Wisdom has it that getting into relationships with bargirls is a bad idea and you certainly shouldn't marry one. This has been the one constant theme on this website over the years, a message sent loud and clear that I have repeated over and over again. Those who choose not to heed this advice often live to regret it and amongst expat circles in Thailand there's a never ending stream of bargirl-done-me-wrong tales.
There are however some guys in relationships with former bargirls who are genuinely happy and where each partner's needs are met.
I dread it when a friend, even a mere acquaintance, tells me he has made the decision to marry his bargirl girlfriend. It's a phone call I get every few months, occasionally an email. Very seldom does anyone tell me the good news in person. How can you congratulate someone while at the same time wondering if they have really thought it through. So many marriages with bargirls take place because it is what she wants and it is in fact she who made the suggestion, or in some cases, the threat – that she would leave him if they did not get married.
The risks of marrying a Thai bargirl are many. There's the possibility of financial ruin which is not necessarily contingent upon divorce. A bargirl's job, her very existence, is based around bleeding her customer of every last baht – and for these girls it doesn't necessarily finish when they leave the bar.
The damage to a guy's reputation when it is known that he has married a bargirl is huge and that's why most guys won't admit where they met their wife / girlfriend and why in expat circles you never ask this question! How many guys have the backbone to come out and admit that their wife used to be a hooker? It could mean immediate reputation destruction – and if you're working in Thailand in any job outside of the red light industry, any respect your colleagues had for you will be hard to keep.
But what I believe is the biggest risk of all is seldom mentioned. I can't imagine anything as truly damaging to your ego, to your psyche, to your emotional well-being and to your very sense of being a man, as your wife leaving you to become, or more succinctly to return to her old profession, to be a hooker again. That is the risk that every Western man takes on when he marries a woman who once sold her body – and it is my observation that such marriages generally don't work out – and she returns to what she knows, being a hooker.
But like I say, some couples manage to make it work – and there seems to be a few commonalities in those relationships which are genuinely successful.
Before I go on, let me say that I know a lot of guys married to bargirls or who were at some time married to a bargirl. Guys are often loathe to admit that things aren't going well so while many guys married to former Thai hookers may tell you things are going well, that's not always how things really are. I am simply commenting on the commonalities in the few relationships – yes, the sample is very small – which do seem to be successful.
Guys with former working girls who have made a go of it seem to be with women who entered the industry later in life, usually aged over 30, perhaps even north of 40. I don't imagine a woman becoming a prostitute for the first time in her 30s can realistically think she can compete with a woman 10 or more years her junior. That means that older women often enter the industry not to make a quick buck, but to find a husband. Women aged 40 up seem to be much more relationship-minded.
The lookers have options. Guys who marry bargirls don't always have the best options themselves and generally have little in common with the likes of Tm Cruise, Brad Pitt, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. A generalisation, yes, but guys who marry bargirls generally don't look great, aren't always in great shape financially and quite possibly have been through the mill with women in the West. That doesn't make them bad guys, it just means that they're not the most desirable. Getting involved with a bargirl who is one of the hottest lookers in the bar is getting involved with a woman who has a lot of options. And the more options she has, the more demanding she will be. Ongoing demands don't do anything for a relationship's longevity.
While it won't help a relationship if your financial situation is grim, neither do you need to be rich. Throwing money around won't net you decent women because for that type there's always someone with more than you.
A friend was involved with an ex-bargirl for a few years. He treated her extremely well. He was giving her 40,000 baht a month and picked up the bills for everything when they went out, which was often, to include shopping trips to Paragon where sizeable bills were run up in many stores. He had put down 2 million baht on a 4 million baht condo in her name. You'd think that would be enough to keep her happy…but little did he know that over a 3-month period she was double dipping, hauling in 100,000 baht a month from an older Swiss guy who not only paid off the remaining 2 million baht on her condo – which is now all paid for, he also spent another million baht to have the place lavishly decorated! You'd think she would be grateful but she has been overheard saying that she hates the Swiss guy and hopes he dies!
