Stickman's Weekly Column November 10th, 2013

Enjoying the Internet, What Happened?





I used to love being online. Just searching for information and discussing topics of interest was fun, let alone making new, often like-minded friends. I looked forward to getting home from work and leaving the real world for the cyber world, in much the same way you lose yourself in a good book. The online world became a big part of my life. But everything has its time and nothing stays the same. Today the Internet is a tool for me and time online is much less enjoyable. The cyber world has evolved and so much more is possible online today, but with the 'net's evolution has come issues, and it just doesn't feel the same. In fact sometimes I get so annoyed with the cyber world that I wonder if it would be possible to live without the 'net at all.





I became a daily net user in January, 1996. My first connection was dial-up, delivering speeds of 5 Kb / second and tying up the house phone line for hours. The 'net experience was new and exciting and the speed was fine. Websites were the most bandwidth intensive applications – and back then few had images or graphics.

After moving to Thailand I went 8 months without a 'net connection, in fact 8 months without a computer. Once a week or so I'd stroll down to the local tailor's store which doubled as a 'net café. I'd become friendly with the owner after setting up a network so 3 computers could share the same dial-up connection, reducing his expenses, increasing profits and chopping the available bandwidth available to each customer to almost nothing. In return he allowed me to use the net there for free. I had been something of a 'net addict before moving to Thailand, but in those 8 months without a computer I didn't miss it. I was too busy discovering this wonderful new city, making new friends and getting my kicks elsewhere. Besides, I didn't know how long I would stay in Thailand so I didn't buy a computer which at that time cost a teacher a whole month's salary.

When I finally did get my own computer and 'net connection, I would suffer for 5 long years with over-priced dial-up and frequent disconnections – 45 baht an hour for the connection and 3 baht every time I called to reconnect, and the many times I called to reconnect after disconnecting. I can laugh now, but to a teacher those 3-baht calls added up! Dial-up was the norm and anything faster was horrendously expensive.

When I finally got a computer in my apartment I would read the news from home, and chat up local birds on ICQ where I made rather a pig of myself at the trough in what were the early days of Internet dating in Thailand. Old-timers often talk of the good old days of the bar scene, but the early days of internet dating in Thailand in the late ‘90s and in to the new millennium was pretty good too!

Before this column was born, all site updates were made over a dial-up connection, no big deal as the site had no photos, no ads – no graphics of any sort! More speed would have been nice but before the likes of YouTube and PirateBay, dial-up was good enough.

There weren't a lot of Thailand-centric sites at that time, the expat population being but a fraction of the size it is today and besides, "Internet" was still a buzzword, something most had yet to embrace.

The best non-commercial Thailand expat site at that time was Sanuk – Fun in Thailand. What started as a basic website with general information about the country with a nightlife slant developed in to a community with a very well run message board with a small number of users. Questions asked by newbies were dutifully answered by long-timers. It was not just a worthwhile resource, it was a place you felt welcome, a place with a real feel good factor.

That message board would expand in to a forum but the culture remained the same. When someone got out of line, perhaps became unnecessarily sarcastic, unhelpful or abusive, they would be reined in by the host or a moderator. The forum had such a strong sense of community that members – a mix of local expats and frequent visitors to Thailand – would meet up on Friday nights at the old Woodstock in Nana Plaza and discuss life. Many friendships were made.

More Thailand websites sprang up and most were a labour of love. The notion that an informational website could sustain a living was about as foreign as squatting on a flush toilet to take a dump.

Around 2002 the Internet started to gain more traction. What had once been the domain of nerds, the technically minded, academics and youngsters, now appealed to the masses. Having no email address in 2002 was like having no mobile phone today. Internet user numbers exploded. Some Thailand expat sites found themselves becoming brand names with traffic levels that made them attractive to advertisers. Online advertising on what were otherwise non-commercial websites started to grow. While advertisements appeared on some sites, most remained a labour of love. It would still be some time before Thailand expat websites would return enough to make a decent living.

With more users, the culture of some Thailand expat sites changed. What once felt like a small village where you knew everyone's name started to feel like a small city. You'd recognise some users, but most were people you didn't know. And just as small villages tend to be friendly places and larger cities less so, so it was with the expat forums. With a perception of anonymity, some started to say things online they probably wouldn't say in person. With no concern that people who knew the real them would see what they said, some started to misbehave.

The forums were becoming less enjoyable but the benefits of logging in still greatly outweighed the negatives. The number of sites about Thailand was growing. More people meant more ideas being shared, more perspectives offered and while some lowered the tone, they were tolerated. Websites started becoming more commercial and webmasters would be reluctant to upset their user base. There remained a notion that the online world and the real world were different – and different rules applied.

But things started to get out of hand. Nasty messages became more frequent and things spilled over in to the real world. Users who had once been anonymous were outed causing some to face embarrassing situations. Private lives became public. The term cyberbullying was coined.

It's only the Internet some would say when users complained of keyboard warriors, another newly coined term. Some users craved a return to civility. Others felt that the Internet was not real, what happened there did not really matter and a free-for-all was entertaining.

As poor behaviour increased, the Internet was starting to be taken more seriously and the days when the Internet was about sending email, surfing the net and reading newsgroups were the distant past. There was no so much more. You could pay your taxes, do your banking or buy a car. TV was being given up for the internet. Newspaper sales nose-dived as readers chose to read the news online. Post offices reported dwindling mail volumes as email was preferred to the traditional mail system. Even bars and nightclubs were being shirked for dating sites. The internet was now very much part of our so-called real life.


Candidography


The Internet has enhanced our lives in so many ways and the benefits are numerous and huge, but in recent years the downsides have proliferated.

Perhaps the main problem with anything online is that you really don't know who you're communicating or dealing with. Is that sexy 26-year old you have seen photos of really the person you're talking to or is it actually a Nigerian male? Does the person who offers you advice about how to stay in Thailand long-term really have a wife who works at the Immigration department? Who is the person who sent you a tirade of abuse because you disagreed with a post of theirs on SlyGeezer and should you take their threats seriously?

The Internet has given jerks, drunks and criminals access to us they would not have otherwise had. And as is so often the case, in Thailand it just seems to be that little bit worse.

In the early days of the net in Thailand, the expat forums were predominantly nightlife-oriented, catering to the most common tourist profile at that time – the single Western male. Regardless of the forum, information was shared, helpful advice given and there was a real feeling of camaraderie. The disruptive, abusive and arrogant quickly found themselves on the outer. These days the talk can be juvenile, abusive and blow up over silly comments. Those who feel spurned may go all out to cause problems for others in the real world. Some Thailand nightlife sites today are so toxic it's a wonder new users sign up.

Things have been little different with this site and those who disagree with something written can get heated and abusive over the smallest things. The girl of the week photos regularly generate nasty comments if someone doesn't like what he sees. And where once I'd get 1 or 2 emails a month from the unhinged and the troubled, now it's more like 2 or 3 a week. The increase in such emails is disproportionately higher than the increase in the site's traffic.

Today there's not one Thailand discussion forum I enjoy visiting; and few Thai-centric blogs I do anything more than glance at.

A friend who ran a website selling HIV test kits to customers in Bangkok eventually gave it up after meeting customers who bought his product. "I never met people like that back in America, ever", he would tell me. It all became too stressful dealing with some he described as serious screwballs.

But it's not just a Thailand thing. From the UK's Telegraph newspaper this week was an article about how Scotland Yard's cyber crime unit is to dramatically expand to deal with increasing cyber crime. In New Zealand, the public has been outranged by a Facebook page called roast busters run by teenage boys who post photos of themselves and underage girls they boast of plying with drink and having sex with, behaviour that appears to be perpetuated by the notoriety gained by writing about it and presenting it to an online audience.

Behaviour online seems so much worse. I think part of it is the mistaken belief that you're anonymous and can say and do things online you'd never do in real life, with impunity. Anonymity online is a mistaken belief.

When I get odd emails, I trace where the person has sent it from – and it is often late at night on a Friday or Saturday in the West. I can guess they were messing around online, possibly lonely and probably drinking.

Where once I used to enjoy meeting readers of this site, now I'm reluctant to do so. On the odd occasion that I do, I Google people beforehand – an odious practice but a necessary evil with the crackpots, jerks and drunks out there.

And don't get me started on Facebook or Twitter and these claims of zillions of friends or followers. What happened to real friends, people you know and like, people you meet for pizza and wine, or a good curry and a few Jack+sodas or just meet up to enjoy watching a sports match together? While there are many undoubtedly many benefits, the whole Facebook and social media thing strikes me as shallow vanity. The way people communicate online and don't see each other notwithstanding that they may live just minutes apart makes me think anti-social media would be a more appropriate name.

Our online activities can be scrutinised and nasty comments, threats or outrageous behaviour can come back to haunt us. Today in the West prospective employers may check Facebook or other social posts as part of the candidate screening process. It's not only those pursuing public office who ought to refrain from accessing the Internet.

Online spats can get nasty and escalate. An ongoing dispute in Thailand between 2 foreign journalists has spilled over in to the real world with claims, counter-claims and a multitude of lawsuits, a huge drain on the time, patience and resources of all involved.

The Thailand dating websites are a great tool, about that there can be no argument. But isn't it sad that so many Thai women who'd love to meet a decent Western guy get put off when within *hours* of joining they receive a barrage of vulgarities, invitations for sex and guys exposing themselves on webcam.

And then there are the websites which encourage reviews, yet which are so often full of spurious reviews, a practice now so widespread that there are businesses which can be hired to write fake positive reviews! This practice has become so entrenched that as one friend said, if you don't write a bunch of positive fake reviews yourself about your own business you are cutting your own throat – because that's what most of your competitors are doing – along with writing negative reviews about your business too!

Whatever happened to the fun Internet I once knew, where you could learn, meet interesting, like-minded people and discuss topics of interest? I used to love spending time online. I still enjoy the benefits of the Internet but I've modified how I use it, and that's a shame.

I knew a world when there was no email, no web and no YouTube, a world where you called people to say hello or to make plans to meet.

In the early days of the 'net we had the web, email and live chat. It was, for want of a better word, gentle.

Now we have an Internet with keyboard warriors, cyberbullying, revenge porn…and who knows what next.

The benefits of the Internet are undeniable and they greatly outweigh the downsides. Life today would be difficult if you chose to live without the 'net. Before too long it will probably be almost impossible to live like that.

It is sad, however, that increasingly I find the online world is a place to be wary of, and which I at times feel I want to take a long holiday from.





Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken of the sign at Nico Massage Parlour, just down from the Asoke intersection. Only 3 readers got it right. There are two prizes each week, a 500 baht voucher for Bully's, on Sukhumvit Road between sois 2 and 4 and a 300 baht voucher for Sunrise Tacos, Bangkok's original Mexican grill with several branches in Bangkok.

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 and ONLY the first answer emailed counts! You MUST specify which prize you would prefer and failure to specify a prize will disqualify you from being eligible to claim one.


Sunrise Tacos


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 Girls are like drinks, they don't always mix well.

Your observation about western / Thai relationships and not hearing anyone say that their partner / wife "never worked as a bargirl" is spot on. My partner is a practicing accountant. Within my group of friends, a British friend's wife is an emergency room nurse. Two Aussies are going out with a resort manager and a tour agent. And two European friends are married to a local assistant bank manager and the other is with the owner of a beauty salon. When male friends visit they hire bargirls but when they join us it is obvious what these girls do for a living and only a fool would utter those words. If the girl is polite and shows respect to the other ladies then most times things go smoothly. But heaven forbid if the girl overtly displays any trashy, slutty or drunken behaviour. It is normally the emergency room nurse who quietly informs the bargirl that her presence is no longer required or wanted. Most of us males understand enough Thai that we warn our friend to either dump the bargirl or make an excuse to leave. There was a time not so long ago that our partners / wives would never contemplate sitting at the same table with a bargirl, but things are changing. I believe there are two major reasons for this. The bargirls are more upmarket, at least those our friends choose and our Thai partners are more socially savvy. But make no mistake, walking into any expat club, business party or even a gathering at the local expats sports bar with a tattooed bargirl is an open invitation for trouble. Just as our Thai partners feel uncomfortable around overtly sexual women within a Thai environment, so do most expats who are not party animals.

Had enough of Pattaya!

I've had enough of the nonsense in Pattaya and I am moving to Chiang Mai. Crime is definitely on the rise in Pattaya and I have experienced it firsthand. My motorcycle was stolen as was that of another tenant on the same night – and the cops did fxxx all about it. We have the theft on CCTV but still the cops aren't interested. I lived in Chiang Mai before and was happy there. Thailand is losing its charm for me. I am sick of the BS that is an ever-increasing part of expat life in Thailand: bossed around by petty bureaucrats; extorted for supposed infractions; officially sanctioned double-pricing at national parks and private recreation areas and the list goes on. Yeah, the apologists say, “If you don't like it here, leave!” and now I think they are right. I keep asking myself why I am here. I never married a Thai woman. I'm bored with the bars. I'm not invested here, so why stay? I am functional in Thai; however, my reading and writing skills are nothing to be proud of. After 10 years here I should be fluent in Thai. I'm not and I take responsibility for that, no excuses. However, I think even if I were fluent in the local lingo I'd still sky up. I see a disturbing trend of assaults and crime against foreigners with no real penalty for the perpetrators. Hell, in Pattaya knifing a tourist is like a right of passing, a badge of honour. “Go ahead and fine me, 500 baht is nothing to me!” Scary stuff. As a reality check, I have researched some travel advisories. Australia advises its tourists with respect to Thailand: Exercise a high degree of caution. For Cambodia they say: Exercise normal safety precautions.

Gulliver's, nothing is forever.

Geez, what's happened to Gulliver's? A few years ago it seemed to be doing pretty good business, even in the afternoons. Saturday at 2 PM it was on life support. I counted 4 punters inside, 4 outside, 2 freelancers watching the ice melt in their water and about 14 staff, mostly hovered around a colleague's smartphone because there was nothing for them to do! A quick trip over to the Biergarten and it was almost standing room only! Ok, a slight exaggeration, but the area around the bar was full, as were the surrounding tables with punters and girls. I'd say 50 punters and at least double the girls. As an aside, something I've never seen before; Japanese. Anyway, Gulliver's must be counting down the days until the Biergarten closes.



Any advice?

I have been married to a Thai lady for decades. We have lived in America the whole time. She came from a farm, but it wasn't Isaan. She was a businesswoman in Thailand. She is a wonderful Thai lady; respectable. We have 3 children together. When I finally took her back to Thailand (we met and stayed in America), she was hesitant to return. After our visit, I asked her how she was treated and she said she was looked at like a whore. This despite the fact that she had 3 tall teenagers who were obviously hers. How do we conquer that sort of bias and prejudice? I am trying to learn Thai to be respectful and to keep an ear out for loudmouths. Is it something we just have to accept when we go to Thailand? Will dressing better help? If that is the sort of reception we get, I am very hesitant to inflict that kind of emotional pain on her again. Any advice you have would be welcome.

Facebook friends.

There are plenty of girls I have met both inside and outside the bar industry in Thailand who try to steer me to Facebook. Several of the more successful escorts I've met run a tidy sideline setting up dates with returning customers through their Facebook profile, bypassing the service and any fee that the house might collect. Not a bad way to do business if you are in to that sort of thing.

Entry fee concern.

Do you think this new medical charge will come in to effect in the new year? It took nearly 40 minutes to clear Immigration on Wednesday night and I would hate to think how much longer it would take if you had to pay an entry fee which cannot be added to the flight price. Have they really thought this through?

Different continent, different idea of manners.

In the UK and probably in most of the western world, when you let someone pass you by or open a door for them you get some kind of acknowledgement, maybe a smile, a nod of the head or a thank-you. Why do the Thais just ignore you and not move out of the way of the train door to let you pass? One didn't move for me and another foreigner and after we asked would not move so we did as you do in London and he found himself outside the train. Why are there no basic manners?



Bangkok fetish house


Girl of the week

Kwang, 29, Chang beer promotion girl
@ The Game sports bar, Sukhumvit Road near sois 9 & 11.
She is NOT available and cannot be barfined. She is NOT a prostitute.



The Game, sports bar, Bangkok



The Game, sports bar, Bangkok



The Game, sports bar, Bangkok





Nana Plaza's newest bar, Spellbound, has opened and is looking good. The ground floor bar has a growing troop of girls who dance in lingerie. It features an x-shaped dance floor built on a unique v-shaped framework which is open underneath. The bar is open and fully operational with more features to be installed, with rumours of cages and a swing to come.

Nana Disco has reopened as Mai Peng, the Thai word for inexpensive. Entrance is free and a sign outside says beers and drinks are just 99 baht.

If you fancy any of the coyote girls who congregate outside The Arab's bars in Soi Cowboy acting as hello girls, but don't care to go inside due to the cost of drinks (standard drinks are now 200 baht in The Arab bars) and reports of overzealous security staff, then you may have another option. Strong rumours have it that there will be a flock of girls who once worked for The Arab soon to be found in Nana Plaza as at least one agency reports some girls are refusing to work for The Arab. The same agency has been contacted by a bar group in Nana so put one and one together.

The hottest bar in Nana Plaza has closed temporarily. G Spot closed on Monday night and the dancers moved up to Tokyo Player. Rumour has it that G Spot will be operated by a newcomer to the plaza, someone with much experience – and success – in the industry, but for whom a foray into gogos will be a first. Said fellow sounds like quite The Pimp…

Popular long-time bar boss and long-suffering West Ham fan, Big Andy, will celebrate his birthday on Saturday, November 16th, in Club Electric Blue in Patpong 2. Andy is turning back time with 25 baht Tequila shots all night long, a big pork roast plus pies and snacks from The British Pie Company. You can wash it all down with 50 baht draft beer. All friends, new and old are welcome.

Down Pattaya way, uber popular bar manager Larry started his new appointment on Friday night at Baby Dolls where he is the new customer relations officer. Do drop by and say hello to the legend.



Erotica, the gogo bar entered from the stairwell between the middle and top floors on the left hand side of Nana Plaza, has the best line-up it has had in a long time and is doing a good trade. This past Friday night you couldn't find an empty seat until a customer left. If you haven't stuck your head inside for a while, take a look.

A couple of months back the tax on alcohol went up. Bar owners weren't shy to put the word out that increased costs would have to be passed on to customers. The cost for a bottle of beer went up around 6 baht a bottle, wine shot up by hundreds of baht a bottle and the hard stuff a hundred baht or so a bottle. So what happened to the price increases? It seems that little has changed. At Nana and Patpong there haven't been any price increases I am aware of and neither have there been in most British pubs and other bars and restaurants around town. The one bar area where prices have gone up – not in all bars, but certainly in many – is Soi Cowboy, which is the most expensive of Bangkok's naughty bar areas for drinks – although with that said there are more bars in Cowboy with a happy hour than the other areas.

Which brings me to something I have been thinking for a while. Has Soi Cowboy gone off the boil? Not so long ago Soi Cowboy had a real fun vibe while today it feels less welcoming and more about business than Nana or Patpong. In some ways I feel it has adopted aspects of the other areas when they were at their worst. Soi Cowboy feels like it has gone stale, as Nana did for a while when bar owners weren't willing to invest in the period before a new master lease was signed and it feels commercial as Patpong soi 1 does. Attitudes are poor and many bars are full of hounds. OK, so there are some fun bars in Soi Cowboy like Dollhouse and some technically very good bars like Bacarra, but many venues seem to be resting on their laurels. Or maybe it's just me who feels this way?

The Strip in Patpong 2 is sourcing its coyote dancers from a new agency, which means an entirely new troop of coyote dancers in the bar. Like many bars today, around half the girls in the strip are gogo dancers employed directly by the bar, and the other half are coyote dancers. Here are some of the new coyote girls found at The Strip most nights.


The Strip Patpong coyote dancers


They infuriate other customers and bar staff when they block bar entranceways by standing in the doorway and peering inside. When they do go inside they often make a very slow walk through and if they sit down, there is a real likelihood that they will stall ordering drinks. They then insist on asking 20 questions to a waitress before they order the first drink which I put down to being a tactic to allow their friends to check out the line-up in the bar. And, of course, they will not just ask the price of drinks and often order the cheapest drink (no shame in that), but they will try and order just one drink for the group to share. I've seen all of this with my own eyes numerous times and while I don't like to stereotype, to those Indians who are discriminated against in the bar industry, who are refused entry in some bars and who feel hard done by, you really need to understand that such behaviour hardly makes you welcome. Your family might have moved from India to the US, or the UK or wherever many generations ago, but I am sorry, the behaviour of some of your brethren is something that, yes, you are going to get lumped with. Educate your fellow Indians on bar etiquette and decent behaviour and you'll all be better off. And finally, to the Indians who complain about the way that you are treated as second-class citizens in some bars, don't forget that where you come from is very much a racist, class-conscious society!

The flip side of this is that with planeloads of Indians arriving in Thailand around the clock and fewer single Western males visiting the bars these days, venues probably ought to be more welcoming of Indians.

There has been a change to that odd visa policy whereby passport holders of most Western countries received 30 days permission to stay in Thailand when arriving by air, but only 15 days when entering at a land border. Now passport holders from the UK, USA, Japan, Germany, France, Canada and Italy get 30 days permission to stay regardless of whether they arrived by air or land.

From time to time you hear Westerners in Thailand talking of their unique approach and massive success with Thai women. Some of these guys talk of their "game" or how they have some strategy that makes them a "pickup artist". What they don't seem get is that Thai women are very easy to meet and are generally open-minded to the approach of a Westerner. You don't have to be, or do anything special to meet Thai women! Case in point: I have a friend who never seems to have much money and some months has less than an English teacher on an hourly rate. He has lost a lot of weight recently but still weighs in at around 290 lb. He's not young and certainly wouldn't pass for looking younger than he is. Without wanting to be harsh, physically he's not in great shape – and that's being kind. But he, like pretty much every guy I know in Bangkok, gets more sex than he can handle with very nice looking women much younger than him. It has been my observation that the Western men who have problems getting to know Thai women are those who are intense, or who are so serious that they scare away fun-loving women. When I hear about this pickup artists / game nonsense I laugh. Maybe some need to resort to this hocus-pocus sorcery to meet women in their homeland, – probably because there's something wrong with them and they just don't know how to present themselves as a decent, straightforward individual. Whatever, you don't need convoluted strategies nor use manipulation to meet women in Thailand – or, I believe, just about anywhere for that matter. Live your life with genuine self-respect, smile, be polite and just be yourself. So long as the real you is a decent person you'll do just fine.



Another fine, inexpensive Italian eatery deserves mention for its *superb* pizza, knocking Pizzazzo off as my current favourite. Bon Gusto, about 500 metres down Sukhumvit soi 15, has fantastic pizza and if you don't feel like visiting the restaurant itself, you can have it delivered by one of the delivery companies.

Sukhumvit's soi 11 might be the hip place these days but what a nightmare it is to negotiate, day or night. First off, you have the motorbike taxis and vendors which control the pavement at the start of the soi near the main Sukhumvit Road. Then you have vendors which block the entire width of the footpath in places, forcing you on to the road. Then you have the Volkswagen vans selling dodgy cocktails with tables of customers blocking the footpath and the van blocking the road! Then you have the horrid street hos near Villa supermarket offering masturbation massage. Then you have all the food vendors' carts and their tables and chairs spread over the footpath. It's not until you're well down the soi that you can actually use the footpath. It wouldn't be so bad if the soi got little traffic, but you fight to walk along the same space that taxis and motorbikes and tuktuks scream along! With the footpath so narrow in parts and the pedestrian traffic so high, I don't see any solution other than turning soi 11 in to a walking street after dark – but that almost certainly won't fly with so many hotels and condominium buildings. If soi 11 really wants visitors to think of it as a genuinely international lane like a transplant from Singapore right in to the heart of Bangkok, they need to do something about the street life and pedestrian access.

The Ploenchit Fair has been delayed until Sunday, November 24th. If you've never been, it's one of those things that all Bangkok expats should check out once. It's a day out for expats and their family in a British fair setting. It was great in the pre-Internet days when it took place on the lovely lawns of the British Embassy and you'd bump in to people you hadn't seen in a while. The setting isn't quite the same these days and in fairness, while more people attend (because Bangkok's expat population has exploded), I think its general popularity in the past was greater than it is today.

The Angelwtich2 Thriller show I raved about in last week's column has shown up on YouTube so if you missed it live, you can catch it online.





Quote of the week, "Thai and Western cultures seem to do more than clash, they seem to insult each other vigorously!

"

Reader's story of the week is from LoveThai, "Why Western Men Fall in Love With Thai Girls".

The Pattaya boat sinking in which a number of tourists and Thais perished was covered all around the world.

An Indian restaurant in Bangkok is getting huge raps.

Forbes Magazine says that Thailand's economy is heading for a 1997-style crash.

ATMs on Wireless Road in downtown Bangkok are hacked as many customers have money stolen from their bank account.


The Strip Gogo Bar Bangkok


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 know that those on a tourist visa cannot work in Thailand. For tourists who have a job at home, so keep in touch via e-mails and phone calls, the question has been asked before on tax implications, though a recap would be good. Aside from personal tax obligations though if you are in Thailand often but working / earning money overseas, are there employer implications? In the UK, firms make National Insurance contributions. I've heard of cases when UK people spent time in France and the UK firm has been presented with a (French) tax bill. Does Thailand have equivalent laws?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Thai tax law Section 41 states: A taxpayer who in the previous tax year derived assessable income under Section 40 from employment, or from business carried out in Thailand, or from business of an employer residing in Thailand, or from a property situated in Thailand shall pay tax in accordance with the provisions of this Part, whether such income is paid within or outside Thailand.

A resident of Thailand who in the previous tax year derived assessable income under Section 40 from employment or from business carried out abroad or from a property situated abroad shall, upon bringing such assessable income into Thailand, pay tax in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

Any person staying in Thailand for a period or periods aggregating 180 days or more in any tax year shall be deemed a resident of Thailand.

If you need assistance in determining if you owe taxes or in paying those taxes, Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors offers experienced and qualified English speaking accountants who can work with you on the tax issue.



Question 2: Me and my legal Thai wife (Amphur-registered wedding, not just a ceremony) separated in October, 2012, but kept in touch as we have a 5-month old baby and she harboured hopes that we would reconcile. Last month, a year after we separated, she caught me with another lady and has started to make noises about a claim on my assets as now she sees reconciliation is out of the window. In August, 2013, 10 months after we separated, I bought, via a Thai company, a house for 5 million baht. The land is in the company name of which I am the majority shareholder, of course. All the funds came from my savings / income which I had before I met her as I retired 3 months after we married. The house on the land is not registered with the Land Office but is registered at the Tessaban in the name of the previous owner for electric, water etc I understand. Can she claim 50% of this property even though it is in a company name of which I own the normal 49% only and I have had no income in Thailand or the UK, apart from interest on my savings, since we married. I am 53 years old and do not receive any pension at the moment.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: If you can document that the funds were solely yours before marriage and were used to purchase the shares of the company then you may be able to hold on to the shares of the company which holds the house 100%. However, any profits derived from the company and any increase in the value of the shares that occurred after the marriage would be considered as marital assets. Additionally, any assets acquired with the profits of the company that occurred after the marriage would also be considered a marital asset. Given the date of the purchase of the shares, after marriage, you will need to come up with solid evidence that the money used to purchase the shares was derived from assets before marriage. In these kinds of cases, this is when a prenuptial agreement would work to your advantage.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has advisors experienced in divorce and can work with you on negotiating a divorce agreement with your wife.






Bangkok dark alley


I receive plenty of emails describing service failures and / or questionable practices but I have to be careful if this sort of thing is to be included in the column. If I print an email saying that such and such is a scammer or a rip-off merchant and it is not true, or the truth has been stretched then it is me who could be in the gun. Thailand, like much of this part of the world, has harsh libel and defamation laws. The concept of freedom of speech is different here to the West. I am interested in hearing about your experiences – and I am willing to publish negative experiences, but please understand that I may attempt to verify things first or be hazy with details. Sometimes I will report on an issue so people can be made aware of it, without naming the perpetrators which may help avoid a legal stoush. The law aside, Thailand is not the sort of place you want to write too much negative stuff about anyone, lest they decide to take action against you, legal or otherwise.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Firehouse



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