Stickman's Weekly Column September 10th, 2006

Is This The Great Thai Immigration Crackdown?



This morning we woke up to news that the Immigration Department looks to be doing what they should have done many, many years ago – tighten up the visa rules and regulations for people entering Thailand.

For many years now foreigners have flaunted the lackadaisical rules and been able to live in the Kingdom indefinitely on tourist visas. I’ve even heard stories of people filling up an entire 10 year passport with continuous, back to back, tourist visas. Just as your visa was about to expire you could exit the country at any of the overland checkpoints and then re-enter immediately whereupon you would get a new visa, and another 30 or 90 days. Thai immigration officers didn't even blink at people who came and went on tourist visas for years, even though it was plainly obvious that they were not bona fide tourists. The system was exploited so guys could stay in the country easily.

But according to the article in today's Bangkok Post this all looks set to change. The article outlines what looks to be a new policy that will affect anyone who intends to stay in Thailand for more than 90 days on tourist visas or entry on arrival stamps. While it is all a little unclear at this point in time, it would seem that the new policy will effectively allow one to get three 30 day stamps in their passport – meaning one could stay for 90 days in the Kingdom, exiting and returning every 30 days. But once one had had three such visas issues then further such visas would not be allowed and that person would not be allowed back into Thailand at that point in time.

As I say, exactly what the policy will be is unclear. From the way the article is written, the best conclusion I can reach is that after effectively renewing your stamp on arrival for the second time (meaning the third consecutive issuing of a 30 day visa), you will not be able to do it again. I can only presume something will be stamped in your passport to the effect that no more consecutive visas will be issued and that you must leave Thailand for a period of time before returning again.

This new policy is going to affect a large number of people and more than a few are going to be seriously upset. Teachers, early retirees, entrepreneurs, offshore oil workers who have their month or more off here, lovelorn farangs who may or may not be supporting a Thai woman and family are just the tip of the iceberg who will be affected. Many of these people will be long term Thailand residents. Some may have family or a wife or girlfriend they are supporting. Some may be volunteer teachers in rural areas. Some may have made, or be about to make, a significant investment in Thailand. Basically, some of the affected are going to have every reason to feel aggrieved.

The difficulty for some is that there are only so many options by which one can stay on in Thailand, and if you do not meet any of the criteria, then you might find yourself out in the cold.

Call them what you will, long-stayers, perpetual tourists or early retirees, the vast majority of this group provides significant benefits to Thailand. While some may be working illegally (usually the only thing keeping them from being legal is a work permit), most spend a good deal of money in Thailand, money which often comes in from abroad. If it becomes more difficult for these people to stay in Thailand, there will be a (small) economic price paid to Thailand, but possibly a large price paid to anyone who benefits at an individual level.

I cannot even begin to think how many 30-somethings I know who live in Thailand, either retired, or working, often without a work permit – in many cases because going down that road is a bureaucratic nightmare. With internet banking so popular these days there really is no reason why one cannot live and work in one country while getting paid in another.

What about the legion of young to middle-aged guys who you see in the likes of The Dubliner, The Irish Xchange and The Londoner running their businesses online via the free wireless internet connections most days? With perfectly adequate internet access as well as a very low cost of living, more and more guys are relocating to Thailand while maintaining their businesses abroad which can be run from here. These guys invariably live on tourist visas and make visa runs every 30 or 90 days. While most will admit that the visa run is a hassle, they feel that it is a small price to pay for being able to live in Thailand and enjoy all of the benefits they reap.

So, if you are one of the effected – and there are going to be thousands and thousands, what can you do to avoid being denied entry due to an excessive number of entry stamps? Just what are your options?

The first and possibly the easiest way to get legal is to get a job. Every job in Thailand should come with a work permit and with that the accompanying one year visa. This is all very good and well if you wish to work – but many people don't want to, don't need to, or have their own business which would simply be a big hassle to get a work permit for.