Relationships with women who have options and refuse to stop looking can be dangerous. If she had been Miss Popular, raking in the money then the temptation will always be there. She knows that she could go back to that life, to the fun and excitement of meeting new guys and to being the queen bee, irresistible for a Thai woman from a troubled background. This is why I think so many ex-bargirls treat their farang boyfriend / husband like dirt – they need to feel the power that they once had in the bar with so many guys drooling over them and the only way they know how to do that is to lord it over their beau. Either that or bonk the entire neighbourhood while he goes to work each day! They don't give up the power easily.
Thai women tend to mature a bit later than Western women. Many younger Thai women well into their mid 20s can behave more like a teenage girl would in the West. Do you really want to marry a teenager? There's an advantage in marrying a woman who is older, something which applies just as much to non-bargirls as it does to their bargirl sisters. Age gaps don't seem to have any bearing on whether the relationship is successful or not if she is aged 30 up.
Another problem with marrying a young Thai bargirl is that the attraction was probably her looks. Looks don't last. So many fall in love with the hottest looking girl in the bar. Perhaps they're thinking trophy wife in the West or perhaps she bonks as good as she looks. But for sure, the real lookers, which usually means the younger girls, aren't usually ready for a relationship – and often don't know it. They dream of getting married one day but it's not until they have been married for a month or two that they realise that they just weren't ready for it and it's not what they want at that point in their life and so it falls over.
Don't mistake the idea that her being young is significant in that she can only have been around for so long and will not have been damaged nor have the emotional damage that an older girl would. All things being equal, younger girls have far, far more customers than older women and can become jaded and damaged by the industry very quickly.
Most bargirls serving foreign guys come from Isaan and women from that part of the country look nice enough in their early 20s. A 23 year old Isaan girl might pass for 18 or 19. The problem is that a 35 year old Isaan girl often looks 40 or more. Age catches up with them fast! In the space of 10 years a cute young thing can transform into an old hag. She might maintain a great physique, but there is something about women from rural Isaan, perhaps it's in their genes, that sees them age rapidly once they hit their mid 20s.
Many freelancers have a free spirit and enjoy the lifestyle of being able to do what they want, when they want. They may lead the life they do because they don't like being told what to do and lack discipline – hardly ideal traits in a partner.
Beer bar girls get less traffic, tend to be a bit older, aren't always the most attractive and tend not to work in an exciting part of the industry. They're ripe for marriage.
Almost all Thai women want kids and the happiest couples seem to be those who are in total agreement when it comes to kids.
Having kids is perhaps the one genuine option there is for making things work with a younger bargirl and keeping her busy and out of trouble. Many Thai women were made to be mothers and take the responsibility seriously. Young bargirls have almost no career or employment options in Thailand. Every Thai knows how a young girl from Isaan who didn't finish school learnt to speak great English – and that immediately eliminates them from getting anything but the most basic, poorly remunerated jobs. For a young woman who is ready to be a mother and is happy to raise the kids and be a housewife, that option exists.
Bargirls often have the family on their back for money, even long after leaving the industry. How the family views the husband and how frequent and aggressive their requests for money are can have a real influence on the couple's happiness. Put this down to luck as much as anything. But for sure, it's a big help if the family doesn't view the foreign husband as a walking ATM.
Language skills don't seem to be that important and most of the punter / ex-bargirl couples I know who seem genuinely happy don't necessarily seem to speak the other's language that well!
And neither does the education level of the guy seem to have any bearing on the relationship.
In those relationships that seem to work best, her social group is not made up of girls in the industry and there are no other members of their family or close friends involved in the industry. Retaining links to the industry does nothing to eliminate the temptation to return.
