Stickman's Weekly Column November 21st, 2010

To Be Legal?

There are hundreds of thousands of Westerners living in Thailand today, yet there are only around 100,000 work permits issued nationwide – and many are issued to "non-Westerners". Does that mean that the majority of Westerners resident in Thailand are retirees? Or does it mean that many of us are not exactly legal?

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More and more Westerners, particularly younger guys, are moving to Thailand, attracted by the perceived low cost of living, the perceived friendly locals, the adequate infrastructure, the hot weather and perhaps last, but certainly not least, the perceived ease of conducting their business here, below the radar.

Thailand is experiencing an influx of young Western entrepreneurs, guys for the most part, usually aged under 35, who may or may not have a visible means of income. They operate a wide range of money-making enterprises, many of which are Internet- or technology-based. They might be peddling products on EBay, running websites (which may or may not be related to Thailand), computer programmers, computer games creators – you name it and there will be young Western guys in Thailand doing it.

Then there are those who make money online as opposed to actually running a business or doing a job.

One such group, large in number, is the professional poker players living in Thailand. They play online, make decent money, often earning several thousand dollars or more per month. Online poker players are flocking to cheaper locales with Thailand the fourth most popular place behind Costa Rica, the Philippines and Argentina.

There are guys playing the markets, day traders and currency traders, some of whom make the sort of money the rest of us can only dream about, $10,000 or more per calendar month the average amongst the few I know. Keep an eye out for them in Bangkok bars and restaurants pouring over currency pair charts.

There are more and more writers from novelists to columnists to those producing E-books.

There are of course a lot of teachers who aren't legal – some of whom freelance and do quite well, targeting wealthy Thai families as well as other Asians, like the Japanese and Korean communities.

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There are all sorts of gigs making Western guys money in Thailand, from such diverse industries as the bar industry to boat building.

Strictly speaking, any activity which makes you money in Thailand requires a work permit. Even voluntary work, where no money is involved, requires a work permit.

If you're going it alone, is it worth going down the work permit path?

The first thing to consider is whether what you're doing is legal or not. If you're playing poker online, for example, forget trying to be legal in Thailand!

To get a work permit, you have to form a company. There are plenty of hoops to jump through and you're best advised to use a professional services company like Sunbelt Asia to help you. I believe the cost of setting such up to be around 40,000 or 50,000 baht.

The company most likely won't be in your name, or at least not totally under your control. Thai law requires that you have Thai shareholders holding at least 51% so ultimately you do not own it! There are ways around this but ultimately they circumvent
the spirit of the law. Of course you could put it all in your Thai wife's name, if you have a Thai wife, that is.

Once you have a company registered you can apply to the Labour Department for a work permit. Screeds of documents are required and they may or may not require you to have a bunch of Thai employees too!

Once you've got a work permit, you can start working – and earning! Then you need to visit the Revenue Department and get a tax number. Tax rates in Thailand are low for the first million baht earned (0% for the first 150,000, 10% for 150,000 – 500,000
and 20% for all baht earned from 500,000 – 1,000,000) but once you pass the million baht mark – just $30,000 per year equivalent, the rate jumps to 30%! If you're earning more than 1.8 million baht a year – a mere 150,000 baht a month – you
need to get involved with VAT too. What a headache!

How serious an offence is it working without a work permit in Thailand?

Tough question, and like most things in Thailand it comes back to who you know, how you handle the situation if you get caught and your willingness to *quickly* settle before things become official – if you're given the opportunity
to do so. Depending on where in the country you are, and the circumstances that led to the authorities being made aware of your activities, the Immigration police – yes, Immigration is a division of the Royal Thai Police – may be willing
to make an out of court settlement.

In Pattaya, where many Western business owners are caught working without a work permit – the authorities definition of work can be as innocuous as a business owner pulling a pint in his bar – the going rate to turn a blind eye seems to be 100,000 baht.

In Bangkok it's a lottery. In a worst case scenario, being caught working without a work permit is bad news. If you're unable to settle – and you may not be given the opportunity to do so – you could be sent to the Immigration
Detention Centre and then deported.

If you've been grassed by a farang competitor who does not appear to have influential local contacts and Immigration don't consider what you're doing a big deal, there may be a chance of settlement. If on the other
hand a complaint is made to Immigration by a person of influence then all bets are off!

In other words, being caught working without a work permit is potentially very bad news. Consider how much of a disruption it could be to your life. You might lose not just your business, but your ability to stay in Thailand!

In this country of 65 million people, there are just 9 million registered tax payers and only 2 million people who actually pay income tax! Much of the population have never paid a single baht of income tax in their life – the first 150,000 baht is tax-free
and most low income earners from factory workers to farm hands to 7 Eleven staff to taxi drivers just don't earn that.

When you're legal, it's not just about the tax you pay, it's about the intrusion of the government departments on your business. The Revenue Department in particular loves to stick its nose into farang business and they seem to see it as
their role to tell you how to run your business! It's not unknown for Revenue Department staff to just turn up at the premises of a farang-owned business unannounced and expect every co-operation from you as they go through your books there
and then and perform an on the spot audit! Not only that, expect them to make many suggestions on how your business should be run, kind of ironic when these comments often come from recent graduates with no business, nor real world experience.
Yep, it's the old put a Thai in a uniform syndrome.

Dealing with government departments is often a nightmare in Thailand. These people can be so incredibly smug. In the West you can usually tell an official where the boundaries are. Not Thailand! You just know with 1,000% certainty that if you were to
make a complaint against them that nothing would come of it. And they know it too!

A friend runs a large business here in Bangkok where everything is 100% above board. His company has been audited by the Revenue Department a number of times. Staff went through his books for a whole week, and at the end they called a meeting with him,
exasperated that they couldn't find anything amiss. They explained that they simply could not go back to their boss and report that they had found nothing wrong. The face loss would be unbearable! In the end he was forced to make a hefty
payment when in fact he had done nothing wrong at all, simply to appease them and eliminate the face loss. Quite unreal! This is the hassle you get for being legal!

Revenue Department audits and Immigration raids usually result from an anonymous tip off from a competitor or an aggrieved customer. Or maybe a spurned girlfriend! Do NOT tell your girlfriend what you're doing! My best guess is that foreigners who
have hassles from the authorities have been grassed on by a fellow farang. Sad.

Needless to say, don't tell *anyone* what you're up to work-wise or how you get your income unless you're 100% legal! The currency trader who tells others how much
he makes, or the webmaster who gloats about the popularity of his website is just inviting trouble. Envy is very real amongst Thailand's expat population and nothing makes people more envious than learning that you earn more than they do.
If anyone asks, tell them that you're a private investor. If they inquire further, ask them if they know the meaning of the word private!

If you're operating a fully-fledged business, have staff, have premises, or your work is "visible", you're best advised to be legal. Register a company, get a work permit, pay your taxes and do it properly. Ideally we should all be
legal, but the costs, and the hassles make you question whether that's really the best way to go.

If you operate solo, have no need for premises and have no staff, there's probably little reason to be legal. The odds of getting caught would be remote so why go through all the hassle?

Don't get cocky. The Thai authorities aren't morons and are more aware of what foreigners in the Kingdom are up to these days. Some businesses are more visible than they appear. Websites, at least Thailand-centric websites, aren't under
the radar anymore. That said, with a few precautions such as keeping income outside the country, using proxy servers and concealing your identity, you can protect yourself.

In the case of an online business, remember that you cannot lose the business. So long as the domain name is in your name and you have all the login details / passwords, it's safe.

If your business is of the brick and mortar type and you're not operating legally then there is a greater chance you could lose it if things go pear-shaped. Often people will tell of how they were ripped off by local partners – but sometimes it is
simply that they got caught by the authorities and the settlement was walking away, essentially handing over their business to the authorities who no doubt sold it / passed it on to a friend or family member. This is not uncommon!

Even if you are legal, don't think that registering a company, getting a work permit and paying your taxes protects you from everything. This is Thailand, and it is said that for every law there is another that contradicts it!

Being legal greatly strengthens your position, but it doesn't make you invincible. Only you can decide if it's worth your while to be legal or not.

Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?

Last week's photo was taken on the pedestrian bridge adjacent to Sukhumvit soi 12, looking at the 7 Eleven store at the mouth of the soi. This week's photo is much more difficult than usual and all I will say is that it is a favourite place
of mine, one I have mentioned from time to time in this column. 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

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – When Thailand gets under your skin.

I'm bored with Australia. Nothing really against the place, I just can't seem to adjust to living in a so-called civilized country. Most people I know here have kids and the idea of a good weekend is having a family BBQ or going fishing. I've
also met my fair share of lunatics here. The guy I was working for, well, it turns out he is a psychopath and was recently released from jail! I left Thailand because I had some run ins with farang weirdoes and was sick of all the freaks but
it seems they are everywhere. I must be attracted to them! Living in Thailand changes you. I moved there as a 20-year old and left when I was 30, so I spent 1/3 of my life there. I became something. Not a bad person, not a lunatic, but an
expat. Someone who lives outside the box. I can't seem to get used to it here in Australia. I moved to Thailand because I came across your website back in 1999. I used to read your column every week. I worked 3 jobs and saved up 10 grand
UK, and moved to Thailand with the intention of never returning. I set up an online business and never did return! I haven't been back to the UK since. I now live in Australia and I've started reading your column again….and I think
I'm going to return to Thailand!

Guard your bankbook with your life!

I was recently in the throws of buying a new car. I had found the right one, agreed on the price and headed off to my local bank to withdraw the cash. I was looking to take out 600,000 baht, and handed over my bankbook across the counter, with my passport
and Thai driving license in my other hand in readiness for an ID request. The girl behind the counter proceeded to fill out the paperwork and handed me a form to sign, which I did. Then, to my amazement, she counted out the cash and handed
it over the counter. Not once was I asked to provide any further form of ID other than my bankbook! Although this branch has been my branch for quite a long time, it's not like I am in there so often that staff remember my face as I do
nearly all of my banking online. Needless to say, now I keep my bankbook under lock and key at all times!

There's no substitute for time.

Show me the proof…what can I say? It occurred to me that there must be a common denominator running through all these guys, who might as well be behaving as if they were lemmings throwing themselves off a cliff. Sadly this is exactly what happens here
to some, choosing condominiums when cliffs are in short supply. It occurred to me that these guys spend too much time making money, to the detriment that they don't have time to think, at least rationally. They believe that they can substitute
their time for money, as if that would prove to be adequate compensation. What's ironic in all of this is that it's not money that these bargirls crave, but company. They, just like their sponsors, delude themselves that money in
itself can be an adequate substitute. In reality of course it isn't long before they are falling back on their Thai boyfriends, who square the circle by indeed offering them time in lieu of sharing the proceeds. They say that time is
money but somehow money sure ain't time. Women around the world don't run on petrol, €, £ or $ – just simply time – your time.

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

The first whore he saw!

Even after reading your website for months before coming to Thailand, I fell for the very first whore I saw on Soi Cowboy. She took me back to her room and I probably met her lover. He claimed to be a brother who just sat out on the balcony eating grasshoppers
and bugs on a stick while she pitched the whole idea of "sponsorship". I told her, honestly, that it was my first day in Thailand. I was just asking for a dagger through my heart. Looking back at all the photos I took of her, I can't
understand what I saw. I was completely blinded with lust. For 3 days I rode in the taxi with her to Soi Cowboy and had tears in my eyes seeing her walk into her bar, your weekly column competing with my thoughts of her, a 30-something bargirl
with fake tits – and the tits were winning. Her requests for money became more aggressive. She put out for free a couple of times but I paid for it with emotional torment. I finally found myself at an ATM on Soi Cowboy, ready to withdraw the
first installment but then I had a moment of clarity. It was a Monday night and I had just read your weekly column – and it could have been written about me. I took out the money, but instead of going back to her bar, I went home and put a
wank in the bank. I don't judge newbies and their whorror stories harshly anymore. Even armed with you sage advice, it's still a huge temptation to overcome even an average bargirl in Thailand.

A circus of the silly.

Your column on the farang suspicious of his love's infidelities is just another example of the naive farang who never ceases to amaze me. I just don't understand how anyone can come here expecting some young Thai lady to fall in love with him
and never have eyes for another, or eyes for money again. Just stupid. Expecting her to not have sex for money here is just not in the reality zone called LOS. And so what? Like it's a big deal she bonks some guy? I just don't get
it. Farangs are as stupid as the Thai girls they have expectations on. It's a circus of the silly. Two dogs chasing their own tail.

Will they ever admit?

Perhaps if one of your clients needs conclusive proof of his whore's infidelity you could steal her underwear? You'd probably get a urine, blood, semen and stool sample, but alas, that probably wouldn't be enough either. It's not like
he's going to get anywhere with her anyway – no Thai fee-male in history ever admits to telling lie. Their default is denial to the bitter end until you have to question your sanity.

Those odious toilet assistants.

I was in Hillary Bar 2 and went into the toilets. As I was finishing up I noticed a condom machine on the wall and asked the toilet attendant if he had any change for the machine. "No good" he said. "Oh" I said, "Is it broken?"
"No" he said, "No good for you, large size". I didn't bother tipping him on the way out.

Tonight is Loy Kratong in Thailand, referred to by some as the lovers' festival. Expect many of your favourite bargirls to be off celebrating with their, umm, err, brother! Also expect there to be queues outside short-time hotels
and potential problems finding a taxi that is available and willing to take you to where you want to go. That aside, it's arguably the nicest nationwide festival on the Thai calendar.

The noisy warehouse with fancy lights and loud noise, Bangkok's Insomnia, is not exactly booming every night. It seems that weekend trade is furious but weekdays aren't so great – which suggests that many who make it there have
a day job. Next weekend Insomnia celebrates the 4th anniversary of the original branch in Pattaya with guest DJs in each branch. BTW,
a correction is needed as regards to the cover charge at Insomnia in Bangkok. I had previously said it was 300 baht to get in, but actually Thai females get in for 100 baht whereas it's 300 baht for everyone else. This policy only serves
to encourage working girls to visit. Part of the reason many venues have a cover charge is to discourage that lot, so can we assume that Insomnia wishes to target that sector of the market?

Many married Westerners in Bangkok do the dirty behind their wife's back, often with bargirls, and I often wonder what sort of fury there would be if their Mrs. found out. One Western wife found out about her husband's philandering
this week in the worst possible way… Not only do we all know that drugs are a big deal in Thailand and the penalties for being caught with them onerous, in a country where you are never quite sure that what you're getting is what you asked
for, buying drugs from shady characters is asking for trouble. But that is exactly what a Bangkok-based Brit did this week. It is alleged that he purchased drugs from blacks in the Nana area and checked in to the Nana Hotel with two ladies of the night.
He never did check out and was found dead in the room with one of the girls. The second girl made it out of the hotel but was found dead elsewhere. Was it an overdose? Were these drugs somehow bad? I can't imagine what his poor wife
went through, from the initial devastation of having the boys in brown on her doorstep informing her that her husband had been found dead in a notorious sex tourist class hotel, to be followed by the utter humiliation that he had been there with
not one, but two Thai hookers! RIP, Jez.

Unfortunately they were not the only deaths in Bangkok's farang bar areas this week. Not even close in fact. The next to go was a Westerner who died from injuries sustained in a beating suffered at Cowboy this week. I did not see the incident with
my own eyes, but I heard various reports about the argument that started in Midnite. The Western customer, which one report described as a slim white guy of not more than 30 years old, was forcibly removed from Midnite after foolishly throwing
a punch at one of the security guys. The cavalry were summoned and security from other bars in the group were on the scene in seconds and proceeded to give this guy the beating and kicking of his life. He managed to get to his feet and was heading
towards the Asoke end of the soi, when they decided another round was needed. From all accounts he didn't appear that badly injured at the time but the police took him to hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. And for whom do the guys
who dished out this beating work? The Arab, of course! I have been saying for the past couple of years how security in the Arab's bars is out of control – there have been numerous such beatings – yet I am accused of being racist and having
a vendetta against the man.

If you have to drink in Midnite, make a point of asking the staff how they feel about working in a bar haunted by a ghost that is no doubt most angry at everyone working there. That will sew a few seeds in their minds and don't worry, you won't
get bashed for saying that!

And in a horrible, awful, tragic week, the deaths don't end there! In a bar I won't name out of respect to both the bar owner and his staff who are very, very upset over what happened, a customer suffered a heart attack in a popular Nana Plaza
gogo bar and was rushed to hospital. He never made it and was pronounced dead on arrival.

Bar Four is the name of the new bar next to Melody, on Sukhumvit soi 4, which is set to open Monday. The venue is 99% done. The Brunswicks were finished off yesterday and the #1 pool player in Thailand installed them using lasers to ensure they are correctly
leveled. Carlsberg draught is available and that too has been thoroughly tested by the owner and the local Carlsberg rep. They hope to have Tiger draught soon. The opening promotion is 70 baht for all standard drinks including wine and 1/2 pint
Carlsberg draught – that's all day, all night. They'll run this promo for a week or two until the wrinkles are ironed out. It looks rather flash and dare I say it, looks to be of "Arab quality"!

It was 2 AM closing on Walking Street earlier this week in what seems to have been a short crackdown on closing times. Strictly speaking, bars are supposed to be closed at 1 AM, although they are usually given an extra hour. Anything beyond that requires
a private arrangement. I'm not aware of any reason being given for the crackdown, and assume that some old Thai duck from the society pages with caked on make up and big hair was in town.

Bangkok Beat's next party takes place next Saturday, November 27, and will be Divas-themed. Carlsberg will be available at a very reasonable
90 baht.

Aussie-owned Champagne A Gogo in Pattaya's Soi LK Metro was raided by police this week with the assistance of some farang scumbag who grassed on the bar. He paid bar for one of the girls and took her to one of the upstairs rooms from where he called
the coppers who were waiting outside for the call. Rooms on the premises of such venues used for the purpose of fostering better international relations are in fact a no-no and as such many venues which have rooms upstairs don't mention them
to anyone other than those they know well and regulars.

The filming of Hangover 2 made it into Bully's this week. It sounds like the movie is going to be like my weekly photo competition and we'll all be playing "where was this scene shot" when the movie is released.

Soi 7/1 bar owners are rubbing their hands in glee, having pocketed 60,000 baht apiece for the inconvenience of being closed briefly to allow filming of Hangover 2 in their soi.

The cast of Hangover 2 visited a few bars in Nana Plaza this week and were spotted in Angelwitch, Sexy Night and the beer bar outside PlaySkool. From all accounts they were a polite and friendly bunch.

If you were think that the action was limited to the major bar areas, you'd be wrong. It was all on in the soi opposite Gulliver's on soi 5 on Friday night, in the area where many Africans like to hang out, linger and peddle
drugs. A fight broke out between a Mediterranean-looking guy who seemed to have a problem with the Africans in the area. Outnumbered by a dozen or more to one, this crazed Mediterranean just came out of nowhere with a metal chain and went for
one of the Africans who did an Usain and positively bolted down soi 5 at full speed, with the frenzied Mediterranean hot on his tail! What's going on? Bangkok is going crazy!

Eddie probably wishes he'd dotted his "i"s and crossed his "t"s – and got himself legal. It seems that someone grassed on the ex-manager of FLB Bar in Pattaya who this week was caught promoting a tour boat – which the authorities
considered employment and subsequently arrested him for. He had no work permit but to make matters worse, he had overstayed his permission to stay in the Kingdom by 2 years! IDIOT! He is currently in a Bangkok jail, the Immigration Detention Centre,
I presume, awaiting deportation. Is Thailand really that great that you would do such silly, no, make that such stupid things to stay here?

It's well known amongst the expat population that if you get into fisticuffs with a local, it's not one on one, but one on 65 million – or one on half a dozen as per the Midnite brawl in Cowboy this week. I cannot reiterate strongly enough that
you should not let things escalate and the best thing to do is just walk away. But tourists perhaps don't know this and on Wednesday night a hot-headed Westerner got into a fight with some Thais outside Hollywood Rock, on the ground level
in Nana Plaza. He ripped his shirt off in a show of bravado as a bystanders watched nearby. I've seen a good number of fights over the years and it almost always ends badly for the foreigner. But this time it was a little different. The Thais showed restraint and let the crazy farang walk out of Nana Plaza, relatively unharmed. In a side soi away from gawking onlookers
he wouldn't have been so lucky.

My favourite eatery, Duke's Express, on the 5th floor of the Emporium is doing a Thanksgiving Day special with a bunch of dishes for 595 baht including US roast turkey, parker house rolls, Caesar salad, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberries,
pumpkin or apple pie plus coffee and tea, all for a reasonable 595 baht. Seating is limited so reservations are encouraged.

Sunrise Tacos is also preparing traditional Thanksgiving meals. You can pre-order whole oven-roasted turkeys or enjoy full course Thanksgiving meals at one of their four outlets. Dine-in guests still hungry after going through the menu once can get a
second serving free. It'll set you back 595 baht. The menu is listed here.

Bully's is cooking up a feast this Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 25th. The buffet menu includes seasoned butterball roast turkey and BBQ ham carving with homemade cranberry sauce, butter mashed potatoes, honey roast pumpkin, baked rice with turkey,
pea and carrot curry, Brussels sprouts and green bean casserole, sage stuffing and apple raisin stuffing topped with turkey giblet gravy. The cold buffet includes salmon wrapped in puff pastry, Caesar and other salads. Desserts include pecan pie,
pumpkin pie, apple pie and fruit salad. Service starts at 1:00 PM and continues until 10:30 PM. It'll set you back just 650 baht.

No doubt Doug at Bourbon Street will have his usual Thanksgiving Day spread. Bourbon Street is always the most popular spot in town and gets absolutely packed at Thanksgiving. A great spread, but as with other special events and occasions, Bourbon Street
can get very, very crowded!

I faced a dilemma in a naughty bar recently. A guy I had not seen for some time was there, chatting away with a couple of girls. I thought he had left Thailand years and years ago, but there he was. I wandered over, joined him and we had a chat and caught
up on old times. I don't know if the guy barfines or not these days, but I hope he doesn't. He's HIV+ and has been for many years. He always struck me as the sort who would treat a lady well and not do anything to potentially endanger
her. But with the drive that comes from a guy's loins, and the probability that he's not getting any back in his homeland, well, you never know, do you? He almost certainly acquired HIV through sexual transmission as I understand he
is anti-drugs. Rightly or wrongly, I mentioned the situation to the bar manager as a generalisation, inquiring what he would do if he knew a customer in this bar was HIV+. His answer impressed me, explaining that the mamasan would be told to have
a discrete word with the girl he was talking to that, explaining that the guy is known to treat woman badly, perhaps slap them around a bit, and that she would be best advised not to go with him. It really is a dilemma, and as best I can remember
that is the only time I have known for sure that there an HIV+ guy in a bar with girls who clearly wanted him to barfine them. If you were there, what would you have done? * I'm genuinely interested; it's a tough situation and I really
wasn't sure what the best thing to do was. It should be pointed out that the guy most likely does not know that I know that he is HIV+. * I will run the best replies in the emails to Stick section of next week's column.

Until the end of November, Dasa Books is offering a 20% discount on all books in stock. And if you have any books to exchange, they will still apply the discount to
books you wish to buy. This sale price, however, does not include those books already discounted.

Still no Jack Golf ad in the classifieds of the Bangkok Post this week. Interesting.

It might have been the going rate in the mid 90s, but you don't hear the number "500" from a Thai hooker's lips very often these days – unless you're at Depravity Central, Pattaya's Beach Road. A mate who
is rather fond of a Bangkok-based freelancer tells me how she told him that young guys at Liquid Nana often try to get her to go for 500 baht…for an all night session! That's kind of like getting on a red bus and thrusting 3.50 baht at
the conductor and then looking the other way. All very cheeky indeed! I'm all for fair value, but 500 baht is way below market rates and just a plain insult in Bangkok these days.

If you're looking for a room in central Bangkok, Town Lodge has vacancies for standard rooms at 1,200 baht in December and January. They also have a Jacuzzi
promotion with rooms 308 and 408, only 2,000 baht net! That gets you a 55 square metre suite with a corner Jacuzzi, 3 TVs, DVD players, king-sized bed, 2 sofas etc. This promotion runs until the end of January.

We each have certain things with women that put us off. For some it might be a certain body shape. For others it might be tramp stamps.
For others it might be the notorious map of the world – abdominal scarring from giving birth – which seems to afflict Thai women much worse than other nationalities. Some guys can overlook these things – some guys may even find them a
turn on, but there is one thing that you should never overlook. If she has self-inflicted scars on her wrists, odds are that she is a mentally unstable nut job. Don't give her a second chance! If you spot such scars, do a Forrest Gump and
RUN! I have yet to see a Thai woman with these scars who wasn't totally bonkers!

If you're in Bangkok for a limited time and want to experience the nightlife but don't know where to start, or don't have the confidence to venture out at night alone, you might want to consider getting in touch with
Bangkok Nightlife tours. Tour guides in Thailand are a lottery, often Thais who have no idea how to be engaging nor care what visitors are really interested
in, they just take you to places that interest them and rabbit on about things that the group they're guiding around have little or no interest in. I laugh when I see guided tours inside Wat Arun or the Grand Palace and those being shown
looking incredibly at the inane level of detail they're being told about a plant or a statue! With Bangkok Nightlife Tours, the guides are Westerners – you can relate to them and they can relate to you! What is perhaps best about their service
is that they can take you to places you might not otherwise know about, places you are keen to check out but don't know where they are or how they work. They can take you to high end clubs where you would ordinarily need to be a member –
they have memberships at many of the city's high end venues! Coyote lounges, karaoke venues with porcelain-skinned beauties that look like models and other Asian style venues, like Emmanuelle, pictured below, are now open to you. Wherever
you want to go, and whatever you want to see / experience, they can take you there! And best of all, if you find a lovely, they will make sure that you don't pay over the odds.

Quote of the week comes from an online review of Bangkok's Insomnia, "Insomnia has proven that you can take the bar out of Pattaya but you can never take Pattaya out of the bar!"

Reader's story of the week comes from Korski, "How Dangerous is Travel in Southeast Asia?"

The number of expat drownings in Phuket recorded has been said to be inaccurate.

Thailand tops for the world for its expat lifestyle.

Thailand is rated as the 7th most at risk country from terrorist attacks in the world.

This video shows that despite assurances from the Thai police, child porn is still available on the streets in Thailand.

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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 : What happens to my condo when I die if there is no will or documentation as to my long time relationship with a Thai lady?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Upon your death, any possessions that you own in Thailand should be part of the estate which will be distributed to your beneficiaries (if you die with a lawful Will)
or heirs (if you die Intestate aka without a Will). Thailand does not recognise “long term relationships” as valid heirs. There is no so called “common law” spouses recognized under Thai law. While the concept of having
mia nois (meaning minor-wife) is present in Thailand there is no legal recognition of this status.

While you do not need a Will in Thailand (or most Western countries) for your assets to be distributed after your death, it is a good idea if you would like to control the distribution of your assets after you die.

If you die in Thailand and have assets here but do not have a will (aka “Intestate” ), those assets will be distributed to those persons that Thai law has listed (aka “statutory heirs”). Thailand's Civil Code identifies and prioritizes those heirs as: children; parents; spouse; full blooded brothers and sisters; half-blooded brothers and sisters; grandparents; uncles / aunts.
The Court may appoint an administrator who manages the distribution of the deceased's assets in accordance with the law including the “Sin Somoros” providing that half the estate goes to the deceased's surviving

If you die in Thailand with assets and have a Will, your assets will be distributed to those persons that you have designated in the Will. The Will designates an Executor who is charged with notifying the beneficiaries and distributing the
estate's assets. The Will cannot be used as a mechanism to exclude the deceased's spouse's right to one half of the marital assets (Sin Somoros).

Thai Court approval is required with a Will or Without a Will as the Executor will often need a Court Order to allow the Executor to have access to the deceased's estate information and to distribute accordingly (ex. Bank accounts, transferring
vehicle ownership). Even if your designated executor which have been officially appointed in your home country, that executor would still be required to be appointed by the Thai Court.

There are five different forms of Wills that are acceptable under Thai law and the one you chose should be based upon direct consultation with a licensed attorney. In the Will you may designate an Administrator to facilitate the distribution
of the estate's assets in accordance with your wishes.

Question 2 : I have been asked by two local university students (whose parents are friends / acquaintances) to give them English pronunciation lessons as they seem to get nothing
of this in class and they are sufficiently aware that (with respect to all present and past 'real' teachers) if they want a British accent they need a native British speaker – though most of the Brits they are likely to meet in Thailand
are probably useless for this purpose. It might be better to say no more on that point! If I do this, and I would hope to also brush up my own Thai at the same time, it would be done informally, at weekends when they are free (as they also have
part-time jobs). No money would be involved and I just wish to know if I am likely to cause any problems as regards a work permit – which I just do not want to get involved with. I have lived permanently in Thailand for many years and do not wish
to jeopardise my status here.

Sunbelt Legal responds: Any “work” in Thailand, even for a charity / non-profit group, requires the foreigner to have a proper visa and a Work Permit. That said, it is unlikely
(though not impossible) that merely practicing your Thai while helping Thai students with their English language pronunciation will be cause for concern from the authorities. Persons caught working in Thailand without a proper visa and Work Permit
are sometimes jailed and then deported / blacklisted. If you do consider giving lessons for payment then setting up a company and getting a valid visa and Work Permit is essential and can be done quickly and easily by our knowledgeable staff at
Sunbelt Asia. Aside from the most obvious factor in determining if someone is considered to be “working”, getting remuneration for their efforts, other factors include whether the location is germane to the performance of the type
of “work” that is being alleged (i.e. if you are alleged to be working as a teacher factors such as: were you in a classroom; was there a blackboard; were you using audio devices with language / math tapes, CDs, etc.; is the room
you are using contain desks and not contain other items that would make the room more consistent with a living room rather than a classroom i.e. sofas and big screen TV vs. desks and an easel). The lack of a structured schedule (weekly / daily)
also can be a considered factor in determining if you actions in helping a friend's children improve their language skills were simply that, helping out friends, or more akin to “working” in Thailand.

Question 3 : I would be interested to know the validity under Thai contract law regarding gyms (i.e. at least one of the large gym chains in Thailand) insisting an annual payment
of 100 baht (under a lifetime membership contract) payable at least 30 days in advance of the anniversary date of joining each year – the penalty for late payment of this 100 baht is cancellation of lifetime membership! I should note that the
gym mails a letter each year specifying this requirement, but my guess is many guys living in Bangkok get caught out and lose their membership (for example, if they move and don't receive the letter). In my mind this requirement seems a little
strange; surely a due date the same as the anniversary date would be more reasonable, assuming they need to charge the 100 baht at all.

Sunbelt Legal responds: The contract forms the law between the parties to the agreement. If there is a provision in a contract that you do not agree with, then you should either agree to remove
it from the contract or not enter into the agreement. The clause that you mention, 100 THB payment annually for maintaining a lifetime membership, does seem like a trap in which to void memberships by the gym owners and I have heard of some foreigners
either having the clause removed or simply pre-paying the amount for 10 years and having the payment noted in the signed contract. It is important to inform the gym (or any party that you have contracted with and the contract is still in effect)
of any change in your address. At Sunbelt we are happy to draft and / or negotiate any contract or contract disputes on your behalf. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of assistance.

Question 4 : I bought a return flight to London from a travel agency in Pattaya. They made a mistake with my flight from London, so I had to pay for a flight back to Bangkok with
a different airline. They admitted their mistake and said they would pay the refund into my bank account, they have not done so. The fare was more than 21,000 baht. If they do not pay the refund, what should I do? With this being Thailand and
me being a farang, I fear I will probably lose any court case. I have all the documentation.

Sunbelt Legal responds: The first step is to call the Thai Consumer Protection Board at their hotline 1166. They will investigate the matter.

Second step: Hire a Sunbelt Asia lawyer to send a warning letter to the Agency.

Third step. File a report with the local police with your lawyer, providing numerous documents and receipts. This will require many trips to the police station and it is a good idea to have legal counsel with you to make sure the report is
written in a manner that clearly shows the other party's culpability. A Sunbelt Thai lawyer will go to a meeting like this, many times a week.

Forth Step: Go to civil court on a breach of contract claim.

You can take this up to the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB). Initially OCPB will try to mediate and to resolve this dispute, if no mutual agreement could be reach and if OCPB feels that you have a case against the institute,
they would then proceed with legal action, which they would process and make their ruling within 41 days (approximately).

I don't remember a week like this in Bangkok with multiple deaths from multiple incidents in the bar areas. There were at least 5 deaths in / around the farang-oriented bar areas in Sukhumvit this past week – 3 foreign guys and 2 Thai bargirls. Let's not forget that there were other incidents too, like the crazed Mediterranean chasing the black dude down soi 5 and the guy who took on a bunch of Thais in Nana. What's going on? You inevitably see fisticuffs wherever there are booze and babes but things really do seem to be worse these days. There are more reported incidents – and more reported deaths. Be careful out there and don't be afraid to walk away if things look like they could turn ugly. Bangkok is no place for bravado.

Your Bangkok commentator,


nana plaza