If you are one of the many running a one man business in Thailand under the radar, it has to be said that it would be a major hassle to get legal. In addition to registering the business, employing a number of Thais so you yourself can actually qualify for a work permit, you then have to look at all of the accounting procedures, the compulsory twice year auditing and the one that most people want to avoid altogether, the tax situation. For some guys running a one man show, this would all be too much of a headache, so getting legal is simply not worth their while.

The next option is to get a retirement visa. For this you must be 50 years of age or older and either show proof that you have a deposit of 800,000 baht or more in a local bank account OR show a monthly income of 65,000 baht or more from abroad. The hard part with this type of visa seems to be the age. Many people have the money, or the income, but are not even close to 50. Sorry, they’re not flexible on that minor detail!

The next option is an investment visa. I am surprised that more people do not use this one. All you need to do is buy a property here for 3,000,000 baht or more, or have 3,000,000 baht on deposit in a Thai bank account. This seems to be the least popular of the options currently being used by Westerners in Thailand. I do have a funny feeling though that if you go the bank account route then the money may need to have been brought in from abroad, though I am not sure of that. Details about just what is required to qualify for an investment visa in Thailand will become clear as more and more guys look at this option. And remember, fixed interest term investments at the local banks now get around 5%, which is much more than it has been at any time since the '97 crash.

One could always apply for a multiple entry Non-Immigrant "B" or "O" visa. These are effectively a one year visa that allow you to exit and immediately re-enter the country every 90 days for the purposes of business, or to support a Thai spouse / national. These visas are quite difficult to get from Thai embassies and consulates in surrounding countries, but can be easily sought from the Thai embassy in your own country, or very easily from the Thai missions in a handful of countries. The Thai embassies in Brisbane, Australia, Fort Worth in the US, Savannakhet in Laos and Hull in the UK have all been traditionally known as a soft touch. However, if Immigration prevent people from coming and going on 30 day arrival stamps then it is likely they will do the same for people trying to do so on Non-Immigrant visas too.

The last option and the one that I cannot feel help but feel will be the easiest for many, is simply to get married at which point you can apply for a marriage visa. All that is required is that you marry a Thai national and deposit 400,000 baht into a local account and wham, bam, thank you ‘mam, you get your one year visa. If this new policy is enforced strictly – and we can only wait and see how that pans out – then this could well be the easiest option. I would not be surprised to see websites pop up with ladies willing and ready to marry Western guys for a small amount of money purely for the purpose of assisting a guy to meet the visa requirements.

So what exactly will the new regulation be and exactly how will it be enforced? In my native New Zealand, most nationalities can get a 3 month tourist visa and that can be extended in country twice, another three months a pop, meaning they can stay in New Zealand for up to 9 months. At the end of 9 months the “tourist” must leave New Zealand and cannot return for a period of 9 months. I believe that in Europe they have something similar with the Schengen visa countries where one must exit for a period equal to or exceeding the period they were there for, before they can return.

Now of course it could be that something was mis-reported and that the article in the Post only refers to certain countries like India and China, but the mention of the US, and the 41 countries, is ominous. The same visa requirements apply to pretty much all Western countries so if we assume that they apply to the US then we may as well assume they will also apply to Europe, Canada and Australia and New Zealand too. I assume that the 41 countries are these here and I think it is safe to assume that this crackdown really is for real. Frankly, it is many years overdue.

There is no doubt in my mind that some people who have had a good life in Thailand, who have been good citizens, and have made Thailand that little bit better by their presence, may find themselves in a very awkward situation, unable to qualify for any visa! Just what these people will choose to do remains to be seen.

Of course the whole reason for the new policy is to make it more difficult for undesirables and to get people who stay long-term "into the system", so to speak. That has got to be a good thing. I mean, I doubt if any of us would like it if any old person could enter our corner of Farangland and come and go on a tourist visa indefinitely.

There are of course other options in the region. Malaysia actually promotes long stay for Westerners and you can get certain privileges such as being able to buy property and a car, one of which I believe you even get tax breaks on. I also have a funny feeling that they issue these really long-term visas, like 5 years – though don’t quote me on that.

Then of course there is Cambodia which is most definitely Westerner friendly. You can pretty much just buy a one year visa at, I believe, around $US250 for a year. And it can be renewed ad infinitum. Malaysia and Cambodia both have plenty going for them, but they're not Thailand.

One also has to wonder about all of the visa run firms out there. Down in Pattaya this weekend I noticed more visa run firms than ever before, though whether they were just booking agents using the same companies and buses, I do not know. But one thing’s for sure, visa run services have been a growth area in Bangkok and Pattaya over the last few years and if this regulation really does come in, a few people’s businesses are going to die overnight. A lot of these businesses are foreign owned too.

It has to be said that visa runs are a pain in the backside and anyone who has been doing them perpetually for years has more patience than I could ever muster. From Bangkok or Pattaya, a visa run takes the best part of one day, irrespective of how you do it. You can fly out of the country and fly back with Singapore being a favourite destination using this approach with the excellent Changi Airport providing a great spot to pick up some duty free. But most guys do it on the cheap and overland it to the nearest border point meaning Aranya Prathet province and into Cambodia. It is a long day on a big bus and you're not back until late afternoon. How do people do this sort of thing over and over and over again?! I guess it beats the old days when most folks ventured all the way down to Penang in Malaysia, a train ride in excess of 20 hours. Forget that!

If these regulations really do come into effect then there is no time like the present to completely overhaul the visa system. A policy should be put in place allowing visas to be extended at any Immigration office nationwide WITHOUT the need to exit the country. Allow people to simply extend by paying a fee – the standard visa extension fee is 1,900 baht irrespective of how long you extend for. This would be good for Immigration as they would make more money AND it would be clear that people had actually extended, and they wouldn’t have this crazy situation where people have to exit the country every 30 day visas.

Whatever system Immigration end up with, and whatever the new policy is, I hope they don’t simply end up making visa runs more cumbersome and expensive while not actually protecting the integrity of tourist visas. I just can’t help but feel that they will introduce some regulation whereby one has to exit the country for a period of at least 72 hours or more, before returning, effectively sending many on an enforced holiday in a neighbouring country before being allowed to return.

There is little doubt however that a number of foreigners, many of whom may have already resided in Thailand for many years, are going to find it more difficult to stay in the Kingdom long-term. A lot of people are going to have to look at what options are available to them to allow them to stay in Thailand.


Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?

It was Rachada.

Where is that?!

Last week's picture was taken along Rachadapisek Road, close to the Swissotel Le Concorde, formerly the Merchant Court Hotel. In the foreground is Caesar's, one of the huge Rachaha entertainment complexes but the sign was blacked out. The first person to tell me where the picture is wins a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. The second person to get the prize right gets a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British Cafe in the Khao Sarn Road area. The third and forth prizes are a 500 baht food credit at Sin in Sukhumvit Soi 4. Please remember that we do have a prize provider in Pattaya, my favourite bar in Pattaya, Catz. The prizes are only available to people in Thailand now – either residents or tourists, and must be redeemed within 2 weeks. You MUST say that you are in Bangkok (or in Pattaya for the Catz prize) and able to claim the prize or I will consider you ineligible. If you have a preference as to which prize you would prefer, do not be shy to let me know!

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

They CAN be spotted.

I'm not a sad or lonely man and I have absolutely nothing against Thai women. I can however, with a pretty high degree of accuracy, spot ex-bargirls and ex-prostitutes in the UK and in airport lounges around the world. Anyone who knows a little bit about human nature can do the same. The original writer was correct saying you can usually tell from their clothes – it amazes me that with so much quality fashionable clothing available in the UK and so much money paid to them by their 'husbands' that so many Thai 'wives' choose to wear low quality bargirl type clothing. But the real give away for spotting ex-working girls is their body language. Their past lifestyle does something to them that is hard for them to eradicate from their character and personality. It's also in the eyes. You can see the hardness in their eyes. And finally, the way I like most is when these girls are out walking with their 'husband', draped in the tacky and tasteless gold jewellery he has bought for them and all they can think about is making flirtatious eye contact with me giving me that sly, sexy 'come on' smile. Total disrespect! Girls who have been whores dress and behave differently to girls who have never experienced that lifestyle.

Ouch! Harsh, harsh words!

Further to all this talk about whether you can spot a Thai whore in your home country or not and how many of her husband's countrymen have enjoyed her delights, well I reckon I can spot ex-whores pretty easily though I guarantee I would never have been one of her customers. But that's not my point. It's a fact that the majority of Thai girls who marry western men are ex-whores. I feel sorry for the kids of these marriages. If the family lives in Thailand then the lies surrounding and naivety of the upbringing of the child will probably successfully conceal the fact that their mother used to be a whore. Unfortunately in the west kids are far more switched on and worldly wise. If the children don't work it out for themselves then I’m sure one of their peers will let them know the probable occupation of their mother.

Psychologically facile.

Interesting article this week, but psychologically facile. I know a lot of women who behave like men in the bedroom and out, but women aren't like this in general. You talk about women keeping their options open? I guess it would be more true in Thailand for foreign men than in the west, but…it's because these 'girlfriends' aren't really emotionally involved with their men. It's the kind of emotional involvement that is similar to a high school crush. Many foreign men need to dangle a score of carrots in front of their prospective mates because the fundamentals of 'having things in common,' compatibility and chemistry and true love are missing or weak. Any man who truly understands female psychology shouldn't have a serious problem holding onto his woman. That is, of course, unless he is fundamentally lazy, impoverished or less intelligent than his mate. I would wager the reason Grandpa Stick was quick to go on the offensive when he saw his wife talking to another man was because they weren't fundamentally compatible in the first place. Was she a trophy wife? Was there a big age gap? Was it an arranged marriage? I really don't want an answer, but I'll bet it wasn't because she was emotionally involved with him on a fundamental and meaningful level.

No seatbelt, no problem!

I have never found an airport taxi with a seatbelt in the rear. It is as if to remind new arrivals that they have left the relative automotive safety of the west behind and entered Thailand. Not a great first impression as your over-tired driver tries to set a new personal best for the shortest time from Don Muang to downtown Bangkok!

Is there a difficulty finding a mate locally?

I've lived in Thailand for almost 5 years and I have never fallen in love with a Thai woman. It strikes me as inconceivable. Lust, yes, of course. I would also wager that many of the men who are besotted by a Thai woman are confusing infatuation with love. They may not even know the difference. Real mature love is a very rare phenomenon. It's even more rare when trying with a woman from an entirely different culture and language.

The northern option.

I got home after a great week up north, man is there a lot to like about the north. The weather is great, the scenery superb, the air so clean, blue skies…the list is rather long. Of course the prices are a heck of a lot cheaper as well and the sites for homes can be stunning. I looked at a 5 bed 5 bath new home (western style / size / amenities) on a fairly new road lined with fairly new homes that ran adjacent to a beautiful rice field (see attached). This home was beautiful and right outside of Chiang Rai. The price was 2.2 million and included 2 rai of land. From this location you're less than ten minutes for Chiang Rai and all the western type shopping / food you could ever want, from Tesco / Lotus, Big C, Pizza places, KFC, even a few pubs. And the Mae Sai border crossing is less than an hour of an easy drive further north for visa renewals. Mae Sai is quite the interesting town in itself when it comes to the nightlife…kinda like a mini Bangkok in many ways. Driving back into the smoke and glare of Bangkok was almost depressing if not for my comfortable 'home' waiting for me. For sure I'll miss the travelling with my housekeeper as a guide thing…but it's almost as fun here as she's 'around' the house all the time anyway. How long the prices and beauty of the north will remain easily obtainable?

Metro in Sukhumvit Soi 4 is having a big party on the 16th, their first year anniversary. There will be free shooters, killer pool (not quite sure what this means), a free buffet, games as well as girls and alcohol. Metro is located in the Raja Hotel car park in Sukhumvit Soi 4.

Deja Vu in Soi Cowboy is now officially on the "only visit when you are totally drunk and don't know what you're doing" list. The price of lady drinks, not that I buy them often, has breached my upper threshold. Lady drinks in that venue now go for 170 baht – even more than what they go for in Soi 33 bars! Also, the girls must get 16 barfines and 70 lady drinks a month to get their full 12,000 baht salary. That is a tall order but many of the girls don’t have a problem because, it has to be said, there are a fair few lookers in there. I think I will stick with the likes of Shark which has a 60 baht happy hour until 8:30 PM – that is on most drinks too.

The Dollhouse in Cowboy charge a small amount for draft beer early in the evening – and it is served in a small glass. Fair enough – that is common enough practice in a lot of bars. But after 8:30 PM the price of draft beer skyrockets to 110 baht – but it is still served in a small glass. I mean, the glass is tiny, it must be all of about 200ml and frankly, a glass of draft beer at that price is taking the piss. I thought the whole idea of draft beer in such bars was to offer a cheaper beer to those who are a little more sensitive to price. This is taking the piss, Dollhouse. Compare this to a decent Pattaya Bar, like say the recently opened Secrets, where for 50 baht you get a large handle of beer – it has to be close to 400 ml, for 50 baht – and that price is offered ALL NIGHT. Yeah, yeah, I know Bangkok and Pattaya are different, but such huge price differences don't endear Bangkok based guys to the local bar areas.

I stuck my nose into both King's Castle 1 and King's Castle 2 this week, the King's Group's two premier bars, where they place all of the prettiest girls from their stables. These used to be two of the best bars to take new visitors to Thailand to, given that they used to have the prettiest girls you could find in gogo bars. I say used to because they sure don't now! These two bars have gone way down hill. A few pretty girls remain, but the days when these two chrome pole palaces had consistently the most attractive ladies around are well and truly over.

There was a time when AIS was the darling mobile company, providing service to all but the most remote rural areas, and offering cheap mobile phone rates for all. A couple of months back many AIS users complained about being unable to get a signal and therefore being unable to use their mobile phone, in some cases for as long as a few days! But the problems didn't end there. With the introduction of new 8-digit mobile phone numbers there have been more problems which once again appear to only affect AIS numbers. Unfortunately with some AIS mobiles it seems that during this transition period when both the 7-digit and the 8-digit mobile numbers are supposed to work, they don't, especially when called from outside of the country. AIS is now advising people from abroad calling an AIS number to use the old number ONLY until end of November, when you have to start using the new number.

Bangkok long-timers are never shy to complain when the naughty bar areas are cleaned up when a major international conference is taking place in town. No showing in the bars and everyone is supposed to be on their best behaviour. But Bangkok is not the only place where this happens. From Singapore comes news about how the IMF is coming into town, so the week before last, Orchard Towers, that lovely shopping centre that at night turns into a quite different type of venue where companions for the evening can be found, was raided and every girl holding a foreign passport *valid visa or not* was arrested. Figures of captured girls that have banded about range from 180 to 230. Rumour has it that they were given 24 hours to leave the country and may even have been prevented from returning for a few years! So there is said to be quite a lack of girls there at the moment! One girl there was a Vietnamese lass who was studying at a local university and pulling in some extra pocket money at night. She now has to return to her home country and explain to her mother and father why she can't finish her studies! What is most humorous is that while Singapore wants to uphold a squeaky clean image to the IMF, it is the likes of the high powered businessmen passing through Sing who frequent these establishments. No companionship for them won't make them happy!

The Kitty Hawk crew may have only been in Pattaya for three nights but certain bars did a roaring trade, particularly the Pattaya branch of Angelwitch which had 3 record nights.

And speaking of flash bars with great shows, I hold real fears for the future of Roxy. On Friday night it was unbelievably quiet, I think the best word would be DEAD. On what is usually the busiest night of the week, I walked in at 10 – and doubled the number of customers. That's right, there was only one sole customer in there! Walking out half an hour later and the number of customer fell from 3 to 2! The number of girls on the premises was well down and that will only contribute further to the difficulties Roxy will have to break even this month. And breaking even is not really good enough. I can't imagine that they have even started recovering the reputed 20+ million baht they put into the venue. The bar got a lot of bad press when it first opened but I for one like it that they have tried to do something a little different. They should be congratulated and supported for that, although it does seem that many Pattaya punters prefer sleaze, and not the slightly more classy shows the foxy Roxy girls perform. I stuck my head in on Saturday night and it must be said that it was much busier.

Details remain unclear, but it would seem that in the wake of the John Mark Karr affair, Immigration has been checking up at a few schools in central Bangkok, turning up unannounced and examining the documents (read: work permits) of foreign staff and making sure they are legal. I imagine this is a temporary situation, a knee jerk reaction to what happened. In many ways I am surprised they have gone through with it, give that the charges against Karr have been dropped. Still, it does mean that if you aren't legal you may want to know where the nearest fire exit is if Immigration show up unexpectedly. It seems that rather than be a really heavy handed crackdown, Immigration want to be seen to be doing something. Now would NOT be a good time to be working illegally. If you are a teacher currently working without a work permit, have a serious think about things because this is the first time I can recall when there really is a chance that something might come of it. And for those of you who are legal, it might pay to keep your work permit at work, just in cases anyone from Immigration turns up and wants to see it.

If you find yourself in Soi Convent and in need of a caffeine hit, Starbucks is the obvious choice. But don't overlook the Irish Xchange which has really good coffee. They do a great latte and an even better cappuccino.

Has the Topless Pool Bar in Patpong always insisted that the girls actually wear tops? This bar has such a delicious name that it is oh so disappointing that the bar does not live up to its name!

For tourists who are passing by Robinson's Department Store, drop in and say hello to the pretty girls at the customer services counter who will give 200 baht of vouchers to spend in the store. The only criteria is that you are a foreign tourist who can produce a valid passport. There is a big sign outside the Silom branch of Robinson's advertising this – and I assume it applies to all Robinson's branches, including the branch beside the Westin Hotel at Sukhumvit Soi 19. We often complain about getting charged too much in Thailand but I wonder how the locals feel when they see a large sign on the door of a popular department store stating that foreigners can get 200 baht worth of vouchers for free as well as a further 5% discount on all purchases and if your purchases exceed 2,000 baht, a refund of the 7% VAT.

An amazing new venue opened not so long ago at the northern end of Beach Road in Pattaya called Mantra. I guess it would best be described as a modern bar and multiple-themed restaurant where top notch Thai, Chinese, Indian and Western food is offered. The venue is all class, and is more New York than Pattaya. It's a shame that, as far as I can make out, they do not understand the concept of barfines. Such a shame, because believe me, with some of the staff they have in there they really could do very, very well!

The girls in Windmill tell me that they miss Phil. I asked a couple what the new manager was like and they simply replied that they all missed Phil and his rounds of Tequila! There was an odd choice of James Bond theme music being played in there on Friday night. OK, so James Bond songs are always fun, but in a gogo bar?!

A grisly murder was reported in the Thai press this week, one which I personally never saw picked up by the English language press. Apparently a working girl from Patpong was found murdered in a short-time hotel somewhere on or near Rama 4 Road. It appears that she took a customer back to the hotel, and he was later seen leaving alone. The next morning one of the maids went into the room and discovered the woman's body. The police were called, as presumably was a doctor. They noticed something was unusual about the body and upon examination at the mortuary discovered a large Leo bottle had been pushed all the way up inside her vagina, so far in fact that not even the smallest part of it was protruding. There are some twisted individuals out there. Apparently the perpetrator has yet to be apprehended.


The ultimate Thai dating site with ladies from all over Thailand!

For the teachers out there who had a chuckle at the story of me and the permanent marker on the white board, we have a means of actually removing it! Rub a white board marker over the permanent ink and then erase as per normal. It is said that this works, although it is time consuming and can take up to an hour to clean an entire white board.

This week someone emailed me surprised that I had so many photos on the site of people just going about their lives. Unlike the West where it seems people get paranoid if you pull out a camera and point it at them (even though in most circumstances there is nothing they can legally do to prevent you from shooting), Thais are not only happy to be photographed, they often WANT to be photographed. Walk around with a camera and many Thais will even request that you take their photo, notwithstanding that they will likely never even see you again – and never see, nor get a copy of the photo. Just why is it that they actually want to be photographed? I have never worked it out.

If you're considering moving to Hua Hin, you might want to heed the words from a Hua Hin local. He is considering moving from Hua Hin up to Bangkok due to the lack of a really good hospital as well as the lack of international schools.

Someone asked me if Laos was worth a visit to which I said that it is, for sure. They then asked me to describe it. A cross between New Zealand and Thailand I said. How is that for a description of Laos! But seriously, while I have not been there for a few years now, I always found Laos to be a great place to visit, and if you want to get a feel for what the region was like a long time ago, Laos is the place.

Remember the Aussie auditor who was slain in Thailand many year ago? Well, his executors got their comeuppance. But sadly, there has been another Aussie victim of a crime in Thailand this week with a young Aussie girl raped in Phuket.

And remember the Brit who whose body was dismembered and thrown into the national park? His wife did NOT get away with it! Check this out. And finally, here is a story about British men travelling to Thailand to find Thai brides.

Ask the Sticks

Mrs. Stick is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Please note that for general bargirl related questions, Mr. Stick might answer them. Please do try and limit the length of questions to Mrs. Stick to about 100 words. We get many questions that are entire stories of several hundred words which I'm afraid are just too long to run here.

Question 1: I am actually with my Thai girlfriend and would like to make her more secure. I wanted to know if a betrothal agreement is quite often signed. Is it negotiated like a dowry? How do most Thai women perceive this kind of agreement?

Mrs. Stick says: We got engaged about 5 months before we got married. We talked about everything together but did not have a formal negotiation. We did not sign anything either. We just talked about all of the details together. Engagement is very important for a Thai woman because both her and her family then know that her boyfriend really is serious about her and that he wants a future with her. We were formally engaged and had a small engagement ceremony at my home in Korat but some people have the actual engagement ceremony on the day of the wedding.

Question 2: I'm planning to marry my Thai girlfriend next year. I have asked her what sort of money would be acceptable to give her family. She keeps saying: "up to me." If you could advise me roughly how much it would help me not pay too much, or not pay too little that it would make me look bad. She's 28, ex-gogo, lives and works on her parents' farm. They also own a second house. She has 2 sisters and 2 brothers who don't contribute much. They're not poor but their living standard is very basic. Would I also be expected to send money home if she lived outside of Thailand after we marry? As I understand there's two types of marriage. Can you explain how they differ and any fors and against. She has been married before to a Thai man but says there was no paper signed. She has no children and plan for none.

Mrs. Stick says: I wasn't sure so I spoke to my Mum and she said that you don't pay any money if you marry a woman who used to work in a bar like that. Even if you live outside of Thailand you have to understand that you will be expected to contribute to her parents so yes, you will be asked to send some money to help with your wife to be's parents.

Question 3: Some of my bargirl friends have stayed in phone / email / SMS contact since my departure even though they know I am not returning until next August. I never offered love nor offers of money to any of these girls nor was I ever asked, so why do they waste their baht calling me? I'd like to think it's because we might actually be mates! Your thoughts?

Mr. Stick says: I am forced to answer this because Mrs. Stick admitted she had absolutely no idea about it. Quite simply, these women don't want to cut you off completely as they see that there is still a chance of some sort of benefit from you. It might be that they see you as a marriage candidate, or it might be that they think you may be an option to send them some cash. Of course, one or two might like you as a friend, but I cannot help but feel that that really is the least likely reason.

A lot are people are no doubt going to be very concerned about the looming Immigration crackdown. I'll provide updates when things become clearer. Will this crackdown affect you? While it is still early days, if you are someone who looks likely to be effected, what do you plan to do? Do let me know and I'll run your thoughts in the emails to Stick section of next week's column.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to Bangkok Grasshopper and Mr. Write.