It's late on a Wednesday, well after midnight, and you've got ringside seats, the front row at Angelwitch. There's a guy sitting next to you telling you all about his life in Bangkok, but you can't quite work him out. He speaks Thai well and has obviously been here a few years. It's very late and he is in no hurry to get some, so odds are he isn't a teacher. His stubble is a few days old and he is just a little too shabbily dressed to be on an expat package. But the guy has plenty about him. He's well dressed, talks about Bangkok with the confidence and authority of a local, and that Rolex on his wrist was bought in New York or London, not Patpong. So just what does this fellow barfly living the life in Bangkok do?
Bangkok's expat populace is burgeoning and more Westerners are working here. Employment opportunities for foreigners aren't plentiful. There are expat positions for experienced professionals, teaching positions for real teachers as well as those who haven't set foot in a classroom since they left school at 15. You can set up or buy a business. There are always openings for diplomats and NGO workers but these professional positions aside, what other opportunities exist for Westerners keen to live the Bangkok lifestyle – but who need an income to do so?
Naughty Bar Manager
Despite their popularity, the number of foreigners managing naughty bars in Bangkok is surprisingly small. The number is in fact so small that most know, or know of, each other.
Most gogo bar managers in Thailand first started in the naughty boy trade in Thailand and I can't think of anyone in the industry who managed a similar establishment in the West. There are plenty who owned such establishments in the West and now own similar here.
So how does one secure the dream job where they perve at pretty semi-naked Thai girls all night, every night?
Getting a job in the industry seems to come down to luck, being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right people. The job is less about being a manager, more about being a meter and greeter, engaging the customers and making sure they are happy. There are also the control issues, making sure the till balances at the end of the night and reporting to the owners. It's a challenging job on more than one front and keeping alcoholism at bay seems to be a challenge.
Naughty bar managers are paid a moderate salary, the band for foreigners managing a naughty bar is 40,000 – 150,000 baht, with most around the 60,000 baht a month mark. The 150k figure is the highest confirmed salary I know of a foreigner being paid, made up of a base salary of 70K baht and the rest paid bonus. The highest salaried gogo bar managers I know of earn 100,000 baht a month. OK money, enough to have a pleasant life.
But more than anything, while it might be fun for a few months, the lifestyle seems to be hard on naughty bar managers, they struggle to hold down a relationship, some become alcoholic and with the notable exception of Larry at Secrets, joining the bar business accelerated the aging process.
Whereas bar managers aren't always considered professionals, restaurant managers are. Be it an expat pub or the steakhouse in a 5-star hotel, restaurant managers seem to get a lot more respect than those managing a naughty bar.
Bangkok has a reasonable number of Westerners working as restaurant managers, as distinct to foreigners in the kitchen of which there are many.
Expat pubs usually look at local hires, but the better hotels and higher end dining rooms often recruit from abroad and generally require experience in similar big name establishments around the world. With that said, if you are lucky, you might just stumble upon such a position here if the Gods are looking fondly upon you.
The salary in expat pubs, some of which are as much about serving food as they are about pulling pints, tend to be around the 100k baht a month mark. A fair salary and enough for most people to get ahead on. In higher end establishments, the salary for managers can get close to or even exceed 200,000 baht per month.
Financial advisors – often pension salesman earning a commission – used to be the bane of expats. Even when I was a only paid teacher earning not much more than 30,000 baht a month I had these guys calling me (where did they get my name and number?) trying to convince me how terrible my life would be if I didn't start saving now. Revealing to them what I earned soon ended the conversation!
Often affiliated with British financial houses like Prudential, they are agents selling the various financial products offered for which they receive a commission. The more you commit to and the longer you commit to, the more they make. Hence some have a propensity for selling you way more than you want or can afford. Many operated outside of any regulation and their advice was often errant. Of course there are pros out there, but how does the layman know who is who?
In its heyday some 10 odd years ago, I remember financial advisors averaging commissions around 100K baht a month. A decade ago that went a long way in Bangkok and could provide a fun life, but it doesn't go nearly as far today.
The barriers to entry seem low and it simply seems to be the case of selling the products of a firm. A shirt, a tie and the gift of the gab help, but I wonder how easy it would be to convince people to part with their hard-earned in the current economy and with all the crap reported about financial institutions in recent years?!
Webmaster / Blogger / Netrepreneur
There are absolutely no barriers to entry and anyone can start their own website. The difficulty new entrants face is that most of the key niches have big players which have built up a brand name – a key part of being successful in business. No matter how hard anyone tries, overcoming Ajarn.com – the dominant player in the English teacher sector – is going to take a huge amount of effort and quite possibly a lot of money to get a flash site up and going. Even then, Ajarn.com is so dominant that it might be near impossible to mount a genuine challenge.
The potential rewards of doing well with an Internet presence are massive. Thailand's biggest discussion forum makes around half a million baht a month and it's nowhere near reaching its full potential. There are other online operators which do even better.
Every man and his dog has an internet presence these days and with some high profile sites looking more like a banner makers' convention than a website, it's obvious that some are making good money.
In terms of income possibility, the sky really is the limit. The bonus with websites and what differentiates a netrepreneur from the other employment options here is that not only is there income, you're creating a web presence, essentially building a business which one day you could sell – and that might be one nice pay day.
Guys doing 'net stuff need the drive to do something themselves. They don't have anyone to report to or answer to but have the get up and go to just on with it.
The great thing about a website is that it allows you to work the hours you want and just as importantly, from where you want. These two reasons alone make me think that more and more Westerners in Thailand will run websites as opposed to seek employment with someone else.
Middlemen / Agents
There are many guys who have set themselves up as agents or middlemen, although they probably prefer to call themselves a consultant which gives off warm fuzzies and suggests they're an expert in their field.
Agents may do anything from being local fixers, who can help you with any problems such as legal issues, or they might have something as simple as a travel agency where they book tickets for you and simply slap on a commission.
There are a lot of genuine experts out there like Sunbelt, and some of the visa consultants. These guys are genuine experts in their field and offer a comprehensive service.
What sort of money these guys make, I do not know, but like the financial advisors, it's commission because if they don't get customers, they don't make any money. As such it might be better suited to supplementing one's income, rather than being your primary source.
Investor / Day Trader / Forex Markets Player
Investing is a great way to make money in Thailand because managing one's own investments online is NOT considered work. You can do this and not concern yourself with work permit and other official requirements, unlike all of the other employment options listed here.
Those in this game tell me it takes at least a year, and often quite a lot longer, to get up to speed and reach the point where you can actually make a living from managing your investments. It doesn't matter whether you're a day trader, playing currency pairs or what, it takes a lot of time.
You need a decent wedge of cash to play with and those who are genuinely successful pour over business publications in print and online and sit in front of their computer for as long as anyone working 9 – 5, ready to react, or try and anticipate what the markets will do next.
Do you have the nerves of steel required to make it work in this current market? Trading currency pairs is one thing, but day trading seems to be quite a gamble these days. Speaking of gambling…
Things To Avoid
There are those making money through other means, some of which fall into a very grey area with regards to the law.
Gambling is illegal in Thailand, as is online gambling, but that doesn't seem to stop some. There are gamblers – they all seem to be Americans in their late 20s or 30, who claim to make 200,000 – 400,000 baht per month from it. Seems like good money, but you're flirting with the law.
It might be possible to buy fake football shirts or pharmaceuticals on the streets of Bangkok, but this is, in fact, illegal business. Just because you can buy them here doesn't mean it's legal, and if you then decide to sell them abroad, you're getting involved in an activity that might come back to haunt you. Yes, there are plenty doing it and no doubt some are doing well, but these things can unravel. And in a worst case scenario, you might face charges not just in Thailand, but abroad, possibly in the USA! Google "British Dragon Pattaya" for what can happen to those who get involved selling pharmaceuticals across international borders.
