Bangkok is home to some 100,000 odd Westerners and the same names pop up time and time again. There are names that you used to hear a lot in the past, that perhaps you don't hear so much today. Who are these people? What were they known for? And where are they today?
Following are 6 foreigners who made a mark on Bangkok in their own way, but whose names you don't hear uttered quite so often these days.
The first time I met Trink was at the Bangkok Post Building, in 2004. Our meeting was scheduled for midnight, an unusually early hour for someone who really did deserve the Night Own moniker – and he was making an effort to go into work early to accommodate me. Nattering away in his unmistakable New York accent and asking what the Mrs. thought about me going out so late at night to meet a man, Trink led me through cluttered offices to his workspace and his famous old typewriter.
Bernard was the best known foreigner in Thailand, at least amongst expats, for a very long time. His weekly round up of the nightlife, first published in the now defunct Bangkok World and later in the Bangkok Post, ran for close to 40 years before the Post pulled the plug on him in 2003. In the days before the Internet – and even well into the first generation of Internet users, it was Trink's column that we turned to, to find out what was hot and what was not at night in Bangkok.
As the original nightlife columnist, a role he performed for decades, Trink saw the industry grow from the Vietnam period and the growth of Patpong, through to the early European, predominately German-speaking sex tourists, to the development of the industry in Sukhumvit. Covering the industry for so long has given him a unique insight and many lament his decision not to publish his memoirs. A biography was written on Trink's life, but gave little insight into the man and even less into the early days of the industry.
I made every effort to get in touch with Trink, both to try and find out what he is up to today and also to request another interview with him, but it proved fruitless. I haven't heard any reports of him being spotted around town and as someone who is out and about most days, I have never seen him during my rounds. If he does make it out to the bar areas, or any of the city's popular farang hang outs, he's doing it in disguise because no-one, but no-one, ever sees him. After 40 odd years covering the industry it must have become tiresome long ago.
These days Trink pens book reviews for the Bangkok Post which are published every Friday as they have been for as long as I can remember. Apart from that, little is known about how Bangkok's once most famous Westerner spends his days. For sure, he's not out in the bars!
Bangkok is remarkably well covered online and over the years a number of Bangkok websites have come and gone. Some have come and gone before they had a chance to develop a following while others have become household names, with new domain names hosted on dedicated servers. Bangkok Bob's site was one of the original nightlife sites, and one of the best. Rather than concentrating on the girly bars, Bob focused more on the variety, quality and pricing of the drinks and drinking holes in Bangkok.
Bob started up around the same time as I did, back in the late '90s, and he developed something of a following. His dry humour was lost on many, but his attention to detail on the comings and goings in his beloved Sukhumvit soi 33 was not. There's never been a website dedicated to soi 33 – Bob's was the closest to it. A beer connoisseur and proudly English, Bob always let you know what he really thought of the local beers and neither was he shy when it came to poking fun at his friends from across the pond. The site was updated often and if you believed the numbers, it was the most popular Thailand site on the net. I think Bob somehow misread his stats, although that's not to take anything away from the site's popularity.
A couple of years back the site just disappeared. One minute it was there and the next minute it was gone. Bob didn't just stop updating his site, he took it offline. No note of explanation, no goodbye message. Maybe there's a new novel there for Steve Leather, "Bangkok Bob and the Missing Website"!
So what happened? Did he lose the domain name? Did he have some stalker or authorities hassles, as many webmasters in Bangkok have had? I've asked Bob these questions numerous times and he is rather coy about what happened.
What I can say is that he doesn't miss it. It's not like the site was a money spinner. Never short of a few bob, the site was a labour of love.
Bob remains a frequent visitor to Bangkok and has friends in the industry, most of whom, funnily enough, have no idea that he is the guy behind Bangkok Bob. As soi 33 dies an ever so slow death, Bob is more likely to be spotted in Cowboy these days, although he is no fan of The Arab's venues and the last time we chatted, a few weeks back, he said that while Cowboy might currently be the best bar area in Bangkok, there is a limited number of really good bars.
