Bangkok's gogo bars are in serious decline. Fewer girls working means fewer customers and fewer customers means less, or even no profit. But the issues go far beyond a mere shortage of girls and protests on the streets of downtown Bangkok which killed the high season have masked problems in Bangkok's famed foreigner red light districts that have been festering for some time.
Predictions of doom and gloom about the bar industry have been flying from my keyboard for years. I've been mocked by punters who take criticism of anything to do with their lifestyle personally, and discredited by bar owners fearful that punters might just choose to look elsewhere. Cynical and jaded are amongst the nicer things I've been called when speaking out about the state of the industry. I was once the sole voice commenting on a tide of change, but today I'm not alone. Many are in agreement that Bangkok's gogo bars have gone in to serious decline.
But it's not necessarily Thailand wide and is very much a Bangkok problem. Down in Pattaya most bars are rocking along nicely. Perhaps it's time for Bangkok bar owners to take a look at Pattaya and try and copy some of what's going on in Sin City?
Understand The Value Of Expat Customers
Expats are here year around. Visitors to Bangkok stay but a few days. Many Bangkok bars don't look after expat customers and often treat them as second-class. It's very different in Pattaya.
For too long Bangkok bars have worshipped tourists and shat on expats, driving expats away. Special deals and free drinks exclusive for tourists, expat cards sold and not honoured and a clear preference for tourists has driven expats away. Let's not forget that various problems have caused visitor numbers to Bangkok plummet (the 2011 floods, political protests in 2010, 2013 & 2014). With fewer visitors, to say nothing of the low season when visitor numbers drop off, bars are reliant on expat trade. But in Bangkok gogo bars the expat is not always valued as a customer.
Sometimes Bangkok bars shoot themselves in the foot. Some venues made an effort to cater to expats a few years back with bars banding together to introduce expat cards, entitling the holders to discounts. Most cards – some of which were sold, some distributed free – may no longer be accepted, in fact many bars feign ignorance when cards with their name and logo are presented. A good idea turned in to a total disaster.
So what do Pattaya bars do for expats that Bangkok bars don't?
Pattaya bars mix things up. New ideas, new themes, new shows and parties and events, lots of parties!
There's always something new going on in Pattaya bars, giving customers a reason to visit. Contrast this with Bangkok where Nana Plaza's best-known show bar features shows from last decade and Soi Cowboy's show bar still performs shows from last century! For expats it gets stale.
Expats who wear the monger badge with honour make the weekly trek to Pattaya on Friday night, shirking Bangkok bars altogether for a couple of nights in Sin City, returning to Bangkok on Sunday.
Balloon sellers in Pattaya could retire early – there are always parties being held in Pattaya! Parties draw customers – and Pattaya bar owners turn it on with genuine drinks specials, free buffets, games and events.
Many Pattaya personalities, from bar owners to punters, bargirls to mamasans celebrate their birthday in the bar. Free food, free shots, drinks specials, special shows, it's a real party.
Many Pattaya bar have weekly specials. Secrets has a tremendous buffet every Sunday night featuring quality Thai and Western food. Private Dancer A Gogo manager Ricky spends the afternoon in the kitchen twice a month preparing for the bar's popular curry nights. Free Indian and Thai curries plus chilli con carne are a huge draw and the bar is packed.
Few Bangkok gogo bars know how to throw a party and when they do often the only difference from any other night is the colour of the girls' bikini! The best part of Bangkok gogo bar parties is often the poster promoting the event featuring a hot girl who may well have left the bar months ago, or never even worked there in the first place!
What happened to the fun parties of old in Bangkok? When Larry brought Rock Hard to Bangkok from Phuket, Thursday nights featured a fabulous buffet with cold cuts, cheeses, sausage rolls and all the unhealthy stuff that goes down so well after a few drinks – and the bar was jammed. Manager Ricky would waddle in carrying trays of food and be mobbed!
Bangkok bars ought to make a genuine effort to host parties where the focus is on the customers. Too often Bangkok gogo bars do little more than pick up the tab for makeup artists to come and paint the girls' faces. Perhaps they ought to focus more on the customers than the girls?
Foreign Meeters And Greeters Needed
More than half of Bangkok's gogo bars are foreign-owned, yet only a small number have a foreign manager. Sometimes neither the foreign owner nor a foreign manager is on the premises and when the cat's away the mice will play.
Most foreign managers are not a manager in the true sense of the word, but a meeter and greeter. A foreign manager is not there to manage the Thai staff; their primary role is to engage the customers and ensure they are happy.
In Pattaya there are a bunch of foreign managers and meeter and greeters. One popular Pattaya gogo bar has two.
Every gogo bar of a reasonable size ought to have a foreign bar manager and there is little excuse for not having one, given how little they are paid. The salary range for foreign gogo bar managers is 50,000 – 110,000 baht a month. Some are incentivised and with bonuses included, one foreign bar manager used to take home around 170,000 baht per month.
A good bar manager attracts a following and punters go in to specifically to see them. So a foreign bar manager shouldn't cost the bar anything as their salary should be covered by customers visiting them, in much the same way that barfines cover dancers' salaries.
If I was starting a Bangkok bar I would approach the best meeter and greeter in the business – Larry, formerly of Secrets, now of Babydolls. I would pay whatever it took to get him. If it was 200,000 baht a month, so be it. Larry is to the bar industry what Lionel Messi is to football, priceless.
Is she a gogo dancer or a coyote dancer? How can you tell? Whether it's deception or not is moot, but many customers just don't understand the coyote concept – and if they have spent time with a lady who they think is a gogo dancer i.e. available but she turns out to be a coyote and is unavailable, they feel disappointed at best, and maybe even cheated. It's not always obvious and there needs to be clarity.
Bangkok bars have been forced to employ more coyotes as they simply cannot find girls to work as gogo dancers. Each month more Bangkok bars which had never featured coyote dancers are forced to take some on to make up numbers. Bar customers are an increasingly diverse bunch but there are still enough of the traditional bar customers who go to the bars specifically to find a companion for the night. They can feel deceived if it is not clear who is available and who is not.
No bar handles this better than Secrets in Pattaya which uses a colour-coded lanyard system. Once you've been made aware of the system it's subtle, but clear. Every employee of Secrets wears an ID card around their neck on a coloured lanyard. A green lanyard indicates that she is good to go, a red-coloured lanyard and she isn't.
Customers increasingly understand why there are fewer gogo dancers and more coyotes, but they object to being tricked that someone is available when they are not. Bangkok gogo bars need to make a greater effort to be clear about who the gogo girls are, who the coyote dancers are and who is and who is not available. In fairness to Bangkok bars, it's not a lot better in Pattaya.
Fair & Clear Pricing
Naughty boys come from all levels of society, ranging from retirees living in 3,000 baht a month hovels to those who can't understand how anyone could possibly survive on less than 300,000 baht a month. Standard drinks run 160 – 190 baht in many Bangkok gogo bars and that's more than many are prepared to pay.
Where Pattaya bars differ is that many have a couple of inexpensive alcoholic drinks on the menu, usually draft beer or no name spirits sharply priced at 50 – 70 baht. More Pattaya gogo bars have a happy hour than do bars in Bangkok.
The price for a standard drink in Bangkok gogo bar today is around 160 baht and some have no alcoholic drinks priced under 150 baht. Outside of Soi Cowboy there are few happy hours. Mention the price of drinks to a Bangkok gogo bar owner or manager and they will tell you that they are much the same as is charged in the bar next door – and completely miss the point. The competition is not limited merely to other gogo bars, but includes British pubs, sports bars and even restaurants with beer gardens and live music.
In Bangkok gogo bars today you will pay 50% more for the very same drink than you would in the comfort of a British pub where the service is better and the surroundings comfortable. Sports bars are cheaper again. And then there are restaurants with beer gardens like, say, the flagship branch of Sunrise Tacos where a beer is just 90 baht.
Arguing what a drink is worth in a titty bar is irrelevant when prices are seldom posted. There needs to be greater clarity about prices and in many Bangkok gogo bars you have as much chance of finding a virgin as you do a drinks price list. You don't know what the prices are, nor even what drinks are stocked. Long gone are the days when prices in Thailand were so low you needn't check before you ordered. Not all customers are price-conscious, but no-one likes to feel like they've been ripped off. Many Pattaya gogo bars have drinks price menus, few in Bangkok do.
Up and down Walking Street pretty girls stand outside bars with large placards showing prices with the sharpest priced drinks highlighted. Patpong's excellent Club Electric Blue is one of few bars in Bangkok to market themselves this way.
Greater transparency won't bring Bangkok's bars more customers, but it might help them not lose those customers they do have. Bar customers are notoriously fickle and simply feeling slighted can be enough for a customer to leave and never return.
Many used to visit the gogo bars in Bangkok for a few drinks for a laugh, to flirt with the girls and they would usually go home alone. Today however, with the hassles, the rip-offs, the bad attitudes and at times the deception, Bangkok gogo bars have lost many of those customers. The way things are heading they could end up hosting an unlikely mix of hardcore sexpats & sex tourists and first-time visitors looking to tick Bangkok's red light bars off their bucket list.
Admittedly Bangkok bar owners haven't had it easy with rising rental costs, difficulty recruiting and the worst high season in living memory. But there are things they can do.
Night-time entertainment in Bangkok is more diverse today and there are more options than ever. Bangkok gogo bar owners need to understand that for those not looking for companionship, and those not visiting Bangkok for the first time that there are other options. If they don't seriously up their game their piece of the pie is only going to get smaller.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of Soi Sala Daeng where it meets Silom Road, from the skywalk near Sala Daeng BTS
station. There are two prizes each week, a 500 baht voucher to use at Bully's, on Sukhumvit Road between sois 2 and 4 and a 300 baht voucher to use at Sunrise Tacos, Bangkok's original Mexican grill with several branches
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.
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 – The voice of the silent majority?
I'm not surprised about business being so slow in the bars. I used to be a regular in Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza, but the bars have just become too user-unfriendly. High drink prices, overly mercenary girls who are by and large more physically unattractive than ever before. It's all gone downhill from even just 5 years ago. And don't get me started on the differences from 30 years ago! I still hit the bars once every 3 months or so and occasionally find a diamond in the rough but most of the time I'll have a pint or two in a normal pub-type bar, then pick up a honey on the sidewalks of lower Sukhumvit and I'm in for the night. Sorry to sound cruel, but I think it might really be good if some of these bars are forced out of business. It could serve as a wake-up call to the other bars. Until then I'll be giving my custom to the regular pubs and sidewalk girls.
Eastern Europe to replace the Far East?
I see old guys walking around where I live in UK with very nice Eastern European girls and quite a big age gap. It reminds me of back in the '80s and '90s when you used to see old guys with very nice Thai women, but they have been replaced as too much trouble. It's noticeable that these East Euro gals are not staring in to smartphones as their standard of living is still way behind the curve. These gals are dressed differently than English women, more tarty but elegant and very easy on the eye. Those Thai gals you snap are not easy on the eye any more. Phew, guys pay for those mingers?
The foreign sector is the first to go.
I was in Japan when it happened and in Korea when it happened 8 – 10 years later and it appears I just missed it in Thailand. When prostitution dries up, the first part that dries up is the part that is very public and the most undesirable to politicians – the segment servicing foreigners. Everything else in Japan and Korea has stayed in place as it will in Thailand and has it is in virtually every country in the world. Prostitution is alive and well everywhere. But the age, background and looks of the women start to decline or the price goes way up. You wouldn't believe the beautiful American women available in most every American city…at 5,000+ a pop. There is no shortage of men willing to pay. Remember government Spitzer? So no, prostitution will never go away. Anywhere. But it will be curtailed and areas containing brothels that service foreigners are more common in third world countries and they will be the first to go as a nation industrializes.
Money worries more widespread.
I hope things lighten up in Thailand. With the recent upset in Bangkok I noticed that there was a huge shift in mood with the people I met. Everyone is suddenly worried about money, and it has become something that comes up far more quickly in any conversation I had with people. It may just be random, but prior to this visit I would never sense that there was that widespread of an urgency to bring the topic of money to the table, but now it would be quietly brought up very quickly in many conversations to indicate there was a need to bring home cash.
Passport as security.
The requirement to hand over your passport as security collateral stops when YOU say it stops. Just refuse to hand it over for anything more than a brief recording of details. The hotel / rental agency / whatever wants to hold something as collateral? A deposit or paying for the room up front is all that is needed. I have done this all over Asia (including China / Vietnam in big and small establishments) for a number of years and on only a few occasions has there been any debate; the slightest attempt of argument with me leads me immediately out the door. Don't mess about with arguments or attempts to reason; just shut up and walk. I live in Vietnam and have to register address etc with local authorities. Once they tried to charge me 5 million VND (about $250) for this. My Vietnamese wife demanded names etc and they backed off and we paid nothing. I take the passport to the office, they check then return it to me straight away. Same in China.
No Thailand this year.
Just when I thought it may be time to book that Bangkok plane ticket, a very large bucket of excrement hit the fan when the Constitutional Court nullified last month's election. Is this BS going to stop? This is Thailand. I'm afraid my love for the country is turning sour. It's time to take a look at Laos and revisit Vietnam. Sadly, there will be no Thailand for me this year. There's just too much uncertainty. Thailand has lost its smile for now. I hope it returns.
The perceived dangers of investing in property in Pattaya.
I'm often asked for investment advice on where best to place money and I have to say if someone asked me where the worst place was to put money in to I'd say buying a condo in Pattaya! The market is wholly unregulated (agents, solicitors, conveyancing, the buying AND selling process – you name it). Not only that, it seems to be a magnate for:
A) Foreign criminals on the run from home.
B) Child molesters.
C) Foreign serial con artists whose sole aim is to con foreigners knowing that local law enforcement show little interest in foreigner versus foreigner crime.
D) Sad old men that despise western women (likely expensive divorce(s) here!)
E) All of the above.
If you couple that with the fact that a lot of the investors are 60 years old plus and not in the greatest of health (booze, STDs lingering, bad diet, depression), such an investment is the last place on earth an old man should put his money in to. Even earning 1% with the bank at home on deposit would be a better option – safety being the key issue. As a shrewd yet prudent investor, if I bought a condo in Pattaya I would be resigned to the fact that the title document would magically disappear on my death or something risky will rear its ugly head. Forget passing to my next of kin – granted there are exceptions, good agents etc but the core problem is zero regulation across the entire process. Once you are dead, people will know your next of kin are in a weak spot. Anything can happen and any investor must proceed with that view. What can go wrong will go wrong. Believe me, you are passing on a major headache to your next of kin as once they try and realise cash the whole thing could go into a tail spin. Playing with fire comes to mind. With all that in mind, it just baffles me that foreigners still buy there. I'm obviously in the wrong business!
The protesters left the city's streets weeks ago but economic and political uncertainty hang over the city like a dirty cloud as tourism continues to suffer. February's election has been ruled null and void and while the emergency decree has been lifted, uncertainty remains. Bangkok bar trade remains slow during the week, picking up on Friday and Saturday before dropping off again. As has been a theme running through this column for some time, the number of gogo dancers has dropped dramatically in some bars, forcing bar bosses to hire coyotes. But there's a limited supply and some bars are desperately low on staff. As one Nana Plaza bar manager said this week, "I have no choice about hiring coyote girls – I can't find any girls willing to work as gogo dancers!" A good time can still be had, but there can be no denying that the vibe is off in many.
Dave Walker has become a modern day Jim Thompson. Nothing has been heard of the Canadian writer who called Bangkok home for many years and who went missing in Siem Reap weeks ago with fears for his safety after it was revealed that he had been working on a project about the Khmer Rouge. The fear is that former Khmer Rouge got spooked about what might come out and set about seeing to it that the project wouldn't be completed. They worry now is that Dave becomes as difficult to locate as Malaysian Airlines flight 370. A website has been set up about Dave's disappearance, FindDaveWalker.com.
If you find yourself in Pattaya tomorrow night, Monday March 24th, swing by Babydolls in soi 15 off Walking Street and wish Larry a happy birthday. The best meeter and greeter in the business will celebrate and promises the three Fs (no, not find, fxxx and forget), but food, fun and friendly girls!
The Nana Beer Garden (the beer bars in the centre of the ground floor on Nana Plaza) has a special on 3-litre towers of Heineken for 600 baht.
The final remnants of Washington Square's history as a Bangkok bar area are about to disappear as the last bars still trading just inside the soi 22 entrance to Washington Square close their doors for the last time.
The Indian watch sellers who used to pester punters on Soi Cowboy are now pestering pedestrians on Sukhumvit Road. They stroll up and down and approach passersby on the even soi-numbered side of Sukhumvit between sois 18 and 22 with the mouth of soi 20 their favourite spot.
A feature of the column in late 2012 and into 2013 were the frequent news items and reader emails about the constabulary approaching Westerners around the Asoke intersection and requesting to search their person. I have not received any such reports of this happening this calendar year and I have not spotted the tell-tale sign of the boys in brown cruising on their motorsai ever slow slowly in the leftmost lane looking. Are these searches a thing of the past?
Thais have long complained at how pricey some of Thailand's beaches and islands so popular with foreign visitors have become that locals of moderate means have been priced out of the market. Hotels and restaurants target foreigners used to relatively higher prices in their homeland who don't blink at the rates quoted which seem cheap to them, but may be steep by Thai standards. There are even hotels which don't accept booking in Thai name and Thais wishing to stay may have to book in the name of their foreign partner. These hotels know the average Thai is less likely to spend in the hotel restaurant, spa facility etc and the yield on foreign customers is higher. Phuket and Samui have long been considered expensive to the average Thai, and now Thais are complaining about prices on the smaller islands closer to Bangkok, the likes of Ko Samet, Ko Chang and the increasingly popular Ko Koot. A Thai friend recently visited Ko Koot and could not believe how expensive food and accommodation was – and how poor the quality was relative to the prices charged. You can pay close to $100 a night for a remarkably basic room. I've long complained that some of the islands on the eastern seaboard have priced themselves out of the market and am not surprised to hear Thais echoing my thoughts.
A new internet / cable TV service which allows you to watch TV from your home country on a TV here in Thailand has been launched. No satellite dish is needed. The set-top box connects to the internet allowing you to watch the broadcast on your TV. From the UK are channels like Sky Sports & BBC along with many channels from USA, Europe and even Arabic TV and Indian TV channels. There are various packages for those from specific countries and regions so, for example, if you're French, you can get a package with popular channels out of France. For the Brits, you can get 60 UK channels, there's a package for the Scandinavians with TV from that region and of course there's a package with all of the most popular channels. There are many different cable TV options at Watchglobal.tv.
Thailand's a great place to watch the football world cup finals and the country really gets in to it. I remember my first world cup final here in 1998, when France shocked Brazil, which I watched in the Thermae. Football is awfully popular in Thailand, partly because many Thais have addictive personalities. Many lose plenty gambling on football with gambling transcending sex – there are many female gamblers. Thais really get in to the world cup and it's fun to watch matches with them as they get most animated during matches. Bars and restaurants with TVs will show the matches live. There is always a concern about whether the matches will be shown with commentary in English and I note a few concerns popping up about this year's world cup. Don't worry, it always gets sorted and with all of the cable TV satellite / set-top box options, I'd expect all foreign bars and restaurants showing matches to do so with commentary in English.
The issue of handing your passport over to hotels, motorbike & car rental agencies has gotten much negative press since it was revealed there were 2 Iranians on the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight with passports reported stolen in Thailand. I won't hand my passport over to anyone to do anything more than check / record the details or verify that my visa is current. Even in Vietnam where hotels like to retain your passport from check in until check out, I simply lie and tell hotel staff that I need to go to an embassy / consulate of a country I plan to travel to as I need to apply for a visa. That ruse always works and after recording your details they hand your passport back to you. It *always* works!
Citing security reasons, some countries issue passports with 5 years validity, which essentially means the passport is good for only 4.5 years as many countries require anyone entering their country to have a passport with a minimum of 6 months validity. You'd think a 10-year passport would be better than a 5-year passport, right? Not everyone thinks that way… Visa runners are often asked awkward questions as to why they have so many back to back visas for Thailand in their passport. If they aren't able to show proof of the sort of cash reserves needed to exist for years in Thailand without work or obvious means of income, it could get embarrassing. It seems to have become de rigueur amongst some visa runners to put their passport through the washing machine and apply for a new one so as they have a clean document when they pass through Immigration. 5-year passports are preferable to visa runners because it has to be renewed every 4.5 years. An American acquaintance who has been making visa runs for years said to me this week that he wished America issued 5-year passports. What I find amusing is that it seems to be of more interest to the officers what is in someone's passport than what is in the computer system. Passports only tell part of the story.
Quote of the week comes from Lecherous Lee and is poignant in Thailand 2014, "Nothing will sour service attitudes like zero percent unemployment".
Reader's story of the week comes from Steve Rosse, "What Women Are Not".
Don't be surprised to find a further tightening on student visas after Russians in Phuket concoct a false kidnapping ruse.
An infamous Russian hacker wanted in Switzerland was arrested in Bangkok this week.
An American builds a mango-coloured, dome-shaped home in Thailand for less than $10,000.
A Brit drowns at Ko Phangnan's Full Moon Party.
Police are looking for a 40-45 year old American called Tim after finding the body of a 19-year old Thai woman he was involved with.
In the most peculiar story of the week, Thailand threatens to sue Singapore for stealing Songkran!
Sunrise Tacos features in the Chowdown Challenge. What is more delicious, the monster burrito or those angels?!
Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Email 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 am a professional who owns a corporation in the USA, and several Thai universities, hospitals, and clinics would like me to work for them in Thailand on a permanent part-time basis. Should my Thai wife form a Thai corporation to contract with each of these Thai entities, and then have her company employ me to provide services to them? Or, could I instead merely register an MOU between my corporation and the Thai entities with the Thai Department of Labour? Please suggest the legal structure that most efficiently gives me the flexibility to work as a consultant / advisor / contractor at multiple locations on a permanent part-time basis. Thank you.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: The best option to work as a consultant for different companies is to start a Thai Limited Company that employs you and provides you with a work permit. An MoU would not be applicable in this case.
The best way to retain control of the company is to start a Thai Amity company. This allows you to retain majority shares and control of the company. Alternatively you can start a company with your wife holding majority shares but either way, three shareholders are required.
Depending on what you plan on consulting on, you may wish to investigate if there are any required licenses.
Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience setting up Thai limited companies and Amity treaty companies and can assist you in starting your company once you are ready to start work in Thailand.
Question 2: My father recently died and has money in a Kassikornbank account. He has a will and I am flying in to Thailand to sort things out. My concern is that there is a sizable amount in the account and I am unsure if his Thai girlfriend has his key card or not. I know that she knows the PIN and am hoping the card is with him. I have not informed her yet of his death. What is the procedure for 'freezing' this account and then retrieving the funds as part of his estate, with respect to Thai law. He was an Australian citizen.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: You will need to contact the bank (the branch where the account was established) and inform them of the death of the account owner. It is likely that they would request a copy of your father's passport, his death certificate and the front page of the bank passbook to confirm. As well as instructions that they will have to freeze the account and then await further contact from the Lawful executor.
Retrieval and allocation of the assets are the responsibility of the executor. It must be one of the beneficiaries and they will be officially appointed by the Thai court. If he has a will the listed executor must proceed with the legal process of getting him / herself appointed. Once appointed, the Executor will then be able to have access of the estate where he / she will have to allocate the estate per your father's will. But please be reminded that if your father has a living spouse (legally married wife), she will be entitled to half of the estate prior to the allocation to the beneficiary(ies) as a marital asset.
If your father did not execute a will prior to his death, the entitlement to his estate will be in accordance to the order below:
Level 1 – his descendent and his spouse
Level 2 – his parents
Level 3 – his brothers and sisters of full blood
Level 4 – his brothers and sisters of half blood
Level 5 – his Grandfathers and grandmothers
Level 6 – his uncles and aunts
His parent will also be upgraded to Level 1 beneficiaries.
In addition to the spouse's entitlement for the marital assets, she will also be considered as the Level 1 beneficiary.
Other levels will be able to inherit his estate if there is no one in the levels above them. i.e. his brothers and sisters of full blood will not inherit his estate if the owner of the estate's descendent and parent is still alive.
Question 3: If a document is written in two languages, each paragraph appearing first in one language and then in the other, logic dictates that when anyone is tasked with deciding which is correct when some wording in the document means a different thing in the two versions (that is, bad translation), the meaning of the words written in the native language of the person who signs the document must take precedence. One can fairly assume that the writer knew what he was saying in his own language. Indeed, he might well not know what the translation in the other language was saying. This accords with international principles of natural justice. My Thai lawyer however tells me that this is not the case in Thai law when a will disposing of property in Thailand is written in Thai and English. The Thai version must prevail where there is ambiguity or discrepancy (and the will needs to actually say that). I am incredulous that common sense and logic should not be recognised in Thailand. Nor can I believe that the principles of natural justice which are accepted in every civilised country in the world are not accepted in Thailand. Would Sunbelt please advise me.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Normally in a bilingual document a clause should be inserted to eliminate any confusion or if there is a discrepancy in the translation. You will need to review the document and see if there is a clause and if the prevailing language is indicated. If there is a dispute and it goes to court the English language portion of the document will be translated in to Thai as that is the language used by the Courts.
If you have not yet drafted the will then we can assist you here. We have fluent English-speaking and Thai-speaking legal advisors who can ensure that your will says exactly what you want it to say. We can add a stipulation to your bilingual will that English will prevail over the Thai language so that you avoid the problem of having the Thai translation prevail in a Thai court if there is a discrepancy or if the will is challenged.
Many Bangkok bar bosses read this column and for many it's the only bar industry news they monitor. That means that if you want to get a message to bar bosses, you can do so via this column. I'd love to know what you think about the state of bars in Bangkok. While no-one can deny that bar owners have had it tough with the protests, bar closures due to elections and other issues outside their control, I maintain there is much they could do to improve things. The business environment can only be blamed for so much. Do let me know what you think of the state of the industry and the best emails will run in the emails to Stick section of next Sunday's column.
Your Bangkok commentator,