Of course, the guy has got to really want the relationship to work. Many guys marrying bargirls blame anything that goes wrong on her, often subconsciously putting it down to her time in the bar. If she does anything wrong, it's because she was a bargirl! He needs to change the attitude. If he continues whoring, is not really committed to a relationship and just wants a pussy to go home to it's all a recipe for disaster. Career whoremongers often don't seem able to break the pattern, especially those who have been living in-country for many years before meeting her.
I don't see any correlation between successful marriages where the couple lives. Success rates, or lack of, seem to be much the same, whether they live in Thailand or Farangland.
Thais generally aren't as independent as Westerners and Thai women are much more needy than a typical Western woman. Combine that with the distrusting nature of Thai bargirls and if you're not around they just won't believe that you're not up to no good. No matter how well you may look after her financially, if you are away for periods, the odds increase dramatically that she will play! You've really got to spend your time together.
A young, incredibly successful Westerner on a huge salary got involved with a young Bangkok gogo girl. He was head over heels in love with her and despite having her checked out, a check which she failed, he married her and they had two kids. He bought her a house and sent her quite ridiculous sums of money. His wife and kids wanted for nothing. His work was in the West so he floated backwards and forwards between here and there. He spent as much time with her in Bangkok as he could, but obviously it wasn't enough. She was not only sleeping around, her boyfriend was the local drug dealer and she became addicted and the kids had to be looked after by family members. This guy had everything, but he didn't have the time to spend with her that she needed.
Finally, those couples who are happiest seem to have got married for the right reason. They both wanted to get married because they were happy together and wanted to be together all the time. They didn't get married because there was a kid on the way or she wanted to work in the West or he wanted a ticket to an easy visa to stay in Thailand.
So, in summary, of the successful marriages with bargirls that I have observed, here are the commonalities:
* She is older than your typical bargirl, often aged 35 up.
* It would be fair to say that she is not one of the more attractive girls in the industry.
* She may have come from a beer bar and is less likely to have been a gogo dancer or freelancer.
* They are in agreement over the kids situation.
* Her family doesn't have their hands out for money all the time.
* They live together permanently.
* He keeps it in his pants.
* They got married for the right reasons.
I still maintain that marrying a bargirl represents a huge challenge. If you decide to go down that path, take the time to think it through. Don't act on impulse or be railroaded into anything quickly. Take the time to consider whether she really is what you want in a long-term partner and be honest with yourself – are you what she wants?
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from the top floor of Nana Plaza looking down the staircase from Erotica towards Rainbow 3. The first person to email with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second person to correctly guess the photo wins a 500 baht voucher from one of the very best farang food venues in Bangkok, and the home of Bangkok's best burger, in my humble opinion, Duke's Express. Duke's is conveniently located in the Emporium shopping centre. The third person to correctly guess the photo wins a signed copy of Stephen Leather's superb Private Dancer, which is widely regarded as the best novel set in Thailand's bar scene!
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. To claim the book prize you must provide a postal address within Thailand now. The Duke's Express coupon MUST be used by March 31, 2011. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month. You only have one guess per week!
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – The reputation of Westerners in Thailand plummets to a new low!
I've just been to my local 7 Eleven, on Rama IV Road, near the end of Soi Phumchit, close to the junction with Sukhumvit, to pick up some supplies. They've had problems with shoplifting recently, as I'm sure most of these stores do. They're trying to remedy this by putting photos taken from their CCTV in the window showing the criminals in the act. Of the 6 photos they have displayed, one is a Thai guy, three are young Thai girls, and the remaining two? You guessed it…farang guys! Words fail me.
A grenade or….?
I live on Soi Rangnam where a very loud explosion occurred last night at 1 AM. Thai media is reporting a hand grenade, but it was louder than a hand grenade. There was a large fireball, and I could smell gasoline burning in the air. The explosion almost blew out the windows of my condo. Everyone in my building is really spooked!
More dodgy taxi meters.
I'm a once or twice a year visitor to Bangkok. Got in an orange metered taxi today at the Sukhumvit Sheraton Grande to go the airport. The meter started normally at 35 baht and the driver got right on the expressway. It was a fast trip, only 6 minutes waiting time on the meter. I zoned out part of the way through the ride, and then "woke up" about two thirds of the way to the airport and saw that the meter was over 240 baht. It ended up 315 baht on arrival at airport and read 32.2 km in distance. Usually it's about 225 baht for this trip. I tried to argue but the young-ish driver played dumb, and not being 100% sure I was right, I paid him. Maybe the orange ones are more now or maybe it had something to do with the hotel getting the taxi.
An argument in favour of dual pricing.
I notice that you, on occasion, allude to the issue of dual pricing for which you appear to have a dislike. In general, I agree with this view, but I'd like to give you a different perspective. My Thai girlfriend of 18 months used to be a teacher in Udon Thani before moving to Phuket following the break up of her marriage. Not out of any financial necessity, but purely because she loves kids, she took a teaching job. The 30 or so kids are a combination of mixed race and Thais with wealthy parents. The school employs farang and Thai teachers. The farangs are required to arrive at 8:00 AM and can leave at 4:00 PM, 5 days a week. For this they receive 35,000 baht / month – not great money, I agree, but… The Thais start at 7:15 AM and finish at 5:30 PM (or later if mummy is a bit busy at Central!), Monday – Friday, and Saturdays 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM (not to teach, just to "tidy up' the classrooms). For this, my girlfriend was paid 8,000 baht / month. If she had stayed beyond the 3-month probationary period this would have risen to 10,000 baht, the maximum available to Thai teachers. She also had to pay for her own uniform! I certainly don't feel so bad about paying that little extra these days.
Refusing to admit what they don't know.
You have recently addressed the issue of Thai women believing everything that their Thai sisters say, and them believing it as the almighty gospel, regardless of the facts and the end-all to any discussion. For me the issue is one of another subject and that is the Thai birds' reluctance to ask questions. Like how many times we are lost and she refuses to ask simple directions from anyone for fear of losing face (let's walk another 5 km). When I say it will cost you nothing to ask a question; her response is always the same. This leads to irreparable consequences in our relationship and it is the number one reason that I will never ever marry her.
The separation of body and mind.
I was walking along Sukhumvit, near the Landmark, around 6 PM, when I noticed a Thai girl in front of me walking with a Thai guy. He was in front and she was following, mimicking his every step, veering left when he did, right when right etc. Childish but cute in its own way. It was only when I got close to them that I noticed the girl was a Nana bargirl whose 'company' I had previously enjoyed. Our eyes met briefly, and both of us kept walking, heads down, without acknowledgement. The Thai guy was clearly her boyfriend, and I didn't feel it would be the right thing to acknowledge that I 'knew' her, and she also didn't think it was the right thing to acknowledge me as a previous client. And yet, the guy was walking her to work so clearly he knew what she does for a living. It got me thinking. In the western world we've become conditioned to connecting sexual fidelity with emotional fidelity, and vice versa. That is, we've come to believe that if a guy (or girl) is being sexually unfaithful, then it must be because they're emotionally unfaithful. Essentially this is a feminist view, failing to make allowances for the fact that men – who can propagate the species on a daily basis – evolved differently in sexual habits than did women, who can only propagate the species once every nine months. On the other hand, the bargirls, and their Thai boyfriends, draw no such parallels between the physical and emotional. They have what I would typify as a more male view: sex is just sex and is disassociated from the emotional realm. Perhaps this says something about the feminization of the west since the 60s vs. the lingering male domination of Asian societies. After all, this different dynamic doesn't just exist in the bar world. Many Asian wives are on the whole more willing to turn a blind eye to mia nois and gigs, while the days of blind eyes being similarly turned in the west disappeared with black and white TV.
A shambles, selfish or a complete inability to consider others?
I had another Thai situation this week. Wife's cousin was visiting with her mate and she stayed at a hotel until the last night. I got a call around midday asking if it was all right for her cousin to stay at our house. I knew I was going to be knackered from a long day at work so kindly requested that she visit us late afternoon or early evening so I could at least say hello and take them out for a drink or two before hitting the sack. My wife is heavily pregnant and obviously needs a lot of rest. Therefore I was pretty angry when she received a call at 8 PM from her cousin who informed her that she was at the casino as part of a tour which would finish at 9 PM and could my wife go to pick her up. Thais are a complete shambles when it comes to time management and basic manners. No more visitors for a long time. I've had enough!
Business seems to have picked up in the farang night spots on and around Sukhumvit and to my eyes most venues are doing better at the moment than they have at any time since the high season. That's not to say we're seeing high season numbers, simply that business has noticeably picked up. The Nana area especially seems to be doing well although just why this is I have no idea.
If you find yourself inside Nana Plaza during daylight hours, ignore the notices pinned up stating that Hollywood on the top floor is open from 3 PM. I went for a wander up to the top floor twice this week and both times the venue was in complete darkness. Those notices are a load of bollocks.
A bomb went off in the early hours of Friday morning on Soi Rangnam and if you had visited Nana Plaza you could be forgiven for thinking that a bomb had gone off there too. The demolition and removal of the beer bars which have been a fixture in the centre of the ground floor for 15 odd years, in what was once a car park, is almost complete. It will probably be another week or so before all the rubble has been cleared and hopefully not much longer before fresh cement is laid and the main ground floor area is flattened out. Already, even before the work has been completed, the feeling and atmosphere at ground level in Nana Plaza feels different, and dare I say it, better!
The demolition of the beer bars in the centre of Nana – all three of them – should see a resulting increase in custom at the other beer bars in and around the plaza. Most of the ground floor gogo bars have beer bars or seating outside which will almost certainly pick up. So it's not all bad news, unless you were an owner of one of the demolished properties.
A mate made a funny joke while we were lingering around Nana Plaza, taking shots of the current state of the place on Friday night. Outside a ground floor gogo bar was a notice posted out front that the bar was looking for staff. It outlined that applicants had to be 18 years of age or over. Given that the vast majority of bar owners and managers couldn't care less about the age of their staff, my pal joked "Who's benefit is that for, the police?!"
For some she is the prettiest girl not just in Tilac, but in all of Soi Cowboy, but Miss Pla is constantly trying to improve on her looks. The cutey who most Asian customers just adore has changed her hairstyle again, for what must be the 4th or 5th time in as many months. She has gone for a completely new look and boy, does it suit her. If you're not already a member of the Miss Pla fan club and / or she is not known to you, just look out for the lovely #211. Oh, and if you choose to chat with her and are proficient in the local lingo, don't let her know. She absolutely refuses to have any involvement with guys who can speak Thai!
And speaking of Tilac girls with an unusual look, #69 tried a new marketing approach on Friday night by wearing Mr. Magoo-like glasses. Personally I think she would have been better off wearing a t-shirt to conceal the map of the world.
The beating of yet another foreigner in the Walking Street area is the third major reported gogo bar incident in as many weeks and is causing Bangkok gogo bar owners and managers to laugh and tell anyone who cares to listen how much better Bangkok bars are because they are safe. Reports have it that a foreign customer was thrown out of Sweethearts A Gogo and once outside the bar was set upon by a handful of Thais where he received quite a beating, right there on Walking Street!
With the start of the English football season almost upon us, the Crossbar Pub will be showing 3 live championship matches next Saturday. Southampton vs. Plymouth broadcast via slingbox will screen at 6:30 PM. Burnley vs. Nottingham Forest at 9.00 PM and Leeds vs. Derby will be on at 11.00 PM also via slingbox. Then on Sunday, prior to the Community Shield match between Chelsea and Manure, Cardiff vs. Sheffield United will be shown at 6:30 PM, all on their new 50 inch flat screen TV with commentary in English.
It still might be a month away but it's worth making a note in your diary for Secrets 4th birthday party which will be held in the popular Pattaya bar on September 1st. It promises to be a big party, heaps of fun as well as free food. All going well, manager Larry will be back for it.
If you've not yet read Private Dancer, widely regarded as the best novel of the Thai bargirl genre, you're missing out. You can pick up a copy at most decent English language book stores in Thailand, purchase it online or even get the Kindle edition of Private Dancer which is priced at a little over $1. It can be downloaded to the Kindle, or to any laptop.
I've heard some horrific tales involving foreigners getting ripped off or treated appallingly by locals, tales of disgraceful behaviour and things that, as much as I hate to say, almost certainly wouldn't happen in the West. This week I heard a similar story from Phuket. A couple of months back I mentioned in this column that author, Phuket celebrity and my friend, Frank Visakay, had passed away. We all knew that the end was coming for Frank as he'd been diagnosed with a terminal condition a few years ago. Frank had made arrangements and left specific instructions with an American friend on what to do when the grim reaper finally came. Frank had joked to him that he would have to act fast because once word got out that he had passed away the neighbours would leap the fence and fill their boots with any and all of the valuables in his house. When said friend learned of Frank's death he headed straight to Frank's house – but he was too late. Already there was a convoy of pick up trucks in the driveway and parked outside Frank's place and most of his stuff had already been pilfered, notwithstanding that he had only been found dead a few hours earlier! They'd taken his car along with the ownership papers, his furniture, his passport, a stash of cash he kept, hell, they'd even stripped the sheets off his bed and taken them too! Don't make the mistake of thinking that things happen here the same as they do in the West and don't think that the dead are given any respect.
Good luck to you if you want to fly from Bangkok to the States this month. A friend tried to get a ticket to the US but there was nothing available. No carriers have any seats available at all for the month of August, at least if you're trying to source a ticket with travel originating here in Bangkok.
But contrast that with the availability of seats on flights between Bangkok and the UK. A couple of months back it was difficult to find a ticket from Bangkok to the UK for less than 40,000 baht, but at the moment Eva has a special, Bangkok to London return for just 20,000 baht!
Best new bar name award has to go to a venue in the Raja complex on Sukhumvit soi 4, located where Sin once was. First it was Sin and now it's called Planet Pimp!
Yes, really high speed internet is available in Bangkok now from True. You can get more details here. Despite what you might hear from some quarters, internet access in Thailand is fine these days – and has been for some time.
Bangkok Trader magazine has been hosting its networking meets and ladies nights for some time but I've never mentioned them before. After the MD of Bangkok Trader said to me that there are heaps of hot, single women there of a higher standard than Stickman readers might usually meet (not sure what the cheeky fellow was getting at!), I thought it about time to mention it. So if this sounds like your sort of thing, get down to The Australian Pub on Sukhumvit Soi 11 for the next Bangkok Trader magazine networking / ladies night / magazine launch party on Tuesday, August 3rd from 6:00 – 8:30 PM. The venue is about a 5-minute walk from the Nana skytrain station and the kind folks at The Australian will put on some food. The whole thing coincides with their new ladies night, AKA as Sheila's shindig, which features Margaritas, Zombies, and Sex-on-the-beach cocktails free for ladies. Musician / comedian Lee Shamrock will be playing starting at 7:30 PM. Food, drinks, music and conversation with Stickman – what more could you ask for?! There's no membership fee, cover charge or hidden agenda.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Sunrise Tacos has two Mexican chefs. They have introduced a bunch of new dishes including enchilada suizas, chicken mole and tacos al pastor. The Tacos al Pastor pork is marinated for 24 hours with a blend of peppers, spices and herbs and then slowly cooked on a vertical Trompo. They are also serving two favourite Mexicans drinks – Horchata (cinnamon rice milk) and Tamarindo, a popular drink made from tamarind.
I'm obviously a big fan of Mexican and have also been hearing good things about a small Mexican eatery on Sukhumvit soi 14 called Los Cabos. The food is said to be good, they have Mojitos for less than 120 baht and there's a free buffet on Friday evenings. Anyone keen to check it out this week with me?
A mate wants to get his 6-year old Ford Ranger re-sprayed. Does anyone know a place that they can recommend for such work?
I am astounded that there are Westerners living in Thailand whose finances can only be described as dire. Some are cutting it so fine they can get down to their last thousand baht towards the end of the month. Thailand can be a fun place to live when you have money in your pocket but if you're broke, it can quickly become a very lonely place. Many living month to month don't seem to have any sort of exit plan or even a level at which if their finances reach that they would leave. One friend recently mentioned that if he got down to his last thousand dollars he'd leave. I was shocked. What good would $1,000 be wherever you were going? I would have thought $10,000 would have been on the low side – and that would be for a single guy, not someone with a family to support. What is your ouch point, financially?
Quote of the week comes from a late 40s, overweight mate who visited Angeles City in the Philippines recently. "I have never felt so young and thin as I did when walking around Fields Avenue in Angeles City!"
Reader's story of the week comes from DH and is titled, "Men And Women, What Else?"
The BBC reports that Brazil is overtaking Thailand as a sex tourism destination.
Thailand's Immigration Department is going to keep a closer eye on tourists.
For those who can read Thai, a farang is killed by the family in Hua Hin from the Thai Rath newspaper.
From the Daily Telegraph, Thais slash prices to entice tourists back.
CNN featured Thailand's famed khon dancers this week.
CNN reports that in Angeles City in the Philippines, a serial killer has targeted expats and their gadgets!
Thai women moving to the UK or Germany are going to need to have some language skills.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: If I want to buy a house in Thailand without putting the land in someone else's name, is there a legal way to ensure that the house will remain in my possession?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Foreigners can in most all cases own a building such as a house in their name in Thailand. Most foreigners are prohibited from owning land in Thailand with a few exceptions such as if the land is limited to one rai and you invest 40 million baht in investments like Thai bonds. As we all know, most people do not have this amount of money to invest. Foreigners do however own land indirectly by forming a Thai Limited company which is a BOI company so they are a majority shareholder and the land and building can be in some cases classified as the working office for the managing director. If a foreigner does not have a BOI company (in which foreigners can be the majority shareholder) they can be a minority shareholder in a Thai Limited company but this should be done only if you have a legitimate Thai shareholder who will be investing with you and can show the funds for the registered capital of the Thai company. These funds must be from the Thai shareholders' own bank account and be in the account for more then six months. Depending on the Land Office they may require the shares must be up to 70% controlled and held by the Thai shareholder. This shareholder should never be a nominee. One alternative without the involvement of registering a Thai limited company Thai is a BOI or you are only a minor shareholder is to register a Usufruct Agreement on the property directly with the Landowner. Under Thai Law, a foreigner can become a holder of a Usufruct, which is a right permitting the Usufruct holder the ability to enter the property and to occupy the property for the duration of his or her natural life. Although you will not be the lawful owner of the land, you will have the right to lease or rent out the land and receive a payment for the occupation of the land pursuant to the rental agreement. You are essentially the property manager of the house and land. If you build a house you in fact can register and own the house in your name if you make sure that all of the building permits and utilities are put in your name and make sure any and all payments for the home's construction have receipts issued into your name. Should the Usufruct holder opt to lease the land to a third party, this lease agreement would not come to an end if you were to pass away. For example: If you died, you can lease out the property to a third party before your demise as per the Supreme Court ruling 2297/1998; 'the lessor does not have to be the owner of the property. Therefore the usufructuary can rent out the land. Although in the event of death of the usufructuary within the lease term, only the usufruct will be terminated but not also the lease'. Therefore, a thirty year lease (third party can only be granted a maximum of thirty years) could be passed on to your children or other relative even though you have died (as long as the lease was done before you died). With the usufruct, you are registered on the title deed. The land can never be sold or transferred by the owner of the land until the servitude is terminated. You can also get a yellow book which is a House Registration Certificate (Thor. Ror 13). A simple 30 year land lease is also a way to have piece of mind. Even though you may be told you can get an additional 30 years after it expires, it certainly is not guaranteed even with special conditions such as penalty clauses in the lease.
Question 2: If my Thai wife dies and she wills property to me, and I'm a non-Thai, can I then be the owner of the private residence, or do I need to be Thai to own property?
Sunbelt Legal responds: By technicality, you as a foreigner, can still own a house or a building in Thailand as an immovable property. With your query, we will assume you are referring to "land" in Thailand. Section 93 of the Land Code Act states that "A foreigner who acquires land by inheritance as statutory heir can have an ownership in such land upon a permission of the Minister of Interior. However, the total plots of land shall not be exceeding of those specified in Section 87". You as a foreigner who is married to a Thai national is considered a statutory heir under the Inheritance laws of Thailand and therefore, you can apply for ownership according to section 93 of the Thailand Land Code Act. However, as a foreign national, ownership of such land will not be allowed. It is highly recommended to read Section 93 of the Land Code in combination with ownership under a treaty clause: Section 86 of the Land Code Act states that "aliens may acquire land by virtue of the provisions of a treaty giving the right to own immovable properties and subject to the provisions of this Code". As of the moment, Thailand has no outstanding treaty with any country to allow a foreigner to acquire land and no minister will allow a foreigner to inherit land in Thailand. Applications are submitted but we are not aware of one case where the Ministry approved up to one rai to be own by a foreigner. The last treaty was terminated in year 1970. Under present laws, any foreigner who acquires land by inheritance must dispose of the land within a reasonable period (up to 1 year) to a Thai national. If the foreigner fails to dispose of the land the Director-General of the Land Department is authorized to dispose of the land and retain a fee of 5% of the sale price before any deductions or taxes. Proceeds from the sale of such land is then inherited by you as part of the will. The most possible and likely outcome would be for the foreign inheritance to sell the land. But prior to that stage, an executor of the estate must be established. If that executor is not the party who would be inheriting the land (such as the relatives), then the executor can act on the foreign inheritance's behalf in liquidating the land and pass on the funds to the foreigner. (matter about trust and faith in the executor)
Question 3: It was recently suggested in a seminar in Chiang Mai by a Thai government spokesman that farangs could inherit up to 1 rai of land if their Thai wife should die. Can you advise of that please.
Sunbelt Legal responds: While in theory a foreigner married to a Thai national may, as their statutory heir or legatee, own property through inheritance, in practice we are unaware of this ever being the case. The caveat of the rule is that the foreigner's ownership of the land is contingent upon the approval of the Minister of the Interior under Section 93 of the Land Code Act. That "approval" is very, very unlikely to ever be obtained and therefore the foreign heir who has "inherited" 1 rai of property will not be allowed to keep it. This is because Section 86 states, in part, "aliens may acquire land by virtue of the provisions of a treaty giving the right to own immovable properties and subject to the provisions of this Code". The last treaty was terminated in 1970 and there is currently no treaty in effect with any country that allows foreigners to acquire land. No ministers have allowed foreigners to inherit Thai-land. Under present law any foreigner who acquires land by inheritance will have to dispose of the land within a reasonable period (meaning within 1 year) to a Thai national (or other entity allowed to own land in Thailand). If the foreigner fails to dispose of the land the Director General of the Land Department is authorised to dispose of the land and will retain a fee of 5% of the sale price before any taxes or liens are deducted.
It has been a funny old couple of weeks. Last week I was a bit crook, only made it out once but still managed to get in touch with bar owners and managers and put together a column with plenty of news and views of what was going on. This week I felt good, made it out and about more and yet managed to gather less. Weird!
Your Bangkok commentator,