Bob splits his time between Bangkok and the UK. We bump into each other often and enjoy a drink when he's in town. The last time I asked him he reaffirmed that he has no plans to come out of retirement and that the legend of Bangkok Bob is dead.
Mangosauce stormed on to the Thailand Internet landscape several years back and quickly gained a dedicated following, David's crisp prose and witty humour proving a real hit. David was the only guy behind Mangosauce, a site with views that I didn't always agree with. When he started giving me a gentle ribbing, and seemed to know rather more about me than I did about him, I always wondered who this character David was. We eventually met in 2006 and it was only then that I realised that we had met many years earlier. We didn't always see eye to eye and had a few disagreements over the years, but no-one can deny that the site had quite a following.
Despite protests to the contrary, I always had the feeling that David was never short of a few bob. David claimed that being removed from the Google Adsense program due to adult content was the reason he stopped the site, something I don't believe for a moment. I think the truth is more that a crazy man who was making a habit of outing Bangkok webmasters and spreading lies about them somehow got to David, and the rest is history. The site's departure was a real loss but what was really sad was that David later confided to me that he regrets ever starting it. I hope I never utter those words!
More than a few of us thought David was the guy behind NotTheNation, which he always vehemently denied. He's one of few with the writing skills and the sense of humour to pull it off.
I was never close to David and we only ever met a handful of times. The last time was when we bumped into each other quite by accident, outside of Thailand. As private a man as you will find, unlike other Bangkok bloggers, columnists and webmasters, David was reluctant to ever meet those who enjoyed his writings. And when he stopped the site, he went so far as to kill his email address, change his mobile phone number and made it nigh on impossible to even contact him. With that said, he can be spotted in Soi Cowboy from time to time, and seems to like his taste of England – he's a customer of the fine English fare at the Queen Victoria.
But apart from the odd sojourn to Soi Cowboy, I have no idea what he is doing with himself these days. All I know is that he still calls Bangkok home.
Marc of the Eden Club
A friend of a friend once said to me that the best thing about being Stickman must be that all the bar owners and managers are mates – and how cool that must be! Yeah, he was serious. I looked him in the eye and said that bar owners and managers are often crooks and I wouldn't want to call many of them mates at all. There's something in that though, something which I don't think I'll ever understand. You see, I know a lot of people in Bangkok, a lot of people in the bar industry and a lot of the names in the expat world, from businessmen to dignitaries to authors and so on. And you know what? Whenever Marc of Eden Club fame's name comes up, they all know him. Everyone! Yep, everyone knows him, and everyone likes him. "Oh, yes, I have spent many an afternoon with Marc, just sitting downstairs, shooting the breeze in the Eden Club", they tell me. But of course, not one of them will admit that they have been upstairs. Anyone who really knows Marc and the Eden Club knows that he discouraged people just sitting in the bar downstairs drinking and chatting!
The best-known Frenchman in Bangkok for the past decade, Marc single-handedly built up the Eden Club into a venue with a cult following. Marc's approach was simple, but in Bangkok it was almost unique. Offer a great product and back it up with first-class customer service. That was it, the simple recipe to Marc's success – and boy, did he get successful!
It wasn't always that way. In the late '90s Marc shot pool in smoky Bangkok bars to make ends meet. A decade later he had built up one of the most famous bars in South-East Asia, and had interests in various other businesses.
Marc's health hasn't been great in recent years and earlier this year he sold the Eden Club and Bangkok Beat. While the exact numbers aren't public knowledge, let's just say that Marc won't ever need to shoot pool again to put rice on the table!
His departure from the industry is a real loss and in some ways came as a bit of a surprise to me. I remember one night earlier this year, as we were sitting in the steakhouse at the Landmark, looking down on Bangkok at night, ablaze in all its neon glory, and Marc said that there was nowhere he would rather be. He loves the vibe of Bangkok at night, loves everything about it. He'd just recently returned from a trip to France, and as much as he loves his homeland, Bangkok is his home.
