week's pic.

The Khmer building in Suan Lum Night Bazaar.
Familiar to many of you…

Last week’s pic was of the Khmer style building located in the Suan Lum Night Bazaar was correctly guessed by many readers. Remember, you have to be the FIRST person to get it right to win the prize.

Each week the first reader to correctly state where this week's pic is wins a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. Please note that the credit MUST be claimed within two weeks. So, to claim that prize, you must be in Bangkok at some time in the next two weeks.

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:

They’re the same everywhere.

I arrived back in the UK two weeks ago. I spent the first 10 days bitching about how fat and ugly the local girls are. (Except in Manchester where there was a good selection.) Then, last week, I visited a bar with my dad. As soon as we walked in I couldn't take my eyes off the barmaid. When she came over I asked her nationality – wouldn't you know it…Thai! No wonder I thought she was pretty. So I started chatting to her in Thai (which was a HUGE first for her) and we got together the next day. She has been here 6 years (out of her 21 years) and couldn't remember some words, forgot letters and thought it was very funny I had to teach her about her own country. Some things never change though – she lies like a dog! I know 80% of what she says is bullshit. She told me she studied at a nearby university – when I asked the name – she gave me the name of a nearby THEATRE!

PayPal, the bargirl’s new best friend.

You should probably elaborate on PayPal coming to Thailand. This is a much better way to send money than using Western Union. I can already visualize the queue of bargirls waiting at the Western Union office shrinking. I see in the near future all bargirls having their own PayPal accounts. It will be second only to the mobile phone. Send $100 via Western Union and you lose about $15. Send $100 via PayPal and you lose only about $2.50. No travelling to the local office as well, money can be sent via the internet and withdrawn at any ATM. As they say…a no-brainer.

Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry!

I never cease to be amazed at the way these diminutive little Thai women can turn into monsters at the drop of a hat. Over the years I have had a few run ins with Thai women who I had previously been close to and in almost every situation they went crazy. I'm talking about the so called good girls here. I've had an apartment trashed, knives pulled on me more times than I care to count and have seen our otherwise positive relationship ruined by a woman who obviously suffers from some sort of mental problem. Problem solving and conflict resolution are not known here. Violence, dishonesty and deception are the norm in relationships with Thai women.

They don’t travel well.

I am in Hong Kong and learning more everyday. My Girlfriend from Korat came over and stayed just 3 weeks. When I lived in Malaysia, she had her sisters, friends and a telephone to Thailand for the usual 1 hour chat, no problem. Here she just stayed in the house doing house work, my friend’s Filipino girlfriend took her out shopping but she wouldn’t buy anything because it cost 2 to 5 times as much as Bangkok. She went from being a normal happy, outgoing girl to a withdrawn, shy insecure person in just 3 weeks. I wanted her to stay but she was just so unhappy, a completely different person… No friends or family. I work here so no problem to me but it just goes to show, Thai girls outside of the family and friends (not Thailand) suffer more than most. Anyone thinking of taking a Thai girl to their home country should think first. I want to live in Thailand and settle down one day, but would never take a Thai girl anywhere else after seeing my girlfriend so unhappy. In some ways I think she was sad to leave Hong Kong as the life style here is good but it is nothing compared to family and friends and she will be a lot happy working in Bangkok.

If the 200 baht cover charge wasn't bad enough…

I just got back from Bangkok a few hours ago. What’s up with the, ”no bags allowed in the Angels Disco” rule? My girlfriend and I went there last night. We both had bags. I carry around a small fanny pack and she carries a purse that is almost the same size as my fanny pack. The Thai man at the door asks my girlfriend to open her bag so that he can search through it…no smiles, no excuse me, nothing. He then stamps her hand and tells her she can go inside. The Thai man then turns to me and says I must deposit my bag with the girl at the counter for a fee of ten baht. What the fuck? I asked the idiot why my girlfriend can take her bag in but I can’t. Get this, he tells me, “She is Thai lady and her bag small and easy to search.” I told him, “Bullshit. Here, you can search my bag too.” He wouldn’t do it. I then pointed to the, “No bags allowed” sign and then pointed to all the women in the club with bags. I got that typical Thai grin. What a fucking idiot. I mean, it’s bad enough when Thais scam tourists, but the owner of this club has obviously been living in Thailand too long. He’s now one of them in terms of greed and deception. At ten baht per bag checked in one can easily do the math to see how much income he gets from this scam. The thing that is so clever about it is that ten baht seems like a drop in the bucket to most folks, but in volume, it DOES add up. Thais know this and take advantage of this kind of scam. The scam is so small that most people overlook it. Well, not me. The owner of this club doesn’t realize, nor does he care, that people are coming to his club to spend money. He should do this as an added courtesy. There is no need to charge 10 baht per bag. Hell, when I shop at the local plaza, I’m not charged anything to have my bag checked in.

Pattaya was lashed by a really nasty storm this week that made the Beach Road look like something of a war zone. Some people were blown over by gale force winds and trees were uprooted. Foliage was strewn out all over the road but most o it has been cleaned up now.

Boss Hogg has bought New Wave on Sukhumvit, next to the JW Marriott Hotel. On Tuesday June 15, Boss Hogg purchased Blue Wave and Privilege Restaurant in a transaction amounting to over 65 million baht! Blue Wave has been operating since July 2004 as a pool bar and live music venue and it will remain open as some re-modelling takes place. The plans include 4 LCD Plasma TVs for sporting events, new comfortable seating, a new drink and food menu with lower prices. The biggest change will be the ladies working inside who will be available for take out. The upstairs which was formally a No Hands restaurant concept has been closed for re-modelling. Boss Hogg plans to open a 300 square meter upscale soft jazz club and gentleman’s lounge. There will be ladies of course but Boss Hogg promises they will not be wearing blue jeans and jumping around to Thai techno music. As always with the Boss’s ventures, he retains control himself and there aren't any partners or investors.

And still with Boss Hogg's venues, the plan was never to enclose glass in Big Dog's but for Lucky Luke's. Both bars are due for a makeover and it is likely that Lucky Luke's will get the air-con… The whole Vixen, Lucky Luke's and bridge on the middle level thing continues to crawl along because they are all tied together and you would think they were building a palace for a VIP with the amount of time it takes to get all the OKs from the government.

The cashier at Big Dog's, Nong, who was in the accident on New Years Day, is back working and is at Lucky Luke’s as cashier in the evening. Great to hear! Big Dogs will be installing plasma TVs this week, the first bar to do so in Nana Plaza.

PJ from Buffalo New York and Palm Springs CA has been the manager at Big Dogs and Lucky Luke’s since September. Customers seem to like a farang bar manager and see him as someone they recognize and can talk to. He's got a friendly personality and unlike many others he doesn't get pissed every night. Stop in and say hello to him when your in the plaza.

After years of complaining the sign has been fixed at Nana, as shitty as it is, and the electrical wiring is being enclosed in steel around the outside of the plaza. Too much to wish for the paint and the stairs to be done I guess.

Dean Barrett’s latest is available now. The imaginatively titled Murder At The Horny Toad Bar is a collection of short stories, some fiction, some non-fiction. It is available now at Asia Books and later at other bookstores too.

I head a story from a friend this week whose embassy sent him out a reminder to re-register with this embassy for security reasons. The email had 18 screen pages of email addresses of its nationals based locally. One has to wonder about the competency of the member(s) of staff at this certain embassy who sent out via email a reminder to those registered with them to re-register. The reason cited for re-registering was "security", something their admin department doesn't seem to hot on.

While we may moan and groan about certain things not going our way in the Land of Smiles and the inevitable double pricing which really seems to be part of life here, we don’t expect to be subject to such practices at home. From my native New Zealand comes the story that Thai Airways there quotes MUCH lower prices for Thai passport holders than it does for regular New Zealand passport holders – or people of any other nationality. For a standard return ticket from Auckland to Bangkok via Sydney, Thai charges a NZ national around $1,400 and for a Thai national? A mere $1,000. Quite a difference… This was quite a secret in the Thai community, apparently. Was being the word…

It seems that more and more contraband is available in Mahboonkrong. If you’re into fake versions of brand name clothes then you will find quite a selection in MBK – a lot more than I have ever seen available there in the past. Though it must be said that a lot of copied stuff is much harder to come by than it used to be. I can remember a few years ago when copied Levis jeans could be found on every corner. Not these days. A lot of the major fashion labels seem to have had success in stomping out the prolific counterfeit of their goods. The one place where it al seems to be available though is Samui. Don't know quite why that is. Perhaps they shipped all o their excess contraband off down there?

In Soi Cowboy, all bars are required to have licenses for (1) gogo dancing and (2) girls sitting with the customers. Recently the government increased the cost of these licenses from one thousand baht each to fifty thousand baht each! As a result of this increase, several bar owners in Cowboy have been visiting other bars to check out what they are charging for drinks as price increases are explored. I think you can expert the price of lady drinks to increase. It currently varies between 80 to 100.

On the other hand there may well be a price cutting war now that we are in the low season. A notice outside Joy Ngern bar in Cowboy is advertising happy hour between 5:00 to 8:00 PM with draft beer at 35 baht and bottled beer and spirits at 50 baht.

A pint of Guinness in The Huntsman is 290 baht ++ i.e. 340 baht. Is it just me or is that outrageously expensive? On Thursday nights it is buy one get one free i.e. 170 baht). In The Dubliner it is 160 baht inclusive (or 144 baht if you have a discount card). In addition the food and service is much better in The Dubliner. The Huntsman would have to be my least favourite of all of the British pubs in the big city and some of the prices are more than a bit cheeky.

One area where Pattaya shits all over Bangkok is the affordability of, and speed at, internet cafes. A good number of the internet cafes in Pattaya use high speed connections which makes things make easier and you get online, get your shit done. Too many net cafes in Bangkok still use dial up connections, something which surely has to change soon.

This has to have been the wettest June since I have been in Thailand. Rain, rain and more rain. What’s more, the rain has not been late afternoon / early evening as we expect in the rainy season but rather it has been bucketing down in the morning which has made getting to work a real pain.

I am often asked about the types of things one should bring when they come to Thailand. Truth be told, there is little you need to bring as almost everything is available and is reasonably priced too. So don't worry if you forgot extra blades for your razor because you'll b able to get those along with most other types of things here.

I am always happy to run a free mention / ad for people in this column so drop me an email if you want something inserted. This week, an American gentleman is looking for a Thai woman who is Stateside already, or has a green card and has been to the States recently but perhaps was involved in a relationship that didn’t work out as she had hoped. Interested ladies should contact [email protected].

Mrs. Stick's Corner

Each week, Mrs. Stick answers 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. Please note that I may not necessarily agree with what she says. Unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email. Questions for her should be limited to 100 words. Mr. Stick may answer the odd question in place of Mrs. Stick of he thinks he can do a better job. Mrs. Stick is out for the day so no answers to questions this week, I'm afraid.

Question 1: I have several well educated and well traveled Thai friends. However, whenever, I talk to less well educated Thais they appear to have no knowledge of the world. I was recently asked by a group of bar girls about various countries farangs came from. I showed them a map of the world and asked them to show me where Thailand was. All six got it wrong, places pointed to included South America and Africa. Do you think this is because of lack of education or just the insular, parochial nature of village life.

Mrs. Stick says: It is true that many Thai people do not know where many places are on a map. Thai people do not travel nearly as much as people from you're country and do not know so much about different places around the world. This is not covered in great detail at school and there is no great need for many people to know, especially people who live in the villages as you mention. When I was at school, one of the things we did was raise chickens in an area at the school. This was much more relevant to our lifestyles here in Thailand. While some of my friends might not be able to find your country on a map, I bet they can raise chickens a lot better than you can! It is about what is relevant to our different lifestyles.

I'm still trying to catch up on everything since the hard drive crash. This means that email responses have been slow and that there have been few updates to the site this week. I am sitting on a whole heap of readers' submissions and will put them up in the next day or two... Thanks for your patience.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave and Basil Brush.