He was a kindly-looking old man standing awkwardly in the shade on the one quiet street corner in an otherwise busy part of the capital. From his clothes and general appearance he clearly wasn't a city boy. He was from the country, somewhere way out in the boondocks, where cellular signals don't reach and Thai isn't the first language. He didn't belong here, and in his eyes I could see that he really didn't want to be here. The big city was much more foreign to him than it was me, and he looked as lost in downtown Bangkok as a water buffalo dumped on Sukhumvit. He wasn't holding out a hat, a cup, or a container, but it was obvious he needed help. When our eyes met I saw desperation in his eyes, a plea for help. A plea to help him go home. So I gave. Hopefully I helped someone who needed it, and not one of the professional beggars who are as much a fixture in downtown Bangkok as 7 Eleven stores.
Downtown Bangkok has more beggars than there are policemen patrolling, and in some areas more beggars than there are hookers.
When I think of beggars in Bangkok, I think of big mama. Big mama can be seen on Sukhumvit most nights, this being far from her first column appearance. Long-time readers may remember she threw a flip flop at me when I took her photo late one night a few years back. I wonder if the child here is from that old photo. If it is, he's been living on the streets since before he could walk.
Big Mama knows all the tricks to get you to hand over some cash. If the children don't convince you to throw some loose change her way, maybe the puppies will?
Big mama also controls this child, seen here at the foot of the Asoke BTS station, opposite Sukhumvit soi 19.
But where Big Mama seems to run her small little ring, many beggars are controlled by gangs, especially those who are unable to walk or get around easily. The gangs drop them off in the area and then collect them late at night.
Often referred to as the slug, he has be has been a fixture on Sukhumvit for years. Perhaps the most famous of all beggars in the nightlife areas, come rain or shine he drags himself along the ground. When it rains, it's not a pretty sight.
It's the slug version2! Different people, these 2 photos were taken less than 15 minutes apart, the first in Soi Cowboy and the second outside Chuwit Park.
Like version1, he's been around for years and their MO is exactly the same, so obviously the business model works. These guys ham it up and I don't doubt they are more mobile than they appear, but then it's their job so they do what they can to maximise their reward. Slithering along the ground elicits more sympathy than leaning against a wall with a container in front of you.
It's hard not to feel something for those who drag themselves along the ground, but plenty are worse off. The sad truth is that he, like many of those who were dealt a really awful hand, are looked after by gangs in return for begging throughout the day. I'd be quite happy to give to a guy like this but how can you know what happens to the money? If it's going to a gang, forget it!
Chinatown has quadruple amputees who slide around on makeshift trolleys. There's a fellow on Silom whose face is without features, no eyes or nose, just large chunks of flesh hanging from it and there are the lepers who can be seen throughout the day and early evening near the bottom of the Nana BTS station steps. If only the money all went to them.
This fellow's haunts include Soi Cowboy, the Asoke intersection and the British pubs around soi 33/1. Again, as someone who just doesn't have the same chances as a lot of us, I'd be happy to give from time to time, but how much of the money does he keep? Or is it shared?
While Soi Cowboy gets more than a few beggars, Nana Plaza is free of them – at least within the plaza itself.
Outside the plaza is another story and Soi Nana with all its hotels and foot traffic is a hot spots for beggars. This entrepreneurial woman has been begging for several years at least and has appeared numerous times in the Stickman archives including this photo taken in 2005. By day she can be seen at the foot of the steps of the Ekamai BTS station, by night near the top of Soi Nana. Working a 2-shift day, I wonder just how lucrative her business is.
Squatting down next to her is the infamous counterfeit watch dealer with a large growth on the side of his face. He claims that this lady is his mother. I suggested it was nonsense but he insists that she really is his biological mother. True or not, I have no idea.
Many of the veteran beggars on Sukhumvit are recognised by long-term expats or frequent visitors, from the slugs to some of the older women to the old Muslim woman who begs exclusively in Sukhumvit 3/1. It's easy to understand how someone desperate, or unable to work chooses to beg, but many long-term beggars could work, but choose not to. And why not when they do so well? My efforts to engage and attempt to fool them into revealing how much they make were unsuccessful. It was like trying to convince a magician to reveal his secrets. No-one would come out and say how much they made, or even admit that begging was lucrative.
Beggars line up along Soi Nana like girls do in a massage parlour. Near Hillary Bar, a blind beggar ambles past a woman with her baby.
And just a little further down Soi Nana still, this is probably not the best way of eliciting sympathy. This distinctly Cambodian looking fellow puffs away. Adult males who look relatively fit should be ashamed to beg.
Almost hypnotised by the 20 baht note, the mother's (?) eyes lock on to it as the camera's auto-focus system locks on to her. The kid couldn't care less about the money, the camera is much more interesting. When the little one had heard the distinctive slap of the camera's shutter, she leaped up to see the image on the camera's rear screen. Clearly this was not the first time she's been photographed.
With a distinctly Khmer look, I'd guess she also comes from across the border. The easiest way to know is to talk to them in Thai. Cambodians in Bangkok seem to speak only the most basic Thai – and are shy to use it. Few seem to gain any level of mastery of Thai.
Why is it that so many Cambodians in Thailand seem to beg, while the million odd Myanmar nationals in Thailand work? I don't ever recall seeing a Myanmar national begging, yet Cambodia boasts a higher GDP than Myanmar.
Thailand is seen as a promised land by Cambodian beggars trying their luck in Bangkok. From time to time they are rounded up and returned to the border but within days, maybe even hours, they are back on Thai soil and headed for Bangkok, so lucrative are the streets of Bangkok.
On the overbridge not far from Sukhumvit soi 15, a young woman holds a young child.
Some of these young women really are the mother, breast-feeding the child, but many clearly aren't. I've never seen Big Mama pregnant but she seems to have a bunch of babies.
A Cambodian woman who is a fixture on the stairs going up to the walkway over the Asoke intersection begged while pregnant for months and recently gave birth. Now she begs with her child and can be seen breast-feeding throughout the day.
At the bottom of the steps leading up to the Nana station, a young woman cradles a baby. Passersby looking at me as I hang over the balcony cause her to look up, see me angling for a shot and she makes a hurried exit. Cambodian, I figure, therefore almost certainly illegal hence the great escape.
Not wanting to be too hard on the Cambodians, from time to time you see Westerners begging in Bangkok. Over the years a number of farangs have begged in downtown Bangkok, as distinct from homeless farangs. Most disappear fast, but not this guy.
A common sight several years ago, this Dutchman became infamous amongst the expat community for scam begging all over the city and the shameless way he asked for money for an air ticket home when in fact he had no intention of leaving. A foreigner claiming that he wants to go home was a hit and both foreigners and Thais gave generously.
Spotted in various locations around downtown Bangkok, he sat where there was a mix of farang / middle-class Thai foot traffic, meaning Sukhumvit and Silom. He begged for years but I haven't seen him for perhaps 5 years. I wonder what happened to him.
This fellow had turned in for the evening early at Wongwien Yai, an area with plenty of homeless and also known for friendly ladies in short skirts with bright lipstick perching on street corners.
Despite the precariousness of his situation, this fellow did not have his hand out. Many have way too much pride than to ask strangers for money. Thais recognise this and often give a few baht discreetly to those in need.
Some beggars roam around, asking for money. This girl wanders around Soi Nana with her cup and does well at the railings of the beer bars.
I'd like to say children of her age shouldn't be seen anywhere near the area but in fairness, this high season I've seen European families with kids of the same age sitting in the middle of Nana having a drink well in to the evening.
A woman carries a child around, instructed to stick his paws out and ask for money. If she can carry a child, she can work – and there's plenty of work out there these days.
Bangkok's beggars come in all shapes and sizes. The parts of downtown Bangkok popular with tourists seem to be dominated by Cambodians. Contrast that with Siam Square where the beggars tend to be older Thais.
The fake / begging monks which made the rounds a few years ago and were a regular feature of the column have disappeared and the dirty doctor takes some credit for repelling them, the robes that he ripped off some still hold a pride of place on his wall.
The skytrain service has ended for the night and the bars will soon empty out. It's way past my bed time and if it's late for me, it's way too late for her. She should have been in bed hours ago. Instead she is forced to beg so those controlling her can line their pockets. Who is forcing her to stay out? A gang? Her family? Who knows.
Bangkok's professional beggars remind me of the city's working girls. They want to make the maximum amount of money for the minimum amount of effort.
If someone is genuinely down on their luck and in need, I'll help as I did with the old guy this week. The difficulty is knowing who is genuine, and who isn't.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken at in Patpong soi 2. There are two prizes this week, a 300-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 – Same crime, do the same time?
The recent shooting of 2 German tourists by 2 Australians in Phuket should put the transparency of the justice system under the microscope once again. The circumstances very closely mirror that of the Thai man that shot and killed a young Englishman on Koh Phangan on New Year's Eve. In both instances the offenders had illegal firearms and although they intended to shoot someone, the ultimate victim however was not their intended target but an innocent third party. While the two Germans should recover, unfortunately the Englishman shot on Koh Phangan was not so lucky and died shortly afterwards. Following the shooting of the Englishman it was widely reported that the Thai offender would face less serious charges as he had not intended to shoot “that” victim but someone else. As for the Aussies, media reports say they will face attempted murder charges and lengthy prison time if convicted. In Australia, the test for bringing a murder charge is not just whether the offender intended to kill their victim, but whether they were recklessly indifferent to human life. In short, if you fire a gun at “A” but miss and kill “B”, it does not matter that “B” was not your intended victim as the prosecution need only prove that you were “recklessly indifferent to human life”. Unfortunately for the 2 Australians there is a much bigger victim here than the 2 Germans, and that is Thailand's precious tourist industry, a victim that bleeds money and not blood. With all the bad press that Phuket constantly gets both in Thailand and abroad they might pay very harshly for their deeds. Now I am not saying that the Aussies shouldn't be punished harshly, far from it, the outcome however in both cases however will be interesting to say the least.
One of a million, or one in a million?
I have considered for a long time entering into a relationship with a Thai girl I have known for some years, but something held me back. Recently I met a Chinese girl from Shanghai. Masters Degree. Worked in the US for a multinational. Has her own business in Shanghai. Highly intelligent in having contemplatory discussions about life. We have been engaging in terrific discussions about investing, business, life, movies, philosophy. In short we have developed a bond. We are in tune with each other. Now I don't know where this will lead but it became apparent to me within a short timeframe that I had a deep longing to spend more time with her. To deepen our bond. All this has made me think about the Thai girl that I have known for a long time who I have been averse to entering into a relationship with. And it occurred to me that if we were to be in a relationship it would be a case of me being one OF a million that she could enter into a relationship with. Because her standard is so low. Her standard is nothing more than me having a good heart and money. Whereas with the Chinese girl it is a case of me being one IN a million. A potential soul mate who she can bond with and grow with. And vice versa for me. I can't help but think this difference is why I hear so many farangs say that after they are married to a Thai lady and have had children with her it is as if he doesn't exist. As I heard one farang say, "I think the only reason my Thai wife keeps me around is because the kids would miss me." I feel somewhat embarrassed that I have not identified this difference between a one OF a million relationship versus a one IN a million relationship until now!
Contemptible behaviour transcends ethnicity.
I took a day trip to Ayutthaya to visit the wats. I avoided the tuktuks and took a motorbike taxi to Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol. I walked the grounds and climbed the wat. I was shocked to see the names of dozens of tourists scratched onto the walls. "Natalia" scrawled her name and the date in 2-inch letters. I cursed the Farang idiots that defaced this religious shrine but as I continued my walk I started to see Thai names and Thai script! I was doubly shocked to see that even Thais had no respect for this holy place. This would be an excellent location for CCTV monitoring along with hefty fines and banning idiots from the Kingdom.
Interrogated at the bus station.
Just a quick update on police searches. It seems they are expanding their area. While waiting for the Pattaya bus at Ekamai, two boys in brown road up on their bike. I was standing just outside the bus area. One wandered over and asked where I was going, what I was doing in Bangkok, etc. I replied I had come for the weekend to do some shopping. He asked for my passport (which I had with me because I didn't know if I would need it for the hotel I stayed in), but I handed over my Thai driving license. He checked it and then after a few more questions about what I was doing in Thailand, asked if he could search me. I agreed, not having anything to hide. He then went through my bag, my toilet bag, my wallet and looked very thoroughly. I must say I was watching extremely carefully as he checked my wallet. He seemed to be looking for drugs in the wallet lining, but being a 40-something, respectably dressed farang I wouldn't have said I look like the stereotypical user / carrier. Although I felt a bit intimidated by the experience, I've been here long enough to "accept" these things. If on the other hand I was a tourist visiting for the first time, it would have been quiet an upsetting experience. My only guess why this is taking place is that the rewards for catching a farang with some illegal substance are high.
Be careful the company you keep.
One evening right before New Year I was walking down Sukhumvit. I don't go to the bars because I'm a Cheap Charlie but I do like to get a beer at Family Mart and take a walk. I was walking down the street, minding my own business, enjoying a can of beer, walking up soi 5 to Foodland when some African comes up to me and says, "What are you looking for? What do you want?" I told him directly, "I want you to get away from me!" As soon as he crossed the street, a cop on a motorbike stopped me! I have lived here 8 years and I can have a conversation in Thai, but I wanted the cop to work so I only spoke English. I asked the cop why he stopped me. Was it because he saw me talking to a black? "Yes!" I asked him why. He said because they deal drugs! I was searched, asked for my passport (which I didn't have). I asked the cop why he stopped me instead of the black. Well, we all know why, don't we? After the search the cop said I can see you have taken something. I said to him, "You think I stole something?" Have taken drugs? I told him the only drugs I had in my system were about 3 of these beers I'm holding in my hand. Then the cop threatened to take me to the police station to "pee-pee" and with that I said "Sawadee pii mai, du lay tua ang", turned around and walked away.
I got searched! I got a taxi from outside Lotus at On Nut to Khao San Road. I didn't realise for about 5 minutes that he hadn't put the meter on. The driver took an obscure route towards the highway and before we got there we hit a checkpoint with cops shining torches in to all the cars. When they saw I was a farang they pulled the car over (taxi driver unsurprisingly turned on the meter.) They searched my pockets, the elastic at the top of my boxers and my bag but didn't ask to search inside my wallet. They asked for my passport which I didn't have. I offered my UK driving license and one guy checked it then called another over (I'm guessing his superior) and gave it to him. He looked at it and said "Thank you, have a good night" and they let me go on my way. Pain-free but still odd. After I got to Khao San the taxi driver demanded 500 baht and got pretty aggressive. We settled on 200 which I still feel was a piss take but not too excessive seeing as he paid the 45 toll.
Captain Hornbag is setting the Silom Road end of Patpong soi 2 alive at Club Electric Blue where his modest bar now has 45 girls. That's more than some of the big name bars in Nana and Cowboy. Club Electric Blue features its own beauties, some coyotes and the ranks were swelled this week with an influx of girls who had had enough at Camelot Castle in Patpong soi 1. It seems that Captain Hornbag is doing all he can to get the Stickman bar manager of the year award.
Lips on Sukhumvit soi 33 has broken the stereotype of bars on the sleepy soi by filling the bar with a bunch of young, pretty girls. One bar isn't enough for soi 33 to make a comeback but Lips is definitely worth a look if you find yourself anywhere near soi 33.
It isn't back to the heights of the late '90s, but G Spot has turned around and is thriving on a formula similar to that in Spanky's – the bar is all about fun. The music is great with songs that the girls find it easy to dance to. The staff smile and many of the girls positively bounce around the stage. The prettiest girls in Nana aren't found at G Spot and truth be told, all shapes and sizes can be found. On the bright side, no matter what your preference is, you'll probably find someone to your liking in G Spot.
Another venue in Nana worth sticking your head in is Lollipop, one of a few Nana bars where bikinis never come off. Being so close to the main entrance, the venue would need an alert lookout should the cavalry came storming in to the plaza. That there is nothing on display is probably a good thing because in addition to a few cute girls, there are also a few cute boys. Yep, Lollipop is one of only a few bars outside the infamous spots on Patpong soi 1 where ladyboys and real ladies dace side by side. Why do bar owners have both girls and ladyboys in the same bar, I hear you ask. Because there's demand for it, there really is!
And for those of you who are ladyboy curious but would rather not be seen walking hand in hand in public with a chick with a dick lest someone you know sees you, you might want to try Discreet Ladyboy Escorts, a Bangkok ladyboy agency which focuses on a select group of ladyboys who are discreet and reliable. They also have a sister site: Ladygirls-Escort that includes some female escorts who are willing to double team with ladyboys. Lollipop features real girls and fake girls dancing side by side, but forget about asking one of the girls and one of the ladyboys to fulfill your twisted fantasy. Most Thai women are aghast at the idea of being in private quarters with a ladyboy.
I am pleased to see that despite my dire predictions, Strikers Sports Bar, in the car park of the Raja Hotel, is doing well. It claims to be the largest sports pub in the Nana area with a mixture of open-air and air-conditioned spaces. Strikers shows Premier League Football live every week and will be showing the Superbowl on February 4th from 6 AM local Bangkok time. The 5 Brunswick pool tables are free to play on every day until 6 PM and the Strikers Bar 2013 swimsuit calendar, shot by New York photographer, Al Lock, is available now.
An article in the Bangkok Post last week reported that security staff at bars in the safety zones have received martial arts training raised eyebrows amongst some bar regulars. News of a scuffle that got out of hand at a Soi Cowboy bar on Saturday night shows why such training is necessary. An Aussie was partying hard and mentioned to bar staff that he had a budget of 15,000 baht – and he would like to be made aware when his bill was getting near that. Having run up an 11,000 baht tab, the fellow who bar staff described as built like a brick shithouse and as strong as an ox changed. It started with words, and he began swearing loudly which upset staff and caused some concerned customers to leave. When approached by security to calm down he became got worse. The manager and mamasan tried to calm him down but he got even more belligerent and flipped out. With no other option, the cops were called. The cops were outside the bar when the doors flung open and the guy stormed out of the bar, straight across the soi and into the outside drinking area at Suzy Wong's, leaving a trail of destruction behind him. Inside the bar some of the dolls of the house had been bowled over and property had been busted. In hot pursuit were the bar security who tasered him (as they are allowed to under such circumstances), yet that didn't stop him and this man mountain would not settle down! Eventually it became a numbers game and the bar security helped cuffing the drunk oaf. It took 5 coppers to restrain him before he was thrown into the paddy wagon and taken away to the cop shop. Resisting arrest and then flailing about as cops tried to restrain him might have made for an interesting night in the cells.
What's going on at Nanapong? Usually very open, Farangman has become awfully secretive and I note the site has been updated. What's that all about?
The staff of the small 7 Eleven store at the top of Soi Nana obviously aren't paid enough. One member of staff asks customers for a tip. She wouldn't dare ask a Thai and this sort of shit only happens in tourist areas.
Russians are descending on Bangkok in greater numbers and I'm hearing Russian spoken more and more on Sukhumvit. How long will it be before you see menus at popular Sukhumvit spots in Cyrillic? I'm interested to see how the Bangkok Thais find the Ruskies because when it comes to personality type and general compatibility, it's hard to think of two nationalities which are so different.
The difficulty employers in Thailand currently face finding staff is manifesting itself in many ways. Some girls in Pattaya are working 2 shifts in 2 different venues unbeknownst to some of their bosses and raking in the cash. A number of restaurants where service used to be good have deteriorated horribly and it's getting to the point where only high-end venues like those in 5-star hotels offer genuinely good service – which means you have to spend more if you don't want a crap experience. And as one American restaurateur said to me this week, bosses are so afraid of losing good staff that they will not tell staff off, or even point out issues when staff screw up because if they do there's a real chance that staff member will leave. They all know that they can get another job right away! The staff shortage is so acute that you see more and more foreign nationals working all over. A friend of the other half got her nails done at a nail salon on Sukhumvit by a Vietnamese girl who spoke zero Thai which caused a stink. Meanwhile, the other half insists that the noodle soup she had at Terminal 21 didn't taste good primarily because it was prepared by a Burmese!
Should you have reason to be in the Cambodian capital next week, it's worth keeping in mind that Phnom Penh is gearing up for a big procession in honour of the passing late last year of the former Cambodian King and locals are saying the first week of February may not be a great time to visit. Businesses have been instructed to shut or operate in a subdued and respectful manner with no music. No alcohol ban has been issued at this stage. The riverfront and Norodom Boulevard will be closed on February 1st for the first parade around the city as well as the 4th. At least one local expat operating a business in the tourist industry recommends visitors refrain from visiting until after the 4th.
A friend recently sold his business in London and has moved to Bangkok. He worries that he will soon become bored of Jack+Coke, women and song and is looking for a business to buy or invest in. My friend has plenty of coin and is open minded about what type of business to buy or invest in. If anyone has a business for sale or is looking for a genuine investor, email me and I will forward details on to him.
In last week's column I mentioned that a most unlikely restaurant is offering wonderfully cooked steaks at fair prices. That place is the flagship branch of Sunrise Tacos, Bangkok's best Mexican restaurant, which has added Josper-grilled steaks to its menu. Owner Greg is one of Bangkok's top foreign businessmen with businesses all over the city but those who meet him know right away that his real passion is food. Greg has invested $20,000 in a Josper grill, an ultra high temperature oven from Spain that is ideal for cooking the perfect steak. Cooking the meat at such high temperatures seals the steak so it is charred on the outside but remains juicy on the inside. Not content merely with having an oven ideally suited to cooking the perfect steak, Greg tried out many suppliers before settling on one which he felt offered the best Australian beef. The premium cut is a 180 gram Angus filet mignon which goes for 495++ baht. My personal favourite is the 220 gram black Angus prime tenderloin which is almost as tender but has a stronger flavour, also 495++ baht. If you love good beef cooked perfectly then you will love these! And if beef isn't your thing, Sunbelt's new Josper Grill menu features a rosemary grilled chicken along with a wonderful grilled salmon dish. Do drag your Thai teeruk along because Thais love new things and no doubt she'll be keen to photograph herself chomping on some Aussie meat so she can post it on Facebook and show off to all of her friends. The Sunrise Josper Grill menu is only available at the flagship branch of Sunrise Tacos, at the New York Gardens beside the start of Sukhumvit soi 12.
Speaking of popular farang eateries, it's been months since I have been to Bourbon Street, but I made it this week and wasn't disappointed. Owner Doug was all smiles when asked about how it was going saying that he wished he had moved to the new location years ago!
Yet more proof this week that Turkish food is not a hit in Thailand as the Istanbul restaurant on Soi Nana has closed and been replaced by an Indian restaurant.
The following email was received from the one known as Glitterman, the man on the golden bicycle who used to call Pattaya home.
I am in Wimbledon doing my show but the wind, the rain and now the cold and snow usually means I can only take out the bike about two or three times a week. Everybody seems to love my show here and I have not heard any abuse in the 250 miles that I have done so far. [Nor any angry car horns] Many motorists beep their horns and wave to me as I pass them [from double decker buses to police vehicles], and walking families with their children stop and wave. This is very different from the usual beer bars waving to me in Pattaya. I do miss Pattaya. I do not know when I will return, but just like everyone else, I am sure that I will return one day.
One of the curiosities of guys who do the bargirl thing is the way some are willing to divulge so much about themselves to a girl they hardly know. I guess she might be the first girl who seems happy to hear about their problems (even though the girls dislike this almost as much as some of the kinky stuff some guys ask of them). Anyway, a warning about giving too much away about yourself to bargirls after a long-time reader emailed me this week with a situation. In Thailand some years ago, he ended up with a girl at Soi Cowboy to whom he divulged much about his life, disclosing rather more than he should, including his real name and the fact that he had a wife back in the States. He gave her his email. This week he received an email from a friend of this girl with threats of a package being sent to his wife with information about his affair. They had carried out an extensive search about him online – most likely Facebook and had found a way to contact his wife. The way it was put together was rather clever and the amount of money requested was enough to be interesting, but not so much that the average person would be unable to pay. Truth be told, I don't hear much about this sort of thing at all, but there is always a danger. In this particular situation the girl was helped by another person – almost certainly a foreigner! The way of thinking, the nous and specifically the use of English all had the footprint of a Caucasian male! To avoid becoming a victim, don't give these girls anything more than a couple of thousand baht. Don't even tell her your real name or where you come from.
Emails from readers suggest that the police are stopping more foreigners on Sukhumvit. One reader was stopped and searched twice this week – and he was not the first. Analysing their MO, I believe they are opportunists. They always ask to see the person's passport, yet when it is not produced they are not bothered – and neither are they concerned if the person has no ID on them. Thai police know that few foreigners carry their passport with them and I believe that asking to see a person's passport is a ploy. When the foreigner is unable to produce it, they become concerned that perhaps they are in the wrong and so tend to be more compliant. So when the cops ask them if it is ok to search them, they consent, eager to avoid any problems. From the cops' perspective, it's a chance to check a foreigner and see if he has drugs on his person. I hear plenty of the new expats i.e. the recent, younger arrivals are doing drugs and the cops would know this too. If a foreigner is found with drugs, it's a feather in the cop's cap…
Quote of the week comes long-time reader Martin, "It is said that ignorance of the law does not constitute innocence and so I would suggest that naivety of a culture does not excuse us either."
Reader's story of the week comes from Mega, "Postcards from Vietnam".
The BBC reports that Burmese refugees have been sold by Thai officials to human traffickers.
A British grandmother is sentenced to the death penalty in Bali for smuggling drugs.
Two Australian men have been arrested over the accidental shooting of 2 German tourists in Phuket.
The mother of a 22-year old Brit missing flies to Thailand to search for her son.
An ad from IKEA has upset Thai ladyboys.
Imaged-obsessed Thais are becoming ever more extreme in their quest to be beautiful.
Bangkok-based writer Jerry Hopkins was interviewed in the South China Morning Post.
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: I have a 5-year Thai driver's license which will expire this year, on November 21, 2013. If I want to renew the license in 2014, within a year of its expiration, would I be required to take any of the tests again, or could I simply renew the license then? If I wanted to renew the license early, before it expires, could I do that?
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: If your driving license has expired for more than a year, you would have to take only the theory test, but if it has expired for more than three years, you would have to take both the theory test and the practical test. You can renew your driver's license up to 3 months before its expiration date.
Question 2: I am thinking about relocating to Thailand and was wondering how easy it would be to incorporate a company to run a business distributing health supplements. What is required in Thailand with the FDA procedure?
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: The first step would be to form a company and then have a work permit with the objective of importing and trading (retail / wholesale) your products. The FDA process is quite detailed and there are different steps for different classes of products. Sunbelt Asia Legal has processed many FDA applications over the years and gotten approval. We welcome the opportunity to assist you.
Question 3: I want to know if it is possible for me, a British passport holder on a one year education visa, to form a holding company, without assets, in preparation for buying a company in Thailand. If it is possible, what regulations would need to be met?
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: It is possible for you to establish a holding company to acquire business assets. Once your business is operating and you will be working in it, you will need to change the education visa to a non-B (or non-O if married to a Thai) and apply for a work permit. Sunbelt Asia has an extensive listing of businesses for sale as we are part of the world's largest business network and can provide opportunities for you to evaluate along with setting up the holding company.
A drop in the birth rate, economic prosperity and doubt-digit percentage increases in visitor numbers year after year has naughty boys who can join the dots concerned. When 2015 arrives and hindrance on movement within the ASEAN countries for citizens of the 10 ASEAN nations removed, Thailand-based naughty boys are hoping for an influx of citizens from the poorer ASEAN countries. They hope that young women from poor neighbouring countries will be lured by the promise of riches into the industry and make up the shortfall that is causing the industry to deteriorate. I have very serious reservations about the idea of foreign nationals working in the world's oldest industry outside their homeland and refer to the New Zealand model, where prostitution is legal, but where only New Zealand citizens can legally work in the industry. I hope similar rules are put in place here, notwithstanding that prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand. It's still some time away but things are going to get interesting.
Your Bangkok commentator,