A typical Frenchman, Marc knows good food and if you were to stake out some of the finest dining houses in the city you'd probably spot him.
The nickname of Boss Hogg stuck after Baronbonk used it a number of times in his column and I would like to think that it was because physically the Boss was of a similar shape to the sheriff of Hazard County. But there are those who believe it was bestowed upon him because he shared certain personality traits with that greedy, unethical, villainous glutton. Think of the stereotypical Texan, larger than life and with an appetite to match – and you have Boss Hogg.
Few people polarised the bar industry like Boss Hogg. Some hated him whereas others, me included, found him to be a breath of fresh air. In a dirty industry in a city rife with bullshit, Boss Hogg was a change, refusing to accept second best, refusing to get involved in dodgy deals and refusing to accept the often pitiful excuses Westerners in the business come up with. The Boss operated just like he would in the West – and those who had gone native couldn't accept it.
Boss Hogg had a number of bars and various business interests in Sukhumvit, to include Big Dogs in Nana Plaza. He picked it up for a song, made a small fortune operating it and renting out the bar above before flicking it for a huge profit. In and out in no time, rumour has it that he made enough that he'd never have to work again. Good on him.
The Boss sold up many of his interests in Bangkok and these days the best known venue he's still involved with would probably be Bully's.
Boss Hogg long since returned to the States and despite being domiciled back there, on the odd occasion I am short of something spicy for the column I'll fire an email off and the Hogg almost always comes back with something suitably salacious. He might be half a world away, but he still has his finger on the pulse.
If ever you wanted a lesson in what a pretty young Thai bargirl finds more alluring – a handsome, friendly young guy, or an older guy willing to empty his wallet, the first time I came across Mekong Kurt settled that debate. There I was with the lovely Peung, in Pam's Bar, one stormy night in the middle of rainy season of 1998. I was the only customer in the bar when the door opened, just like a scene from a movie. With the rain being driven sideways, the rumbling of thunder and flashes of lightning the soi was empty and there in the doorway, like a cross between a drenched rat and the bad guy from a horror movie cutting a silhouette was Mekong Kurt! Dressed as a cowboy for the occasion, in his checked shirt, jeans and Cowboy hat, he ambled into the bar, and planted himself a couple of stools away. There were almost as many available girls as empty stools, yet Peung wasted no time in leaping from my lap and straight on to Kurt's! What do they say? In Bangkok you never lose the girl, only your place in the queue!
Often referred to as Mr. Washington Square, the extremely polite, gracious and generous Texan has been a fixture around Bangkok's most beaten up farang bar area for the past decade. Kurt is best known for the weekly column he has produced on and off for a number of years. It had quite a following amongst Squaronians, as he referred to the residents (YES, people *do* live there (a certain Mr. Barrett used to call it home)) and regular visitors to the bars of Washington Square. He also had a following amongst older American expats with his column including news items that would only interest Americans. Kurt reported in great detail about what was happening in the bars, side alleys and businesses of Washington Square with the odd snippet from elsewhere. One of the features of his column were the obituaries, a reflection of the customer base at the Square. Kurt gained massive kudos with the sensitive way he reported on the high profile beheading of one of the Squaronians, an American contractor in the Middle East, a few years back. His coverage of the subsequent outpouring of grief from the Square touched all who read it.
Kurt used to publish weekly from his office, one of the bars in Washington Square. Late morning he would set up in his reserved spot, deal with all of the admin stuff that us website types deal with and put together his weekly column while single-handedly keeping the venue in business.
Kurt always had the inside running and scoop on what was going on in the square, but being the gentleman that he is, he seldom involved himself with rumour mongering and left the really salacious gossip to the gutter rats like me and Dave The Rave. Kurt's column disappeared a couple of years back and then occasionally reappeared, as his health fluctuated, likely a result of his alcohol consumption. There were rumours that the reaper had come calling, rumours which I can confirm are false.
Kurt can still be seen around the Square but he's looking rather the worse for wear. That said, he has refused to let go of his good southern upbringing and remains very much a polite and gracious gentleman. You can catch Mekong Kurt on Youtube.
Many really do seem to stick around Bangkok until the bitter end, but no-one stays on top of their game forever. I wonder how long it will be before people start asking "Whatever happened to Stickman". As my time in Bangkok winds down, and the light at the tunnel gets brighter and brighter, will it be much longer before I step out of the limelight? More on that in a few weeks….
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken on Sukhumvit Road, near soi 5, looking down the narrow entrance way to the Check Inn, a long-running night spot on the main Sukhumvit drag. This week's photo was taken outside of Bangkok. 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.
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Duke's prize must be utilised by March 2011. 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 – Re-examining all we have learned in the West.
The life experience gained in Thailand is enough to sustain us for the rest of our lives. I had 11 years there, working and in the bars. I had a drink with my sister the other night, a spinster with a Catholic faith and little intimate social experience, and even with her I could honestly say that people here in the West, where I am now, simply don't understand how easy it was for me to live the low materialist life in Bangkok because of the social compensation that was outside my door. Without alluding to the sex industry, I said Bangkok approaches what Paris must have been like in the 20s and 30s when writers and characters from around the globe hung out in bars ready to talk about their lives and life in general without the constraints of political correctness. I gave her an example of how I met the adopted nephew of French actor Charles Boyer in the Golden Bar one night and heard his life story beginning as an abandoned love child in the Caribbean, the only white kid in an all black orphanage. Never boring, always interesting, always something unexpected, a place where one is forced to re-examine what one has been taught from childhood in the West.
When Patpong ruled the roost.
I'm probably just reliving the past, but I really hope that Patpong can return from the ashes and become a much needed rival to Cowboy & Nana. Anyone who was around in the late '70s will remember some of the most entertaining bars in all of Southeast Asia. Friendly places like the Snake Pit, Rififi, the original Pink Panther, and King's Castle to name a few. They were filled with beautiful babes with zero attitude. Almost anything went in these bars and everyone had a great time! I can never remember any problems over bar bills, barfines or tips. The customers from what I remember were an interesting mix of Middle East oil workers, military personnel on holiday, and a collection of European misfits. Everyone got along well and always had smiles on their faces while holding a cold one in one hand while the other had a sweet young thing attached to it. There must have been more than 40 bars on the three different roads that made up the former Patpong. If my memory serves me right, the majority of these places had good music at a reasonable volume and at most times it was hard to find a seat. Oh, those were the days!
Stickman reader reduces his alcohol intake to a mere 45 bottles of beer a day!
Just for interest, I tried to work out how my purchasing power has been affected in Thailand over the last 7 years since I settled here. As a basis for my calculation I worked out how many bottles of beer my income would purchase per month then and now. Given that my income is fixed, I can still live comfortably BUT my purchasing power is so dramatically reduced I wonder for how much longer. It's just over 1/3 of what it was 7 years ago. 7 years ago, my fixed monthly income was £4,500 which at the exchange rate of the day of 75 baht to the pound and with beers in the gogos 90 baht bought me 3,750 beers per month. Today, my fixed monthly income remains £4,500 but the pound only buys 46.5 baht and with beers in a gogo bar about 150 baht it means I can only get 1,395 bottles per month!
Suggested refocusing of farang volunteer tourist police resources.
The Thai police raiding bars with short-time rooms using farang informants sickens me. Why aren't the Boys In Brown raiding the numerous katoey bars that provide services on premises? They could have a farang tourist police volunteer go in and utilise the services of one of the girls and collect DNA evidence with their mouth and / or anus. This would provide the concrete proof needed for a conviction. The law is fair only when it is applied equally to all!
Is Thailand worth the risk?
I might be able to shed some light on the lack of tourists, at least from my own perspective. For various reasons I'll be visiting the Philippines in January. I had considered flying Thai Airways and having a stop over in Bangkok for a few days but I decided against it in the end. I had visions of there being trouble, protestors closing the airport, and then I'd be stuck in Bangkok and would miss my onward flight. Yes, I know there's a very outside chance that would happen, but in Thailand you never know, and it just isn't worth running the risk. Instead I'll be flying Singapore Airways and stopping over in Sing. It seems like a much safer option, plus I really want to see Singapore. I'm thinking maybe there's more than a few would-be tourists out there, especially those who've had their fingers burnt on previous occasions, who decided Thailand just wasn't worth the risk.
