Stickman's Weekly Column March 20th, 2011

She REALLY Was Different


The stereotypical Pattaya visitor goes for the sex which is cheap and plentiful. Bangkok Thais visit Pattaya for its festivals, seafood and to see the spectacle of ugly foreign men with ugly local women. Russians and other Eastern Europeans hit Pattaya to escape sub-zero temperatures back home. And I go to Pattaya to hang out and watch the crazy lifestyles of crazy people. I hunt for a story, and sometimes I find one when I least expect it…

A creature of habit, my visits to Pattaya are always a carbon copy of my last. I hit town mid-week to avoid the crowds of Bangkok Thais and expats who flock at the weekend. I stay for two nights, and two nights only. That's long enough.

The first night I catch up with friends, bar owners and bar bosses. There's the obligatory visits to Secrets and Toyz, and I always try and squeeze in visits to Baby Dolls and Misty's. It's about catching up with people, chatting with friends and getting the latest goss from those in the business.

You could say the first night in Pattaya is a drinking night. You can hardly visit bar owners and sip on Coke. If the booze doesn't get the better of me I'll take a few shots, but experience tells me that I can't keep the camera steady after more than a couple of drinks and the snapshots I capture on the first night seldom amount to much.

The second night I like to float around on my own. Of the 48 hours I try and spend in Sin City twice a month, this is the night I look forward to most. I roam around town, taking photos and hunting for a story. On a good night I'll take 500 shots. On a really good night I'll get close to a thousand. And if it's a great night, I might just get a story.

It used to be so easy to walk around the back alleys and off the beaten path with a camera in hand, but word is out in Pattaya that no good can come from a foreigner pointing his camera at you. So these days, a lot of my photography in Sin City is in the busy areas. In Walking Street you can point your lens anywhere and seldom will anyone say anything.

So there I was, ambling around Walking Street, looking for interesting sights to capture. I'd taken a few hundred shots when I became captivated by a slim, yet buxom young lady dancing at Frog Bar, the popular beer bar at the front of the Simon Beer Bar Complex. Standing on the main Walking Street and taking shot after shot, the staff were none too pleased that I was photographing the dancer without contributing to the bar's take. There are no freebies in Thailand!

"Why you take a photo lady she?" I was asked by one girl in the bar. "You not buy ticket!"

OK, good point, and made with a touch of humour, I had to confess.

I smiled at the lady, admitted that she was right and that I had been a bit cheeky. I took a seat in the bar and ordered a drink. A warm smile and a quick apology later and any tension between us disappeared as fast as a bargirl's smile when offered a thousand baht for an overnight stay.

There are a few really good vantage points on Walking Street, where you can sit back and watch the world go by. Frog Bar is one of them. The beauty of this particular spot is that you can shoot in all directions. There's a variety of subjects from the beer bars in the complex itself, to the dancing girls, to the girls at the bars or shooting out on to Freak Show Central, Walking Street itself.

One girl in the bar showed a particular interest in the photos I was taking, a striking lady who bore a resemblance to the buxom dancer who had first captured my attention. She was keen to look at the photos I was taking. Unlike most girls who shriek at every photo, she was more composed. She seemed to take in each photo and commented on the photos she liked, explaining why. She seemed to have an eye for photography, not something you find with the average Thai bargirl.

We both agreed that the photo of the girl dancing which I'd just taken from the street was the best shot and I commented that that lady was quite attractive. She said with pride that it was her sister. These girls often refer to girls they work with as their sister. They had a similar look but whether they really were sisters, I don't know.

I looked closer at this lady who I was sitting next to and asked if I could photograph her. She wasn't just willing, she was keen. She said she'd been waiting for me to take her photo and I duly obliged, snapping off a few dozen shots of her as she posed within the small beer bar and out. I took various shots, with different lenses, with and without flash, all in different poses. She asked her if I could buy her a drink, explaining that it would allow her to sit outside the bar and relax a bit. She grabbed said drink and joined me on the other side of the bar.

We sat back, chatted and watched the world go by.

She didn't tell me a lot about herself and she was hardly the world's best conversationalist. She didn't need to be. She was the prettiest girl in the bar. She was demure and would just lean there on the bar, staring at me in much the same way as a puppy dog stares lovingly at its master.

I don't remember her English being great – it wasn't terrible, but neither was it great – but I do remember her reluctance to speak Thai which I found that a little surprising. Once they know you can speak the local lingo, most prefer to converse in Thai. It puts them at ease and they don't have to try so hard.

So with her being reluctant to speak Thai, and my dislike of Pidgin English, we didn't say that much and I never did learn much about her. I do remember that she came from Kanchanaburi and claimed to be 20 although I pegged her to be a year or two older. Part of the attraction for me was that she didn't have the typical Pattaya bargirl i.e. Isaan look. I know I'm in a minority, but for me that's a plus.

I don't pay barfines. I guess it's partly that I don't really like the idea of directly paying for sex. So you're probably going to pay one way or the other, but I just much prefer going through the whole dating ritual. It's fun and I like the way things build up. That's not to say I am against barfining, I'm not. Many guys prefer it that way. To each his own.

While I say I don't barfine bargirls, I'm a male, and of course, from time to time, I may meet a lady in a bar and be tempted. It crosses my mind. Sometimes the feeling is so good, and it feels so right, I just know that if I paid the barfine that what followed would be a night to remember. It doesn't happen often, but maybe once or twice a year I meet a bird in a bar where everything comes together and despite my firm policy of no barfining, I know I'm probably missing out on a memorable experience. She was one such girl. There was something there, a look in her eyes. It would be electric!

She wasn't the slutty type. Quite the opposite in fact. She was polite and didn't once talk about or even suggest anything naughty. That's how I like it and maybe that's why I prefer the so-called good girls? But it was obvious that she liked me and she exuded a sexual confidence that I found irresistible.

We sat there outside the bar, watching the comings and goings on one of the craziest streets on the planet. Around us girls were playing silly bar games with customers. Russian tourists were walking up and down the street, making us all a small part of their holiday movies and Western men and Isaan ladies were doing their bit to maintain Pattaya's reputation.

She mentioned that she prefers young, fit guys. I don't kid myself that I'm that young any more, but then neither am I old. Her loving gaze created a sexual tension between us and I knew she was winning me over as my mind started wandering. Sex with her would be good. No, it would be better than good. It had the potential to be mind-blowing!

What was stopping me?

Reputation? Nah, at the end of the day I don't really care what people think of me. And not one of my real friends would care whether I took her back to my hotel room. In fact some would rib me if I didn't!

Was it the money? What would it set me back all up? Not even a couple of thousand baht. That's peanuts for what could be an hour of fun and memories to savour for a lifetime. It wasn't a money thing.

So what was it? What was stopping me from going through with it? I couldn't put my finger on it, but something inside me just said no. I couldn't articulate it then as I can't articulate it now. Even if I meet someone I really like, I just don't want to pay a barfine.

The sexual tension was such that I knew if I don't take her, I was going to regret it. There was no touching, no holding hands, nothing like that. But there was a fire burning!

If there's one thing in life I really don't like, it's regrets. Not regrets at what you have done, but regrets at what you haven't.

I don't regret the things I've done in life. Why regret them? You can't do anything about them now, so I reckon you're better off looking ahead. Live in the now. When it's time to check out, I hope to have few regrets.

She never asked me to barfine her and she never once talked about anything sexual. She didn't have to. The tension was there for us both to feel.

I often don't touch a drop on the second of my two nights out in Pattaya. But I needed to settle my nerves and another Jack Coke was ordered. And another. With my nerves settled I was able to push the notions of regret from my mind. The darling of Frog Bar was going to have to join that small but illustrious group of Thai bargirls who Stick once craved but somehow fought the calling from his loins to escape, and head home alone.

The checkbin was called for and settled. No barfine was paid. With the saddest of sad puppy dog eyes she gave me a wave as I headed down Walking Street.

I was back into photographer mode, camera at the ready, shooting all and sundry.

Perhaps two hours and 500 shots later, I wandered back in the direction of Frog Bar. The pretty one wasn't there. I was curious. I popped into the bar and even though I knew the answer already, I was told that she'd been barfined.

"She lady popular, have someone barfine she took wan", a girl said to me in a mixture of English and Thai.

Good for her, I thought. And good for some lucky guy too!

So many women can make an impression on you in Thailand that by the next day I had forgotten all about her.

Memories would come back on subsequent trips to Sin City, especially as I walked past Frog Bar. If I was in the vicinity early evening, there she would be. Later in the evening – without fail – she would be gone. She was super popular and seemed to be barfined every night.

From time to time I would see her walking with a guy and just like she had told me, more often than not he was young and fit.

Some months later I was reading a thread on a Pattaya forum and posted a reply and attached one of the photos of the pretty girl from Frog Bar. The response from one of the posters caught me aback and it went something like this, "I hate to be the one to break it to you, Stick, but that one's got a cock under her frock!"

To say I was shocked was an understatement. But when you go back and look at the photos of her with fresh eyes, and with the knowledge that yes, it's a ladyboy you're looking at, you can see it. The jaw line is a little squarer than typically found on a female. There's the lack of curves but then a slim lady from Isaan, especially someone with years' hard labour in the rice fields behind her, there's often little in the way of female curves anyway.

What made Miss Frog Bar unique was not only did I not know nor even suspect – and this was after 12 years in Thailand and goodness only knows how many nights spent in the bars – neither did the Thai staff know.

In the old days the bars used to be littered with ladyboys and many had a token ladyboy or two on the books. That seemed to change about 10 years ago or so. Why, I do not know. In most bars these days you get one or the other. If there are ladyboys on the staff in a genuine girly bar, they tend to be service staff. Few venues have both dancing, or available.

As any Thai will unashamedly tell you, Thai ladyboys are often as or even more attractive than real girls. In the industry that can spur the latter to let a customer showing an interest in a ladyboy know what she really is – in the hope that interest is lost in the ladyboy and the guy takes more interest in her. That never happened in Frog Bar and as I was to later find out, it was because the staff didn't know!

Attractive ladyboys are common enough in Thailand but it's not often you're fooled. While they may look like a kitten, the moment they open their mouth they sound like a dog and the illusion is shattered.

Miss Frog Bar has done the circuit in Pattaya and has worked in at least 5 different bars, apparently moving on once the secret's out.

She would appear to be quite popular and Mr. Google knows rather a lot about her. It would seem that she has been around longer than she lets on, her career in the industry starting earlier than it ought to be.

She has had sponsors and at least one guy – a young, fit fellow considers her his girlfriend.

What others choose to do is their business, and for ladyboy lovers, I say go for it. If that's what rocks your boat, all power to you! For me personally, it's a scary thought – and I would have thought I was representative of most. But I wonder, I really do. Given that she seems to be barfined every night, apparently some don't care, or somehow still don't know!

I still can't get over it that I genuinely had no idea. NONE! It didn't even enter my mind that she was not a real lady.

I never thought I would ever be fooled by a ladyboy. I thought I'd been around much too long. Sure, these online quizzes where you have to select who are the ladyboys and who are the real girls I never score 100% in – because it's so much more difficult to know from a static photograph. But in person, as attractive as some Thai ladyboys are, you can tell. The way they move, the way they exaggerate female mannerisms, the size of their hands, the pitch of their voice, the jaw line, the muscle tone, the lack of curves, the huge bazookas…and so on. But in person I didn't know! I sat with her for well over an hour…and I didn't have a clue!

Thank God I don't barfine because she really was different!


Last week's photo


Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken outside the Legacy Express Hotel on Sukhumvit Road, between sois 1 and 3. 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. For readers in Phuket, we now have a new prize provider in Patong Beach. Bliss Lounge on Bangla Road is offering a 500 baht drink credit and with some great imported beers from Belgium, Germany and Holland, they're unique for a venue on Bangla Road.

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Duke's prize must be utilised by March 2011. The Bliss Lounge prize must be claimed within 3 months. 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 – Leave dealings with Thai officialdom to the other half.

Our first daughter was born in Singapore 4 months ago and for about 2 months after that I was collecting documents and completing forms and paperwork for her Singapore birth certificate, British birth certificate, British passport, Singapore dependent's pass etc. The Singaporean and British authorities were very helpful and polite but it really did take a lot of time. The wife now insists that I get a Thai passport for our daughter. The first thing I did was to check with the British embassy that she could have two passports. No problem. So off to the Thai embassy in Singapore I went. I was greeted by a very friendly official who explained that I simply needed to apply for a Thai birth certificate then apply for the Thai passport; same procedure as for the British passport. I took one look at the application forms and sighed. The form was in Thai and it looked like it had been reproduced a thousand times from old photocopies. Some text was missing from the left hand side of the form and the wife couldn't make out some of it. Some of the questions were ridiculous and some she didn't understand. She called the embassy a few times but nothing became clearer. In fact the response from the officials was useless. The last call was answered by a power crazy Thai woman who was just plain rude. When I was at the embassy I did notice that there were a few Thais sat down at tables and looking very confused by the forms and almost begging the officials for help. Why do Thais in authority treat other Thais like crap? I've seen it on many occasions. I'm walking away from this issue. No way am I getting involved with this nonsense.

The plague of modern living!

These pesky objects, mobile phones, are getting out of control. Every business meeting I go to is interrupted by someone answering their phone only to say "I'm in a meeting, call you back". How stupid is that? Just don't answer the damned thing! I now live in Singapore and at lunch-time in the central business district there are people walking into each other because they are checking or sending messages and not looking where they are going! I walked past a fast food restaurant the other morning and all of the 10+ customers were pressing buttons on their phones. Even husband and wife were ignoring each other at breakfast because of the messaging thing. What can be so important at 8:30 in the morning? The situation I hate most is when you are at lunch or having a beer with someone and they talk to you whilst checking their phone. Something brilliant happened to me a couple of months ago – I lost my phone. I was in no rush to replace it and I enjoyed two days of complete peace. My wife, being Thai, is obsessed by phones. As her phone wasn't working properly I thought I would check out the latest iPhone. If I recall correctly the price was 30,000+ baht. Are they taking the piss? And who the hell wants to play a game or watch a movie or surf the net on a mobile phone? I bought her a cheap Motorola. I've even noticed people updating their Facebook profiles / accounts from their mobile phones. What's going on? Phones are the plague of modern living.

The unsolved Chiang Mai mystery.

I am worried and would like to know more about the hotel deaths recently of several people in Chiang Mai. I'm sure that the real story has not yet been revealed. It seems impossible that it has to do with the food they ate or a viral infection. If it was food, others who ate at that stand would have died. If it was an infection that killed people, we would be reading about many others dying from the bacteria. It has to be connected to the hotel building. It may have been carbon monoxide poisoning or maybe someone drugged them to rob them and they died of an overdose.

The rubbish "cops".

In response to the rubbish police that hang around Sukhumvit soi 12, what you said about them watching you smoking and waiting for you to throw your butt away is entirely true. Thai friends have told me that they aren't really "police" as such, more security guards with a police style uniform. When they caught me around a year ago disposing of a cigarette butt down a drain they asked (in broken but well-rehearsed English) whether I spoke Thai, to which I replied in Thai that I did. They then took me to their booth where they gave me the little speech about 2,000 baht. I told them in Thai that I was very busy and didn't have time to waste, handed over 200 baht with a smile and a chok dee to which I received a smile and a salute in return and I just walked away. No real need to pay even 500 baht and certainly no need to pay 2,000! I really don't think they have the power to arrest you or to cause much bother.

The pros and con of condoms.

So I was sitting in a Cowboy fleshpot, nursing my watered-down, overpriced beverage, casting an eye upon the dismal array of well-fed 'talent' on stage, and I got to thinking about what had caused standards to slip so much in Thai gogos. Now, I wasn't around in the supposed halcyon days, but there appears to be enough anecdotal evidence around that Thai gogos offered more, err, bang for the buck in days past than they do in the 21st century; both in physical and personality terms. I'm sure bars aren't going out of their way to hire fat, surly girls. Looking at the ubiquitous rup panakngaan <staff wantedStick> signs outside gogos, there seems to be no stipulation that the applicants be overweight, old and rude. It must merely be that there is not enough supply of attractive staff. Why is this? There are various factors at work here: an explosion in the number of bars mean the talent is spread very thin, many of the top girls get snapped up as long-term honeys, girls can these days find guys online rather than having to shake their moneymakers in a bar every night. All these are contributing factors, but there is one overriding cause that outweighs all them – there are fewer girls around than there used to be. Prior to the AIDS scare and the Miichai condom campaign, the average Thai family had 7 children – an average of 3.5 girls per family. Now it is just over 3 – an average 1.5 girls per family. So has the condom been a mixed blessing for the Thai bar industry? It's been a good thing in giving punters, not to mention girls, peace of mind about doing the horizontal polka and thereby kept the tourists coming (no pun intended), but equally it has dried up the supply.

Stick to the raisins.

There are a lot of scam stories in Thailand – Western guys losing their hearts to the wrong kind of lady and making stupid business investments or buying a house in her name etc. Stories about problems with visas and not being accepted into Thai society. Feelings I also have about life when I wake up with a bad hangover! But why do we love Thailand? I used to tell my friends that the secret is to "pick the raisins out of the cake." Enjoy the good things about Thailand and ignore the bad things, the same as you do back in Farangland.

After weeks of uncertainty and confusion for bar staff and patrons alike, things have returned to a degree of normality in Hua Hin and most bars are back to 2 AM closing. And if you know where to go there are venues that remain open after 2 AM too :)

The Nana area seems to be doing ok, and the expansion down the soi with beer bars that have sane prices may be in part credited with what seems to be something of a recovery. Bar 4 was packed and the expansion and renovations of other bars along the soi, their efforts are putting a dent into the seedy feel Nana has become over the past couple of years.

From the plaza itself, the gogo girls from Rainbow 1 are dancing in the recently expanded Rainbow 3 on the middle level in Nana Plaza. Rainbow 3 is much more spacious and comfortable than it used to be.

The next event at Black Pagoda, in Patpong's soi 2, has been titled Angels in Heaven and will take place on Thursday, March 24. Like the pretty lady pictured right, here are some nice snaps taken recently of the girls of Black Pagoda.

Popular prison-themed Pattaya gogo bar Alcatraz is fighting the drop off in punter numbers on Walking Street and has started a new happy hour with 60 baht standard drinks between 8 – 10 PM.

The phenomenon of girls returning to their naughty bar base after they have been with a customer is nothing new, but then neither was it that common 10 years ago, at least compared with how prevalent it is today. It's easy to explain it away by saying that the girl simply wants to make more money so it's not unexpected that she returns to the bar to hunt for a new customer. But these days there's a bit more to it… Some popular Bangkok gogo bars are now offering their dancers a financial incentive if they return to the bar after a short-time. I have tried to pry the magic number from bar bosses but they seem reluctant to disclose it. I imagine it is rather more than the 100 baht commission some bars pay the girls on the barfine. Half the second barfine in one night perhaps? Anyone know for sure? The bar bosses seem tight-lipped on this one!

For a long time my favourite bar of its genre, Soi Cowboy's Tilac has succeeded in alienating a number of its regulars. Tilac has quite a following and when I used to be a regular myself you would see the same guys sitting in the same places. And if you were really paying attention, you would have noticed that many usually arrived at roughly the same time and left at the same time. Familiarity with the venue, the staff and even where they sat was all part of the appeal. For several weeks now the venue seems to have had a policy of reserving some of the prime seating for customers who don't arrive until well after happy hour has finished, preventing regular / long-time customers from taking their favourite spot. One night this week no less than 4 tables had reserved signs on them. Do you have to make a booking to get a decent seat at Tilac these days? It's worse when you factor in the girls taking over some seats for themselves for their own private parties – which they enjoy while ignoring customers who may as well be invisible. Speaking of being invisible, one of my pet hates is the way that waitresses constantly check to see if your beer is finished, by picking up the bottle and shaking it; most annoying behaviour. You could never accuse any waitress in Tilac of this – they pretty much ignore you! Tilac continues to do very well, but a number of the regulars are looking elsewhere. Whether they will actually find another venue with such a good happy hour, I have my doubts! These issues have been relayed to one of the Western owners who is sympathetic to customers. As a loooong time Bangkok expat, he said to me, "We know about it, but what can you do?" Unfortunately this is Thailand and he is right!

Snooker superstar Jimmy White will be performing in Bangkok this coming Wednesday, March 23, with an exhibition at The Ball In Hand, near the Rajah Hotel car park in Soi Nana. Exhibition tickets are 1,000 baht or for 4,000 baht you can get a VIP package which includes a pre-exhibition buffet, VIP seating, a signed autobiography, and you will get to meet Jimmy and have a game against a true snooker legend. Doors open at 8:30 and things kickoff at 9:30 PM. For tickets, contact Henning on 081-9178530 or email: [email protected]. Dave The Rave will be attending and is part of the PR team for the exhibition so you might get to meet two legends in one night!

I heard a rumour that one of my favourite Pattaya bars had its quietest day ever earlier this week. I don't see this as a reflection on the venue itself but rather that it is representative of how the profile and demographic of visitors to Pattaya is changing. As I have said a zillion times, Pattaya is rapidly becoming the domain of Middle Easterners, Eastern Europeans and Russians, many of whom have little interest in the venues which have been popular with the traditional Pattaya visitor.

You see some funny signs in Thailand and this one sent in by a reader, photographed on Phi Phi Island, is another for the collection. I'm kind of surprised there's not another entry at the bottom with an inflated price for foreigners!

You've got to laugh at some of the comings and goings in this country and some of the petty corruption that anyone who spends even a short time in the country can't miss. As has been mentioned in this column recently, Thai Immigration has been struggling at certain times of the day / certain days of the week to process both inbound and outbound travelers passing through Bangkok's international airport resulting in some travellers being stuck in queues for up to 2 hours. There is, however, a fast track system in place. Paying 1,600 baht when departing the country can get you fast-tracked through special lanes set up specifically for that purpose. However, how would you feel if you had paid the 1,600 baht fast-track fee, but others were getting essentially the same service for just 200 baht? That's what's happening! Enterprising employees at the airport (they're obviously employed at the airport but whether they are employed by the airport or by an airline or Immigration or whoever remains unclear), are approaching some passengers in the Immigration queues with words that are music to travellers' ears, "Mister, mister, you wanting expless checking?" If you figure out what they are offering, and agree, you are told to put 200 baht inside your passport and are led right to the front of the queue! Corruption in Thailand is a riot – because often, even as a foreigner, you're the beneficiary!

If you complain in Thailand, be it in a hotel, a restaurant, a bar or wherever, you'll probably get best results if you can find a foreigner to explain the problem to. Unfortunately Thais don't tend to take complaints well and with many it goes in one ear and out other, often with a little lip service given. Don't complain and expect to go back a week or two later and see that what you had complained about has been fixed / rectified.

A fixture of Walking Street for as long as I can remember, there's an older, disabled fellow selling flowers on Walking Street from his hand-propelled trishaw with a sign that reads 'These flowers are perfect unlike me…' or words to that effect. Obviously there's money in flowers and he's upgraded from his old a sorry looking tricycle, to a motorized scooter that can perform a nifty no-point turn in the middle of Walking Street. With his flash new motor, I hope he's got a handy supply of red-coloured banknotes to pay off the boys in brown if they pull him over for some imagined traffic infringement!

Parts of "Hangover 2" are set in Bangkok with some scenes filmed in and around Sukhumvit, including Soi Cowboy and Sukhumvit soi 7/1. The movie will be released in the States on May 26. Will it spur a wave of new visitors to Bangkok? Here's the trailer.

With currencies leaping all over the page this week – did you see the Japanese yen go up and then down 5+% in a matter of hours on Thursday morning – the net effect for the Thai baht has been positive. The baht increased in value against almost all Western currencies this week, the one exception being the Swiss franc and anyone changing greenbacks will see that the baht is back to 29.xx – yep, you'll get less than 30 baht to your dollar.

It's all happening over in Cambodia where Thailand's eastern neighbour has put in place a new law that if replicated in Thailand would horrify older Western residents and frequent visitors to the country. Under the new law, foreign men aged over 50 cannot marry a Cambodian woman! Yep, you read that right – foreign nationals 50 years of age or older cannot legally marry a Cambodian woman in Cambodia. And to make matters worse, any foreign man who wishes to marry a Cambodian woman *regardless of age* must show that they earn at least $2,580 per month! When I read this article – on a real news site and not some 2-bit blog with 50 readers a day, but the respected Australian news source, the ABC – I thought it must be some sort of April Fool's Day joke. But it isn't. This is real! Thailand is not known for following Cambodia's lead so I wouldn't expect to see anything like this happening here. I wonder if this will have any effect on the flow of fed up Thai expats heading east, many of whom no doubt have the idea of eventually marrying and settling down with a young Cambodian bride deep in the dark recesses of their mind. It also creates problems for the legions of English teachers in Cambodia, few of whom I imagine meet the minimum income requirements. What is perhaps most worrying about this is not so much the law itself which would be very easy to get around by simply getting married abroad or not registering the marriage at all – as is common in Thailand – but that the Cambodian authorities have put in place a policy that is clearly anti-foreigner – and specifically discriminates against older foreign males. And some people try to convince us that Cambodia is more foreigner friendly than Thailand!



Quote of the week is a headline from The Nation newspaper, "Colder Weather In Thailand Is Caused By Global Warming."

Reader's story of the week is from Akulka, "Unseen Bangkok – Exploring Curious Corners Off The Beaten Track".

The Thai police say it is easier to simply kill your opponent than buy votes to win an election in Thailand.

CNNGo explains how to find the right Thai masseuse and what you should look out for.

A local blogger should be applauded for vigorously taking on those behind the Thailand jet ski scam.

Another Thailand travel warning appeared in the Aussie press.

In this YouTube video a tourist gets his butt kicked by a bunch of Thai girls in Pattaya.

From Fox News and YouTube, a Thai ladyboy singer performs in two different voices!

The Bangkok Podcast interviewed Chris G Moore this week.

The official New Zealand government travel advisory warns travellers about their health when visiting Chiang Mai.

From the Phuket Gazette, an Italian man died of lead poisoning in Phuket 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 am an American and have been married to a Thai woman for 13 years. We have two sons that hold dual citizenship. We also own a house and land. My question is this: If something happened to my wife, would our house chanote be passed on to our son? He is only 11 years old right now. At what age can he legally get the house?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Thai law does not impose an age limit on inheritance, nor is there an inheritance tax. However, for your son to inherit fully, your wife must make a will stating that. If you signed a document stating that the land and house were not purchased with your money and are not part of the marital assets then you would have no right of inheritance. However, if she did not sign this document then, without a will, it would first be 50% yours as a marital asset then the remaining 50% would be distributed equally among the 5 heirs; you, your two sons and her father and mother (if still living). If she was to make a will that gives all assets to your sons and they were marital assets then you could hire a lawyer to sue to reclaim the marital assets.

Question 2: My Thai wife and I have a one-year old son born in Thailand where we live. I am an American citizen. I understand that he may apply for both passports. Does he have to make an "election" at 18 as to which citizenship he will ultimately choose? Or can he maintain both forever?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The Nationality Act of 2551, Section 1414 states that a person of Thai nationality, who was born of an alien father or mother and has acquired the nationality of the father or mother according to the law on nationality of the father or mother, or a person who acquired Thai nationality under Section 12 paragraph two or Section 12 bis (2) and (3) is required, if he desires to retain his other nationality, to make a declaration of his intention to renounce his Thai nationality within one year after his attaining the age of 20 years, according to such forms and in the manner as prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations. If, after consideration of the said intention, the Minister is of opinion that there is reasonable grounds to believe that such person may acquire the nationality of his father, mother, or a foreign nationality, he shall grant permission, except in cases where Thailand is engaged in armed conflict or is in state of war, he may order the dispensation of any renunciation of Thai nationality.

Please note that this is rarely enforced and if your son enters and leaves on his Thai passport it is most likely a non-issue. However, it can never be determined what actions an individual officer may make or that policies may change.

Question 3: I am an American and I have heard that according to the Treaty of Amity between the USA and Thailand that I can own a bar or a restaurant 100% with no Thai partners required. I also read that after I get a certificate from the Thai authorities confirming that my business is covered by the treaty, that this entitles me to be treated the same way as a Thai owner by all local government authorities. Is this true? How does an American go about setting up a business here so that it is covered by the Treaty? How long does it take and does Sunbelt Legal have experience in this area? I have also heard that as part of the negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement between the USA and Thailand, the Thai government has been insisting that the Treaty of Amity be terminated, but that the USA has called off the talks so that the Treaty is still in force. Please confirm.

Sunbelt Legal responds: Under the Amity treaty you can own a bar or restaurant with no Thai partners required and once the certificate is granted you are entitled to the same rights as a Thai owned business. Sunbelt Asia has set up over a thousand Amity Treaty companies and permission from the Board only can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. The Board that approves the applications only meets once a month, so timing would depend on how soon before they meet the application is submitted. However, from start to finish, it can take up to 3 months (including tax and VAT registration) as the necessary paperwork must also be submitted to the US Business Bureau before going to the Ministry of Commerce. Both Thai and US independent offices approve the application so it is a bilateral agreement that is still in force and there has been no insistence on the part of the Thai government to end the treaty.

The Amity Treaty and Economic Relations, was signed in Bangkok on May 29, 1966. The treaty allows American citizens and businesses incorporated in the U.S. to maintain a majority shareholding or to own a company in Thailand in its entirety, thereby engaging in business on the same basis as a Thai national. The Treaty permits American companies to maintain a majority shareholding or to wholly own its company, branch office or representative office located in Thailand. American companies receive national treatment, meaning U.S. firms may engage in business on the same basis as Thai companies, and are exempt from most of the restrictions on foreign investment imposed by the Alien Business Law of 1972. For American companies who wish to be covered by the Treaty of Amity, it is required to have at least 50% American directors and a minimum of 51% of the shares must be held by American citizens.

However, under the Treaty of Amity, Thailand restricts American investment in the following fields of business:
1. Communications
2. Transportation
3. Fiduciary functions
4. Banking involving depository functions
5. Exploitation of land and natural resources
6. Owning land; and
7. Domestic trade in agricultural products.

A limited company in Thailand formed under the Amity Treaty must have at least 3,000,000 baht of registered capital. It is recommended to pay up for 25% of the shares when setting up the company, to show that the business has working capital and has not been set up purely to provide a work permit. Providing you have four Thai employees and 3,000,000 baht of registered capital, you will be able to obtain one work permit through the company.

I receive hundreds of emails every week running the full gamut from kind words of feedback to pleas for advice from lovelorn guys whose relationship is a mess as well as the odd complaint and even a nasty email or two. Every so often I get something from a weirdo and this week one such email came in.

Not Very Smart Calling this Ex navy Seal Black Op a liar mother Fucker !! I Never Lie but I do KICK ASS !!! My Team is searching for You NOW !!! It wont take us Long !!! then we will see who the fag is !!! I also worked with Massad we also have 3 in Country as well !!! I will get the last Laugh !!! They have Already Located You !!! I will Fly in a few Days we will MEET !!! We hit when you Least expect it !!! :-) see you Oneday soon !!! :-) you Euro Faggot It !!! and acourse Your so Smart you put stickman, you were so Easy to Find !!! you think this is my real name ??? (LOL)

Seems like this wannabe mercenary – a Pattaya expat – has me in his sights now and the very future of this column is in danger! If you see a dashing Kiwi doing his best Jonah Lomu impression bolting down the road whilst hotly pursued by Israeli and US special forces, then you have seen me running for my life! Seriously though, I do get a few odd emails and the odd nasty comment. My usual response is blocking email from the sender. If you've emailed me multiple times and haven't received a reply, that might be why!


Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick