Stickman's Weekly Column April 1st, 2012

Sex Tourism: New Regulations On The Horizon



Thailand has long looked the other way when naughty boys from lands afar fool around with local women. Once largely out of sight, sprawling bar areas with hundreds of women servicing foreign men exclusively are now right in the face of everyday Thais. The industry has snowballed and news of problems frequently make headlines locally causing Thais to reconsider their attitude and stance towards the industry. Things have got so far out of hand that the authorities have decided to do something about it.



Thailand has always been relaxed and laid-back when it comes to prostitution. Thai men are discreet and have their fun behind closed doors. Foreigners are rather different, and everyday Thais cannot understand what possesses some foreign men to parade their whore du'jour in public. Their behavior and lack of shame is seen by many Thais as unfathomable. More and more Thais are concerned at how the foreign sector of the sex industry has become so public.

It's not commercial sex per se that bothers the Thais. That's not the problem at all! The Thais may not admire, but they do understand someone who is poor or in desperate need of quick money choosing to sell their body. From the Thai perspective it is the way foreign men and the women they cavort with behave in public, flaunting tradition and conservative values that bothers them.

This attitude is hardly a Thai thing and other countries in the region feel similarly. Unlike Thailand, they have actually done something about it.



In Laos, a foreign man cannot spend the night in a hotel with a Lao female unless they are legally married. Fines can run to several thousand dollars and while a blind eye is often turned, the risk of being caught and facing charges is real. Laos does not wish to see its small and very poor population seduced and corrupted by the easy money obtainable through prostitution.

Across the border in Cambodia, foreign men aged over 50 cannot legally marry a Cambodian woman and if a foreign man aged under 50 wishes to marry a Cambodian lady, he must show proof of an monthly income of at least $2,500. The Cambodian authorities wish to protect Cambodia women from marrying the wrong sort of foreign man, and believe only those with the financial resources which allow them to take exceptional care of a woman should be permitted to marry a local woman.

In Vietnam most hotels will not allow a local woman to stay overnight with a foreign man unless they are legally married. The information is reported to police.

It would seem that Thailand is about to join its neighbours in making a greater effort to protect its women who work in the sector of the commercial sex industry which targets foreign men. Two new regulations soon to be implemented will change the foreign sector of Thailand's commercial sex industry forever.


Pattaya Obsessions


The first regulation is the Foreign Service Worker's Card. The card will be required by all female staff working in gogo bars, beer bars and any other bars deemed to employ women who may leave the bar and go elsewhere in the company of a foreign man. What this means, basically, is that all the girls working in the bar districts popular with foreigners in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and possibly even some of the smaller bar areas in more far flung tourist areas will have to apply for the card. Bars will only be able to hire staff with a Foreign Service Worker's Card.

Those applying for the card must be a Thai citizen, must be aged over 18 years, must have a clean criminal record, must undergo a health check and must work for a bar with licensed premises. Foreign Service Worker cards will be issued with a validity of 3 months, and must be renewed every 3 months.

In what appears to be a measure to circumvent the dodgy health certificates the girls can get in 30 seconds for 50 baht from the odd errant clinic, only health checks carried out at one of the designated government hospitals will be accepted. Health certificates issued by clinics or private hospitals – even the best hospitals in the country – won't be accepted. The health check includes a comprehensive STD screening that tests for HIV and 7 common STDs. At each and every renewal a health check is required.

While the first regulation effectively places a control on female bar staff, the second new regulation is aimed squarely at the men who use their services.

The second new regulation which, will also be put in place early in second half of the year, requires hotels to register sex workers accompanying a foreign customer to his hotel. The hotel must register her, meaning she must have a Foreign Service worker's Card. What is interesting is that the hotel is required to include her details, alongside those of the customer when it completes its daily visitor report to Immigration.

Every hotel in Thailand is required to report to the Immigration Department on a daily basis all foreigners staying in the hotel. The report includes the guest's name, nationality and passport number. This system has been in place for a long time. The new regulations mean that the sex worker's details must be recorded to show that she spent time with the foreign national. Essentially, these details are added to the foreign visitor's Immigration record, and not a central database of the Foreign Service Worker Card holders!

These regulations ONLY relate to sex workers engaging with foreign nationals and do not apply to Thai men.

With a significant increase in reported problems between local sex workers and foreign men, it's easy to understand how these new regulations came about. There has been the widely reported spread of sexually transmitted diseases with Thailand recently announcing that there are at least 1,000,000 Thais who are HIV+ or living with full blown AIDS. There is the problem of underage sex with more and more cases making the news. There is the increasing problem of local women being mistreated, abused and even murdered, as in the case of the Patong Beach bar worker who is alleged to have been murdered and her body later dismembered by her Norwegian boyfriend. And there is the problem of human trafficking and foreign nationals working in bars.

It is hoped that the introduction of the card will contribute to a cleanup of foreign women working in the bar industry. It will eliminate the underage problem. It will ensure that women with sexually transmitted diseases get treatment and the disease is not spread. It will also provide a record so that should either the service provider or the customer have a complaint against the other (physical abuse, stolen property etc.), that party can be located and the authorities able to liaise or investigate.

I imagine that all staff in bars considered to be for foreigners will have a service worker's card. Presumably women working in bars which primarily attract Thai men, but where foreign men are welcome but visit in small numbers, will not be required to apply for the card.

At this stage there is no mention of long-stay accommodation. Given that most expats reside in condominiums or apartments which are not hooked in to the system, it seems the new regulations seem to target sex tourists, as opposed to sexpats.


Pattaya beauties


These new regulations, particularly the second regulation, that of registration and notification of hotel guests raise many questions.

What happens if a guy meets a woman at say the Biergarten in soi 7, or the Thermae, or at any other freelancer venue or area, such as Pattaya's Beach Road? These women won't have a card as they are not bar employees and not employed by a licensed bar. Will these women be prevented from entering a hotel with a foreign man, just as a guest without a passport may not be able to check in?

What about a foreign guy who meets a regular woman from mainstream society and takes her back to his hotel? Will she be challenged and asked to show a card, which is essentially the same as accusing her of working as a prostitute?

The system is based around two premises – women working in bars and foreign visitors staying in hotels. Freelancers would seem to fall outside of the system. Will this drive women away from bars and on to the street? But then if they work on the street, what can a guy do with them? Head in to the nearest bushes for a naughty?!

Another concern is just what happens with the collected data. Foreign men taking a prostitute back to their room will be on record!


Sukhumvit Road


Will the information collected be used in a way not initially clear? The system could, in theory, be used to track the behaviour of sex tourists. The records would show, for example, that a man who was in the country for say, 14 days, and had, for argument's sake, several different overnight guests. Could such a person be officially classed as a sex tourist? With the country keen to shed the vestiges of its sex tourism image and attract a better class of tourist, could this information be used against the guy? Is it possible that those shown to be sex tourists may find a new visa is not issued in the future?

What if a sex tourist was shown to have spent time with what could be reasonably termed an inordinately high number of women, and then later relocated to Thailand and applied for work in a job with much responsibility, such as a teacher? Could this information be used against those applying for a teaching role, or any other job, notwithstanding that many foreign teachers and expats are notorious sexpats? What about someone employed in, for example, Bangkok, who takes regular trips to Pattaya and spends time with the ladies of Sin City? How will they feel about the very same government department charged with processing their annual visa extensions having a record of what they have been up to late at night?

What about health checks? If, for example, a number of workers contract a sexually transmitted disease, a simple search could list the customers the lady had. With data mining, the authorities would be able to match the records and may even try to determine who might have been responsible for the spread of a disease!

From a local perspective, the new regulations are a pragmatic, even brilliant way of indirectly dealing with what many Thais today see as a problem. The regulations target a problem – that of widespread sex tourism – without addressing it. The Thais like to give people a way out and prefer to avoid confrontation. They don't like to corner people or threaten them. They much prefer to signal that something is not welcome and give people a chance to stop. My interpretation is that this is what these new regulations are all about. Rather than outlaw sex tourism per se, it's going to become much less enjoyable for those who partake.

Big Mango

*Where* was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken of the pedestrian bridge on Sukhumvit, next to soi 18 and the Lexus dealership. Only a few readers got it right. All you have to do is tell me where the photo was taken. There are 2 prizes up for grabs – a 500 baht credit at the Oh My Cod fish and chips restaurant, and a 500 baht voucher from one of the best farang food venues and home of Bangkok's best burger, Duke's Express.

Terms and conditions: 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. 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!

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 WEEKWhy the paranoia?

Regarding being stopped by the brown shirts for a passport check, I've never heard of any other country where they do that. Have you or has anyone you know been stopped in Auckland or London or New York or Sydney or anywhere else to check they aren't in the country illegally? The paranoia over foreigners in this country is unbelievable.

The perfect storm.

It seems to me to be what we call a "perfect storm" where western men and Thai women find great attraction to each other for many reasons but without great long-term success. The term perfect storm means that when all the worst possible storm events happen, it creates a storm of enormous proportions. When I think about the factors that a Thai working girl wants in a client, the western man has them. When I think of the most attractive factors of an Asian girlfriend or working girl, the Thai woman has them. Things will stay the same until either what is desired changes or the underlying financial or cultural factors change.

Thai super-size.

It isn't just the burgeoning size of bargirls and TLL ladies, but the country in general. In the past several years I have seen many obese Thais, both male and female. They were a very rare sight here 10 or 12 years ago. I attribute it to a more sedentary lifestyle and fattening western foods, but also to over-processing and the use of corn syrup in many Thai foods. It used to be cane sugar but now things like Oishi tea, etc. use corn syrup. It's very sad to see Thailand headed in this direction. I have happily noticed more organic, whole grain and healthful products on store shelves but educating the average Thai about these, I fear, will be a long time coming.

Is it really so bad?

I am always amazed at the comments from your readers regarding how things in Thailand have changed (for the worse) from 3, 5, 7, 10, 20 years ago. I imagine the best of the best was during the Vietnam War which only a handful of your readers got to experience. Change is constant and unfortunately good things don't last forever. What was will never be again, but consider the alternatives. Cherish the memories, but make the best of what is and you might find it wasn't so bad after all.



Bargirl pays the rent.

A mate of a mate was in Karon on his first trip to Thailand. He is a 70-year old Englishman but still mentally very quick and thankfully his mate had clued him up about bargirls. He took an older woman from a bar in Kata's infamous Swamp and enjoyed her company but he couldn't get her to leave the room during the daytime when he liked to go out and have the craic and a few beers with mates. After a couple of days he asked her why she stayed in the room all day long. She explained that she shared a room with 8 other women sleeping on a duvet on the tiled floor, one fan between the lot of them and showering in cold water from a dustbin using a plastic bowl to ladle the water. With him she had a soft bed, air-conditioning, hot water, satellite TV and privacy. He was quick on the uptake and explained that the room cost him 1,000 baht and he thought it was fair if she paid half to which she readily agreed! So he got his company for 500 baht a night and everybody was happy.

Coyote lady drinks.

I was in a new coyote bar in Walking Street. There and apparently in other coyote bars, the house gets the entire proceeds of the first 5 drinks. The girl gets nothing. What are the consequences of such a policy? As your correspondent noted, it can't be good for the girls' bods, even in the short term. As for the customer, it is easy to see that the girls will be hassling the crap out of punters for at least 5 drinks and that sort of pressure surely can't lead to repeat custom. Honestly, who enjoys sitting down in a bar and being hit up for drinks? As I was with a lady, I didn't have this problem. To be fair to the bar, their promotion price for draught Chang beer was about the best ever, 29 baht! From what I have noted, you can sit in some of the more successful bars and not be pestered for drinks to any extent. It will be interesting to see if this coyote bar stays around for long or not.

It's YOU which has to change!

People tend to confuse the two simple things, changing themselves with changing their surroundings. Thailand is tempting for many because you remove a lot of limits, and hand out a lot of anonymity as you "restart" your life in Thailand. This isn't very far from what happens online, people think anything will pass, just because they are slightly anonymous. I've had my share to work through over the last few years, Thailand has had its useful part in that plot, but I never let Thailand be the solution. At the end of the day it is me who changed.

Honesty…

Last week some dozen or so farang dads and boyfriends at a Thai community function in Sydney gave each other knowing looks when a certain tune came over the loudspeakers. One of them started singing mournfully, soon joined by all the others, "Honesty, it's such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue". The girlfriends weren't happy but, damn it, we had a fine laugh!


Lolitas


A fracas turned ugly at the Honey Hotel in the early hours of Friday morning when a ladyboy stabbed a guest in the chest. The Singaporean was carted away by ambulance after a bunch of coppers attended the incident. Apparently the male receptionist attempted to make a brave rescue and ended up with a bloodied shirt for his troubles. The rumour mill has it that the ladyboy wanted 5,000 baht and Mr. Sing wanted it for free!

And further confirmation that it pays to be careful around ladyboys on Sukhumvit, it was a similar story up the road in Sukhumvit soi 4 less than 24 hours later when Soi Nana continued its deterioration with another ladyboy stabbing, this time outside the Golden Beer Bar. Witness reports have it that the ladyboy grabbed a young guy and there was some sort of altercation. As the young fellow walked away, it lunged at him. He turned to confront the ladyboy, but then just turned and ran down soi 4. He must have realised what had happened because as he hared away, evidence of being knifed started seeping through his shirt and got worse with every stride. The ladyboy had stabbed him! The ladyboy was not at all fazed and stood there defiantly with a sizeable blade on show, estimated by one witness to be around five inches in length. And then the it (such actions are not worthy of any other pronoun) ran down the road, knife in hand, possibly to finish off the job! With the young guy gone – hopefully to receive much-needed medical attention, the ladyboy put the knife away with the sort of nonchalance as putting aside a knife and fork at the end of a meal. One witness was so shocked that said he will never visit Sukhumvit soi 4 after midnight again. Soi Nana is fast becoming Soi Hell!

Announcing the most eagerly awaited re-opening of a legendary expat institution, Cheers Pub, formerly situated in Washington Square, will open at 4 Pm today at their new location on Sukhumvit 33, at the site previously home to Beavers. The signs are not up yet but the new Cheers is to be found by turning into the small soi next to Wall Street and walking past the Green Parrot and Hookers on the left side. You will then see the literally larger than life persona that is Chris, the ever popular proprietor. Good luck to Chris and all his staff!

Pretty Lady Bar, on the ground floor of Nana Plaza, will host a Full Moon party on Friday, April 6th featuring sexy shows, free food and chances to win drinks and barfines. Gin and Vodka will be offered at 299 baht, Sangsom at 199 baht – for a 120 ml serving. All are welcome!

It may be one of the Arab's houses, but don't let that put you off. A visit to Spice Girls this week impressed me. In some ways the venue reminded me of the best of Tilac and the best of Baccara all rolled into one venue – and that is fair praise. In terms of what Spice Girls takes from Tilac – the venue is well laid out (I especially like booth seating in a gogo bar) and spotlessly clean, the attitudes of the girls are very good and the excellent sound system plays good music at a volume level that is loud enough to enjoy but not too loud so that you can't have a conversation. From Baccara? There are some seriously hot girls in Spice Girls! OK, so some guys will get peeved at the fact that half the girls are coyotes and they cannot be barfined. That said, one made noises about meeting after the bar closed – and I had shown zero interest in her. So for sure, the coyotes are available, just not barfineable the usual way. Spice Girls is definitely worth checking out!

Alcatraz, one of the flashest gogo bars in Pattaya's Walking Street, has a number of just plain sexy girls outside trying to haul guys inside. There's something about the hello girls outside Alcatraz that sets them apart from the girls outside other bars, even those outside Airport which also has some real lovelies. And with Tiger draft available at 60 baht a glass all night long, Alcatraz is worth a look.


Alcatraz


The new deck and outdoor pool at Pattaya's Penthouse Hotel, in Soi Pattayaland 2, has reinvigorated interest in the property as has the large new lobby which provides a meeting point in a hotel known to attract swingers and those who lead, shall we say, somewhat spicier lives than the rest of us. If you haven't stayed there, Penthouse Hotel also has an indoor pool, away from prying eyes…

The Indian lucky man scammers have moved up Sukhumvit and are currently trying their luck out front of Bully's, between sois 2 and 4. If an Indian approaches you in Bangkok out of the blue and says that you're a lucky man, tell him where to go.

Some non-drinkers are sensitive about the price of non-alcoholic drinks, especially with some venues charging 140 or even 150 baht for a Coke. If you want to watch the world go by and don't want to pay much for the privilege, Strikers in Soi Nana provides a nice vantage point to look out over the crazy soi with Coke a reasonable 70 baht, and bottles of water a bargain 40 baht.

What is it with some of the unusual cat calls in and around bar areas? I have never understood a ladyboy yelling out "I have a big cock", which I would have thought would be a turn off and scare potential customers away – until I learned that apparently most guys who go with ladyboys like to get done as well as to do. The other cat call I don't understand is girls sitting out the front of massage houses calling out "Free air-con and free shower!" Will that convince a potential customer to go inside?! I guess I must be missing something…

I note that the double amputee who has been a fixture on Walking Street selling flowers for as long as I can remember has a new buggy – or at least this week was the first time I have seen his new buggy.


Pattaya


If there is one characteristic of the Russians in Pattaya I don't care for, it's the way they ask questions of non-Russians in the Russian language – and then get all hot and bothered when the person they're talking to doesn't understand! Do they really expect others will understand Russian? Use the local language or use the international language, English.

Why is it that some sex tourists and sexpats are incredibly defensive about any criticism of Thai bargirls? There was a classic example this week on a Pattaya-centric discussion forum where the women of Beach Road were the topic of conversation. The photographs in an article I wrote about those women, "The Coconut Bar", came up and it was said that I had included photos of only the ugliest girls to be found there because I had an axe to grind. WTF?! Why I would have an axe to grind I have no idea and if you thought the girls in those photos weren't so attractive, you ought to see the photos I didn't publish! But seriously, why are some guys so incredibly defensive about these girls? Unless you're paying them a lot of money – and even then it's very unlikely – they couldn't give a hoot about you!

In Jake Needham's third novel in the successful Jack Shepherd series, Shepherd has ended up in Hong Kong after being fired by Chulalongkorn University and has reluctantly taken a job as a lawyer for General Chalerm 'Charlie' Kitnarock. Charlie Kitnarok is the world's 98th richest man, but he is also a former prime minister of Thailand now living in exile in Dubai where he's plotting his return to political power. For Shepherd, that could be a real problem. Thailand already has another prime minister, and to the surprise of practically everyone, particularly Shepherd, the new Thai prime minister is a woman with whom he once had a brief relationship. That could really complicate the hell out of trying to be Charlie's lawyer. Thailand is hurtling closer and closer to a bloody civil war and Jack Shepherd is right in the middle of it. As unlikely as it may sound, he may even be the only person on earth who can stop it. The print edition of "A World Of Trouble" is available in Thailand at Asia Books and Kinokuniya. The e-book edition is available worldwide at Amazon.com.

Talk to the girls in the bars enough and get them on to the subject of their customers and they will often tell you how little they trust Western guys. Conversely, they will seldom say that they cannot trust the other girls in the bar…when in fact they often have genuine reason not to trust them. Most bargirls have been the victims of theft while working in a bar and in most cases the theft was perpetrated by other girls in the bar. These girls carry jewellery, money, gold, multiple mobile phones and other items of value. Hiding them or storing them in the bar so they are safe is a challenge. Some bars have lockers for the girls but many do not. Girls who have been victims of theft to other girls often learn when they are new to the industry, when they are quite trusting. This soon changes. The photo below is interesting to me for what is in the lower right-hand corner – where the girls from Angelwitch have kept their handbags!


Angelwitch



And speaking of valuables in bars, a girl in Sheba's was spotted this week with one of those fancy Samsung mobile phones that costs the same as a laptop. While in the bar, on duty, she was browsing her Facebook account. Clever girl obviously has more than one way of marketing herself.

One of my biggest peeves in Thailand is middlemen who clip the ticket but add no value whatsoever to a transaction. It doesn't matter what you wish to purchase, be it a good or a service, imported or locally produced, there is often a middleman involved. In the case of touts in bar areas, or agents selling tours, for example, it is obvious that the person you're dealing with is going to make some profit from the deal. But sometimes this phenomenon manifests itself in places and ways you wouldn't think it would. A friend went to the local Nissan dealership to buy a new car, the top spec Teana, for a cool 1.7 million baht. He specified exactly what he wanted and the price was agreed. The salesperson made some enquiries and found that the specified model in the colour my friend wanted was in stock and he could have it within a few days. The salesperson then gave him various options for payment, each of which had a down payment and payments over periods between 2 and 5 years. My friend said that he would pay cash, either a bank cheque or even a bag of cash if that was preferred. The salesperson explained that making a down payment with payments paid over time would be better. My friend did a quick calculation on paper to show the salesperson that with the interest and other fees that would mean he would pay hundreds of thousands of baht more than if he paid the cash price. He had the cash and would pay now. The salesperson's demeanour stalled. A phone call was made and suddenly the model he wanted was unavailable! The commission the salesperson makes on finance is much greater than what they make on the sale of a new car. When the salesperson realised that there would be no commission, they lost interest in making the sale and became unhelpful. Amazingly, this nonsense was repeated at the next dealership he went to! I won't say that this is one of those only in Thailand phenomenons, but then I have never heard of it happening elsewhere. The middleman syndrome, which you find in so many industries here, is ridiculous!

The question that has to be asked is does it really matter what I write in this column, or when I write it. From time to time – and it happened last week – I get an email thanking me for this week's column and giving general feedback. In the case of this email last week, the problem was that it came in around 2 PM, but I didn't publish until nearer 5 PM! The person was giving email on the previous week's column. You could probably go back and look at a Stickman weekly from several years ago, change the dates, change a few names, and what was written then would probably be, for the most part, relevant now. Does anything ever change here?


Quote of the week comes from Pattaya Gary, "Pattaya girls are unlovable unless you are rich and maybe insane!"

Reader's story of the week comes from author Jerry Hopkins, "Life on the Street in My 'Hood: Part 2: Whores & Johns".

The head of an Australian charity accused of faking the rescue of Thai hill tribe children from sexual slavery has resigned.

From the Bangkok Post, dirty beaches in Rayong aren't endearing tourists in Thailand.

If you plan to check out Burma, it may pay to go soon as tourists are flocking there and rooms are hard to come by.

From the Daily Echo, a Thai lady attacks a man with a shoe in a nightclub in the English resort of Bournemouth.

From the Wall Street Journal, are expats in Asia becoming an endangered species?

CNNGo looked at the wine regions in Thailand and places to go on wine trails.

From the Phuket Gazette, down in Krabi a German's thumb is hacked off as Thai youths steal her handbag.

From the Telegraph, pollution in Chiang Mai is so bad tourists are choosing not to visit.

An Italian Mafia boss was arrested in 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: If I move to Thailand and live there under an O-A "long stay" visa, I understand that I cannot work in Thailand. Does this restriction also apply to working outside Thailand, for instance in Singapore? There's a job which would involve part-time consulting projects, possibly on a regular basis, for different companies. I can envision living in Thailand and traveling to Singapore and back once every week or two. On each trip I would expect to stay in Singapore for only a few days or possibly as long as 2 or 3 weeks. Is there a visa other than an O-A visa that would be more suitable? Would a marriage visa be better? What would my legal requirements be to establish this type of work situation with respect to the Singapore authorities? With respect to the Thai authorities? Suppose I worked for a Singapore company and they had clients in Thailand, would this be a problem? What would my tax situation be, in Thailand, in Singapore and in America?

Sunbelt responds: The retirement visa only applies to your status in Thailand and does not apply to your status in Singapore unless you were to undertake work while in Thailand. You would need to pay income taxes in Singapore. You would need to file a tax return in the USA. At this time, you would not need to file in Thailand unless you earn money in Thailand according to Thai tax officials.


Question 2: I contacted Stick years ago about what I thought was a marriage application. It turned out to be a marriage certificate! I went with the girl to the town near her village and what I thought was an application for a marriage license to my complete surprise turned out to be a registration of our marriage! This paper was signed by the clerk of the office. No services were held, no signing of a marriage license, no ceremony or nothing. I thought nothing more and we never discussed getting married. I went back home to the States and planned to return early the next year. Through some great luck I find out that she is on a dating site and ends up butterflying shortly after I left. I have copies of emails sent to her thanking her for a great time they had. I even have a copy of a photo of her in a bar and also a copy of her in a hotel room wearing a new dress. I mentioned this and her reply was that he didn't give her much money so she won't see him and wants me to forget what happened. Needless to say, I told her I did not want to see her again, which I have not. She called me with the same story that she needed money for the sick cow. I ignored all her calls. What I want to do now is clear any record of marriage with her. How do I do it? I am looking for advice that will help me clean up the mess that I did not know about. By the way, she is still on the dating sites saying she is single and looking for the right man to take care of her!

Sunbelt responds: Are you sure it was an actual marriage certificate and not a copy that was Photoshopped? If you did not sign nor obtain an affirmation of freedom from your embassy to marry, then we don't see how the marriage certificate is real. Contact us and for a nominal fee we can check if you are in fact married.

Pattaya Beach


As a libertarian I advocate personal choice and believe in small government and absolutely minimal government intervention in one's personal affairs. I am not in favour of prostitution per se, but then neither am I against it. I believe in personal choice and if someone wishes to sell their body, or pay for the use of someone else's, then I see that as a choice of those involved, and not really anyone else's business. However, in the case of a relatively less affluent country which receives such a large number of relatively wealthy foreign visitors, I understand and accept that it may be necessary to put mechanisms in place to protect those who may be vulnerable. That's why I believe that the new regulations outlined in today's opening piece are for the good of those women who work with foreigners in the naughty nightlife industry. There are untold reports in the mainstream press and online of foreigners mistreating or abusing the girls, and there are, sadly, people involved in the business who allow women to work in the industry who should not be there – foreign nationals, women not of legal age or women carrying infections. Protecting a country's people is one of a government's most important roles and these new regulations will go some way towards doing that. If it results in hardcore sex tourists choosing to refrain from visiting, is that really such a bad thing?

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Firehouse