If illicit sex is rife in Europe from the Baltic to Berlusconi's office, why do men leave home for Thailand? What is it that men find in Thailand that they cannot find in, say, New Zealand or Australia where prostitution is legal? Why do Americans, the country with arguably the biggest porn and prostitution industry in the world, travel to Thailand? Why does a man like me, who never paid for sex in the Western world apart from marriage / living common law, find it so easy to go short / long time with women they cannot even communicate with for the most part. How is it that foreign men can easily marry a Thai prostitute but cannot pull the trigger back home? What is it that seduces us men in the Kingdom? I know there are as many answers to that as there are men.
Bargirl cynicism justified.
I assume I may be missing important details but I cannot help but feel the cynicism of bargirls is justified. As we know the West has provided many obvious losers, riff-raff and scum to the bars of Thailand – but the guy in your investigation story does not sound like that. Assuming he was sincere, look at what he has done. He has told at least 5 bargirls of marriage intentions – expecting them to leave their only source of income! It is no wonder the bargirls in question decide to look after themselves first. He certainly did!
Down Pattaya was there has been an official revision of bar opening hours. In and immediately around Walking Street venues can officially remain open until 4:30 AM. In the rest of town venues must close by 3:00 AM. In some of the more remote venues, it's likely that they will stay open if there are customers still buying drinks, as has always been the case. It looks like the 24-hour opening time that was mooted won't eventuate, and few really thought it would. While this extension of official opening hours might be a boon for those who like to party late, pity the girls who have to work later – and who will not receive a single baht more, salary-wise at least – for their time. On the very odd occasion when I have been out at that time in Pattaya, there aren't that many people around. The odd venue might be busy but the throngs are already back in their hotel room.
Bar4, the flash new beer bar on Sukhumvit soi 4 will have its official grand opening this coming Friday, December 17. All are welcome to feast on the pig on a spit, as well as various Indian and Thai dishes. Drinks are very reasonably priced with the happy hour running through until 8 PM with local beers at 65 baht, house spirits at 70 baht, pints of Tiger 95 baht and pints of Carlsberg 125 baht. Outside of happy hours, the prices are still very reasonable – about 20 baht more per drink. With Western management and much effort put into creating a nice venue, I'm picking it to become very popular in 2011 and one of the stars of soi 4.
I used to mention Tilac in Cowboy a lot, and for more than 2 years it has been my favourite bar. Not any more. I don't really have a favourite bar these days but if I had to choose one it would be Dollhouse in Cowboy. A lot. It would have to be my favourite bar at the moment and it has quite a following with a lot of Bangkok residents making it their home bar. Perhaps what is best is that many of the girls who work there like it a lot. Upstairs there's table top dancing and the girls do very well from it with tips averaging north of 1,000 baht a night for most girls, sometimes more than 1,500 – and almost never less than 700 baht. This is excluding lady drinks or if they get barfined.
The big name bars in Cowboy did fantastic trade on Friday with some so busy that you almost needed to be smothered with KY to be able to move through the bar.
The closure of Soi Cowboy last night, being the night before local body elections in some parts of Bangkok today, no doubt was a big part of the reason. While Cowboy was in total darkness – see the photo below provided by Bangkok Barry, the neon was shining bright in some corners of Nana.
It's been a good year for Soi 7/1's Bangkok Beat. Ownership may have changed hands but the winning formula hasn't. It may be working girl-dominated but the Beat does still attract girls with a regular job, which differentiates it from other freelancer hang outs. They have introduced new happy hours, from 8 PM – 10 PM and again from 2 AM – 4 PM. Heineken, San Miguel, Tiger and Singha all for 100 baht. Good whiskey, gin and vodka can be had for 120 baht. On Christmas Eve, Jim Beam and Red Label will be available at 1,900 baht for a large bottle, and Carlsberg will be on tap for 100 baht a glass, all night long.
The renovations are going really well and the new airplane-themed interior of the renovated DC10 bar in Nana should re-open two days before Christmas.
My favourite bar in Pattaya – note, I am not saying the best, but definitely my favourite – Secrets in soi 14 will host a party on December 19, deliciously titled the Big School Girls' Bash. There will be free food from 8 PM – and Secrets do good tucker so swing by if you're in town.
Pattaya's newest gogo bar has opened right on Walking Street. I have not been down for a few weeks and have not seen it myself, but from all accounts Alcatraz, located right on the busiest part of Walking Street, is doing decent business. Locals are aware that many of the side sois off the main drag feature some of the best bars, but for tourists who might be a little nervous at wandering up side alleys, Alcatraz's location almost guarantees that it will do good business. But being on the main drag, don't expect drinks to be bargain-priced. Standard drinks are 135 baht and even a small glass of draft will set you back 100. Further don't get your hopes up of catching an eyeful of flesh as all the girls are covered up. And is this the sign of Bangkok barfine prices in Pattaya? At 800 baht for dancers and a whopping 1,500 for showgirls, I just wonder who's going to pay these rates. Naughty boys often choose Pattaya over Bangkok or Phuket because it is much less expensive – so I wonder how well Alcatraz will be received.
I haven't been for a while, but everyone is raving about the lunch special at Durty Nelly's at Ekamai. A good burger and a Caesar salad and I believe free coleslaw, all for 250 baht. Given that some farang-oriented venues in Bangkok charge 400 baht or more for a burger, it's not a bad deal.
A limited number of copies of the paperback edition of Jake Needham's novel "The Ambassador's Wife" are finally available in Thailand in at least a few of Asia Books' stores. Asia Books has been reluctant to distribute any of Needham's books in Thailand ever since he changed publishers after his now classic novel The Big Mango and I understand they have ordered only 300 copies of this one – so if you want a copy you'd better be quick! The novel tells the story of a Singapore police inspector who pursues a serial killer to Thailand, one who is apparently murdering prominent American women around Asia, even when his superiors don't seem to have any interest in him solving the murders. The Inspector ends up, among other places, in Pattaya, which he doesn't think much of. Here's an excerpt from the book: "Pattaya was a slightly shabby beach resort a couple of hours drive south of Bangkok that had a reputation for commercial sex and freewheeling degeneracy sufficient to overwhelm the limitations of most people's imaginations. Tay had never been to Pattaya. He was no prude, at least he didn't think he was, but he had heard enough about Pattaya to know that he probably wouldn't like it very much. To tell the truth, Tay didn't like anywhere in Thailand very much. Beneath its veneer of exotic cuisine, extravagant temples, and saintly monks lay the dark heart of a country that lived off very little but sex and greed. No matter how you tried to dress the place up, Tay thought, Thailand would always have the soul of a whore." That's the sort of delicious prose I love! Visit Jake's site for more information about this novel as well as all of his other international crime novels at www.JakeNeedham.com.
One of the things I don't miss from the Land Of The Wrong White Crowd is tall poppy syndrome, that crazy phenomenon where the successful are resented and attacked because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from others. I used to think it doesn't exist here, but its ugly sister, Schadenfreude, does. But when you look around, more and more I see that tall poppy syndrome is a problem here. It's a real ugly phenomenon, from those who are simply unable or unwilling to work their way up the ladder so instead become adept at scything down those who do. Tall poppy syndrome is one of the few things I find abhorrent about my left leaning homeland and it's sad to see it so prevalent here.
In what I find to be huge irony, anecdotal evidence suggests that if you grab a taxi from the airport going into town at the official taxi queue, there is a much higher chance that you will get a taxi with a rigged meter than if you were to do the age old trick of going up to the departures area and catching a cab there! As best I can remember, I have never caught a cab from the official queue at either Bangkok airport – and I'm not sure if that's because there's always a queue, or the 50 baht supplementary charge from grabbing a taxi at the airport puts me off. If you weren't aware of this trick, simply go up to the top level and get into a cab that has dropped someone off. At Suwannaphum, which is quite a distance from the rest of Bangkok and as such a long way from another potential customer, most drivers are happy to use the meter. It wasn't always like that at Don Meuang.
The most amusing NotTheNation.com website hadn't been updated in a while but it resumed this week with a number of fun stories published.
Why are there so few flies in Bangkok, or other parts of Thailand for that matter? I can remember when I was younger going on holiday to Australia where in parts, even in Sydney, there'd be flies everywhere. In Thailand, which is even hotter, you just don't have that problem.
Quote of the week, "I took a walk through Soi Cowboy to get back to the train station; it's absolutely dead during the day and is quite a sobering sight if you've only seen it at night."
Reader's story of the week comes from Karma Man, "Karma, Bargirls Or Both Part 2?"
The local plod arrested a British pervert in Pattaya (where else?!) this week.
Much respected local journalist Richard Ehrlich comments on the abortion debate in Thailand.
As if it was needed, proof that it is not only bargirls who scam, and not only farang males who are the targets.
From the UK's Independent newspaper, a report suggests that security troops were behind some red shirt deaths.
An HIV+ German who knowingly had unprotected sex with 400+ Thai girls, some underage amongst them, is on trial.
A Thai woman hung herself in front of a live audience online this week after her boyfriend dumped her.
Tony, the Pakistani kingpin of the fake passport trade in Bangkok, was caught this week.
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 plan to move to Thailand in 2011 and fill a niche online that doesn't seem to be satisfied. I believe if I set it up legally then it will give me a visa to remain in Thailand and I will be totally legal, which is important to me. I have read various websites about Thailand and two things concern me. Can I own the company 100% myself? I am not American so I cannot do Amity treatment company. Also, do I have to employ 4 Thais to get a work permit? If that's the case, it will be too much hassle. I look forward to your response.
Sunbelt Legal responds: There are different forms of business entities available for foreigners depending on the purpose of the business. A company limited or corporation is only one of these
forms. You may set up Sole Proprietorship (restricted for foreigners unless applied through certain Treaties such as Amity Treaty but will still pose certain complications with new work permit applications), Partnership, Company Limited or Corporation,
Foundation and Association or even a Regional/Representative office. Needless to say, these forms of business entities vary on structure and purpose, including liability. A Corporation or Company Limited among the above forms, is usually the most
convenient and safest way to conduct a profit-making business in Thailand due to the protection of its shareholders regarding liabilities, profit and loss. A Corporation or Company Limited can be either public or private in nature. A public company
is often listed on the stock exchange and typically has unlimited liability. Privately owned companies have limited liability and are often signified by the term "Co., Ltd" controlled by a "Managing Director". MD is commonly
referred to as CEO or President in western terminologies.
Part of the requirement in registering a company is a business address alongside with the name of the company and the promoters. You may register your company at any given address. However, for purposes of work permit and VAT registration, this has to be a physical office space and preferably a commercial one rather than a residential address. One of the requirements of the work permit being that the registered capital of the company must be 2 million baht. This is not just limited to cash; it may be in other forms of assets such as land, building space, car, equipments and the like. As a foreigner, you are only limited to maximum 49% ownership of shares in the company; 51% must be owned by a Thai shareholder, unless you apply for certain licenses (FBL, Amity etc) which can be costly and lengthy in process. There are still other ways in which you can gain control of the company despite having minimal shares in the company. Our expert legal advisors can advise you further on that. The 4 Thai employees are both an Immigration requirement and a Labour Department requirement per one work permit applicant. The Thai government strictly imposes sanctions for using nominees to fill this requirement. They have to be registered under the Social Security Fund as this is one major proof that you have Thai employees; they benefit from it by means of having free medication through the chosen government hospital in cases of accidents and illnesses.