There are many options to make money in Thailand. What avenue you choose to walk down is up to you…
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken within the hallowed grounds of Chulalongkorn University, widely considered the finest place of higher education in all of Thailand. 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 Duke's Express voucher MUST be redeemed by June 2012. The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. 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 – failure to do so results in the prize going to the next person to get the photo right.
Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.
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 – Pattaya needs the gallows!
I have not set foot in Walking Street at night for at least 4 years. Poor value for money, girls with bad attitudes, and I feel like I am on display in a zoo being gawked at by Chinese and Middle Eastern tourists. It looks as if the naughty area is being pushed closer and closer to Third Road which is not a bad thing in my opinion. Pattaya may be attempting to be a family destination, but it is not family-friendly with its traffic, pollution, drugs, prostitution, crime and dirty beach. I read the Pattaya papers online daily and what I think Pattaya needs is the gallows set up at Bali Hai Pier where weekly executions could take place. Pattaya seems to have an unending supply of criminals, both local and farang, and public executions draw a big crowd in countries where they take place. Possibly this would help to keep people from thinking of Thailand as a sex tourist destination.
The changing face of Pattaya.
The Tourist Authority of Thailand targeted Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese tourists and the results are now being reaped. Two bar owners I know with bars in totally different areas tell me that last month was the worst they have experienced. They both have the same analysis: the Middle Easterners largely don't go in bars, the Chinese are escorted all the time and simply go where they are taken (the massage place on Beach Road almost next to the Hard Rock must make millions, and I mean UK pounds, each year, as every day busloads of Chinese and Korean are deposited there), the Russians aren't really bar drinkers (buying food and drink in 7 Eleven and then going to their rooms) and the Indians are either families with hen pecked looking husband or groups of Indian men. It is the latter that raise the ire of most bar and hotel owners I know. They seem to come in groups of 5 or 6, book one room, all stay in it, and try to buy one Coke in a bar and share it out over a period of hours. I have seen suggestions that the targeting of the market in India somehow went astray and the groups of men we see wandering about are relatively low income earners who are getting a cheap foreign holiday for the first time, rather like working class Brits going to Majorca back in the mid / late 1960s. If you look closely, you think there might be something in this view as they also tend to have one thing in common – being dressed in cheap clothes. Somebody is making money out of them though – Hotel Soi Honey Inn has been replaced by Soi Honey Inn massage parlour where busloads of Indian men are delivered daily to its doors.
Why Indians aren't popular part 1.
On the subject of Indians in bars, your well-to-do Melbourne correspondent is probably the exception rather than the rule. I have a good lady friend who works in one of the so-called better gogos in Phuket which gets its fair share of all types through the door, including Indians. She was talking about them last week and says she got a tip from one, a red 10 rupee note. Looking at the exchange rate, that's 6 baht 50 satang at today's rate! I told her that I hoped she didn't spend too long with the tight-fisted twat as he didn't buy her a drink. As a consequence, she is not exactly lining up to attend to the next Indian who walks in.
Why Indians aren't popular part 2.
A mamasan told me that she had instructed her girls not to go with Indian men after more than one occasion a girl had arranged for a fee to go to an Indian's room, only to get there and find that for the agreed fee she was expected to do him whilst his 4 or 5 friends watched, and then do each of them in turn, all for the one fee! Anybody who doubts the possibility of this being true only needs to trawl back 1 or 2 months in the Pattaya Mail to find the story of the 4 or 5 Indian men who agreed a fee of 700 baht, I think it was, for a katoey to see to them all in their room. Once they arrived there the katoey suggested they have a relaxing drink first, slipped them a Mickey Finn, and fled with their money, watches and phones!
How to keep the wait staff on their toes.
