Stickman's Weekly Column May 18th, 2014

Immigration, Closing The Loopholes



Tim sits in his comfortable condo and between hunting expeditions on ThaiFriendly, he contacts clients in Europe and discusses progress on the IT project he's working on for them. Across town in a somewhat less salubrious neighbourhood, Darren has just got back from his daily trip to the Post Office. He will head out again, this time to Chinatown with a list of items he sold on EBay overnight which he needs to pick up, pack up and ship off. As the bars are closing for the night in nearby Bangla Road, Simon's workday has just begun. He is staring at his computer screen, or more precisely, at the hand he has just been dealt and wonders whether to call or fold. Grace is engaging youngsters in English in a classroom in a school in rural Thailand. The kids adore her, she loves them and the parents are quietly happy that their children have a female teacher. Tim, Darren, Simon and Grace don't know each other, yet each month they make a similar trip, riding in a cramped minivan to the nearest border where they briefly exit the country and return, getting a new stamp in their passport and permission to stay in Thailand for another 30 days. But the next time they get in that van might be the last. They will be able to exit Thailand but they may not be able to return as the Immigration Department moves to close loopholes long exploited by foreigners residing in Thailand without the proper visa.





This week the Immigration Department announced that it is cracking down on foreigners abusing the system using visa-exempt stamps to remain in Thailand long-term.

Thailand has various visas for a multitude of purposes. There are specific visas for those offered employment, those with a Thai spouse, those who wish to retire in Thailand, those pursuing business opportunities and those visiting for more than a month. There are visas on arrival, tourist visas, visa waivers, transit visas, visa exemptions and visa extensions, making it all the more confusing. Throw in single-entry, double-entry, triple-entry and multiple-entry and it sounds like an afternoon at Eden Club.

If you hold the passport of a Western country and fly in to Thailand without a visa from a Thai embassy or consulate you had applied for in advance, you're given permission to stay for 30 days. This is not a "visa" per se, but a visa-exempt stamp. If you enter the country at a land border crossing, you will get 15 or 30 days, depending on your nationality.

To remain in Thailand long-term, some exit the country at a land border crossing, enter a neighbouring country for a just a few minutes, exit that country and cross the border straight back in to Thailand. This is known as a visa run, sometimes referred to as a border run. Some have been doing this time after time after time, as a means of staying in Thailand long-term. In some cases people have been doing it for years.

Amongst those using visa-exempt stamps to remain in the country are the new generation of digital nomads – predominately young guys who earn a living online and can work from anywhere with a 'net connection. They might be web designers, professional gamblers, CV production specialists or perhaps they combine the online world with the real world, selling stuff on EBay. There are teachers whose employer has not got them a work permit and requisite visa who make visa runs every month. There are early retirees – those who made their money young and like living in Thailand, but are not eligible for a retirement visa because they don't meet the minimum age requirement of 50. Then there are retirees who don't meet the financial requirements plus many, many more. Everyone has a story. Some are doing stuff they shouldn't while others simply don't have any visa options.


Thailand, yacht for sale


So, how exactly is Immigration cracking down? Anyone who an Immigration officer deems to have been abusing the visa-exempt system can no longer come and go on visa-exempt stamps. After exiting the country on a visa-exempt entry, if that person attempts to return and the Immigration officer determines they have been abusing the system, they may be refused entry and turned away. If they wished to re-enter Thailand they would have to go to a Thai embassy or consulate outside the country, apply for a proper visa such as a tourist visa, and then they should be able to return.

There have been announcements at some border points that some nationalities can no longer make a visa run at all i.e. they cannot exit and re-enter again at that border checkpoint. Russians, Vietnamese and South Koreans have been mentioned, suggesting they have been serial abusers of the system.

One reason cited for this crackdown is clamping down on those working without a work permit. It therefore surprises me that they have not got tough on those who do the same thing with other types of visas, real visas. Working illegally is not exclusive to those who entered on a visa-exempt stamp. There are many with retirement visas, tourist visas and business visas who work but don't have a work permit. Probably there are more foreigners working illegally holding other types of visas than there are with visa-exempt stamps.

The Immigration Department has stated that those who have an actual visa in their passport from an embassy or consulate are not the focus of this crackdown. However, I imagine it won't be long before they start taking a closer look at those with other types of visas.

Thailand's immigration system has been wide open for the last 25 years and the reaction by some to this crackdown has been surprise. At the same time the new enforcement of the rules – at least the English translation of the new policy – is not clear. Following the letter of the law could see regular visitors, offshore workers, or even folks in neighbouring countries who make frequent trips to Thailand turned away at the border. At the end of the day the individual Immigration officer has the discretion to make a decision on each individual case, as it should be.

Some visa runners are up in arms about the ambiguity of the rules, but that's only because they wish to find the next work-around, something Immigration has been careful to prevent.

Silly claims have been made by some visa runners that the effects will be wide ranging, that entire industries will go under and livelihoods lost. I'm not so sure.

A small number of visa run companies operate vans running foreigners to the border and back every day – and their future would seem up in the air. There aren't many such firms and in Bangkok I can name precisely 3 off the top of my head. While similar firms operate from the likes of Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Phuket, there aren't that many.

Not everyone staying in the country on back to back visa-exempt stamps is working illegally or doing things they shouldn't. Some simply discovered a place they liked living and chose to live here – and in many cases they are in a financial position to be able to do so. They bring money in from abroad and spend it in Thailand, so economically Thailand benefits. There are many young / early retirees and the only difference between them and those on a retirement visa is that they don't meet the age qualification. Quite possibly many of the young retirees live a more wholesome life and contribute more to the country than the retirees of a more conventional retirement age.


FIFA World Cup Bangkok


For those who are aged under 50 (meaning they are not eligible for a retirement visa), who aren't married to a Thai (so cannot get a visa based on marriage), who don't wish to sink invest 10 million baht in Thailand (i.e. not willing to go the investment visa route) and aren't employed (so not eligible for a work permit and 1-year visa extension) yet wish to remain in the country, there are options:

1. Back to back tourist visas. A double entry tourist visa allows the holder to stay in the country for nearly 180 days, while a triple-entry tourist visa (which is only issued by a small number of embassies and consulates) effectively allows one to remain in the country for almost 270 days. A couple of these visas back to back and you have a year or more.
* While technically legal, there is an argument that the use of back to back tourist visas to remain in Thailand is against the spirit of the visa, and is basically the same as using back to back visa-exempt stamps to remain in the country. My prediction is that Immigration officers will soon take a closer look at the issuance and use of any types of visa back to back.


2. The ED visa option. ED visas are issued to those studying in Thailand. The most common course is Thai language and a year's language course with a visa can cost less than 25,000 baht. ED visas can also be issued for the study of Thai boxing, Thai massage or even – for non-native speakers – studying English!
* Abuse of the ED visa system is rife and I'd be surprised if there was not a major crackdown, especially on the language schools which heavily promote these visas.


3. Find legal employment. The unemployment rate in Thailand is very low and there are plenty of opportunities to work legally – and get a work permit and with that a 1-year visa. Of course one can always start their own business legally although that is a much greater undertaking.


4. Get hitched. Marriage to a Thai national entitles you to a non-immigrant O visa and if you can show a bank balance of 400,000 baht in a local account you qualify for a one-year visa extension. Some will likely choose to get hitched as a means of staying in the country; some of these will be genuine marriages – perhaps getting married before they had planned to do so – and no doubt there will be even more sham marriages than there are already. (Getting hitched and getting a 1-year visa based on marriage to a Thai national is the favoured means of remaining in Thailand for our African friends.)


5. Long overstays. No doubt some will take the worst option and stay in the country beyond their permission to stay in the belief that when they eventually leave they can waltz out the door with but a 20K baht fine. Madness.


6. APEC Card. Available to Australians and New Zealanders only, the APEC card allows the holder 90-day, visa-free entry to Thailand. The card can be applied for by anyone planning to conduct business in the region (the business needn't be in Thailand). The issuing authority in each of Australia and NZ is somewhat strict and applicants are required to prove their bona fides.


7. Thailand Elite card. The card was launched and widely promoted during the Thaksin era to encourage foreigners to reside in Thailand. It never really took off, probably due to its million baht price tag. A new version @ 500,000 baht comes with a 5-year multiple-entry visa which effectively allows the holder to remain in Thailand for 5 years.


The closing of the visa-exempt stamp loophole is no surprise given the way it has been abused by some. At the same time it is something of a concern for those foreigners who have invested in Thailand who may not be eligible for anything other than a tourist visa. Yes, you can buy property while residing on a visa-exempt stamp or tourist visa – and many have. Foreigners with vehicles, property and other assets which cannot be taken out of the country might find themselves caught up in this. And then there are those who have built a life in Thailand, with long-term partners and maybe even kids (but are not married) who are now desperately looking at visa options.

Immigration is well aware of the widespread abuse of visas beyond the visa-exempt stamp. Probably a double digit percentage of those on retirement visas don't meet the financial qualifications and used one of the many agents who openly advertise a service whereby they arrange the deposit of the requisite 800,000 baht in to the person's bank account at yearly renewal time to show a balance which satisfies Immigration requirements and then withdraw it the next day. And then there are those retirees who boast of the ease of getting a letter from their embassy which states that they meet the alternative financial requirement of 65,000 baht per month in income from abroad when in fact their pension is a piddly amount. And of course many on retirement visas work. That's just some of the nonsense going on with one type of visa. Whichever class of visa you look at you will find widespread abuse. It begs the question, which loophole will they close next?

If some foreigners are forced out of Thailand as seems likely, it is inevitable that there will be Thais who suffer. No doubt there are some existing on visa-exempt stamps with a Thai partner who has children from a previous partner. They (and perhaps their extended family too) are supported financially by the foreigner and stand to lose that support. Some industries would see fewer customers and the bars come to mind. Visa run companies might reduce in number or even become a thing of the past. If Immigration undertakes a genuine crackdown and closes the many loopholes there will be carnage in some sectors of expat society.

It's a shame that some who have come to call Thailand home, who are clean-living, law-abiding, contribute to the economy and are supporting Thai citizens may find it difficult to stay. But at the same time the long-term abuse not just of visa-exempt stamps but all types of visas by foreigners residing in Thailand goes back as far as the '80s when foreigners made the long haul overland down to Penang to get yet another single-entry non-immigrant B visa and permission to stay another 3 months. The day Immigration started to close the loopholes was always going to come. That time is now.

There are many loopholes utilised by foreigners to reside in Thailand and closing those loopholes will surely follow. While some feel that the tougher enforcement of existing laws might be rescinded, I am of the belief that with so many foreigners now living in Thailand, many with an unusual visa status and many doing things the Thais just plain don't like that this is just the start. I reckon we've seen nothing yet.





Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken on Khao San Road from upstairs in the new branch of Sunrise Tacos. This week's photo might look tricky at first glance, but look closely and there's a big clue that should be a give-away to regular readers.


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 Boring Thai politics.

I find Thai politics boring. Nothing is resolved, ever. People dress colourfully and make a lot of noise. Sometimes they throw bombs, shoot each other, or burn buildings. And nothing is resolved, ever. It's about as interesting as watching an insane person draw on the walls of their cell. To them, the diagrams are deeply fascinating. But they're meaningless. When I lived in Bangkok, discussions with friends would revolve around Toxin – oh, what's he up to now. What a fool, what a buffoon. He's evil blah blah. When I left Thailand I found my interest dropping sharply. And this will happen to you too. By this time next year, you'll be in some other country, and you'll see a bunch of people wrapped in Thai flags doing the same thing and you'll think, what's the point. There is no point. There may be deaths, but there is no point.

What's the attraction of booze booths?

Why do people drink in roadside bars? I cannot see the attraction of these establishments which have nothing to offer, inferior drinks, excessive prices, they pay no permits to sell alcohol, they don't pay VAT or taxes, they have no utility bills. Drinks should be the cheapest in Bangkok, but they are not. They have no toilet facilities, are obviously a health hazard, but people accept them. Most are considerate that they allow people to walk on the footpath. The one I pass most of the time is outside Crazy House, which has total disregard for everyone other than their customers with seats and tables blocking the pavement so to get past you have to walk on soi 23 itself, in the middle of the road. Can anyone without an interest in these places please explain why they go to them when there are totally legitimate places where they can go and pee in toilets?

Atlantis money scramble.

In Atlantis bar in Angeles City, Philippines, last night a guy was throwing banknotes at the stage over and over. The girls were screaming and running around to scoop them out of the air before they landed. He had big stacks of brand new 20 peso notes which he would unwrap and toss up in the air. I lost count of how many times he did it but it went on and on….and just when you thought he was done, over came another batch of stacks! I sent him a vodka shot for his entertainment value and we ended up chatting. He was a banker from Belgium. The bar manager said he does it for days in a row on each annual visit. I reckon he got through about USD 2K – 5K last night. Just bizarre, but I felt happy for the girls. I remember tossing a bucket of ping pong balls over the stage in Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy a couple of years ago and all the girls turned towards me at once. I chucked another bucket and it went wild. A couple of guys across the other side of the room got up and left in disgust!

Soi Nana beer bar lady drink scam.

I was in a soi 4 beer bar yesterday evening playing pool. As I was playing I saw this guy across the bar playing pool, buying shots and having a grand time. The girls were ordering shots of whiskey, I assumed Sangsom or whatever house whiskey they have. The girls were drinking them and making a face that it was not the most pleasant drink. Real actresses. The girls had to have slammed 10 – 12 shots a piece in a matter of a couple of hours. I thought to myself those girls would be in for an early night. So I left and went about my night and found myself in Climax around 2 AM. I get a bottle and a table and low and behold those same girls are at the table next to me. I thought to myself how are these girls not drunk off their asses! One of the girls recognised me, came over and started talking. I asked her about earlier in the night when she was drinking all the shots and how they didn't affect her. She looked at me and laughed and told me that behind the bar there is a bottle of red label that is filled with water and coke with a few shots of whiskey to give it the smell. She then reported there is a bottle of Vodka filled with water and a few shots of Vodka, again for the smell, she says, because some customers smell the shot. She went on to tell me that other bars in the group do the same thing so I would assume that all of the group's bars are basically ripping people off. I am not for getting a girl hammered on shots but it seems like this is common practice. This is a very good example of why I don't buy lady drinks.



Mamadragons pushing punters away.

The recent direct mention and indictment of the ruinous mamadragon curse is being played out right now in a popular, crazy bar. The big-haired, frog-faced lumpette nearest the door has to be the worst. Unable to conceive of a punter scoring on his own, she is right there demanding money if he barfines. If he doesn't pay a surcharge she bullies it out of the rascal. Some girls have quit because of this. She drags girls over to some of the more dangerous-looking toads in the bar and bullies them into going with the guy. Everyone hates her. In a Soi Cowboy bar dragon-servers attacked me and scolded me for taking some of their cash cows out of the bar. These old bags will never take the blame for what's happened there. Truth is, my generous friends and I had grown incredibly fed to the teeth with all the drink begging, tip-begging and conversational interruptions. We meet across the soi at Cactus now.

Priorities.

It's a good thing they're clamping down on visa runners. They are clearly the worst problem facing Thailand. I'm glad the authorities have their priorities straight. No need to clamp down on the forthcoming street festivities.

No more "It finit!"

I wholeheartedly endorse your proposal to replace waiters with IPads. In addition to the benefits you noted, it will spare customers from being told that the chicken, say, "is finit!"

Survival of the fittest.

The ongoing political situation must be putting potential first-time visitors off making that crucial first visit, so the knock on effect must be biting the bar owners and other tourist-related businesses. Perhaps we are looking at survival of the fittest with the bars. It is natural selection and a reduction in the number of bars should mean more / better girls in the ones which remain, which should then get more customers and thus have the profits to plough back in to be even more competitive.

Farang in uniform.

A few weeks ago I was pulled over at a police checkpoint on Pattaya Beach Road where the cops were doing licence and rego checks. The police officer that pulled me over was a farang! His workmates were all Thai police, and he was the only farang. He asks to see my licence which I have so no problem. I notice his uniform is the same as his workmates with no sign of the words “Tourist Police” anywhere. I ask him what's going on. Who is he? Is he a tourist police volunteer and how is it he can do this sort of work? He goes on to tell me that he is not part of the tourist police and he is part of the Royal Thai Police and the only difference between him and the police he was working with that day is that he in unable to carry a firearm. How is it that a farang can be doing this type of work? And what is the purpose of having a farang standing on the side of the road issuing tickets for minor traffic infringements? I told him nobody would believe me that I had been stopped by a farang traffic cop and would he mind if I took his photo. What do you make of all of this?





It might be a while before the top floor of Bacarra in Soi Cowboy reopens with large holes in the front revealing the interior of the top floor has been gutted. Presumably the fire and water damage was so bad that the whole floor had to be gutted, rebuilt and fitted out afresh. There's no word on how long the repairs and refit will take. The ground floor remains open.

They finally got the food right at The Dubliner – as good as it was before Bangkok's controversial Irish bar moved from its original spot on the main Sukhumvit Road across to soi 33/1 – but it seems the once popular pub has other problems. Rumours abound of staff being paid late, a mass staff walk out and limited choice with popular drinks out of stock. The Dubliner faces 2 major issues – its specific location and fierce competition. When The Dubliner was on the other side of the road there was only The Sportsman nearby, but now there are 3 other British pubs within a stone's throw of each other. And what is killing The Dubliner is that to get there you have to walk past the Robin Hood with its large signs promoting 99 baht Carlsberg pints all day, every day. You've really got to want to go to another pub to walk past that deal.

The new Check-In bar (not to be confused with CheckInn99), located in The Tunnel, the alley which runs between Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7, is said by those in the know to be the hottest new ladyboy bar in Bangkok. The ladyboy who runs the place is named June and her bar with two pool tables and 25 ladyboys has become a ladyboy hot spot, and is where many ladyboy aficionados hang. It occupies the ground floor of a hotel which happens to have rooms available by the hour.

Secrets in Pattaya has a fun night planned for this coming Friday, May 23rd with a Penthouse Cover Girl Party. The bar will host 3 genuine cover girls from Penthouse magazine who do live shows, sign copies of Penthouse and pose for photos. This is a camera friendly event! The editor of Penthouse magazine will be in the house too, so if you have a teeruk who is interested in modeling, bring her down and have a chat. It gets going at 9 PM.

Still in Pattaya, Heaven Above has a series of parties all summer long starting Friday next week, May 30th. They have been working hard to bring new girls and have gone against the trend and currently do not have any agency girls. Heaven Above offers some of the best drinking deals on Walking Street with 50 baht happy hours including Heineken draught, spirits & soft drinks. Also, there is the Heaven Above Drink Card for 995 Baht which gets you 10 drinks including bottled beer & many spirits. The card never expires and you can use it to buy drinks for your friends too. They also have a Frequent Bar Fine Card. Pay for 6 barfines and get the 7th free. Heaven Above is located on Soi Diamond, just off Walking Street.

Tuesday of this past week the bars of Sukhumvit were closed because it was a Buddhist holiday and the photo below shows how Soi Cowboy looked. It was in total darkness, except for a single light source right in the middle of the soi. That's where the Kassikornbank exchange booth is located. While the rest of the soi was closed and in complete darkness, the exchange booth remained open. Anyone on the soi could clearly see the girl in the booth, but she couldn't see much outside as the soi was in darkness. And she had a harrowed look on her face. When I came out of the shadows and in to her line of sight she looked terrified. There she was, all alone on this dark soi and no doubt her mind was running wild with ghosts and black magic haunting her thoughts. She really looked terrified!



Soi Cowboy



Missionaries in Thailand are nothing new and the sight of young, clean-cut Americans, usually in pairs, resplendent in short-sleeved white shirts, black tie and name badge engaging and attempting to convert Thais, invariably young pretty females, to Christianity in public places is hardly uncommon. You don't see them trying to work older Thais, nor do they make much attempt with Thai males. It's almost always females, and almost always their targets are pretty and young. And where better to find pretty young Thai females than at the Asoke skytrain station. This week I found it most amusing watching two missionaries approaching pretty Thai office girls who didn't really know what to make of them. It was obvious that they were mildly uncomfortable being approached in public and confused by these young foreign guys speaking decent, polite Thai. As the missionaries explained what Christianity is all about, the smoking hot girls looked at them with bemused looks on their faces, disinterested in the message, but interested in the 2 guys! If I could read their mind it would have been something like, "Of course I don't want to convert from Buddhism, but if you want to take me back to your place, now we're talking!"

The planned general election for July 20th has been put on ice as the Electoral Commission says it's not possible to hold elections with the current political turmoil. As such, the comments about bar closures mooted in previous columns for the weekend of the football world cup final are no longer relevant.

If you haven't visited Bangkok in a while and like visiting the old part of town, you might find that things have changed a bit since your last visit. There is much construction going on around Chinatown and down to the river as the underground is extended. One of the buildings which makes up part of the flower market has been completely rebuilt. The classic old building on Soi Ta Tien – the soi that runs down to the pier with the river crossing to Wat Arun – are covered and it's not clear if it is being restored or pulled down. And on Khao San Road, the old wooden buildings along the southern side have been pulled down to make way for a new development.

It's always nice to see Bangkok featured in documentaries in the West and see someone else's take on the city we know and love. I have to say though that I always find myself wondering if it will be genuinely insightful or if the researcher just spent a short time poking around in Google and if the final product just perpetuates the same old myths. The first episode of "Bangkok Brits" apparently featured known expat Billy and the project he has been working on seemingly forever in soi 33, a project that neighbouring bars and restaurants wonder will ever be completed, the lavish British pub, The Bull and Bush. If you did see the show – I haven't – do let me know what you thought.



I know I am pissing against the wind when I talk of about protected sex. Yes, I know heaps of guys engage in unprotected sex in these parts – be it paid liaisons or with those they just met online. There are all sorts of reasons why you should wrap up and if you don't listen to me, maybe you might take notice of an article which ran in the New York Times this past week which mentions that the antibiotic of last resort is no longer effective against one strain of gonorrhea. Imagine that, failing to wrap up results in you being stuck with the drippy dick…for life! The Thai phrase som-nam-na seems perfect in this situation (you deserve what you get).

This week legendary readers' submissions writer Dana told me that he never really got in to Soi Cowboy but that he did like the baby elephants you would see in the soi back in the day. I mentioned to him that if he ever returns to Thailand he will see baby elephants there again, just perhaps not the same variety of baby elephants that he remembers.

Matthew Hale, an Aussie comedian hypnotist will perform at CheckInn99 for one night only on Tuesday, May 27th. Tickets are 1,400 baht and include a house drink. Doors open at 6:30 PM and the show starts at 7:30 PM. Seats are limited. For more details, email : [email protected] or call 081-8243157.



While this site is obviously Thailand-centric, it is read by many around the region with significant numbers of expats in Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines tuning in every Sunday night. Dr. Robert Howard is carrying out a major academic study of Westerners living in the Philippines. The study looks at reasons for moving to the Philippines, characteristics and well-being of the local Westerner population, and their experiences in-country. If you are a Westerner who has lived in the Philippines for at least a year, you are invited to complete an anonymous online survey form which take about 10 minutes to fill out. A summary and analysis of the findings will be posted on this site when the study is complete. The survey hopes to yield a picture of the local Westerner population and perhaps some tips on how to successfully live in the Philippines. If you would like to complete the survey, please follow this link.

Following on from the mention of the teaching industry in Thailand in last week's column, one thing to note about teaching positions in Thailand is that there is no such thing as being over-qualified in Thailand. Thais LOVE pieces of paper and qualifications and the more you have, the better! Master's degree? Great! Doctorate? Even better! Just applying to be a regular English teacher but used to lecture at one of the world's most prestigious universities? No problem! Don't make the mistake of thinking that a Thai in the education field will ever accuse you of being over-qualified!

There are many aspects of life where Thais and foreigners are different and on a recent trip I reflected how different we are when we travel. Obviously when we travel it's all about the destination – the place, the sights, the food etc. For Westerners it's also often about the people – engaging the locals in conversation, sharing ideas and learning. For Thais, this is not usually a part of it at all and Thais are generally not great at engaging people – at least not when they are outside the familiarity of their own comfort zone, be it their hometown, place of work or those places they frequent and are comfortable in. A Thai who comes across a foreigner or outsider in their own 'hood is much more likely to engage them as Thais are generally friendly. However, when Thais are travelling, or merely outside their comfort zone, they are much less likely to engage a stranger, and the very thought of it makes some quite nervous.



The Strip Gogo Bar Bangkok



Secrets Bar, Pattaya



Quote of the week comes from SAMI, "How would I see a person in my own country who likes to spend much of his time and money in bars with prostitutes?"

Reader's story of the week is the delightful "Life in Isaan" from Bangkok Barry.

More on the major visa run crackdown from the Bangkok Post.

6 Aussies and a Kiwi are arrested in Pattaya for the heinous crime of placing bets online on horse races in Australia.

A Phuket-based visa run company thinks there is worse to come with visa rules in Thailand.

An obese Brit loses so much weight that Immigration doesn't believe he's who he says he is when he goes to leave!

There are claims that Hollywood ruined Phi Phi Island.

A Nigerian is wanted for murder of his fellow countryman and housemate in Pattaya.

From the end of the year foreigners arriving in Thailand will be finger-printed.




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: It has been suggested that International NGO employees might be exempt from Thai labour laws relating to dismissal. Can you confirm if this is the case or not?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Thai labour law applies to all employees in Thailand, even those working for an international NGO. However, the Alien Working Act is exempted.



Question 2: I wish to purchase a house and put it in my wife's name. My understanding is that I don't need the foreign exchange transaction form, but will need to sign a letter that states the funds used to purchase the house are 'sin suan tua' of my wife, otherwise the Land And Title Office will not put her name on the chanote. Is this correct?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: When the Thai spouse of a foreign partner wishes to acquire or purchase land, it is compulsory that the foreign spouse must be at the Land Office during ownership registration. The foreign spouse must sign off on the property confirming that he or she has no involvement with the Thai spouse purchasing the property and that the property is not a part of marital assets.


Question 3: I plan to marry my Thai girlfriend of 3 years and we will soon move to my country to start a family. I have an unresolved dispute with the Thailand Tax Department that goes back years. It remains unresolved and despite my best efforts to work with them to settle (any amount owing is not that significant), the difficulties I have faced dealing with them make me believe this won't happen. My question regards marrying a Thai national. Will marriage to me make her in any way liable for any outstanding situation with the local tax man? The last thing I want is for her to somehow get caught up in this and suffer. Note: we will not have any assets in Thailand at all.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Your tax dispute is a personal issue which will not affect your wife, unless you pass away and she inherits your assets in Thailand and the Revenue Department is aware of the inheritance. Under Thai inheritance law the beneficiary will inherit not only the assets but also the liabilities of the deceased. The liability will be proportionate and the maximum will not exceed the amount of assets that are inherited. Let's say that she is to inherit 1 million baht from you, while your unsettled tax amount is 2 million baht. The maximum that she will be liable (as your beneficiary) will be only 1 million baht. You may wish to meet with an advisor at Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors before you leave Thailand to see if the issue can be resolved. Our advisors have extensive experience in dealing with these kinds of issues.







Soi Cowboy


This week something changed. I won't say the dam burst, but it certainly was not a coincidence that all at the same time I had bar owners and managers asking me for ideas on how to turn business around. The days of bar bosses saying the clichéd "if you'd been here 5 minutes ago it was packed" are gone. Now they are more honest as trade has hit some in the pocket – yes, there are Bangkok gogo bars losing money where the owner has to put his hand in his pocket to pay bills come month end – and they are desperate to turn things around. I'm not going to say that the bars are doing any worse now, or are any quieter than they have been, but there does seem to be an acknowledgement that any turnaround is not simply going to happen by itself. The bars are hurting and owners are more open about it – which has to be a good thing because they know that just leaving things as they are won't help fix anything. Hopefully some can come up with some innovative ideas to improve the bar experience and entice punters back.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


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