Sunbelt Asia offers a very competitive price in registering the company for you for as low as 7,500 baht professional fees (with free 1 month accounting filing). In order for your company to fully function as a company, you are required to comply with other requirements such as VAT and tax, work permit, social fund registration and the like. In general, our firm can set up a fully-functional company for you starting from 30,000 baht (usually for 100% Thai company) to 70,000 baht inclusive of all government fees and a possible work permit. Among other things as part of the package, a set of share certificates, VAT and tax registration, company seal and Social Fund registration shall also be provided for you including a minutes of meeting to open a corporate bank account under the name of the company. Licenses (FDA license etc) and other special license approval (BOI, Amity Treaty etc), however, are separate billing depending on the need for it. Our team of specialised licensed lawyers is ready to assist you. Contact us now at SunbeltLegalAdvisors.com to begin the process immediately.
Question 2: I am marrying my Thai girlfriend and I want to understand the process for getting a Thai "Green Card" for me. We plan on retiring to Thailand in the future, and I assume I can get some sort of status so I do not have to run out of the country every 90 days. What is the process and forms required? Also, what can I expect from the process?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Once you are married to a Thai national, you may qualify in obtaining a Non-immigrant O type visa which either can be issued for 3 months initially through any Thai embassy or consulate or you can change a tourist visa exemption stamp or tourist visa to a "O" visa inside Thailand. For that criteria on changing to a "O" visa, the main requirement is showing 400,000 baht in a bank account in Thailand. There is no requirement for the "o" visa as to how long the funds have been in the bank account. As for the embassy or consulate, they all have different interpretations on what's needed (best to check with us, before you go). Later as the third month winds down on your "O" visa, you'll extend it to a one year extension of stay based on marriage to a Thai national. The requirements being, you must comply with a monthly income of 40,000 baht or, as an alternative, a deposit of 400,000 baht in a Thai bank account at least 2 months (for the first extension, 3 months for consequent yearly extensions) upon submission of the extension of stay. The rest of the documents proving your marriage is genuine (e.g. marriage certificate, photos etc). Sunbelt Legal advisors can help with all the steps involved. Phone us on 02-642-0213.
Question 3: I used to work in Thailand but left hurriedly in 2004 after being accused in the staffroom by another teacher of being involved in the sale of drugs. It was something I had nothing to do with. I used weed recreationally but have never been involved in its sale. The guy who accused me of selling the stuff was the guy who supplied me and I lashed out at him, and he had to go to hospital for treatment. I admit that I assaulted him. My girlfriend thought that things could get out of hand so I left the next day for Cambodia and caught a flight to Seoul and then returned to Canada. I've never been as happy here as I was when I was in Thailand and I would like to return. I am worried that an arrest warrant may have been issued for me, either for being involved with drugs (I only used and would never sell), or for assaulting my colleague, which I admit I did. He deserved it! Are you able to check if there is an arrest warrant out in my name and can you please advise what I need to provide you with and also, the cost of this.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Six years later and you still have no remorse on assaulting your colleague? In fact
you feel he deserves it? Some readers will wonder if Thailand needs foreigners like this, who are their own judge and jury. Some firms are able to check if you are wanted by the police. The professional fee will be around 20,000 baht. They just need your full name and passport number, date of birth, and the location and date that the incident happened.
I strive to keep on top of what is happening out and about in Bangkok and make every effort to gather all the news and gossip and include it here, especially items of interest to foreigners that the mainstream press deem too spicy to run. For the next couple of weeks putting together the column is going to represent a greater challenge as I join the expat exodus and go home for Christmas. I'm in no way religious, but Christmas (which really just means family time to me) in Bangkok just isn't Christmas, and to be honest I've never had a great Christmas in Bangkok – although I did have a very nice one in Khon Kaen a couple of years back. So back home for a couple of weeks means that the news section of the column might be a bit light. I have a couple of friends running around, keeping an eye on things who will let me know what's going on, and I will tap up a couple of bar owners for info as well. My apologies in advance if I miss anything of interest! The column will be published as per normal and hopefully the flavour won't change.
Your Bangkok commentator,