You were right on with your comments about the "service" staff at Tilac. I walked in last night and it was fairly crowded. I usually grab the first available seat I can find, and as luck would have it, I found myself sitting on the right side, the first table by the door. Having had to shove my way past a couple of the wait staff to get to my seat, I assumed that they knew I was there and obviously wanted a drink. Nope. Fortunately, a rather large waitress was hanging out nearby, chatting with some of the girls. Since I'm not exactly shy, I had no problem getting her to bring me a beer, or so I thought. She disappeared for a few minutes, and then returned with my check. No beer! After placing the check in front of me she realised the reason for her trip to the bar in the first place, and decided to return for my beer. I do have a tip for those that want the wait staff to stay attentive to their needs – have one of the girls sit with you. Two of the girls came and sat down with / on me, and the same chubby waitress hounded me constantly, obviously trying to get me to buy lady drinks.
Germany, destination for naughty boys!
You have regularly mentioned the changing faces of the p4p crowd and how white men are seen less and less. From a German perspective, I think that can be attributed to a few things, including of course the ongoing political strife and recent violence. Germans probably come a solid second to the Japanese when it comes to safety issues when they travel. There is another possible factor why German men may not travel to Thailand for their naughty fun, and that is the fact that things have gotten cheaper here. In the last couple of years a number of brothels have switched to an all-inclusive price where you pay a cover charge and enjoy as many women as you would like, all on the premises. The cover charge is usually in the range of 100 Euros, and I'm told that a usual tip for the women is only 10 Euros or so. One of these opened up not far from where I live and they openly advertise a 40 Euro cover charge and 40 Euros for each woman you decide to accompany you to a room. Have as many as you please over the night. Compare that to the price of a trip to Thailand with flights, hotels, meals, and the girls, and I can see why a guy might just stay home and have a night out once or twice a week.
The Plague danger.
The rodent problem in Bangkok can actually be compared to a recent event. No need to go back to the Middle Ages in Europe but only to Surat, India in 1994. There was an outbreak of plague that killed 52 people, sent hundreds of thousands fleeing in panic and was a financial disaster of epic proportions. People ceased visiting India and Indians were unwelcome as visitors outside India. If by some misfortune a visitor to Thailand should introduce fleas carrying yersinia pestis then a similar disaster could strike Thailand. Goodbye tourists. Goodbye garment trade. Goodbye gems buyers. Quite possibly goodbye exports etc.
Speculation about Nana Plaza's future is hotting up even though the current leases have 16 months remaining. Yep, it seems some people really are that crazy about the plaza! Anyway, to confirm a few facts, the seller has raised the asking price from 850,000 baht a square wah to a cool million baht! One group which has shown interest in the land is a public land company and they certainly do not want to get their hands dirty being landlord to the type of businesses that are currently there. However when looking at other options for the land, there is an argument that it isn't viable to develop a condo because of the constraints outlined in the Building Control Act which limits the height of the building based on the width of the entrance and the size of the land, as well as how far the plot is from the main road. What this means is that the maximum area a condo development on the Nana Plaza plot could be is 30,000 square metres which, I am told, just wouldn't make it economically viable. There are other options and the possibility of a hotel replacing the plaza is an option still being explored.
As soon as I heard about it, I just knew it would be a success and I was right. The school girls' nights on Friday and Saturday at DC10 in Nana Plaza are not just getting people talking, but getting punters through the door. The devil in me wonders if there are (m)any Bangkok school teachers who hit DC10 those nights? It's one thing for a school teacher to go to the bars – in my teaching days myself and colleagues did it often enough – but to go to a bar on a night there is a well-publicised promotion with the girls dressed up as school girls. Hmmm…
Will the school girl uniform promotion remain? DC10 has just been snapped up by the Billboard group, that is the owners of Billboard, Las Vegas and Angelwitch. Whether they will change things in DC10 or leave them as they are remains to be seen.
