Stickman's Weekly Column January 9th, 2011

My Daughter’s Teacher Frequents Nana Plaza!


Try as they might, the near new Mercedes Benz and the Bangkok taxi failed to make it through the intersection. In Bangkok's morning rush hour, it would be a long wait for the lights to turn green. In the back seat of the Benz, a teenage girl in school uniform looked across at the taxi, and the three people in the back seat. "Mother, it's Ajarn Bob and his girlfriend!" As the girl's mother looked across at the taxi she gasped. There was a bleary-eyed Ajarn Bob, who she had met at various parent / teacher meetings, looking very much worse for wear. Accompanying him were two rough as guts country girls dressed like sluts. They were the sort of humanity that no self-respecting urban Thai she knew would give a second look. 6:30 AM, he must have been out all night. Unmistakably prostitutes, they were with the man who taught her daughter!

As is the way in Thailand, nothing was said at the time but Bob's contract was not renewed at the end of the academic year.

Teachers are automatically respected in Thailand. This respect is yours to lose. Despite this, there's always been a notion that many of the Westerners teaching in Thailand are here for the bars, and that teaching is simply a way to remain in the country long-term, and provide an adequate income to satiate one's desires.

Over a decade I taught at three different schools in Bangkok. At each of these schools, bargirls, the bar industry and what teachers got up to the night before were a big part of staffroom banter.

My first Bangkok job was at the main branch of a chain of language institutes where I lasted just 7 weeks before walking out. Staff meetings were held at Tom's Quik, long since demolished and replaced with Morning Night, miles away from any of the branches. But that didn't seem to worry anyone given its location on Sukhumvit soi 4, just around the corner from Nana Plaza! The meetings were a farce, an excuse for teachers to visit Nana Plaza, which at that time was at its best. Few of the teachers had teaching credentials and most didn't have a tertiary education. The stereotype was spot on. Most were in Thailand for the nightlife.

My next job was at a professionally run language school. Teaching credentials and a tertiary education were mandatory. Such requirements might be the norm these days, but not in the late '90s. It was a small, close knit bunch of young professionals and I couldn't have hoped for a better place to kick off my teaching career. While I wouldn't say that any of the teachers' primary reason for being in Thailand was the bar industry, still all of the foreign staff visited the bars from time to time. Myself and a young Brit would head out a couple of times a week. It was while teaching at that school that I started this website.

The last school I taught at was a big-name high school with a large number of foreign faculty. Offering competitive contracts (high salary, low number of contact hours and very generous holidays), the school attracted high-calibre applicants. Over the years foreign teachers came and went and many were frequent visitors to the bars. Few were in Thailand for the bar industry per se, but most visited from time to time. Some would even sneak out to the bars between classes, the soi 7 Biergarten being a favourite. The conservative Thai management and principal would have been shocked if they knew the familiarity that some of their foreign staff had with the bar industry.

With many foreign teachers' behaviour failing to meet expectations, the Ministry of Education and the Labour Department tightened up the qualifications required by foreigners teaching in Thailand a few years back. Around the same time visa regulations changed. Together these policy changes saw a number of teachers squeezed out.

The teaching industry in Bangkok has cleaned up on the surface, but have things really changed? The behaviour of some Bangkok English teachers makes you wonder…

I almost fell off my chair when I read the words of a Bangkok teacher on a Pattaya nightlife forum. Discussing safe sex and bargirls, he wrote that it was "in vogue" to have sex with bargirls without a condom. He went on to say that he had contracted gonorrhea from bargirls on multiple occasions including one instance where it spread to the top of his leg and required a cocktail of drugs to cure.

Is this relevant to his job? Is he any less suited to teaching than someone who doesn't venture out at night? His behaviour suggests that his judgment is dubious. But for all I know he might be the best and most popular teacher in the school.

Teachers at the better schools often claim that the teachers who venture out into the bar areas and give all teachers a bad name aren't real teachers at all but those holding positions at lower paying / less prestigious schools. Try telling that to teachers who earn as little as 20,000 baht a month – hardly enough to venture out at night at today's prices!

In comparison, international school teachers average around 100,000 baht a month – and some salaries can run north of 150,000. More than enough to have plenty of good nights out every month!

Some international school contracts have clauses that state that a teacher merely being seen in certain environments is grounds for dismissal.

That doesn't stop some.

Single international school teachers are just as likely to be found in Patpong or Nana or Cowboy as a teacher earning much less. I've received many emails over the years from faculty at the top international schools. Some email me from their school email account. I even had a department head at arguably the best international school inquire about an investigation into his mia noi who was aged under 18.

At another international school, which uses the British curriculum, a teacher had finished a presentation using a computer hooked up to an overhead projector and had set the class a task. He sat at his desk and while the students were going about their task, he was browsing porn sites. He had forgotten to turn the projector off and it wasn't until he heard a cough from a foreign student trying to get his attention who then motioned that what he was doing could be seen by everyone. I cannot imagine what the regents at that school would have made of it.

I once shared an office with a foreign subject teacher and a Thai class teacher. From our desks, the foreign teacher and I could see the Thai teacher's monitor in the reflection in the window behind him. He frequently surfed porn sites.

A highly talented and remarkably frank former student conducted an audit of the computer network at that same school and confirmed that many of the teachers surfed porn sites and a huge amount of pornography was found on the school's server. Foreign teachers may go out to the naughty bars, but I don't think any surfed porn sites at school.

What teachers get away with in Thailand would shock teachers, and the general public in the West. Even with tenure, a California university professor chose to shut down his fast-growing nightlife-focused Thai website last year after an article about him and his site appeared in the mainstream press, resulting in widespread criticism.

If there is one thing that has changed over the years with teachers and the bar industry, teachers understand that they need to be more discreet these days.

A few months back I wandered into Nana Plaza with, as per usual, a camera over my shoulder. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a former colleague sitting in Lucky Luke's. Nice guy and a very good teacher. He's also quite the whoremonger. I wandered around the plaza, got some shots and when I came back down he had gone. I have no doubt that seeing me with a camera spooked him. Not that I would take his photo or ever include such a photo here, it shows that while many teachers still play, they're much more careful.

I find it interesting that in all of the time I taught, I never once saw, nor heard of, inappropriate behaviour between a foreign teacher and a student, at least of a sexual nature. Stories of Thai teachers getting involved with school students abound, especially upcountry, but I don't think I can ever recall a foreign teacher up to no good with a school student.

The respect that teachers get in Thai society means they're supposed to lead a clean, largely innocent, almost pure existence. Is that why the majority of Thais teaching in Thailand are female?

I sometimes wonder just what is acceptable for a foreigner teaching in Thailand today and what isn't. Just where is the line? Is it ok to have a drink on Soi Cowboy? Can you even get a massage?


Last week's photo



Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken at Thai Club, a Thai bar / disco in New Lynn in the Western suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand. Needless to say, no-one got it right – so I think I will help myself to the two prizes! It's a much easier photo this week! 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.

Immigrants, and LA.

I have lived in Los Angeles for over 30 years. Thai town is not great but compare it to Filipino town where there are no Filipino businesses and where Filipinos left back in the 1950s and '60s. Los Angeles has to name every square foot of land after some ethnic group to show how accepting and diverse we are! I ask your reader to name one group that has immigrated to the US that is not doing the same or worse than the Thais. The Armenian mafia has been scamming hundreds of millions from the US welfare and Medicare system. The Spanish language TV channels constantly run advertisements for "slip and fall lawyers". It's like winning the lottery if you are working here illegally and get a lifetime settlement. The majority of the Thais here are decent and hard-working people. Not all are bending the rules. Also, you can tell the great Thai restaurants because the prices are high and it's hard to get a seat because of all the Thai customers. Crap places are cheap and Thais avoid them!

Some bar owners will help you!

Barfine problems should be easily resolved with some give and take on behalf of bar owners / management. The owner of Long Gun / Rawhide would always repay a barfine if the girl did a runner – have known it happen several times. There was one occasion when I took a girl from Johnny's Hollywood Royale bar (as it was known then) who seemed very keen in the bar. Once I had her in the taxi, she probably thought better of it, with her body language telling me she didn't want to go through with the implied 'contract'. Once we had reached my apartment, she was like a fish out of water, so (being the gentleman I am; cough, cough) I gave her 100 baht and sent her back to the bar in the same taxi. The next evening, Kevin Meadows, the Hollywood manager at the time, had no hesitation in providing me with a signed barfine credit note, not a document found in most accountancy manuals!


