Stickman's Weekly Column October 31st, 2010

A Western Pornographer in Pattaya



I was trying to stand straight and remain steady, but the devil himself, Jack Daniels, was making that a challenge. Either side of me people were walking past, single guys, single girls, happy couples, all morphing in to one another. With a cacophony of music and sounds ringing out around me, it was just another night on Walking Street.

I spotted a scene I just had to capture, a bunch of pretty, bikini-clad Thai girls dancing. I pointed the camera up, tried my darndest to keep it steady, and fired. Reviewing the image, hell, it was all fuzzy. I fired again, checked the shot and again it was a mess. I'd had so much to drink that I couldn't work out if it was camera shake, from a slow shutter speed, or my inability to focus. I couldn't blame the camera. It works a treat. It was user error. The scene was too good to miss, and the way Pattaya changes I might not get another chance to capture it. I spread my legs a little, tightened my arms against my body, selected a focus point in the viewfinder on the pretty girl's face and fired. 12800 ISO, F2.8, 1/200 second. I checked the image. I'd nailed it! I could now retire for the evening, a rarity, a foreigner in Pattaya returning to his room alone.



I was just turning off the camera when a fresh-faced foreigner approached me. "Nice lens", he said, looking at the camera, clearly with at least a little photographic knowledge. I was in my own little world and just returned a friendly smile. Normally I would have said something but I was tired and had had a few. He strolled off.

I watched him walk away and then he turned around and made a beeline back towards me. "I'm making movies", he said to me.

I didn't say anything, and just looked at him, curious.

"Would you be interested in getting involved?"

Such a request in the early hours of the morning from a complete stranger caught me aback. I did not know this guy, had never seen him nor met him in my life, and while he was clean cut and well-dressed, I'm wary of letting foreigners in Thailand get close to me without working out what their game is first. He'd said movies, but even I could see through the clean cut looks. He was producing porn.

"I'm just taking a few shots to help me remember my trip", I lied to him, not wanting to get involved with a stranger obviously up to no good.

He was polite, wished me well and headed off.

I didn't think about him until yesterday when I found out that the American pornographer arrested in Pattaya earlier this year is once again out on the streets of Sin City making porn flicks starring himself and Pattaya bargirls.

If you missed it, the arrest was covered by the major Pattaya news sites back in April. He was arrested after an alleged 30+ complaints had been made about him by Pattaya bargirls. When the Pattaya police arrived with a search warrant in hand, they found high-end still cameras, high-end video cameras, lenses, computers with video editing software as well as drugs and a pistol with 10 live rounds. He was caught red-handed.

Known to some as "Thai Tony", and sometimes referred to as Beckham, as in David Beckham, because of his good looks, he is the brains, cameraman, producer, director and cock behind the movies available at a raft of porn pay sites featuring Thais in Pattaya such as Creampiethai, Thaigirlswild, Thainee, Lulusexbomb, Simbian, Tunisee and Asiansuckdolls.

He's the 2010 version of Thailand's first farang Internet porn star, "Naughty Nigel". The American is much younger and more handsome than the creepy Brit who starred in similar movies several years ago. Whereas Nigel was but the star of the show, the American does everything himself. Rumour has it that Nigel used to work for 10,000 baht or less a movie, whereas our American allegedly pays the girls that much or more to star alongside him.

His MO is clear. He searches for Pattaya bargirls and convinces them to have sex with him on camera.

Some reports have it that he approaches bargirls and asks them directly if they were willing to be part of a porn flick. He has a definite type of woman he prefers – petite and young looking.

He offers them 10,000 baht, sometimes more, with payment is contingent upon the girl providing proof that they are 18 years of age, as well as signing a model release. He is obviously covering himself from a legal point of view in his native US.

There's a lot of desperation in the industry and while most girls really don't want to be photographed or filmed having sex for fear that their family or people they know will see it, the temptation of 10,000 baht for a few hours work is enough to convince many girls to get involved.

Word from some of the girls who have starred alongside him is that he scours the internet forums to find them. It is also said that he has scouts in the industry who receive a 1,000 baht spotter's fee for every girl they find who is convinced to perform.

Apparently one of his tricks is to enlist the infamous Thai girl known as Lulusexbomb. They go into a bar together and she helps him enlist a girl if that girl proves difficult to convince. He short-times the girl a couple of times to check if they will be a suitable candidate.

The filming takes place in Pattaya, usually around the Pratumnak area where Lulu is said to have some properties. He is careful and tries not to use the same place for too long to limit the trail back to him. When he films a girl he usually does several scenes with her over a short period of time and releases them at different stages, as much as a year or two apart. He has a stockpile of material as yet unpublished.

This guy is not new to the industry and used to do porn in the States, prior to moving to Thailand.

Not a lot is known about him personally. Apparently he has a child with a Thai lady to whom he is or was married. Rumour has it that she once reported him to the police and he was in the shit, suggesting his last arrest was not his first brush with the law in Thailand.

Fancying himself as a modern day Ron Jeremy, he has full sex with the girls without protection. Not only that, he sometimes squirts in their love channel.

Some girls report that drugs are offered to loosen them up and make them comfortable and confident in front of the camera.

In other cases, it is alleged that he enticed women to a hotel room and suggested that they were boyfriend and girlfriend and as such unprotected, filmed sex was ok.

He lies to the girls, telling them that there is no chance that the videos will ever be seen in Thailand, where his sites are blocked. What he doesn't tell the girls is that even an Internet amateur can use a proxy server to get around that and view them. He is taking advantage of poor girls with a very limited education who have no real idea of what the Internet is or how it works. Can you imagine how the girls feel when they see stills or clips of themselves with him on other sites, or when the primary sites are accessed via a proxy server?



As his websites became more and more popular, it was inevitable that he would come to the attention of the authorities. Pattaya really is not that big and the men in brown stormed his place of abode after reportedly being informed of his activities by a number of Pattaya harlots.

Any story featuring a Westerner in Pattaya is big news amongst the English language websites. Where the accused is alleged to be making pornographic movies, interest is massive. Expecting to see a typical overweight, unkempt, poorly presented Pattaya specimen wheeled out before them, the press was shocked to see a young (he looks younger than he really is), good-looking, athletic individual.

The list of charges must have been lengthy, to include the production of pornographic material, working without a work permit (admittedly not a very serious crime), possession of a firearm and possession of drugs. Everyone knows, even those who have never visited the country, that drug charges alone are very, very serious in Thailand.

The drug charge alone would be enough to guarantee many years in one of HM's 0-star accommodation facilities. The other charges are merely the icing on the cake. With all of these charges together, this guy was in hot water!

It's no secret that if you get into trouble in Thailand you may be able to settle before the case reaches court. You only have to read the mainstream media to see that even those accused of serious crimes with much evidence against them may later have all charges against them dropped. It comes down to a settlement.

When a foreigner is involved, the terms of the settlement can become very steep.

What sort of money is required to settle infractions? The minor infraction of working without a work permit usually incurs a 100,000 baht settlement.

In the case of an Aussie bar manager who died under mysterious circumstances a year or so back, it was widely reported that a million baht was required to make the problem go away. The accused was in charge of a Pattaya gogo bar which was widely known to employ women not yet of a legal age.

In the case of another gogo bar which had problems with underage girls, various groups required a total of around 3 million baht to settle!

It used to be said that a million baht would be enough to buy your way out of anything in Thailand. Not any more!

Back to our pornographer, the evidence against him was overwhelming.

Justice is slow in Thailand and not nearly enough time has passed since his arrest for the case to have gone to court and for him to have successfully defended the charges.

So what happened? Were charges dropped due to a lack of evidence, or was a settlement reached? The evidence appeared to be overwhelming so….

What would be required to settle a case of this seriousness, that had attracted so much publicity and with so much evidence against the accused? If I had to hazard a guess, 3 – 5 million baht would be in the ball park. There may have been complainants to pacify too.

A Google search on the accused brings up a profile where he states a healthy income, in excess of $250,000 per year. Given the number of sites along with the quality and quantity of content he was producing, the figure is believable. In fact it may even be closer to $1,000,000 per year. It doesn't take a porn aficionado to see that he has real talent. He has produced heaps of quality content. He must be making a fortune!

Not only does it appear that he is free, he is back at it in Pattaya!

What I find creepy about this whole case is not limited to the way he performs without protection, but the cover up. The original reports that appeared on the most popular Pattaya news websites have been removed! The link to the story on one site comes up with a nothing found error whereas at the other major site which covered the original arrest, the link diverts to another article. What's going on?