The Arab is extending Soi Cowboy bar Déjà Vu which looks like it will become his biggest, and possibly flagship gogo bar. With Apache Coyote losing their gogo licence, The Arab picked it up for a song and has extended Déjà Vu all the way through the space which was once Apache Coyote to the wall of Five Star.
I went off two of Cowboy's hot spots, Sheba's and Suzy Wong's, some time back. Fussy me, the attitudes of the girls in each bar had deteriorated and in the case of Suzy Wong's, the venue needed a new name with perhaps Rover's Kennel being more appropriate. But it's only fair to give such venues a second chance, something I did this past week, and I can report that each has an ok line up with the selection at Sheba's being easy on the eye. The advantage these two venues have over other bars in Cowboy is the more expansive view.
Work on the upstairs area of Demonia, the fetish bar in Sukhumvit soi 33, is completed and it looks great. There's a Japanese room (why is it that all fetish houses seem to have one of these?), a nurses' room plus lots of interesting equipment. As Dean Barrett put it, so many bars on soi 33 are hurting for customers while the one venue doing well is hurting its customers!
How many of the dancers in Tilac have a butterfly belt buckle? The dancers' uniforms are standard but girls have freedom to wear any style boots so long as they are white in colour, and any belt buckle. A good few have chosen a belt with a butterfly buckle. Most appropriate!
Speaking of Tilac, that #58 is a real cutey, but from all account happens to be a starfish. Don't mistake her for #158 though who seems to be a few chilies short of a good som tam.
You hear some whacky stories from the industry and I heard a rumour this week from a trusted source about a Pattaya gogo bar which is said to be offering free boob jobs for any girls who want to make themselves more attractive to customers. I imagine that there's a catch i.e. the lady has to work in the venue for a year either before or after getting them done but for sure, in Pattaya this IS plausible!
Popular Kiwi expat author John Daysh has left 70 copies of his novel, "Illicit Island" at one of his favourite bars, Crazy Girl Bar in Queens Park Plaza. Purchase a drink and a lady drink and you are entitled to request a copy of the book free. There's a limit of one book per customer. The bar has a nice mix of friendly staff but low pressure. It also features a free pool table and is one of the bars that is open until dawn most days.
Titanium, the live music come upmarket hostess bar about 100 metres or so up Sukhumvit soi 22 still features that excellent girl band which plays such classics as Big Runga's "Sway". Titanium once had the reputation for being expensive but prices don't seem to have moved and these days it really isn't much dearer than most gogos in Cowboy or Nana – and the premium prices you pay for drinks gets you decent entertainment and less hassles. A Jack+ Coke runs 180 baht, making it 20 – 40 baht dearer than most Bangkok gogos, and on a par with the Arab's Cowboy bars. Local beers run around 150 baht. And if you're on a budget, it's buy 1 get 1 free on local beers and some spirits before 10 PM. Just remember that not all the girls in Titanium go, some go but won't do anything, and it'll cost you 1,600 baht to have a lady accompany you out of the bar. At the weekend the barfine is an awfully steep 3,000 baht, but that is obviously not nearly high enough to put some off. A fellow described to me as a distinguished English gentleman barfined two girls at Titanium this past weekend, paying 3,000 baht a pop, which of course entitles him to nothing more than the right to leave the bar with them. He paid the money and they went to change. He then went to the loo and upon exiting the toilet left the bar, seemingly having forgotten he had just barfined two hotties! Maybe he had had too much fish sauce on his fried rice and it screwed up his memory? If you are looking for something different, Titanium makes a nice change from the same old routine you're used to elsewhere.
One of the things I like most about living in Bangkok is that you never know what's going to happen, or what you might see. Sometimes you think you've seen it all and then something you could not possibly imagine happens. I had one of those moments this week. An old guy with bad legs and a walking stick was staggering along Sukhumvit, begging. He asked me for 1 baht, a very reasonable request and I put my hand in my pocket. OK, so beggars are hardly an uncommon sight, but what set this guy apart from others is that he had 2 young kittens clinging to his back and shoulders for dear life! They were clinging to him, wailing, but hanging on as he ambled along. It really was the weirdest thing!
The Filipino con artists are at it again in Siam Paragon, MBK and around that area. It seems they have moved on from Pratunam and around Panthip Plaza where they were known to approach and con Western tourists. Their typical MO is to use a woman to approach a Western tourist and engage him in conversation with friendly, seemingly innocuous chit chat. But it's anything but innocuous as they ask strategic questions to find out more about you and to ascertain if you are a tourist, and if you are, if you have plenty of money. In the past their cohorts patrolled parts of Panthip and Sukhumvit, attempting to collect "donations for poor children" which is just another ploy. There's the "relative going to another country" scam which was prevalent a few years back and in some cases they would try and convince someone to visit a friend of theirs here in Bangkok which almost always ended up putting the victim in a gambling situation – and no good can come of that. They seem friendly but really, seldom does any good come from strangers showing this much interest to you in a foreign country. Please be aware of these Filipino scammers – they really are bad news. If they approach you in a shopping mall, even the area immediately outside, inform security so they can be identified. The funny thing is that when it comes to *foreigners* up to no good on Thai soil, Thai security can be remarkably efficient!
There's a big party at Heaven Above in Pattaya this coming Friday – details below!
Clubhouse in Sukhumvit soi 23, a few hundred metres up the soi from the main Sukhumvit road, is a nice looking expat pub with decent tucker. Its location a few minutes' walk beyond the neon-lit craziness of Cowboy means less foot traffic passing by than other expat pubs in the area, so management is looking at ways to entice customers through the door – and have devised some nice promotions. On Sundays between 5 and 8 PM they have BINNGO, where you pluck an egg from a basket and have a chance to win free drinks and other prizes. On Thursday it's ladies night with free Mai Tais and Margaritas for ladies between 5 and 8 PM and then it's buy 1 get 1 free for various other drinks for the rest of the night for all customers. It's 1/2 price burgers on Tuesdays; in fact there's a promotion every day. And they even imported a chef all the way from Canada. If you're keen to try out another expat pub, Clubhouse makes a nice change.
The Rugby World Cup starts this coming Friday and runs for the next 6 and a bit weeks. Where are the best places to catch it? Probably the first consideration is whether you want to watch it amongst like-minded individuals, which probably means your fellow countrymen. For the major rugby playing nations, the New Zealand pubs include Soi 8 pub in Sukhumvit soi 8 and Wall Street in Sukhumvit soi 33. For the Aussies, there's The Office in Sukhumvit soi 33 and Bradman's in soi 23. For the Brits, there are a heap of options and pretty much every English pub will show the matches so whether you're a fan of Crossbar, the Black Swan or any of the English pubs in the city, most will have the Rugby World Cup live. I see that the English stronghold, The Londoner at soi 33, has geared up for it with a wall of rugby paraphernalia and info about the teams erected. There's also the Robin Hood, just a stone's throw away, although the manager there is a proud Kiwi and he won't be jumping with elation when England score a penalty (cos they're not big on tries up that way)!
At Crossbar, the English publican who is actually soccer mad and a stark raving mad Wolves fan, is making a genuine effort to get rugby fans through the door. Any Heineken purchase will receive a voucher for a weekly draw for a Heineken polo shirt, with all vouchers going into a draw for 4 replica World Cup Rugby balls. Also there will be a happy hour on all bottled beers during the matches and pints of Tiger will set you back just 100 baht. All bottled beers will be at happy hour prices during all of the matches. Every one of Jonny Wilkinson's drop goals will be worth a free shot of Tequila to everyone in the bar who wants one. Anyone coming in to watch the matches can nominate one player from the match and if that player gets a drop goal then it's a free shot of house drinks for all his drop goals scored during that match. And a prediction? It will be a New Zealand vs. England final – and you know who I think will win!
In recent weeks I have been publishing an hour or two after the listed publication time and today the column went live around 8 PM. I am happy to confirm that things will change and from next week onwards I will DEFINITELY publish this column at or before 6 PM Bangkok time. From next week, you'll be able to say that Stick is back to his old ways, as reliable as a Swiss watch!
Quote of the week comes from my favourite waitress in Tilac Bar after I had managed to fool her into thinking that a friend, and a regular customer of the bar, had died. "Convincing liars are much scarier than ghosts!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Phet, "What If I Hadn’t Discovered Thailand? "
A fascinating read from a journalist once based in Bangkok who had to flee the country they loved.
A German tourist is fighting for his life after being beaten up by Phuket tuktuk drivers.
The Ambassador from the UK Embassy answers a few questions in a short, but interesting piece.
Not Thailand-related but interesting nonetheless, the shoe is on the other foot as Western birds travel to buy sex.
A Norwegian in Pattaya lodges his belongings with the local constabulary for safe keeping!
From the Bangkok Post, is reform of the Thai police a pipe dream?
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: If wanting to lend money to a Thai friend for the purchase of a condo, what are the legal options for a contract making sure the money is repaid? I am farang and she is Thai. I know that this is probably fraught with danger but if I have a legal contract will this protect me?
Sunbelt Legal responds: While you can draw up a legal contract for the loan requiring repayment, this is generally done with something as collateral in order to guarantee repayment. If the loan is defaulted on then the lender can take possession of the collateral, usually after an order from the Court. If the borrower defaults and the lender takes possession, it still falls under the 49% foreign ownership quota for condos. You can also register the mortgage and it will be allowed to fall under the 51% Thai ownership quota with the Land Department but you as a foreigner must show a bank account in Thailand and a work permit or evidence of the transfer of the money from abroad.
Question 2: Could you give me a walk through A-Z on how to marry a Thai lady and get her to my homeland? There are too many conflicting stories on how to do this. I am an American marrying a Thai woman from Mukdahan living in Jomtien. She is NOT a bargirl, but a lady with a regular job.
Sunbelt Legal responds: In order to get married, first you must go to the US Embassy and sign the affirmation to marry which states you are not married. If you are divorced you will need to show your divorce papers in order to obtain this certificate. You will need to make an appointment at the Citizens Services Unit at the US Embassy or Consulate to obtain and have this document signed and witnessed.
Then the document must be translated into Thai by a certified translator before being taken to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where it is processed and a license with permission to marry in Thai is granted. This you then take to a District Office where you can then get married legally. Your marriage is valid in the United States but if you are going to apply for your wife to obtain an Immigrant Visa it will need to be translated into English.
Another alternative would be to obtain a Fiancée Visa from the US Embassy which would enable your fiancée to travel to the United States and marry there, within 90 days of arrival. Your wife can then apply for adjustment of their status to a permanent resident with the Department of Homeland Security. The requirements for this visa are the same as for that of an Immigrant Visa.
Full requirements for obtaining either one of these visas can be found on the US Department of State website:
Fiancée Visa http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_2994.html#6
Please be aware that you, as a sponsor, will have financial requirements to fulfill and police and medical records will need to be obtained for your fiancée and that your principal residence must be in the United States.
Question 3: I'm working in Thailand and have a rather good salary. My wife (who is Thai) does not work, and so has no taxable income at all. Is it possible for us to be taxed together? I am not sure of the English term for it, but in my country you can ask to be taxed as a couple, which would mean that the sum of the couple's incomes would be split in two, and that's the income that would decide the tax bracket.
Sunbelt Legal responds: You cannot declare your wife as a joint income earner but you can take a deduction from your taxes. It is best to talk to a qualified accountant if you pay a substantial amount of taxes as they can help you to make sure you obtain all the deductions for which you are qualified. Sunbelt Asia has a team of highly qualified accountants that can go over your finances with you to see what can be done to reduce your tax burden.
Your Bangkok commentator,