ThaiFriendly is an Asian Dating Site like no others!

Not the world's greatest beach!

I was in Pattaya last week and was deeply disappointed. If you are going to Pattaya for some beautiful sunsets, a walk along the beach, or enjoy a relaxing seat on the Beach Road walkway near the waters, forget it. Step on to Beach Road now and you will only see a sprawling Thai style street market. They have covered the beach walkway thick with booths and merchants selling souvenirs made in China. One can no longer even see the ocean and beach, nor is there room to walk around them. Think you can detour onto the beach? Forget it. The beach chairs are stacked all the way to the water's edge. What happened to the campaign to clean of the beach from touts and lawn chairs to improve the view? I hope this ends soon, as I can't find any reason to go back.

Sydney preferable to Bangkok.

I left Bangkok and arrived back in Sydney this afternoon and I was happy to be home. In days gone by I was an unashamed pussy chaser but now that I have a good wife and a gorgeous 6-year old I no longer feel any regrets about being home. After filthy skies it is great to see the brilliant blue skies of Sydney. Thailand is changing. My little Thai mentioned what you spoke of about the cost of living if you live like a white man. The first thing I got back here this afternoon was T-bone steak. Boy, did it taste good. The beef is like an old boot in Isaan! Watching what Thais eat in the village offends my western sensibilities. I saw them catch rats in the rice fields for eating! Thai cuisine is big worldwide, but not what I saw being eaten. We had nice Thai food in Bangkok at 13 Coins Resort near the airport, but it was beyond most Thais from the sticks to afford. Driving in Thailand is scary. So many motorcycles and driving into Bangkok last Sunday was a challenge. I read 20,000+ dead and the year is not over! Last night's taxi driver to the airport was a loony. Got back today and the taxi driver in Sydney is smooth, helped no doubt by the number of police on the road. Real police interested in road safety. I never noticed unemployment officially stated at under 1%. Can that be true when you see people in the villages not doing much? Is that why there is so many staff in the department stores? Birds, where are all the feathered variety? It was noticeable how few there were, or are they all in the kitchen pot? The nightlife spots seem very quite from what I saw. Immigration officials have to be the slowest, rudest people I have ever met! The little girl was rudely told to move quickly by one last night but today in Sydney the guy was really nice to her. I am not comparing Sydney to Thailand but I fail to see what the attraction of the country is to so many people. After this trip you will never convince me that Thai women are much different from their white sisters. They are definitely getting taller and wider. Some of them are tough chicks working like mules in the fields of Isaan and I would not like to get into an argument with one! Well, that is my take on my trip. I was not born in Australia but I still think it's the best country in the world, just as many of your brethren, Mr. Stick, seem to think by moving here.



The Duke of Wellington, the English-style pub on Silom Road, appears to have gone out of business. The lights are out, the doors locked, and the interior is in a shambles with most everything of value, including the floor, ripped out. The venue had been on the market for some time with much speculation that the exorbitant amount of rent was always going to make turning it into a commercial success a challenge.

The Asoke end of Soi Cowboy is becoming a thriving little live music haven with the venues on either side of the soi opening competing for punters and pumping out music late into the night. Both bars seem to be doing well with crowds at that end of the soi from early evening onwards.

The minimart just outside the entrance to Nana Plaza has been a fixture for many years but recently changed hands. It was not the Hillary group who bought it as was the rumour, but one of the partners in Spanky's Bar in Nana – but not Marc. The new bar will be called the Stumble Inn. I don't think I'm being unfair when I say that Nana Plaza only has a few decent gogo bars these days, but the soi outside has more and more decent beer bars and being one of the best spots in Bangkok for people watching, there's no reason to think this venue won't be successful. I would go as far to say that a beer bar on soi 4 is a licence to make money and I'm surprised the minimart lasted as long as it did. The Stumble Inn hopes to open at the start of February.

Well before Insomnia, Sukhumvit's newest disco opened, the management had erected signs announcing its arrival all over Sukhumvit. Even street vendor carts were decorated with Insomnia signs. I notice that they've even gone so far as to erect a large neon sign promoting Insomnia on Soi Cowboy, above Tilac and Sam's 2000.

Sukhumvit soi 33 has the priciest barfines of the other farang-centred bar areas – but don't think that will stop bar owners from increasing them. The rumour mill has it that the barfine at the most popular bar in Soi 33, The Office, will increase by 200 baht, to 1,400 baht next month. Rumour has it that management is concerned over the number of staff who regularly barfine themselves. Management hopes the new rates will reduce this problem. The initial reaction from the staff is that the increase may have an impact on their earnings as regular customers shun the increase and look elsewhere.

A couple of months back a story broke about how anyone overstaying their visa by more than a couple of months would not only face a 20,000 baht fine, they would be arrested, charged with overstaying their visa and spend time in a Thai jail before facing trial, presumably being found guilty and then deported. Since that story broke I have not heard of a single instance of this happening! I have however heard of several people who have since left the country who were on a long overstay – in one case 5½ years! A Norwegian reader just flew out of the country this week after an 11-month overstay. Having heard about the possibility of being detained at the airport and facing charges, he was as nervous as hell. Passing though Immigration at the airport, he was taken to an office, and after being lectured to about how terrible it is to overstay one's visa, he paid the 20,000 baht and was free to fly home. It was mixed emotions for him, sad to be leaving the Kingdom after a 12-month long party, but happy to be able to do so without facing any hassles! So despite rumours that you may be arrested for long overstays, I personally have not heard of it happening to anyone. It should be noted that the law states that anyone who has overstayed for more than a year will be arrested – but even that seems to be at the discretion of the Immigration officer and it seems that as long as the person has money to pay the overstay fine – 500 baht per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht – then they are allowed to leave. With all of this in mind, I absolutely do not recommend that you ever overstay your visa. Who knows what may happen if you are caught in the Kingdom on an overstay. Furthermore, perhaps one day the overstay will come back to haunt you.

Most travel agents in Thailand are Thais, obviously, and they range from the very good to the absolutely terrible. If you'd prefer to deal with a fellow farang then one of the best guys around is Peter Aldridge at SP Thai Connections Travel in the Ambassador Plaza in Sukhumvit Soi 11, close to the hotel. Peter's British and he's been around for years and knows everything there is to know about the Land of Smiles.c

New Zealanders will be pleased to know that Thai Airways will soon be resuming daily service between Auckland and Bangkok, up from the 4 flights per week they currently operate. Rumour has it that the 3 new flights might go via Australia. I am guessing that New Zealand hosting the Rugby World Cup later this year as well as increasing numbers of Kiwis visiting Thailand are behind it.

The Clubhouse in soi 23 is doing teachers' nights on Thursday. The Londoner used to do special prices for teachers on Thursday nights and still might – I don't know. And Charley Brown's in Sukhumvit soi 11 also runs a Teachers' Night Off each Thursday, offering 20% discount off all food for teachers who show a valid teacher's ID card. The venue is usually pretty busy on Thursdays. If you're looking for a change, that's where all the white girls are.

Why are so many long-term expats in Thailand overweight, and in some cases seriously weighty? Many arrived slim and trim, or at least in somewhat better shape than that which they find themselves a few years later. So why do they get so big? Is it that Thai food isn't healthy? Is it that many lead a sedentary lifestyle? There are a number of contributing factors but the main one, I believe, is that there really is not that much to do other than the usual – eating and drinking. Instead of being active and doing various activities as they may in the West, they consume lots of food and drink – and end up overweight as a result. Maybe 1/3 of the guys I know who came to Thailand in shape have since ballooned. To make matters worse, many have been diagnosed diabetic since residing in Thailand – and that is seriously bad news. Amongst my many diabetic friends, one has had a leg off, another has had major heart problems and most have what I would term a significantly reduced quality of life. As a nurse said to me not so long ago, the only thing worse than being HIV+ is being diabetic!

There was always plenty of good stuff in Wednesday's computer and technology section of the Bangkok Post, Database. Sadly the Post discontinued the Database section this past week after an amazing 23 years. For me, it was the best section of the paper and one I always looked forward to. In fact there were really only two days I would buy the Post if I hadn't managed to get my grubby mitts on a copy at the local Au Bon Pain before it was lifted, Friday for Trink's column and Wednesday for Database.

If you want to wow someone in Bangkok – be it a hot date or just mates or family visiting from abroad – take them to one of the city's high-end rooftop bars. There are quite a few. The best two for me are Vertigo which is on top of the Banyan Tree Hotel on Sathorn Road, and the Sky Bar at State Tower on Silom Road. These bars share a few things in common, namely that they are both 60+ floors up, the bars are outside meaning you get a real feeling of height and prices are not for the feint-hearted – figure up to 400 baht for a local beer and considerably more for most other drinks. Vertigo is good – but I prefer Sky Bar at State Tower, probably as much as anything because of the more interesting view, with it being near the river. I recommend getting there about 15 minutes before the sun goes down so you get to see the city when it is light, at sunset (which in Bangkok is brief) an then when it is dark and the city lights come on. Each of these rooftops also has fine dining restaurants but I am not convinced they are a great dining option – and you can get much better food elsewhere. So the rooftops make a great pre-dinner drink venue and then you can venture off somewhere else which specialises in good food. There are various other tower restaurants including the restaurant on the 76th floor in Baiyoke 2, the tallest building in Bangkok, a reasonably priced buffet for under 1,000 baht per head – although I have heard mediocre reviews about the food. The photo below was taken atop State Tower and if you look closely, you can also see Vertigo at the Banyan Tree – it's the second tallest building in the photo, right in the centre with yellow / red colour at the top, one of only two buildings which peak above the horizon.

A long-term Thailand expat currently working outside the country recently received the dreaded email. Not only was his wife filing for divorce, her well-to-do family – who genuinely have both power and influence – saw to it that he would be declared persona non grata. So losing his wife was just the start, he would also lose his home, his vehicles, all of his worldly possessions as well as his beloved dogs and not be allowed to ever return to Thailand. Rather than drink himself silly, he thought about how he could subtly, but effectively, get back at his Mrs. She had always been mesmerized by Machu Picchu and would sit in front of the TV mesmerized by documentaries and travel programs about the place. She dreamed of going there. Ironically he found himself in South America shortly after receiving the email, and saw an opportunity to get his own back. He chartered a helicopter to take him to the hallowed Inca site where he took a bunch of photos of himself with the ruins in the background. Returning to the lowlands and an internet connection, he emailed a few of the photos to his ex. Within 60 seconds of hitting the send button she was on the phone, ranting about what a so and so he is! Bingo, he hit the bulls eye! If ever there was a classy way to get back at someone, that was it! He has also managed to have the PNG revoked so he has the option of returning to Thailand if he so wishes.

You hear of bargirls stealing from customers from time to time and if there is one commonality I have noticed over the years it is that the girls often pilfer a guy's belongings the night before he is due to fly home. She knows that 24 hours later he has left the country – and there will be little he can do about her. With this in mind, if you have company on your last night in the Kingdom it may pay to be a little more vigilant than usual. Either that, or don't tell her when you're going home!

It's always nice to include a job ad in the column and give Stickmanites the opportunity to work in the city they love. This company is looking for 4 – 8 staff so there are a bunch of openings. It's Bangkok-based and comes with a work permit. It should be noted that applications will ONLY be accepted from Australians and New Zealanders (and before any non ANZAC starts bleating like a lamb, YES, job ads in Thailand *often* specify age, sex and nationality!) Ad proper starts: Australian sales people wanted now for vacancies in our Bangkok office. Good basic salary + uncapped commission + healthcare and work permit. Come work for a Board Of Investment approved company! All the best people are going online and we help them maximize their opportunity to get on the front page of Google. In fact, so many businesses, large and small, trust us to develop their online media strategies, so much so that we've grown year on year since we launched in 2006 by 100% and there's still an awful lot more potential to tap into. As a result of our continued growth, we have new sales vacancies for expats. Based at our Bangkok office you will need to be hard-working, organised, assertive and be looking to work in a dynamic and fun environment. No online marketing experience, no problem! As well as a great salary package, healthcare, work permit and paid holidays, there are excellent career prospects. We value your life's skills and experience! Please send your CV along with a covering letter to: Australian Team, [email protected]. Reminder: Only Australians and New Zealanders need apply!

Quote of the week comes from a reader, "Russians and their families are a big improvement on the lager louts from the UK that wander around Pattaya with their shaved heads, tattoos and boorish, loutish behaviour."

Reader's story of the week comes from Hans Meier and may not be Thailand-themed, but is still a great read, " Delightful West Africa 2 – Saint-Louis, Senegal".

The Thai Immigration department vehemently denies that there was ever any change in the Thailand overstay rules!

The Sydney Morning Herald takes a closer look at the changing Phuket.

From The Nation newspaper, Thai teens have been using plastic bags as condoms!

A Russian learns the hard way why it's not a good idea to join lower class Thais you don't know for a drink.

There was a massive raid on Pattaya's notorious soi 6 this week with 350 police in the soi!

A former FBI agent of Vietnamese ethnicity opens a new Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok.

Soi Africa, the sub soi off Sukhumvit soi 3, is raided in a massive crackdown on illicit drugs in Thailand.

I was interviewed by Bangkok blogger Richard this week – click here for the Stickman interview.

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 with the answer running in the next column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.

Question 1: I am looking to take a lease on renting a house and have been told by a lawyer here in Hat Yai that a lease is only valid for 3 years and then must be renewed. He quoted 5,000 baht to make each lease. Can you check with Sunbelt if this is true or is he bullshitting me to get more fees?

Sunbelt Legal responds: It is possible to obtain a lease with a validity exceeding 3 years. However, the standard lease term applicable by Thai law is 3 years. Any lease over 3 years must be registered at the land office. This registered lease agreement will also need to be endorsed on the owner's copy of the land title deed. There are fees involved in registering a lease with the land office – lease registration fees (1% of the total lease value) and duty stamps (1 baht per every 1,000 baht of the total lease value). Therefore, many landlords are unwilling to go through this process and offer only a 3-year lease term to avoid having to register the agreement at the land office.

Example: A 30-year lease at the rate of 10,000 baht per month with 1 million baht key money. The fees are calculated as follows:

Total Lease Value = 10,000 baht per month multiply by 12 (12 months in 1 year) = 120,000 baht per year
120,000 baht per year multiply by 30 (30 years) = 3,600,000 baht plus 1,000,000 baht key money = 4,600,000 baht.

Total Lease Value = 4,600,000 baht

Lease registration fee = 1% of 4,600,000 baht = 46,000 baht
PLUS: Duty Stamp (1 baht for every 1,000 baht of the total lease value) = 4,600,000 baht divided by 1,000 baht = 4,600 baht
Petition Fees = 5 baht
Total Fees involved = 50,605 baht (excluding the landlord's income tax that derives from renting this property).

A registered leasehold cannot exceed 30 years and renewal options in the lease agreement are not secured over the property. Therefore these options are in principle not binding on any transferee owner or successor of the property. For property situated in an industrial zoning area (and in accordance to the Investment Enhancement Incentive), the government permits a lease (for commercial and industrial purposes) in the said area to be registered and valid for up to 50 years (with an option of another 50 years of extension). The Lessee must fulfill at least one of the following obligations:

1. To invest for no less than 20,000,000 baht; or
2. Approved by the Board of Investment (BOI); or
3. Business operation must benefit Thailand either economically or socially as stipulated and approved by Council of Ministers.

In the case of a foreign business owner, such business operation must not be the foreign business prohibitive operation / occupation.


Question 2: I am considering buying 70 rai of land in Udon province that is very attractively priced to start a rubber plantation. It does have a chanote granted 10 years back, but the chanote is not transferable to a buyer for another 4 years. The local land office advised that if we give money to the owner it will not be recorded as a sale but considered as a mortgage we have given to the owner against the chanote. My concern is this: Can the owner pay back the money and ask for the chanote to be returned before the transfer after the 4-year wait? We have been given advice that we can protect against such an event with a separate contract specifying that the 'mortgage' cannot be cancelled, and must be converted to a sale as soon as the chanote becomes transferrable, or the cancellation would incur a very significant penalty, say equal to the mortgage money plus the cost of improvements. It seems that that is contrary to the intent of the law against early transfer which may leave us legally and therefore financially vulnerable.

Sunbelt Legal responds: The general rule is that no contract or provision thereof can ever force a landowner to give up his rights of ownership over the land in question. While a mortgage is perfectly legal in this case, the provision that the mortgage shall be converted into a sale following the transfer might be in conflict with the law concerning ownership of the land, especially if the mortgage is named after a foreigner. All mortgages whether with a period or not, once the mortgage amount (also called loan amount) is paid, the mortgage shall be taken off from the land title and the land title again becomes freehold which can then be transferred to any new owner (apart from foreigners). In normal practice, the sale and transfer of any land is done at the Land Office altogether with the settlement of the mortgage. It is simply a matter of the mortgagor paying back the mortgage fee (with interest or penalty, as the case may be) to the mortgagee. The land title is not, in any way, transferred to the name of the mortgagee; it is simply used as a collateral. It should be noted that if the title deed has been endorsed that the owner is prohibited to sell this designated plot include the restriction to mortgage. Then such land must remain in that owner for stipulated years / timeframe.

In the case of registering a mortgage (imposing a collateral status) on the designated property, even if the Borrower fails to repay the loan amount within the given period, you (as the Lender) will not be able to register the land ownership into your name. The only party (apart from the true owner) that is eligible enforce such ownership transfer would be the court. Which means that you must proceed with legal action in obtaining a court decision / judgment that awards you with the land ownership of the collateral land. You must take this court decision / judgment to the land office for proper endorsement.

In the case the landlord himself decides to bind his rights of ownership to a future buyer, this would also be another option, as long as there is no dispute or argument, but such acts are unsecure as they (the Land Office and / or any Legal Advisors) foresee such future promises are to avoid this restrictive timeline.

Question 3: I have a Thai partner who resigned her position as a high school teacher. She worked at the school for 10 years and when she left she was on a monthly salary of 8,000 baht. They tried to convince her to stay with a salary increase to 12,000 baht and appoint her to be a government officer. She declined and is now in my country. Before she left Thailand she thought she could get her mother to register her pension scheme. But now she tells me her mother cannot do that and she must return to Thailand, albeit temporarily, to register the pension scheme herself and that it must be done within 3 months of her resigning her position. She tells me she will get 500,000 baht when she is 60 years of age but I am pretty certain it will be pro rata. She only worked for 10 years as rather than a possible 30 to 35 years. Can you shed any light on this?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Firstly, the question of whether your girlfriend was working as a full-time employee or a temporary long-term employee should be raised. Nowadays government sectors intend to control their budget by employing temporary staff rather than employing them on a permanent basis which would minimise their future responsibility due to long serving (permanent) staff. In normal practice, the gratuity and pension are presented in the employment contract. Each position (or rather, type of membership) varies from the benefits that they will receive past retirement age (or termination of membership from Government Pension Fund). Payment contributions and years of servitude are also one of the determining factors for the gratuity and pension amounts. The Ministry of Finance is responsible for calculating the contribution and setting the regulation for the gratuity. As according to the Government Pension Fund Act, B.E. 2539 section 47, members whose official term is from 10 years or above but not over 25 years are entitled to the gratuity.

Whereas for temporary staff, the available benefits and welfare are far less than permanent staff (teachers), such as no pension, but even without this Government Pension Funds, other types of long-term savings are available within the organisation, industry and / or area (such as Teacher Saving Cooperative).

Here are links for more comprehensive information regarding the Government Pension Fund, and the Government Pension Fund Act.

It's not always possible to remember the past clearly, especially the detail which can become blurred by more recent events and distorted by bias. We may remember, for example, that once upon a time we thought a particular lady was very pretty. But just how pretty was she? If we saw her 10 or 20 years later, would she still be as pretty as we once thought she was? I was browsing some old photos recently, comparing the bar areas of Bangkok and Pattaya today with 10 years ago. The great thing with photos is that they capture a single moment for eternity and are not subject to the vagaries that our minds are. I always remember Walking Street as being over run with people with a cacophony of sounds – but just how accurate is my memory? The photo above of Pattaya's Walking Street was taken almost 10 years ago to the day, at the height of the high season of 2001. Compare it with how Walking Street looks today. You might not even see this few people on a night out in the low season! Today, Walking Street has far more bars and restaurants most of which are flasher. There are more pretty women and frankly, prices (in Pattaya at least) really haven't moved any faster than inflation. Despite all of this, we often pine for the past even when evidence shows that many things really are in fact much better today!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick