Stickman's Weekly Column November 18th, 2012

Stick Gets Stopped



It was another Bangkok November morning, clear blue sky, a touch over 30 degrees and lunch time was approaching. Out for a walk, I was approaching the Asoke intersection, daydreaming and in my own little world, when out of the corner of my eye I spy a man in brown. He's hiding behind dark glasses, but from the angle of his head I know he is looking right at me. He puts his hand out across the sidewalk to stop my progress in the same way I expect he'd signal a vehicle to stop. The man in brown wants to talk to me!





Sawadee krap, he says, an expressionless look on his face that I couldn't read, dark glasses concealing his eyes.

Hello, I respond.

Bai nai ma (Where have you been?), he asks me, in Thai.

Hello, I say again, pretending I don't speak a word of Thai.

Passport, he says. Not a question, just a single word.

Hotel, I say, mimicking his use of the most basic English.

Where from, he asks.

I answer.

Where you go, he asks, his most complex sentence so far, jumping from 2 to 3 words.

Hotel.

Where you go, he asks again, pointing to where I had just come from, which I took to mean that he wanted to know where I had just been and what I had been doing.

Eat breakfast, I said and mimed eating.

No passport, he said, neither a question nor a statement.

A few seconds went by as he just looked at me, expressionless, as if he was weighing me up and not sure quite what to make of me…

Driver's licence, he says breaking the silence. He uses the index finger of each hand to draw the shape of a small rectangle, perhaps thinking that I didn't understand those 2 words. It's something odd to ask of a pedestrian.

I take out my wallet and remove my Farangland driver's licence, not my Thai licence. He barely glances at it and the angle of his head suggests he is more interested in having a closer look at my wallet.

What, he says. The single word is ambiguous and doesn't give me any idea what he means. He points at my tatty old excuse for a wallet holding a couple of thousand baht and a few business cards.

His hand moves towards my wallet, to take it or put his hands in it, I don't know which. I pull it back before he touches it. Perhaps he wanted to look inside the compartments of the wallet, perhaps not, but should he not have said something, and at the very least asked my permission.

With that smallest motion, I've ratcheted things up a few notches. In his mind I have challenged his – a law enforcement officer's – authority. In my mind I'm standing up for my rights.

I remove from my wallet the business card of a lawyer I've used before. He was once a policeman, the card displaying his rank. I hold my mobile phone in one hand, the card in the other and say 2 words, "I call".

You go, says the cop, his interest in me now gone. It was all over in less than 45 seconds.

Why had I spoken in English, broken English at that? Sometimes I have my passport on me, sometimes I don't. No-one seems to know for sure whether foreigners in Thailand are required to have their passport on them at all times or not. Some maintain that a copy of your passport and current visa is enough. Others say you must be able to produce your passport if asked to do so. There are so many contradictory stories from those who should know.

Had I spoken in Thai, he could have made the point that as a Thai-speaking expat I should know that I am required to have my passport on me at all times and my failure to do so would cost me. That would be an awfully harsh way to deal with a tourist hence speaking English gets you more leeway. Besides, my ability in Thai is something to be used to my advantage, not his.

Above the Asoke intersection I perch and watch.

The cop was operating alone. White guys walking alone were stopped. As best I could see, the routine was the same. They were asked to show their passport. Again, as best I could see – and I was some 40 or so metres away – no-one was able to produce a passport. It appeared that they were then asked to produce some ID at which point it looked like the copper examined the contents of their wallet. A couple of guys had their pockets patted from the outside but unlike reports from others, the cop's hands did not go into anyone's pockets.

Only Western males walking alone were stopped. Thais or those who looked Thai were ignored.

This incident happened earlier this week in the morning, hardly a time of day I'd expect to see the police profiling pedestrians and checking Westerners walking the streets of downtown Bangkok.

Since mention in last week's column that foreigners are again being stopped and searched by police around Sukhumvit soi 22, a number of reports have come in from readers. Further, two people I know personally have told me how they have been stopped, briefly questioned and searched by police in the last 2 weeks. All reports concern the Asoke intersection or sois 16, 18, 21, 22 and 23.

An Aussie mate was searched on Sukhumvit soi 21 sub-soi 2 very late on the night of Saturday 10th. He was asked where he was going, to show his passport and both his wallet and his pockets were checked. There were 6 cops in total and they were stopping cars and pedestrians. Police checkpoints at night aren't uncommon.

A reader who has been emailing for years described being stopped by the police at lunch time at the Asoke BTS station just metres from the ticket machines. He was stopped by one cop who then radioed to another. This fellow was able to provide multiple forms of ID when asked and in addition to his passport, he had his work permit and workplace ID on him. He was carrying a laptop and not only did they have him empty his pockets, they went through his wallet, computer bag and its side pockets. Inside the computer bag was his bank book and 3-year old daughter's bank book and every page was examined. He was even questioned about some of the account transactions! He said he felt like he had been violated and has since contacted the British embassy about the incident.

The most concerning report of all came from a reader who was with a Thai female friend when they were stopped late at night about 10 days ago on Sukhumvit soi 22. After various questions, the cops established that she was a lady of the night. They then asked her to provide a urine sample right there, in a side alley off Sukhumvit soi 22. An agreement was reached so she would not have to provide that sample although whether this was due to embarrassment at being asked to provide a urine sample in a dark side late at night while being watched by two male policemen or some other reason, who knows?

The copper that stopped me was alone. The cops who stopped the Aussie in soi 21 were part of a group of 6. The fellow stopped on soi 22 dealt with 2 cops on a bike, which has been consistent with most readers' reports where two cops riding a bike pull up to a foreigner and start questioning him.

In every report I have been sent the foreigner was searched although whether permission was asked has not always been clear. In my case I swayed backwards from the cop when he wanted to search my wallet – he never actually asked and I never actually refused. The moment he saw the lawyer's business card and my intention to call the lawyer, he stopped immediately. As he was wearing dark glasses I could not see his eyes so could not read his reaction.

Chatting with the Aussie owner of a bar and restaurant in the Asoke area a couple of days ago, he confirmed that a number of his customers have also been stopped and searched by police in the area.

Over the past year or so I have mentioned numerous times that the police have been checking foreigners heading up Sukhumvit soi 22 from Klong Toey bound for the northern i.e. wealthier side of Sukhumvit. It was explained to me that the police had intel that foreigners were being used to transport drugs and as such police were targeting foreigners riding motorbikes (be they the rider or passenger), as well as foreigners behind the wheel of a vehicle and foreigners carrying a bag.

When I was stopped I was not carrying anything. I was hot, sweaty and it should have been obvious that I had been out exercising. The Aussie was dressed for a night out. The Brit was dressed in business attire. There was no pattern, the commonality being that those stopped were Western men walking alone in or around the Asoke intersection. Only one person was carrying a bag.

Would someone dealing drugs have them in their wallet? One imagines a dealer would need a rather large wallet!

Why is it only happening in the Asoke area? Why is it that only Western men on their own are stopped?

Entwined in the confusion is the unanswered question of whether foreigners in Thailand are required to have their passport with them at all times. Those who should know from policemen, embassy staff, lawyers and long-term expats all give you a different answer and all are absolutely insistent that they are right! Personally I think it should be mandatory for foreigners to carry their passport with them at all times, just as Thais are required to carry their ID card with them. In the case of expats on a 1-year visa i.e. those with work permits, retirement visas or who are married to a Thai citizen, a residency card should be issued which would act as ID and be accepted in place of a bulky passport.

Earlier this year a good friend left Thailand. The reasons behind his decision to turn his back on almost 8 years in country were varied and complex, but a contributing factor was the police stops at the Asoke intersection late at night. After enjoying a night out on Sukhumvit, he'd heading home to Rachada and as the taxi turned left off Sukhumvit at the Asoke intersection the cab would invariably be stopped at the police checkpoint which often operates late at night and he would be asked to submit to a search. After a few drinks, dealing with the cops left him nervous and that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

One of the contributing factors to selling my car was being stopped more and more often and being accused of things I hadn't done which can be very disconcerting when the accusations come from those whose job it is to enforce the law, those who have the power to make your life uncomfortable. It does nothing for your confidence in officialdom.

I am all for the police being proactive, cracking down on crime and targeting those involved with drugs. I do wonder however whether white guys in central Bangkok really are involved in drug crime though. Targeting Western men walking alone in downtown Bangkok doesn't seem to make sense.





Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken from the pedestrian overbridge just west of the Nana skytrain station and showed the empty plots of prime real estate worth billions of baht. There are two prizes this week, a 200-baht voucher for Sunrise Tacos and a 500-baht voucher for Firehouse in Sukhumvit soi 11, known for its excellent hamburgers.

Terms and conditions: The 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! You MUST specify which prize you would like and failure to do so will result in the prize going to the next person to get the photo correct.

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 When you play away, don't play at home!

You gave many good warnings to your married friend who was considering taking a playmate home for the night. Another consideration is that women shed and you will never find it all. They leave empty travel-size shampoo and conditioner bottles in the shower; they leave hairpins on the bedside table; they leave hairs on the pillow; they leave scents on the sheets; they leave feminine products in the trash; they leave emails on your computer mentioning their fun night. They leave some items by accident and some as a way to mark their territory. They are not concerned about the wife finding out. These clues are how crimes are solved and women are true detectives when sniffing out suspected adultery. Your friend will not succeed.

A crazy risk.

Your friend must be mad to even consider bringing his bit on the side back to the family home. Major rule on playing away is that you can deny and your wife does not lose face. The chances are high that one of the neighbours will talk or the girlfriend will leave stuff behind. It is simply not worth the risk. Better to rent a place elsewhere…or get a divorce.

Are the cops real?

The guys writing to you about being approached by coppers are the ones who didn't get popped. Any tourist who ended up paying wouldn't confess to it. Think about it. This could be lucrative, it's been going on for years, and who knows if they're even really police? Your correspondent didn't see the guy at the police box. He got off a civilian bike once. No-one who's been frog-marched to an ATM will go to the media and say, oh, what he pulled out my pocket wasn't mine. That's what all criminals say, oh gee officer, that crack / smack / coke isn't mine. Well, maybe it wasn't but they will never say so to the media.

The changing face of Nana.

Last night I sat at Lucky Luke's and watched the parade in and out of Nana Plaza. Among my observations:
1) More farang (white) women than I have seen there before. At Lucky Luke's 11 of the 17 customers were white women.
2) Less than 5% of the people leaving the plaza had a skip rat with them. Amazingly even the Japs left alone.
3) Many of the white customers walked in with their own beer in hand so as to not have to sit and order one.
4) It was very much like sitting at a bar on walking street in Pattaya.



Exploiting greed.

A girl I know spends a chunk of time on Facebook (and has a sponsor in Euroland, but that is immaterial). Along comes a nice Farang on Facebook and they get along just GREAT! In fact, he falls in love with her and they communicate almost daily. He is currently in Farangland, but never mind, love will triumph! So it goes on a while and then true love takes hold and the Farang says he is sending a parcel with some nice expensive gifts and a bit of money. Oh joy! The young lass is over the moon. She sees the Gucci handbag and nice clothes already draped over her. A few days later she gets a telephone call from a girl in Thailand claiming to be from the import agent. Oh joy! The Farang must really love her! But, oh no, we have a small problem. The gifts have been assessed by Customs and also they have found a substantial amount of cash in the box. In order to clear the box for delivery, the young beloved has to find 13,000 baht and send it to such and such bank account. Blind with love or greed (I really cannot say which), off she rushes as soon as she can (no joke, she was outside the bank before opening time) to the bank and transfers the money. You can guess the rest. No box, no Gucci handbag, no money; just 13,000 baht gone forever. Unfortunately she also spent a couple of thousand more travelling to Bangkok trying to get the police involved. Nothing they can do. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The key to survival.

The key to surviving with the unique opportunities of beautiful women presented to we Farangs who don't get the same sensual beauties offered to us back in whatever country we come from is rigorous self honesty. It is fine if they lie to us because they will anyway. The key is to not lie to yourself. Signed, Pattaya Gary.


Nana Plaza


What's up with the new sign at Nana? The installation was completed early last week and it was powered up on Wednesday of last week when I managed to snap a few photos before the power was turned off. It has not been turned back on since! The rumour mill is going into overdrive that the sexy dancers grasping either side of the sign have raised the ire of some, which surely can't be true given what goes on within the plaza.

Dr. BJ's will have serious competition when Som's Haven opens on Sukhumvit soi 14 tomorrow. It will be a work-in-progress for a while with Som insistent that the final version will be clean, as in Clorox bleach clean. She has invested a lot of money in remodeling, new air-conditioning units and even new beds have been ordered for the 3rd floor. Som's Haven has more relaxing decor and lighting than does Lollipop1. Of course a nice looking venue is one thing but bars need staff and Som is being very choosy, declining the applications of most who apply. She won't hire any girls from direct competitors like Lolita's, Dr. BJ's etc. unless they go home for at least 4 months. Further, staff cannot be old (a first for venues of this type), must be attractive and have to be able to speak some English. The concept is to employ girls who can entertain customers in the bar, not just upstairs.

Popular Irish pub The Dubliner had a soft opening at its new location in Sukhumvit soi 33/1 this past Friday but when I walked past earlier today it seemed closed…

Napa on 26 is ranked numero uno out of the more than 1,500 restaurants that Trip Advisor lists for Bangkok. Sadly however, Napa on 26 might not retain their #1 placement for much longer after William, the owner and the man behind the highly regarded restaurant, passed away on Tuesday night after suffering a heart attack. He was just 48 years old. William hailed from Switzerland and had been chef in some high-end hotels before breaking away to do his own thing, a venture which brought him much satisfaction. His departure represents a genuine loss to Bangkok's dining scene.

Last week I mentioned the rumour surrounding the uncertain future of Sheba's in Soi Cowboy. The current leaseholder has got an ace lawyer on the job and is optimistic that Sheba's will continue to be operated by those currently in charge and that it will not fall to the evil empire!

The installation of surveillance cameras in Cowboy – along with news that they will also be installed in Soi Nana – has displeased many. Do those complaining not realise that surveillance cameras in the red light areas are nothing new? Cameras have been recording the comings and goings in Nana Plaza for several years, and cameras were installed at each end of Soi Cowboy 2 or 3 years back. Those against the idea seem to either be married and / or have a high-profile job and / or have a job which frowns upon them spending time in red light districts.

A small yellow gate is being placed at the soi 23 end of Soi Cowboy around 8 PM to prevent traffic entering the soi. I also note that the mooted police patrols really are happening, with 2 coppers making a slow stroll up and down the soi at various times throughout the evening. Maybe it really is a wee bit safer.


tuktuk


Down in Pattaya, thriving soi 15 hosted the men in tight brown uniforms again this week. What's Up was visited before they hit the bar opposite, Baby Dolls. Lights on, customers out, the evening perhaps not completely ruined but I bet numbers were off at the end of the night.

The Gods weren't shining on Pattaya's soi 15 this past Tuesday night. While the cops were at the top of the soi the fire brigade was at the bottom after a fire broke out outside Beach Club. The big sign outside the long-running bar caught fire, the transformer blew up and the bottom of the soi was plunged into darkness. Two of the most popular gogo bars on Walking Street, Iron Club and Airport which are opposite Beach Club must be on the same power grid as they also lost power.

For something a little more positive in Pattaya's soi 15, a party will be held tonight to celebrate manageress Khun Nee's birthday at Private Dancer A Gogo. Khun Nee was a popular member of the team when the venue was known as Toyz and she stayed on after the venue underwent a complete renovation and ownership change. Free food will be served. I note the Private Dancer website has been updated and now features photos of some of the girls.

And still in Private Dancer A Gogo, tomorrow evening well-known author Steve Leather will sign copies of the novel "Private Dancer" which will be sold at just 200 baht a copy. On Wednesday night it's the bar's regular curry night and starting next Sunday, November 25th, will be a new chili night with Bob Palmer cooking up one of his legendary chili con carnies. Draft beer will set you back just 45 baht on the curry nights.

Big Eyes in North Pattaya had a website promoting itself as a concert venue and perhaps the odd concert was held there. But many visitors to Pattaya knew Big Eyes as live sex venue. Aimed at Asian tour groups, the signage was predominately in Korean and rumour has it that entry cost a cool 2,400 baht. It may have a stage and tiered seating, but the venue is much larger than a farang gogo bar. Some girls from one of the most popular show bars in Pattaya also worked at Big Eyes along with some Russians / Eastern Europeans. Why is it that when the smutometer goes off the scale Koreans are often involved?

Back in Bangkok, The Office has been the busiest and arguably the best bar in Sukhumvit soi 33 for many years. It will celebrate its 11th anniversary with a party this coming Wednesday, November 21st. There'll be free food and even some free booze.

Popular expat venue Soi 8 Pub in Sukhumvit Soi 8 is a great spot to watch international rugby. It's currently undergoing renovations but it REMAINS OPEN. Special prices are offered on some drinks until the renovations have been completed.


Soi 8 Pub


The one we call "The Arab" is trying to acquire as many bars in Cowboy as he can. The issue many have with The Arab is that he doesn't seem to actually care about his bars. When he acquires a new venue, he does a great job making it look fantastic but then doesn't seem to care if it actually makes money or not and no real effort is made to run it, all of which doesn't make sense. What I do not understand is why he is so dead-set on acquiring properties in Cowboy, but has no apparent interest in the other bar areas. He used to own Spanky's in Nana but sold it a few years back. As far as I know he has not shown any interest in acquiring properties outside of Cowboy since then. What's the specific attraction with Cowboy, especially now that it can no longer claim to be the best bar area?

It's amazing that something that looks so familiar can feel so different. That's how it is at the Thermae which used to attract white men and brown-skinned local women. Today it attracts fairer-skinned local women and Asian men. Very few Caucasians are seen in the Thermae these days and those who do venture there tend to be throwbacks reliving mis-spent nights when the Thermae was the most popular freelancer venue in town. Swinging by for a visit this week there were but a handful of Caucasians who were almost invisible to the girls. The door of the Thermae sports a small sign with a symbol prohibiting ladyboys from entering. Will a similar symbol for Westerners appear one day?

Speaking of freelancers, I got a shock this week when wandering around the old part of the city after dark, exploring and taking photos. I had photographed dark alleys, shophouses with Chinese lanterns, the homeless and an even a short-time hotel – which struck me as a curiosity given that it's uncharacteristically quiet after nightfall in that part of the old city with nothing in the way of naughty nightlife venues. I made it to Rachadamnoen Road and a girl comes up to me, the only farang within cooey, and out of the blue says in Thai, "I go to hotel with you, 400 baht." She was no less attractive than what you find on Sukhumvit so please, don't tell me you're not paying over the odds on Sukhumvit!

But I turned down her very reasonable offer and headed to Khao San Road, which by night feels narrower with vendors encroaching into the middle of the road making it difficult to traverse in parts. Music blares from all directions and the 400-metre long strip reminds me of an old-style Pattaya beer bar complex where every bar has its own music system and playlist with the volume run permanently at maximum.



Despite the noise, I stuck around and enjoyed a couple of cheap cocktails and watched the world go by. Khao San Road is not the first place that comes to mind in Bangkok when it comes to couples with large age gaps. I saw such a couple this week which confirmed what I have always thought – large age gaps make the couple look silly. The rolls of fat around her waist reminded me of the tiered rice fields of Bali. Her protruding forehead with its receding hairline was so big you could land an A380 on it. I'd put her age at 45 and she was all over the guy – just as he was with her. The age gap was at least 25 years. Doesn't sound so bad, right? I'd estimate his age at around 18 – certainly he had yet to have his 20th birthday. What did he see in her?

What's becoming common on Craigslist shows why naughty bars are struggling to recruit girls. More and more local lasses are posting profiles of themselves advertising a holiday girlfriend experience. Those interested are encouraged to email for more details. The detail reply include photos which leave you in no doubt about what's on offer. Rates seem to be in line with chrome pole venues leading me to believe that some may once have danced on stage and have decided to market themselves elsewhere, away from the rules and BS of the bar environment. Who will be first to set up a local Thai site like 141 in Hong Kong?

An Englishman by the name of Barry has just set up a pie & pastry business. He bakes to order and then delivers at the weekend. I have yet to try his offerings but have heard good things. More details about Barry's pies can be found here.

Looking for somewhere pleasant to take a date with a generous happy hour? The rooftop bar at the Four Points by Sheraton, AmBar, pictured below, does cocktails for 250 baht without the ++ nonsense. Every night from 8 – 11 PM it's 2 for the price of 1 – and they even have free bar snacks too. There's a burger menu with some interesting choices including a salmon burger, a lamb burger and a krapow burger. To get to AmBar, take the lift which is towards the back of the hotel lobby up to the 8th floor.


AmBar


Have you ever been to see a movie in Bangkok when the cinema was actually full? It seems that cinemas are never more than about 1/3 full. I usually buy a ticket an hour or two before the movie starts and then go off for a bite to eat – to ensure a seat. But given that cinemas are never full, I don't know why I bother.

The number of tourists visiting Bangkok continues to increase. When that happened in Phuket in the late '90s room prices doubled in just a few years. Will the same thing happen in Bangkok? I wouldn't count on it. The past few years has seen many new hotels open in Bangkok and a number of really large hotels under construction on Sukhumvit are not far away from opening, increasing the number of rooms and hopefully keeping prices reasonable. And unlike Phuket, visitors to Bangkok seem to only stay a few days whereas down there they seem to stay a week or more. Fortunately, the shortage of rooms in Phuket saw mass construction follow and rates stabilised and even dropped in some cases.

One of Thailand's top expat writers is also one of Thailand's top expat bloggers. Read Christopher G Moore's latest, "Omnishambles Thai Style", and tell me of anyone in Thailand who blogs better than this.

It's Thanksgiving Day this coming Thursday and no doubt all the usual places will be doing something special. The traditional favourite is Bourbon Street which always puts on a huge spread. The downside is that it gets so busy in the dining area that it feels like you're at a concert. In recent years, 2 other American-owned venues, Bully's and Sunrise Tacos, have put on special Thanksgiving Day spreads. Bully's is putting on a buffet so for big eaters that's somewhere to consider. If a set menu with a few meat choices sounds preferable, try the flagship branch of Sunrise Tacos at New York Gardens beside Sukhumvit soi 12. Their Josper-cooked salmon is to die for, probably the best salmon I've ever had. Details for each below.



Bully's Bangkok

Sunrise


Quote of the week comes from a reader, "Does Thailand have April Fool's Day, or is it every day of the year?"

Reader's story of the week comes from a young Aussie, "A Reflection, 3 Years On From My First Visit To Thailand".

The local phenomenon of Thai ambulance drivers taking creepy photos of dead bodies is explained by Nine News.

An Austrian living in Thailand is arrested after a failed blackmail attempt for 15 million Euros.

The Thai authorities tell the Australian authorities to get tougher on those Aussies traveling abroad for the icky stuff.

A man arrested is after a Thai health boss is found dead in pool of blood at a Glasgow conference venue.

A Thai man goes to a back alley clinic to have his penis enlarged and ends up paying the ultimate price.

And the problem of Thai men keen to enlarge their penis seems to be rather widespread according to the Post.

An Israeli who murdered and dissected the body of his Thai ex-wife will be freed from a Thai jail having served just 8 years.

Wired magazine looked at all the recent stories of Westerners losing their daughter in Thailand.



Ask Sunbelt Asia 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: Can I pay a service company to register a second-hand motorcycle purchase for me? I just purchased a scooter from a Farang owner. He gave me all the proper documents to go to the DMV with to do the green book name change, but I went to the wrong branch. I think it would be very useful for second-hand bike buyers to know that they have to use the branch that is associated with the previous owner's registered address in the green book. It turns out I have to go to the one way across the river off Rama 2 Road for Sathorn / Silom residents. This is a huge delay for me and a waste of a whole day. I really don't want to drive this motorbike way over there and I would really like to outsource this 'problem' to a service company? Any suggestions and procedure details?

Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: It would be entirely at your discretion on whether or not to leave the vehicle's registration book with an unknown party to complete the transfer. You may want to consider using Sunbelt Asia for such a service as we have been in business for over ten years. With an unknown party you would need to make sure that the power of attorney has been accurately completed as well as provide sufficient funds to pay the transfer fees. If you use Sunbelt Asia then you can be certain it is all done legally and you won't need to be worried that your motorcycle ends up in someone else's name.

The first page of the registration book will show the branch where the vehicle's record is kept. If not, then please see the address of the very first owner as an indicator. It is possible for you to then change the branch where the vehicle files are kept, and it would take 2 – 4 weeks to effect such a transfer. You can do the annual registration at any location that is in the Department of Land Transportation's authority.

You wouldn't need to return to the original office to sell the bike as all you would need to do is give the sale purchase agreement, transfer request form and the power of attorney to the buyer to process the document.

Question 2: I have a stepson who has returned to Thailand to get experience in IT. He is now working full-time in Bangkok. He has also been working for a gaming company in Serbia, translating, solving issues for Thai gamers etc. and now they are giving him the run around about paying him. Initially they wanted him to form a company in Thailand. It is our understanding that this is unnecessary and prohibitively expensive. Now there are concerns that he has to pay VAT, as he is providing services to a company outside Thailand, which are used by consumers in Thailand. Does an individual in Thailand who is working for a company based overseas, providing translation and technical services for Thai nationals, have to pay VAT on any salary received? What other taxes might he be liable for? How does one register to pay such taxes in Thailand? The Serbian company is refusing to pay him until he has worked all this out, and puts all the details in an invoice to them. And because he is working full-time he hasn't a chance to work this all out for himself.

Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: We are surmising your son is Thai and then would only need to pay VAT in Thailand if he is selling services at more than 1.8 million baht a year. If he is not making this much then he will not need to register for VAT. Your Thai son would need to pay personal income tax for what he earns but there is no legal requirement in Thailand for a person to start up a company to be taxed legally in Thailand. Under the Double Tax Agreement if he is being taxed on his income in Serbia then he does not also need to be taxed in Thailand as well, but again, this is for personal income tax only.

Sunbelt Asia has a very experienced Accounting Department that can work with your stepson on determining if he needs to register and pay VAT and other tax issues.

Question 3: I am a Brit married to a Thai. I paid a large dowry to my wife's family one year ago. My wife is on the pill and we have no children. We have just separated and I have discovered she is pregnant by me, therefore not always taking the pill but not telling me. My wife owes me nearly 500,000 baht that she has ‘borrowed' from me, not always with my consent. She has sent me SMS & emails stating this fact and they are her guarantee that she will repay the money. I own a condo in my name which I now live in and a house in a nominee's name, both of which I owned before I met my wife. I am retired at age 52 with no income in Thailand and no pension until I reach 65. I live off my savings which are invested in the UK and mostly accumulated before I met my wife. My wife works and owns a bar and a small restaurant. My questions are :

1. Do I have to pay for the upkeep of my wife e.g. pay house rent for her to live.
2. What costs do I have to pay for the baby and what percentage e.g. 50% for general living costs, clothes, food etc.
3. What percentage of hospital fees do I pay during the maternity period and can I stipulate which hospital?
4. If I believe the costs proposed by my wife's solicitor are too high, what recourse do they have to take the money from me as I have no income?
5. If we agree a monthly fee, can I offset it against the money she owes me until the debt is repaid and do I have to have the debt legally registered somewhere?

Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: Assuming that you are still legally married, but living separately (probably in the process of getting a divorce), then as a husband and wife and by law, each would have the responsibility and duties to look after each other. The expenses for upkeep and living could be shared, there is no right or wrong answer, as this is based on mutual agreement between the two parties.

As you are married and the child conceived while married, both parents have equal responsibility to take care of the child.

If you cannot come to an agreement on terms if you divorce, then she could file a court case for dissolution of the marriage which would entitle her to half of all marital assets, that is, assets obtained during the marriage. She could also claim for child support. The court decision would be based not only on your ability to support them but also geographical considerations. In regards to the loan issue, for a loan agreement to be applicable, there must be a written agreement (at least signed to accept by the borrower), otherwise there would be lack of grounds to make claim on the money as emails and SMS would be insufficient proof and evidence. If she agrees and accepts the fact that she borrowed money from you, the payment of the loan would be based on a mutual agreement. If your wife will agree to sign a loan agreement, Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can help you draft a binding agreement. Additionally, we have experienced divorce lawyers to assist you in this process should you decide to go forward with the divorce.





Bangkok expat pub


It's always nice to read your emails so don't be shy to let me know your thoughts on what's going on in your part of Bangkok and particularly what you think about what appears in this column. When it comes to selecting emails to publish in the next column, preference is given to readers' emails that respond to what appears in the previous column. So if you have any thoughts on the issue of police stopping and checking foreigners, why the Nana sign remains in darkness or anything else mentioned this week, let me know. Oh, and unless you're totally abusive – and that's only a handful of people per year – I DO reply to all emails.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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