It's highly suspicious when factually correct news articles are retrospectively removed. That this happened at more than one news source is no coincidence.

Were these news sites threatened? Did the heavies turn up at the door? Or was it merely that they were told there would be little cooperation on future stories if the news of the arrest wasn't removed? Can the media really be so easily influenced?

It's long been mooted amongst Westerners resident in Thailand that the mainstream English language press has a (very small) quota of how many so-called "negative stories" they can run, especially any story which concerns the plight of foreigners in the country. There are many suspicious deaths of foreigners in Thailand, cases where the evidence is seemingly ignored and the cause of death quickly determined to be suicide. Many are never reported.

Is there an order silencing, or at least muffling the English language press in Thailand?

Whatever settlement may have been reached may not have been purely financial. There is another possibility here, and that is that the accused has been turned.

Googling his name reveals links that show he works as an "internet investigator". He states that he helps the police crack down on internet porn and appears to see himself as some sort of hero. Is he in cahoots with the boys in brown, reporting to them the nefarious activities of foreigners in Thailand online? Is he actively providing them with information, in exchange for them looking the other way? Is he a user on the popular Pattaya forums? Of course he is! And with the top two forums each boasting in excess of 30,000 members, just who is he?!

Perhaps what is most scary is that the authorities aren't concerned about what he does and what may happen. Would it be reasonable to assume that if the authorities can benefit from helping someone avoid punishment, they will allow him to walk, even if they know he will continue to operate and put unsuspecting Thai girls, the very people who need to be protected, at risk?

That porn flicks are being made does not concern me. I am not anti-porn, but rather am of the belief that it is acceptable so long as everyone involved is there of their own free will and understands the consequences. There's a reasonable argument that young Thai girls from a modest background simply are not aware of the possible consequences of becoming a porn starlet.

That news sites would remove this story when asked to do so, and presumably without protest, shows the climate in which the news media operates in Thailand.

That this man has high risk, unprotected sex with so many Thai girls is highly disturbing.

That he offers young girls drugs before filming is terribly wrong.

That this case has been cleared, and the fellow allowed to continue operating is a disgrace to Thailand. He is free because for some in the authorities, their idea of justice is "just us".

Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken of Terminal 21, the shopping centre under construction at the Asoke intersection. I was at the Asoke end of Soi Cowboy when I took the photo a couple of weeks ago. No doubt the site looks different now – and is probably a storey or two higher! The first person to email me with the correct location of the photo wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second person to get it correct wins a 500 baht voucher from one of the 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 in central Bangkok. The third person to get the photo right wins a 700 baht gift certificate from Lolita's in Pattaya.

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Duke's prize must be utilised by March 2011. You have 90 days to claim the Lolita's prize. Prizes are only available to readers in Thailand at the time of entering and are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month. You only have one guess per week! If you wish to claim a prize, you must state a preference for the prize you prefer, or list the prizes you would like in order of preference – fail to do so and I will award the prize to the next person to get the photo right.

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 other side of the strong baht.

I want to touch on a subject that keeps occurring in your recent columns. The strength of the baht is continuously being viewed as a negative thing, as it is viewed from the perspective of the retired farang. I am quite happy with the current exchange rate. I work in Thailand for a local company and every month I save some money and every once in a while I transfer it to my bank account in Europe. I get a lot of Euros for my baht these days. If I decide to go back, I will have saved more Euros than at the old exchange rate. If I stay here, I will wait until the baht devaluates (which I think will happen at some point) and transfer the money back here. In the example that the Thai baht is currently at 40 against the Euro and goes back to 44 in the future, I will have earned a 10% return. Not bad! I would only lose if the baht appreciates further and the exchange rate still remains below 40 by the time I stop working and will have to use the money from my savings in Europe. I will take my chances. Maybe this will not turn out as positive as I think, but at the moment I am quite pleased with the exchange rate.

A foreigner is searched for drugs while a Thai national openly selling drugs is ignored!

Two anecdotes from interactions with the boys in brown (BIB) on my last trip. 8 PM at Asoke, my taxi is stopped and I'm once again searched – for what I don't know. The two BIB are weird, repeating "check check" as they empty my pockets, find a condom in my wallet and immediately grab my dick saying "Oh, vely big!" Then they let me go. Weird! A few days later, in front of Nana Centre, a Thai guy approaches me offering marijuana. He is there every day, a small guy in his late 40s with sort of curly hair, always with a small leather pouch under his harm. I tell him no but he follows me and says "I know you smoke, people same same you all smoke, why you no want?" I tell him to fuck off and then he insults me in Thai. Now I'm really pissed off with him and decide to cross the street and report him to the BIB. Yes, stupid me. I go to the glass box where they stay, introduce myself politely and explain that I was just pestered by someone trying to sell me drugs, and that the guy is still there. I point to him as he is still on the other side of the road. Their reaction is to take my passport, write down my name and tell me that the next time I speak bad about a Thai national I will be deported! The police of this country is fucked up to say the least!

Calling it as it is!

My missus rang a number to buy tickets to Dreamworld in Rangsit at a promo price for her and the daughter. She organised to meet a woman at Fortune Town to pick up and pay for the tickets. We waited and when a sexy young lady walked towards us she did a double take and quickly said to the missus in Thai, "Farang cannot get tickets at this price and must pay full price." Of course she was too stupid to realise I just might speak and comprehend the lingo! So I said to her in Thai, "Farang does not want to go to your shitty, over-priced venue and please tell your boss I think he is a tight-arsed cunt with bad karma and as for you sweetheart, maybe if you need some pocket money you might want to join us in a threesome later?" I watched the silly young thing turn crimson, gag and splutter! Needless to say I asked the missus to tell her to fuck right off and not buy tickets but she had promised the daughter for many months so she purchased. She was also shitty with me because she was embarrassed by what I had said to the ticket seller! I now give as good as I get. Having lived there for 8 years I do not mai pen rai, save face or any of that! Just because we are in their country does not mean we should treat them any different to any ill-mannered arsehole in our home country.

You can take the boy out of India, but you can't take India out of the boy.

Just like Pattaya, Angeles City is changing in that more Asian guys are visiting – mostly Koreans and Japanese – but the Indians have discovered the place as well. I was strolling down Fields Ave and saw three Indian guys negotiating for massage services outside a parlor. The leader was punching a calculator and handing it back to a petite Filipina. She counter offers, the Indian shaking his head and punches in more numbers. I witnessed this for several exchanges then walked on. If we knew the gist of the negotiations, I'd bet it was for three guys, one girl and the Indians were haggling for that last 20 pesos, or around 14 baht.


Looking for Thai girls? Look no more – you just found ThaiFriendly.com

Where the louts are conspicuous by their absence.

I have lived in Thailand for 12 years and I am not tired of bars but I have become more discerning. I am tired of what the tourist bar scene has become. "Greedy" and "desperate" are the words that spring to mind. I avoid the bar sois where you pay through the nose and get hassled for lady drinks by fat ugly tarts before your bum hits the stool, not to mention the cacophony that masquerades as music. I find it refreshing to visit the smaller towns and villages where the louts are conspicuous by their absence, the girls are friendly but not pushy, and drinks are more reasonably priced. When in town I tend to patronise the places where girls going off is an incidental bonus for a management whose main business plan is to provide pleasant surroundings and good service.

Favourable to Thailand, except when it comes to women.

I've been enjoying a week in Spain with family, on the Costa Blanca. One night we went to a German place. The beer was half the price of Tawan Dang and just as good, and the pork knuckle I had was much better quality – more tender, better flavour and it came with a good helping of fried potatoes and a decent salad. It was also no more expensive than the inferior product at Tawan Dang. You can get a decent enough meal in most places for the equivalent of 400 baht. A party of us went for a 3-hour lunch which included a wide choice of three courses, coffee, around half a bottle of wine each, and liberal glasses of brandy to round it off. One of the party went through half a bottle of that and paid the consequences! The cost? Around 500 baht each. It really is true that Thailand is no longer the bargain it was. Prices are often higher and the quality is lower. How long before Europeans wake up to the fact that they can save the airfare and enjoy a better and cheaper holiday close to home? And not be turfed out of the bar at 2 AM or whenever the boys in brown decide the place should close. The only thing that gets visitors to Thailand is the girls, but families are far better off keeping to Euroland.

Enjoying a novel, while surrounded by harlots.

Reading the piece about more Soi Cowboy bars having outside areas reminded me of when I first visited the soi in 1984. Back then there was a small raised area in the centre of the soi, down towards the Asoke end. I'll always remember this tall, thin elderly American sitting in this area reading a book and shooing away bargirls with a wave of his hand. I was totally impressed at the time, I mean, here was I, on my first visit, like a kid in a candy shop and this guy was so blasé about the whole place that he'd rather read a book!

Marc, the energetic owner of Spanky's, has opened a new bar on Sukhumvit soi 33 with a most apt name, Hookers! It's real nice inside and took him months to finish. You can find it in the small sub soi, down past Wall Street. There's a lounge downstairs and 10 rooms upstairs for….whatever takes your fancy! Marc set out to create a well-appointed yet relaxing venue and used the old Champagne Room which was above Bully's as his inspiration.

The best butt in the business is no longer! Tilac's #95 has fallen for the charms – and no doubt copious amounts of baht, or is that Yen – of a salaryman.

I mentioned Sakura 69 briefly in last week's column, having walked past it a couple of times when I was in Sin City. I am informed it was open for just 3 weeks before closing its doors again. Accusations are flying backwards and forwards with one owner saying Louie, the former boss of Paris A Gogo, was his supposed to be his partner but he went missing for a few days saying he was sick when in fact he was laying low to avoid heavies coming in to the bar looking for loans to be repaid! The French owner apparently gave him his walking papers and it is said they are looking for a new manager. Talk about an embarrassment! The girls are said to be moving to the newly refurbished Carousel on Soi Diamond.

Check out the new beer condoms in Rainbow 4 if you're passing by.

A former bargirl has said that one of her former gogo dancing friends died whilst with a farang customer Friday before last. The girl was working at one of the farang-owned bars on the ground floor of Nana Plaza. Apparently the farang rushed her to hospital from his hotel at 4 AM but she didn't make it. From what little is understood, apparently she stopped breathing. The rumour mill has gone crazy about just what may have happened. It is said that the girl was not a big drinker and some girls have speculated that the evil farang may have spiked her drink. Police say it will take 45 days for the toxicology results. Whatever the case, it's all rather sad.

Some readers have asked why I don't cover Phuket and one clever reader pointed out quite correctly that it was the place I originally intended to reside when I made the move to Thailand. Quite simply, I think that Phuket, the main beaches at least, was the first place in Thailand to be destroyed by over tourism. It is a hassle to get to from Bangkok and is damned expensive once you get there. Food is more expensive than almost anywhere else, the locals were rude on my last two trips and getting around is one big pain in the ass with the tuktuk mafia that the utterly hopeless municipal council fail to clean up, probably because they get backhanders from it. Let's not forget that many beer bars in Phuket charge 200 baht for a lady drink. Forget it, I have no plans to step foot in Phuket ever again! If you're a single guy, I see little reason to go there – head to Pattaya instead!

Long time is often abbreviated as LT, and short time is often referred to as ST. Well, it seems there's a new term being used these days, particularly by some call out girls. It is QT, which seems to stand for "quick time", as in a quickie. It's the new catchphrase that some girls are using and refers to an encounter of 15 minutes or less! I wonder if this will catch on in the main farang bar areas. If it does, I doubt girls will drop their ST prices, but rather that it will result in an increase in the cost of ST? I think it is already here, just that the girls haven't started using the term yet!

There's a new menu at Bradman's Bistro in Sukhumvit soi 23 – and that means new prices which are about 15% higher than the old prices. Bradman's is a funny place. Being a single shophouse, it is rather narrow and the interior is a little bland. It is however run by a real nice Aussie and when he's on the premises everything seems to run well. When he is not, however, the staff aren't always on top of their game and food can take forever and a day to come – and there is no guarantee you will get what you ordered. I almost feel like calling ahead to see if the Aussie boss is there before deciding to mosey on over! Anyway, if you're looking for good, honest Western style food with decent sized portions and a definite Aussie flavour, it's worth checking out.

For those of you in Western Australia, a reader advises that the local liquor shop in Mandurah, an hour from Perth, has Beer Lao at $50 a carton. They also sell Chang, Singha and Tiger as well as many other international beers. Worth going out of your way for if you're feeling homesick.

A mate regaled a story of a working girl he has been seeing for some time who was stopped by the men in brown at the Asoke intersection – as I have been reporting in recent columns. They performed their usual illegal, unauthorised inspection of her person and when asked for some ID, she told them that she was not carrying her ID card. She had lost it and had not had a chance to get a replacement. During the search they discovered that she had 3,500 baht on her, which presumably the poor lass had earned on her back. The police put it to her that if she wanted to proceed on her way, it would cost her a cool 3,000 baht without a receipt, of course! Yep, no ID card and they were ready to extort most of the cash she had on her. I guess if there is one positive out of this, it is that they don't discriminate and it is not only foreigners they are after, not that that makes this any more acceptable. The poor girl was so traumatised by this that she did not go to work for two days afterwards. Sometimes the Thai police force is a disgrace.

As mentioned in recent columns how the police have been checking Westerners getting off the bus at Ekamai Bus station, an Australian journalist found himself the subject of a shakedown by the boys in brown at this very location. He was fine although they thought they were on to something when they saw a picture of his girlfriend topless on the beach in Australia! He is going to write and publish an article about his experience in the Australian media together with some other pitfalls and home truths about Thailand. I can't wait to read it!

To overcome this problem, I had recommended getting off the bus from Pattaya at the Onut BTS station, before the bus reaches the Ekamai bus station. I am informed by a reader that apparently you can only get off at Onut, or any of the other earlier stops such as BITEC, *if* you only have hand baggage. If you have anything stowed under the bus then you have to wait until it reaches Ekamai.

Teachers know that flashcards are a great way of building vocabulary, particularly with young learners, but with males tending to be more visual than females when it comes to learning, this website, Thai-Flashcards.com, is great for anyone making an effort to learn the Thai language.

In Thailand you will almost always get a better exchange rate when changing currency at the privately run exchange booths than you will at banks – which in fairness still give decent rates. In Pattaya, there is an outfit called TT Exchange which has a number of exchange booths all over Pattaya. They're yellow and black in colour and worth looking out for – but don't get them confused with the Bank of Ayuthaya which has a similar colour scheme. Generally, you'll get a rate about 1% better than you would at a bank. And whatever you do, don't change your money in to baht in your homeland, or vice versa, for you will almost certainly get a crap rate.

Did you know that HM The King of Thailand and the current Prime Minister were both born outside the country and received some of their education (much in the prime minister's case) outside of the country? Yep, it's true! HM The King was born in the US, Massachusetts to be precise and part of his education was in Switzerland. I have read that His Majesty is fluent in a number of languages including French and English. The Prime Minister was born in Newcastle and his education includes such respected names as Eton and Oxford. He is a fine orator, in both English and Thai. There can't be many countries in the world where both the reigning monarch and the head of government were each born and, at least partly, educated outside their homeland.

4 years ago True Visions satisfied us cricket fans with the option to pay a one-off 1,000 baht fee to be able to view all of the Ashes tests live. Unfortunately they have no plans to offer it this year so those of us who enjoy the thrills of international test cricket will have to hunt elsewhere for coverage. Unless you're into soccer, tennis or golf, live sport in Thailand really does suck. And for those who like rugby and cricket – my two favourite sports – coverage is crap. For the test cricket, Crossbar might be one of the places to watch it and the landlord, a keen cricket fan, will provide a running commentary with a very English bias!

What you pay for a taxi from Bangkok's Suwannaphum Airport to Pattaya really depends on your negotiation skills. Some pay 1,500 baht or more whereas others get it for 1,000, which is probably the best fare I have heard recently. If the cabbie actually used the meter, what would the fare be from the airport to Pattaya? 910 baht.

A lot of interesting characters pass through Thailand, some gaining quite a profile. One was the Dutch beggar, pictured here, who it was quickly established was a scammer. Photos appeared of him on various websites, this one included, with a slightly different sign asking for help, pleading that he was anything up to several thousand baht short for an airfare to get back home. It became clear that he was scamming people for money, both Thais and Westerners. But not all farang beggars are scammers. A couple of years ago, a farang beggar became a fixture at the Asoke intersection and an interesting interview with him appeared online. People have started asking questions about what ever came of him. If you know, drop the fellow who carried out that interview an email at : [email protected]. He is also interested to know whatever happened to the guy.

If you are looking at a Nokia E5, make sure you don't mispronounce the model number. "E5", if pronounced with the right tones, is awfully coarse in Thai!

A friend is looking for a studio or 1-bedroom apartment in the Sukhumvit soi 20 area. His budget is 15,000 – 18,000 baht per month. Do any readers have any suggestions, or does anyone possibly have a unit for rent?

The cool season is just about here. For the past 10 days or so it has been cooler and the past couple of days have been very pleasant indeed.

I protested vehemently when a friend suggested we take a bus ride back to downtown. We'd been out to check out the river's water level on Monday after the mainstream media had reported how high it was. It didn't seem to be any worse than it has been any other year, but what would I know. Anyway, not only did we get the bus back to downtown on a day when there was little traffic – it was a public holiday – and so it was not much slower than a taxi would have been, we lucked out and got on the cheap Charlie! What's the cheap Charlie, I hear you ask. It's what we call the free bus! Yep, for some time now, riding on some of the red buses has been free and that just happened to be the one we got on. It was my first bus ride in Bangkok in a long, long time and I had forgotten how much fun they can be, especially as the drivers often barrel along like lunatics. Give it a go – the red buses are much more exciting than the air-con variety.

Quote of the week comes from a reader, "Expats in Thailand seem to think the world revolves around their barstool!"

Reader's story of the week comes from Caveman and his first part of an epic 23-part series, "SE Asia Journal 9.1".

The Bangkok Post ran a piece on street walkers at Lumpini Park.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, Thailand is the most dangerous destination for Aussie travellers.

The BBC reports that foreign investors are flocking to Thailand.

Thailand's appalling lack of press freedom is highlighted by Reporters Without Borders.

What a surprise, the land of corruption, oops, I mean the land of smiles, fares very poorly in the world corruption index.

CNNGo profiles ya dong, a natural Thai aphrodisiac!

Economists see the Thai baht at 25 to 1 to the US dollar within 2 years!

White guys rejoice as they will be flavour of the month after a Pakistani goes on a spree robbing bargirls in Pattaya .

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: I married a Thai lady in Bangkok back in 2003, and brought her back to the UK later that year. Things didn’t work out and we separated about 2 years ago. She still lives in the UK but we have yet to divorce. I will be spending some time next year in Bangkok and wonder if it is possible for me to get a divorce over there without her actually being there? If so, how do I go about doing this and how much will it cost?

Sunbelt responds: Divorce is possible in Thailand even if one of the parties is not present in the country but it is an expensive and long process as compared to a divorce when both parties are in Thailand and chose to divorce amicably. If both parties are present in Thailand they should go with licensed legal counsel to any District Office with their marriage certificate and their national ID card / passport. If your wife is not physically present (or is unwilling to amicably go through the divorce process) you will need to file a lawsuit to get divorced in Thailand. Because she is not present (and her willingness is uncertain) this will involve serving her overseas and the Thai courts giving her ample time to object to the proceedings. When litigating for a divorce decree the Thai court will require there to be evidence and witnesses presented in support of the grounds being alleged for the divorce to be issued. The grounds for divorce need to be serious in nature to be considered by the courts including abandonment and the husband or wife having an affair. We have handled numerous contested divorces for our clients but you should be aware that the costs associated with a contested divorce (especially with one of the parties being unable / unwilling to return to Thailand to participate in the process) are higher than those in an uncontested/in country divorce and can often take much longer to be completed. As you are still legally married to her even if you have separated it is a good idea to legally divorce as soon as possible. As you are both present in the UK it will likely be easier to divorce there (though still possibly a costly endeavour).

* This does not constitute legal advice or serve as a substitute for direct legal consultation with a licensed attorney. The information is provided for educational purposes only and it may not account for the specific facts and up-to-date laws that may be applicable to each individual's situation. It does not take the place of consultations with a licensed lawyer and it does not create an attorney-client relationship between readers of the information and Sunbelt Asia, Co. Ltd. or any of its employees.

At the end of last year I said that this year the column would become more edgy. There were a few edgy columns but then things became a little bland again. Hopefully this week's opener, and the opening piece for the next two weeks will bring that edginess I promised. While I enjoy living in Thailand, frankly I hate the way that many people tow the party line and view things with rose-tinted glasses. There are some things about this country that are questionable, no matter which way you look at it. Some foreigners living here take the attitude that that is ok, but I don't know how anyone with pride and dignity can live like that. Hopefully the edginess I promised is here!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick