Stickman's Weekly Column April 3rd, 2011

Thailand’s Tourism Industry And Scams


Two young foreign guys were cruising around the old part of Bangkok, exploring parts of the city that was their new home. Where the Chao Praya River laps up against the walls of Wat Arun, they watched a foreign couple posing and taking photos of each other, their head poked through the hole of a wooden Thai-style dancer with the face cut out. The couple was about to wander off when they were confronted by some scruffy locals. It was pointed out to them that there was in fact a fee to take photos there. 40 baht was painted at the very bottom, deliberately unclear, in small print. You'd never see it unless you were looking for it and no-one pointed it out until after the fact. The young foreign couple explained that they didn't realise there was a charge and they felt it was deceptive. As such, they wouldn't pay. Voices were raises, threats were made. They were told to pay or face trouble. They paid and hurried off to the pier and back to the other side of the river. Just another farang tourist is scammed in Bangkok.

The two foreign residents watched as other foreigners went to take their photo in the same spot and pointed out to them that there was a charge. They then pointed towards the Thais hiding from the sun in the shadows of a nearby sala. They saved a few foreigners from being ripped off before the scruffy Thais realised what was going on, left the sala and words were said to the two foreign guys. Finding themselves threatened, they decided that it might be wise to follow in the footsteps of others, cross the river and get out of Dodge!

The Wat Arun photo scam is nothing new. Reports suggest that it has been around since the '80s. It continues today.

Many scams highlighted in the early editions of the Lonely Planet and other guidebooks are just as common today as they were a generation ago. Decades on, has anything changed?

Thailand's tourism industry is massive, pulling in billions with 7% of the country's GDP coming from tourism. It's a travesty that long-running scams perpetrated against foreign visitors haven't been eradicated.

Thailand is proud of and promotes its temples, recommending that foreign tourists visit the most important temples. All roads leading to the Grand Palace, the most revered temple in the kingdom.

The Grand Palace is surrounded by numerous dodgy characters. Tuktuk drivers, well-dressed individuals who appear to be businessmen, and even some in official uniforms. They will tell you that the Grand Palace is closed. It isn't. It's a ruse to get you to go elsewhere, often to a shop or on a tour where every purchase you make reaps them a healthy commission. Scammers can be seen telling these lies to tourists while the local constabulary stands nearby, within ear shot. And they do nothing.

For tourists who believe that the temple really is closed, a pitch will be made to lead them elsewhere, often to a jewellery shop. Enter the gem scam.

Tourists are told that that particular day is a special government sale day, one that comes around only once a year. Gems can be bought at bargain prices and sold back in the visitor's homeland at a big profit. It is of course a lie. There is no such holiday. The gems may be fake, or they may be sold at highly inflated prices to those unaware of their real value. Scammers play on the victims' greed and in this particular scam, victims need to take some responsibility for their actions.

It's not just temples where scammers targeting foreign tourists operate. They can often be seen on the walkways around skytrain stations and major shopping centres such as MBK and Central World. Well-dressed and conversant in English, they approach those who look lost, and offer to take them on or arrange a tour to see the sights of the city. The unsuspecting tourist who accepts is then taken on a whirlwind tour to various shops where they will face pressure to buy products of no interest to them. Gem stores, duty free stores or tailors are visited, many of whom are unscrupulous operators offering sky-high commissions to those who bring them customers.

Bangkok may be the home of the worst scams, but they are hardly limited to the capital. Phuket has its share.

The most infamous scam down south these days is the jet ski scam. Jet ski hire is popular on Phuket's beaches. When the jet ski is returned to the beach, the agent will examine it and point out damage which they will allege wasn't there when it was hired out. Pressure will be put on the person who hired it to pay an outrageous sum to repair it, often as much as 100,000 baht. In actual fact the jet ski was damaged before it was hired and / or the cost of the damage may only be a few thousand baht. Threats of police involvement and the foreigner being charged with a crime usually convince the victim to go to the nearest ATM machine, make a massive withdrawal and pay up. The fear of ending up in a local jail is so strong that they pay, notwithstanding that they didn't actually do anything wrong!

The jet ski scam has received such exposure, particularly through the Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand documentary series which followed such widespread condemnation that the Phuket governor got involved. He pledged to introduce compulsory insurance for jet skis but reports that the scam continues today – with the same scammers involved – suggests that this didn't happen. Is the only solution banning jet ski hire entirely?

The sad part about these scams is that they have been around for decades. Hundreds, if not thousands of complaints have been made to police, to hotel staff, to embassies and to other authorities. The police know about it. Tourism operators know about it. The governing bodies know about it. But has anyone done anything about it?! It would seem not. Scams that existed decades ago continue today!

Clearly there are some powerful and highly influential people profiting from these scams. Can we assume that the authorities cannot do anything about it because there are people involved who are more powerful than them?

Thais know that many foreigners are scared of the Thai police and petrified of ending up in a Thai jail. Unscrupulous Thais play on this. If you're ever in a dispute with Thais, at some point they will drop into the conversation that Thai jails aren't nice places, putting nasty thoughts into your mind! They play on the fact that foreign visitors can feel very vulnerable.

But it's not only rip offs that perpetuate, where the same problems continue and where seemingly nothing is done. The suspicious deaths of 6 foreigners and one Thai in a Chiang Mai hotel recently had a similar feel to many tourist scams. The problem continued and those who complained felt they got nothing but lip service from the authorities.

Much effort is made to promote the country but how much is done to genuinely look after tourists once they make it here?

The word is out. Websites cover this nonsense in detail. Guidebooks have highlighted some of these scams for years. The websites of many foreign embassies and consulates in Thailand as well as some Western country's travel advisory websites have warnings about these scams. There are TV documentaries about the problems tourists face in Thailand.

In reputation-conscious Thailand, you'd think this might put a stop to things. But amazingly it hasn't! The same old scams perpetuate!

There are rather a lot of sites of this nature, highlighting scams and other issues in Thailand and here are but a couple:

Big Trouble In Tourist Thailand

Bangkok Scams

A new site with an interesting name launched this week, ThailandTravelTragedies.com. Obviously the work of someone related to the Kiwi girl who was one of 7 who died in mysterious circumstances in the Downtown Inn in Chiang Mai earlier this year.

A few years back, a likeable American posting online under the moniker Club Siam highlighted the problems around the Phra Phrom statue opposite Central World, and exposed the scammers in the area who targeted foreign tourists. A keen photographer, he took photos of the scammers and posted them online. The scammers became aware of this and when they spotted him one day they chased him, forcing him to flee inside Central World. He had been watching them for some time and knew who they were, and showed evidence online that some were law enforcement officers! They surrounded Central World, covered every exit and were in contact with each other, waiting for him to leave. From the inside, he ran through the shopping mall, but at each exit he went to go out of he would see them waiting for him! In the end he had to get the help of shopping centre management and security to smuggle him out of a service exit. He managed to get away without being seen. What they would have done to him had they caught him, I hate to think.

How can you defend the country against its critics when such scams are so common, and when foreign tourists are subjected to the same scams, so brazen that even a blind man can vividly see them for what they are? How can the authorities allow this sort of nonsense to carry on, allowing countless more victims, when they know what is going on and, I don't doubt it, who is behind it?

I am sick and tired of constantly feeling like I have to apologise to friends and family when they visit, and warn them of all the scams they face.

Some countries have an unenviable reputation for all the wrong reasons. Nigeria, Romania….and now Thailand? That's the sort of company the country will be keeping if a genuine attempt isn't made to sort out the scams which are endemic in the country's tourism industry and in which foreign victims struggle to find any genuine assistance from the relevant authorities.

Last week's photo



Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken outside the lane leading down to the Crown Hotel on Sukhumvit soi 29. 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. 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 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 – The farang is crazy!

I ventured to Panthip Plaza to buy the Mrs. a new laptop. After much haggling and cocking about, we eventually settled on an Acer, purchased from one of the central ground floor "legitimate" dealers. I informed the sales clerk that I wanted only legitimate software installed (Windows 7, Microsoft Office etc.) This was met with confusion and amazement, which sent her off to speak to another sales clerk which was followed closely by "farang bah". <The farang is crazyStick> I also informed them that I wanted to see all software items in their sealed packages prior to purchase and I wanted to be present when the software was installed (call me paranoid). My comments were also met with confusion by the Mrs., who informed me she had never had legitimate software installed on any computer, at home or at work (international manufacturing / trading company). She even went on to say that the IT contractor that handled all the PCs in her workplace used nothing but pirated software. What followed was an argument with the Mrs. about me wasting money! It seems pirated software is the norm in Thailand. No wonder they have no respect for the West. They laugh at us paying top price for software when they can get it "cheaper". I don't care. I much prefer the peace of mind knowing my software will work every time, than saving a few bucks on some backyard job. I have a love / hate relationship with Panthip, and much prefer Fortune Centre as a place to browse and relax for a few hours of nerd-ness.

The notion of the good old days a myth?

For several years now I have been quietly bemused by guys who write in purporting that the naughty scene, "ain't what it used to be." For better or worse, I would like to add my views on this subject. As background, I have been here for 11 years, and for the first few years was absolutely addicted to the scene. The candy store was unimaginable! This is just to say that I have extensive experience here, and I still go out 5 nights a week. Grow up guys! You don't exist in a time vacuum, and neither does Bangkok. Things change. Get used to it. You complain about price increases. It's a good bet that if you compared prices at your favourite Farangland pub, the prices would have increased quite substantially as well in the past 10 years. It happens here, too. You'll be a lot happier if you adapt to change, rather than sit around like an old fart and yearn for yesteryear. Secondly, the biggest changes that have occurred are probably in you! You haven't been in a cocoon for the past 10 years. Hopefully you have been experiencing life, learning things, have refined your attitudes toward things etc. You may not even recognise yourself 10 years ago, although Peter Pan never does grow up. The biggest change to have occurred may be with the guy you look at in the mirror every morning. Finally, I would like to express what seems to be a minority view among your readers. I firmly believe that many of the changes have been for the better. Not all, of course, but many. Like so many of your readers, I now visit only Cowboy when out for a naughty evening. It is simply a great place to go. And while the girls are more professional, this point has its good side. They are less likely to be exploited. The good ones – and there are several – know how to take care of a customer very well. I currently have 2 ladies who I see on a regular basis. Both were found in Cowboy bars. They are nothing short of great! As good as or better than any I have had over the years. In fact, they are much better than I am (being old and crippled). One I am supporting; the other I see once or twice a week. Also, the one still at the bar gladly accepts 2,500 baht for a long short time [4 hours]. Get on with it gentlemen (sic), the candy is still there, and with some sympathy and good manners, you can still have a great time.

The chick thieves the chicken!

This week I got robbed by a bargirl while walking home from KFC. She grabbed some of my spicy chicken wings! Actually it was just an attempt to get me into her bar, but I wasn't in any mood to play around so I just let her keep them and started to walk home. She then followed me and asked if I'd take her back to my room. I told her I'd only known her for less than a minute and she's already stolen my chicken. There was no way I was going to take her back to my room so she could steal more of my stuff!


Thai women or Thai ladyboys – find a friend who is perfect for you at ThaiFriendly.com

Bargirl describes bargirls.

I was sitting with a lady at a Sukhumvit sidewalk bar one evening last week when a heated argument broke out between two of the other girls there about some guy. (I later learned he had barfined both of them at various times, and they each thought they had their hooks into him.) The lady I was talking to, a bargirl herself, said about the ruckus, "Bargirls fighting about farang; same as dogs fighting about food." It made me laugh.

Thais mistreating Thais.

I recently tried to book a return economy ticket on Thai Airways for the Mrs. from Bangkok to Brisbane. Total cost was 80,815 baht. I couldn't believe the price! I've never paid that much for a ticket. So I tried booking two separate tickets. Bangkok to Brisbane was 32,100 baht and Brisbane back to Bangkok was 18,834 baht. That’s a saving of over 30,000 baht on the "return" ticket. Thailand's international carrier isn't doing their country any favours charging this price when the likes of Jetstar, Strategic and Air Asia are dropping their prices on Australia / Asia routes. I know there is a rise in the price of jet fuel, but this is well over 30,000 baht in excess of what should be charged for this trip. I ended up using a different airline and got it for 18,000 baht return. The Mrs. was happy as she hates Thai Airways. She says the waitresses (uh, I mean flight attendant) treat Thai females like they're low class.

The Cambodia situation.

Before everyone gets up in arms over the new Cambodian law forbidding marriages between Cambodian women and foreign men over 50, it is important to note the following: Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said, "We are preventing fake marriages and human trafficking," adding that the government was aware of cases, documented by rights groups, where Cambodian women were sent into prostitution or "used as slaves" in their husband's home country. Cambodia imposed a temporary ban on foreign marriages in 2008 to prevent human trafficking, amid concern over a sharp rise in the number of brokered unions involving South Korean men and poor Cambodian women. That ban followed an International Organisation for Migration report that said many Cambodian brides suffered abuse after moving to South Korea in marriages hastily arranged by brokers who made large profits. So, fat western slobs in t-shirts, relax! It is only your North Asian cousins the government is worried about. Besides, you only have to leave the country with your fiancée and get married elsewhere as the law only pertains to marriages within the country.

I opened my eyes this week and Bangkok was quiet, real quiet. What's going on? Bars seem to be quiet and it's not like the Songkran exodus has happened yet – that won't start until next weekend. I hear from a number of hotel owners in and around Sukhumvit that occupancy rates aren't what they would expect at this time of year and there seems to be fewer people around, at least in central areas like Sukhumvit. I could be wrong, but that's how it seems to me.

And speaking of business being down, I made it down to soi 33 this week where things are grim. A casual visitor may think the soi was doing well – most bars have a handful of pretty ladies outside beckoning passers by inside. But when you go inside, you might be the only one there – meaning each venue only has a handful of girls! Perhaps soi 33 is typified best by The Office which once had 70+ girls, but these days probably doesn't even have 20. The two venues doing the best trade seem to be Mojos, which features live music and pretty coyote dancers – and the perennial soi 33 favourite, The Office. There is a common theme with these two bars – both are run by Aussie Bob. I don't know what his secret is but other bar owners in the soi haven't figured it out.

Business is so bad on soi 33 that one street-front bar is offered for sale for just a million baht – including all the fixtures and fittings! 1,000,000 baht for a bar is peanuts. Yep, that's how bad business is.

But despite business being down in some Sukhumvit neighbourhoods, investors are lining up to join the industry. The new Russian gogo bar mentioned a couple of weeks back that is set to put Sukhumvit soi 12 on the naughty boy's map now has a sign outside and will be called White Lioness. Two large concrete lion heads are on either side of the entrance. You don't have to be patient for much longer because by the time the next Stickman weekly is published, White Lioness should have opened. With white women offering a new flavour and some serious investment sunk into it, I'm intrigued to see the finished version.

It looks like Molly Malone's will be under new ownership soon. Despite rumours that the format will change, the group interested in picking it up has mentioned that if they take ownership it will stay much the same – and no change of theme is planned.

I notice many venues have increased food prices and many venues have new menus. The Big Mango Bar in soi 4 has raised prices which was overdue – their pricing has always been very reasonable. Their famous burger has gone up to 120 baht – still a bargain – and many other dishes are around the 250 baht mark. Let's be fair, their prices are still very reasonable. There's a new bloke in charge with the ex-manager from Sports Academy now calling the shots.

A foreigner is sleeping rough and hanging around the top of Sukhumvit soi 18. He's a tall Caucasian with a filthy beard and dirt caked on his feet and hands. His face is relatively clean and he seems to have enough money for cigarettes so his situation doesn't seem precarious. What I presume are his possessions sit beside him in 7 Eleven bags. Sniffing a story, I was tempted to strike a conversation up with him, but there's a look in his eyes that suggested that that might not be such a good idea. He seems to be quite happy engaging Thais in conversation but he sneers at his foreigners. He doesn't seem to be begging, just living it rough.

Despite their bad reputation and all the trash many customers talk about them, plenty of bargirls do have a heart and there are plenty of honest girls out there. A reader emailed me this week asking if I could ask around the mamasans of soi 4 if any of them had discovered the mobile phone of a drunken Englishman who had had a night out on the town and arrived home without his flash mobile. I told him that in addition to not having the time, I expected that the phone had either found itself a new owner or been traded in at a pawn shop. The fellow asked one of his mates to go and look for it and lo and behold it was being held in a bar for him should he return. Nice!

Reports in the newspapers highlight the ongoing problems mobile phone operators face getting 3G mobile phone infrastructure and networks set up in Thailand, all of which suggest that 3G is not available. Actually, 3G has been available for some time in Thailand – but only in central parts of Bangkok (and central Pattaya) with a True SIM card and 3G account. So will any phone with a True SIM inserted in central Bangkok allow you to use 3G? I believe not! It's all rather confusing. As best as I understand, to access the 3G network with True, you need to be specifically set up for it and just having a True SIM card and a 3G-enabled phone is not enough. To get set up, you need to go to a True shop – which are everywhere – and get a 3G account set up. The standard deal on offer is 699 baht for a monthly, post-paid account. For that you get UNLIMITED 3G 'net access for the month plus 350 minutes free calling time to any network, any time. If you want the SIM exclusively for net access then True have a USB dongle for around 2,000 baht. Usually when you sign up to deals like this in Thailand you need a work permit and sometimes even a guarantor. For this True 3G deal, all you need is your passport. There is a minimum term of three months and you will be billed monthly. What I found surprising is that you do not have to pay a single baht to get the account up and running. Once signed up you can walk out of the store and use it right away, which in my experience is rather unusual here. So where in Bangkok does 3G work? It certainly works near the skytrain and upmarket shopping malls. Further out in the suburbs, I just do not know. If you're using it as your primary Internet connection at home, it may pay to check that you have 3G access in your area, otherwise it will default to the slower GPRS / EDGE standard.

New hotels have been popping up all over Bangkok and there are thousands of new beds in the city. Hotels really are competing for your hard-earned. Town Lodge, an advertiser on this site, is keen to secure your business and is offering 10 rooms for 900 baht as a summer special, running until the end of August. This is for the room only – no breakfast included – but it does include free wi-fi access. That's a bargain for a clean, Western-owned and run hotel on Sukhumvit.

For German speaking readers, the German version of Private Dancer is now available as an e-book and can be ordered online via Amazon.

In last week's column I mentioned that in New Zealand some Thai eateries have this curious habit of sprinkling cashew nuts on the top of a chicken and cashew nuts dish immediately before serving as opposed to frying the cashew nuts with the other ingredients – and asked why this was. From a Thai chef in New Zealand comes an explanation. If a bunch of cashew nuts are placed on top of the dish, they're the first thing you see and you don't think about what is down below. It's something of a visual trick. Sounds the same as what katoeys do – stack the top so you don't look at the bottom.

Wherever I look and wherever I go, I am convinced that there are more and more white women in Bangkok these days. You see them in shopping malls, restaurants, expat pubs – just about everywhere. They seem to be single for the most part, ranging in age from early 20s to 50s. There's no doubt in my mind that there are more Westerners moving to Bangkok and a lot more younger guys than you saw in the past. I am convinced that the number of Western women making the move is on the up too.

For those who know how to download torrents and who have an interest in programmes about Thailand, the documentary which screened on the BBC this week titled, " Thailand Tourism And The Truth" is available by torrent.

There's a guy from British Sky 1 in town looking for someone for a travel programme on different and interesting sights / people in Bangkok. Basically an expat who has personality, energy and knows the city! If you know anyone who might fancy themselves here is his email and contact no: [email protected] Tel: 028500758.

I went for a wander through Nana Plaza this week during the day time – the first time I have done that in months. The beer bars in the middle have a weird feel that changes the atmosphere of the area more than you'd think. Many months after the ground floor of Nana was transformed from beer bars to nothing to beer bars again, I wonder how much of an effect the change has had on the plaza. They don't look right and feel out of place.

I am often asked why I would even consider leaving paradise and what could possibly drive me to want to return to the West. The answer is easy. It's the lack of real freedoms, and that feeling of being emasculated – and the massive hit that my pride takes because of that. What happened to a friend this week represents why I struggle at times to keep a brave face here in Bangkok. A pal is a teacher in rural Thailand, a good teacher. He enjoys teaching and genuinely cares about his students and takes the job seriously. He genuinely wants to teach. He was therefore surprised when after a number of years at the same school he received a letter informing him that he was surplus to requirements. He was disappointed but quickly managed to secure another job at a nearby school. Aware of Thailand's labour laws which clearly state that anyone laid off must be compensated accordingly – with the compensation set by statute, he sent a polite letter to the school informing them that he was entitled to 6 months severance pay. Thai labour law is very clear. An employee can be let go for ANY REASON WHATSOEVER, but the employer must pay severance pay as outlined in the statute, and as you'd expect, the longer one has been with the company, the higher it is. My pal was entitled to 6 months. But the school had no intention of paying up. First of all they were astounded that he even knew about this law and question him on it, saying that he was not supposed to know about it! Next they called the new school where he is due to start and threatened to start a disinformation campaign about both my friend and the new school if he did not agree to cease and desist immediately from pursuing the money owed to him! In reputation conscious Thailand, the new school obviously did not need that, and so he was called in by his new employer and told to stop what he was doing, or he would not be teaching there! He was in the right, so to speak, but as he needed the new job he was forced to go back to his old school and sign a paper saying that he would not take my claims against that school. Needless to say he was utterly humiliated! On top of that his wife, who is completely cowed by legal matters, expressed her sentiments by asking why he was causing problems! Receiving his monthly pay cheque always trumps any other concern it seems. So much for moral support on the home front. I don't doubt that the first school would never have done this if the complainant was Thai but with foreigners they feel they have leverage – and in some ways they do. I'd love to think my pal would have gone to the Labour Office and sought the money owed him and then filed charges for exaction and slander had the original school talked untoward of him. I'd like to think that's what I would have done. But this is Thailand and if you pursue matters like that against a Thai, things can escalate and get nasty…

It was unseasonably cold again in Bangkok this week. The Thais were wrapped up and plenty of office girls on the streets of Bangkok not only had on a jacket, but more than a few had a scarf wrapped around their neck. Even the soi dogs put on their winter outfit. Boy oh boy, this weather is weird, and unlike nothing I've experienced at this time of year.

Quote of the week comes from a reader in Phuket, "One talks to people here one would walk five miles to avoid back home."

Reader's story of the week comes from Bohica and is the wonderfully written, "Flipped Out".

The Thai prime minister predicts the Thai baht is heading towards 23 baht to the US dollar!

A Thailand tourist attraction accused of cruelty to animals is getting plenty of bad press.

A British builder working in Thailand is attacked by some bikers and killed.

The antics of Pattaya bargirls and Indian naughty boys have graduated from Pattaya's press to the Bangkok Post.

Three Thai street kids have been offered a new life in New Zealand.

Foreigners seem to be queuing up to pay to volunteer to teach monks at Thai temples.

The Thai police are looking into a sex lottery operating in Ayuthaya.

At a bar in northern Thailand, there's an unusual business model and the working girls are the owners.

A study in northern Thailand shows of those infected with HIV, 53% got claim to have got it from their husband or wife!

Unseasonably bad weather caused 15,000 tourists to be trapped on islands in southern Thailand 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: A while back an ex-acquaintance of the 'short-time' variety showed me a picture of a little boy that she said could possibly be mine. I've kept in contact over the last four years and made some small but reasonable payments to keep the peace. I've tried to establish the true situation in a variety of ways but know really that a DNA test is the only sure solution. However, a close friend has now suggested that if the boy is mine, the family can make an awful lot of problems asking for a sizeable retrospective settlement through the legal system. I've offered a reasonable amount if the boy is mine and will make no problems if it turns out the boy isn't. The unofficial advice I get is not to test and that way there is nothing the family can do but that is unfair on the boy. What is the situation?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Legally if she cannot prove you are the father then you have no obligations. Retroactive payments are not imposed and past payments are not indicative of acknowledging fatherhood. A DNA test to prove fatherhood would be the only acceptable indicator to Thai courts when determining future child support and that is based on what the child's lifestyle would be like were he living with his father.

The mother could file a lawsuit against the person she believes to be the father to request child support and acknowledgement of fatherhood of the child. The court may request a DNA test on the child and the prospective father. If the result came back that the man was the father of the child then the case would continue in court until child support etc was determined. If it turned out that the man was not the father of the child then the case would be dismissed.

Some men may have a different set of morals than you so the best determination is what you feel is the right choice.

Question 2: I would like to ask you for some advice or the best way to resolve the situation that I am in. I am a part owner of a business in Koh Samui. It is owned by myself and two other parties which own 49% and the other 51% is Thai owned but have no rights in the day to day running of the business. I want to resign from the company as one of the other parties I believe has been withholding information about company accounts etc. I do not want to be held responsible for any of the debts or any other monetary matters that might affect me as I am a shareholder in the company in the future. Do you know the best way to resolve this or of anyone who can assist me in this process? I just want to know really what is the best way to resign and step down from the company.

Sunbelt Legal responds: The simplest answer is to resign as a director and then your liability as a shareholder is limited to the registered capital of the shares you invested in. Even as a shareholder you can have access to audits and are allowed to attend meetings.

Question 3: An accountant says that for Thai tax purposes, my Thai wife needs to add her income on top of mine in order to figure out which tax rate to use. So in our case, she would now have to pay 37%, the top marginal rate, on her income! This is a huge penalty for getting legally married. (I've already filed my Thai tax return separately.) In the US, if you're married, you can chose to file either a joint return or separate returns, in which case, the income of one spouse does not affect the tax rate of the other. So, what are the Thai rules?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Thailand also allows married couples to choose either a joint return or separate return.

Question 4: My wife, a Thai citizen, and I were married in California. We separated 15 months ago and she has been living in Thailand. She has informed me that she has found someone new and would like to get a divorce ASAP so she can marry her new "Mr. Right". It will take at least 6 months to get a divorce in California. Is it possible for her to file in Thailand at her local amphur? There are no children or other complications.

Sunbelt Legal responds: She can file for divorce in Thailand but because the marriage took place overseas it must go through the court system. And while you can use an attorney for the filing, you must be present at the actual judgment in order for the marriage to be legally terminated.


Is it me or are things slow across the board at the moment? The bars seem down in trade, shopping malls don't seem to have as many people in them and even on Friday night, the day after pay day, the streets of Bangkok were not snarled up in grid lock, at least not in my part of town. Not that I am complaining – it is nice when things are a bit quieter!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick