Bangkok's red light areas have been a playground for some real characters over the years, customers and bar owners alike, and there have been some amazing stories of goings on behind the scenes. Just what is true and what is not we might never know, but this being Bangkok anything is possible.
Perhaps the most told bar story is from Shadow Bar in Soi Cowboy (now Cocktail Club) and the colourful character who ran it from 1991 – 1997, Crazy Jack. As was common in the day, there was a short-time room on the premises. So the story goes, Jack is said to have rigged up a camera in said short-time room and had a monitor in his office where he would watch the action live. There also happened to be a VHS recorder, and everything was recorded. Shelves took up an entire wall of the office where hundreds of video tapes were stacked. Some say it was the concern that these tapes might be used against certain people who had used the short-time room that led to Crazy Jack's death in early 1998, aged just 55. That he might have been erased to ensure the tapes would also be erased is a myth; Crazy Jack had been in bad health for years, was diabetic and succumbed to a heart attack. Enough people claim to have seen the setup to make me believe the story is true. The big question then is….where are the tapes today?!
‘90s Bangkok was full of legends in both senses of the word – colourful characters and wild stories. Some say the industry's heyday was mid-late '90s Nana Plaza. There were more girls than ever, many of whom were sweet and innocent. And there was a reason for that: because they were young. Too young. The economy had tanked, there was mass unemployment and girls desperate to make money to help support their family flocked to the bars. Enforcement of certain laws was lax and underage was much more of an issue than it is today. On the top floor of the plaza was a short time hotel long since closed where one bar group would hurriedly usher all its girls not of legal age when the authorities came sniffing. The message would go out in the bars and dozens of girls would scurry out the bar straight to the back of the plaza, ascend the stairs, enter the short-time hotel and be out of from view before the doors were padlocked shut. No-one could go in or out until the all clear was given. Many owners and managers who worked in the plaza at the time tell this story with a chuckle.
In to the noughties and Naughty Nigel, a 6-foot 4-inch bald Brit would become a household name in Bangkok sexpat circles. Nigel put rice on the table by starring in homemade movies of him playing hide the sausage in a dark wet cave with Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese working girls. It's amazing that the drug-addicted, drug-dealing, credit card scamming porn star survived in Bangkok so long given that his exploits were all over the 'net. Put his fame down to timing – the authorities had yet to take the Internet seriously. There's no way anyone could get away with that now.
But it is an incident that happened not so many years ago that is perhaps one of the most remarkable of Bangkok bar stories. It did not involve no-name back alley bars nor bar industry newbies. Rather it involved major players in the industry and a very popular bar so please forgive me for being hazy with the details and not identifying anyone. Let's begin…
The going rate for a Bangkok gogo bar has nose-dived. A couple of years ago double-shophouse gogo bars would change hands for 15 – 20 million baht, today you'd be lucky to get half that. There was a time when investors were lining up with 1,000,000 baht to secure a 2.5% share in a 3rd floor Nana Plaza bar, effectively valuing the business at 40 million baht. Said bar today would probably be worth no more than 6 or 7 million baht – that is if you could even find a buyer. Those were the days when investors could not get enough of the bar industry. But nothing is forever. The days of owners walking away from the sale of their chrome pole bar a dollar millionaire are over.
But there are a few bars – not many, but a few – which are still worth a lot of money. Even today, the most popular, well-run bars consistently make the owners more money per year than most of us spend in Bangkok in a lifetime.
There was one such bar was doing particularly well, making silly money, month after month, year after year. It was well run, was particularly popular with salarymen and it was hot, so hot in fact that the fire department has been known to attend. It makes more than you could make in the highest of high-stakes card games.
So the story goes, the bar was not for sale per se. The owner was approached by an investment group buying up large all over the city. They had identified this establishment as one of the best in the business and expressed an interest in buying. They were willing to put down a significant amount for a share.
The whole bar industry might be a bit of a grey area, but such a large deal is not worked out on the back of a piece of tissue paper. Lawyers are involved. The existing owner who would be taking on partners had a rarity in Thailand, a farang lawyer – a smooth-talking, stylish, confident and charming European. He was a man about town, the epitome of debonair.
The details were thrashed out and a price was agreed on. The deal would be effected when the final payment was made. Exactly how much the share was and exactly how much money was involved is unknown, but the numbers to buy in that I have heard range from 26 – 50 million baht. It depends who is telling the story but I am led to believe that an initial downpayment of 24 million baht was paid, with 26 million baht remaining.
The bar owner had been expecting an envelope. He was presented with a bag. Payment was not being made by cheque, but in cash.
26 million baht is a lot of 1,000 baht banknotes. Just which currency the money was in, no-one who was not party to the deal knows for sure. Would you really want that much in Thai baht?
Let's pause there for a second; it's time for a reality check. Bars being sold and payment being made in cash is hardly unusual in Bangkok. This is a country in which new cars and even large real estate deals may be carried out with cash.
A few years back the third largest bar deal I am aware of in all my time in Thailand involved the sale of two bars for a cool 90 million baht. Payment was made in cash, with 500 Euro notes to be precise. As crazy as such deals being carried out with cash may sound, this is Bangkok – and that makes it entirely believable.
Anyway, back to the bar deal.
The bar boss and the investors had thrashed out the details, had agreed on a price, the paperwork was all signed and all that was needed was for payment to be made. Payment was presented in the form of cash.
Bangkok after dark is hardly the most dangerous place on the planet, but 26 million baht in cash is a huge temptation. Even a respected ajarn or a demure office worker might slice your throat for that amount of money if the opportunity arose and they thought they could get away with it.
The vendor was hesitant to take possession of such a large amount of cash at night. It was potentially a life-changing amount of money. For all he knew this could be a setup. There could be some dodgy folks around the corner waiting for him, or perhaps some bad guys had staked out his home and were lying in wait. He didn't like the idea of having such a large amount of cash in his possession. It might not be just the money at stake, but his life.
The bar owner's farang lawyer would come up with a solution. He would to take the money to his legal firm and place it in the firm's safe. It could be taken to the bank in the morning. It would be a shame if the deal did not go through that night for the trivial reason that payment had not been made.
The bar boss agreed. He had entrusted his lawyer with many deals and this was no ordinary lawyer, this was the principal partner in a law firm who came from the same part of the world as he did, who spoke the same language, who was well-known in the expat community, and was a published author to boot. And he was, let's not forget, the very picture of professionalism, immaculately presented as you would expect of a European lawyer.
The three parties would go their separate ways – the bar boss, the investors and the lawyer with the bag of money.
You don't have to be one of those really annoying people who always knows how a movie ends to guess the rest.
The next morning the lawyer had disappeared, as had the money.
The bar owner got in touch with crack investigators who were put on the case. They followed up a bunch of leads and the lawyer was located in Central America. Some stories say he was found on a beach in Costa Rica, others say Nicaragua. When found he was said to be sitting at a beachside bar, enjoying cocktails and company. The lawyer was not a lady's man, but a lover of ladymen.
He was brought back to Bangkok, but only a small amount of the money was recovered.
While the details of his quick escape from Bangkok aren't known, to get away with such a large amount in cash in such a short space of time is impressive.
Why didn't the bar owner and the investors use an escrow account? Events that happened after the lawyer was brought back to Bangkok show that might not have helped.
The lawyer would not stick around for long and would flee Bangkok again. His next victim was a woman who lodged money with him which was to be placed in escrow to buy a condo.
What happened to the bulk of the unrecovered money? And for that matter, where are the Crazy Jack sex tapes today?
Bangkok's bar industry is full of real legends – both characters and stories – and these are but the tip of the iceberg.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from the Patumwan (MBK) intersection, looking west at some of the newer hotels in the area. Once again, this week's photo is in downtown Bangkok.
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 straw that broke the camel's back.
This morning we arose at 4:30 AM in order to get out to the airport to connect with our 8:10 AM flight to Melbourne. As we had booked business class we were fast tracked to Thai's Royal Silk check-in. I knew something was wrong when after several minutes with various staff and managers peering into the computer we were told that the flight had been cancelled. Another passenger, a woman, who had flown Thai from Milan overnight told us that she had been informed by email 48 hours earlier that the second leg of her flight, BKK-MEL, had been cancelled. When I asked the check-in staff for an explanation, all they could offer was “not enough traffic”, which translated meant insufficient passengers for a payload. I then asked why I hadn't been informed of the cancellation given that this woman had been informed 2 days earlier! The reply was silence, looking at each other with embarrassment written on their faces, then all of them pretending to attend to other duties despite the fact there were no other passengers to check in! Thai Airways had my email address and our address in Bangkok but made no effort to contact us to advise of the cancellation of our flight. I then asked them to issue me with a cancellation statement for insurance purposes. They refused initially until I really started to lose my cool. They gave me a phone number to ring the head office in Bangkok. I have contacted the head office and demanded an insurance statement. They have told me that the matter is under consideration and that I will be informed later in the day of the issuance. In the meantime they have booked us in to the Novotel at the airport with meal vouchers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have additionally booked us on the 00:15 flight out of Suvarnabhumi tomorrow morning, but that is also not a sure thing as yesterday's flight was cancelled too according to hotel staff. I am absolutely pissed off with (a) Thai Airways and (b) Thailand in general. It will be a long time before we revisit this infuriatingly inefficient country again. From Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The cold war.
There's a "cold war" between Thai and farang. We know Thais are xenophobic – who knows why, but there's a bit of a superiority complex there. And while known, individual farang can be accepted (as non-Thais, of course), the anonymous passing farang is a different story. I'm sure you've seen enough ugliness: sloppy, hung-over, tattooed guys in singlets pawing their "dates" on BTS platforms and such. You see the gal's face, just disgust. Think about that accumulated over time. So many farang in Bangkok now, relative to…whatever timeframe, really. Add a profit-motive and whammo: any scruffy looking guy is pee-in-a-jug bait. It's a war. Slow-moving, seldom violent, but war.
Taking back the Thermae.
I'm not sure what everyone's moaning about. I visited the much-maligned Thermae for the first time this week and could barely fight them off. That's an exaggeration as the ladies aren't actually allowed to make approaches <Umm…what gives you that idea? – Stick>. But my point is that they weren't shy about their intentions towards me…and my name's not Tojo. The volume of winks, nods, hair flicks, eye batting and general 'knowing looks' from a healthy selection of extremely pretty girls (and lots of ugly ones) would be enough to make a French Foreign Legionnaire blush. They are definitely farang-friendly so let's put them to bed once and for all. I can't speak for the intentions of the many other girls who didn't happen to catch my eye but I wouldn't have gotten that far anyway – the first 30 was plenty to choose from. My advice: smarten yourself up; wear a nice collar; look like you've come from the office; stop moaning; stand straight; walk like a man; enter the room like one; smile at people who smile at you; smile at those who don't; be manly; be a gentleman; stop fidgeting; exude warmth and confidence; look and act like a leader of men; wear shoes; be pleasant to the barman; remember your manners; never surrender.
Asoke coppers ever studious.
I was walking from BTS Asoke today to my girlfriend's room past the end of Sukhumvit soi 16. Two police officers were standing on the corner of a fairly quiet intersection and waved me over. It was the first time I have been stopped by police here. I had heard stories so it wasn't completely unexpected. They asked my name, where I was going and asked to search my small backpack, wallet, and change purse. They were polite, professional, and non-threatening. I was a bit amused when the officer closely examined my deck of Uno playing cards. I have a toiletries bag with a lot of pockets and he examined that pretty thoroughly, smiling when he saw the condoms I had inside a metal case. After that, they smiled and said I could go. They did not ask to see my passport which I had in my money belt. I just wanted to pass this along that the police checks are definitely in force.
Travel insurance recommendation.
As for your question concerning health insurance while traveling, I highly recommend the Diver's Alert Network and their Travel Assist Insurance plans. You don't have to be a scuba diver to become a member and / or buy the insurance plan. It is hands down the best system I've ever seen for emergency evacuation and medical treatment, particularly as relates to scuba diving, but it is not limited to that. I have had to assist a number of people in evacuations and recompression treatment and the response times were nothing less than amazing. As I said though, this isn't limited to diving-related injuries. I don't know the numbers to call in Thailand but a bit of Google or a visit to any dive shop would get you all of that.
The travel insurance conundrum.
Re: Insurance cover for Thailand at this time, for Australians the military coup is a "general exclusion" which means anything that happens to you because of the coup is NOT covered, but everything else is. So, if you fall over and break a leg you're covered. Miss a flight because the public transport system is closed due to the coup, you are not covered. Here's the problem. If the Australian government changes the travel warning to reconsider your need to travel or do not travel, your policy is terminated regardless. This is Australia-wide for all travel policies. Some countries have changed travel warnings and it's a wait and see approach at this time.
Where to get travel insurance.
Go to www.worldnomads.com for travel insurance policies. From Australia or New Zealand, a policy is $50 AUD for the Standard policy or $64 AUD for the more expanded Explorer policy. There is an exclusion for failure to follow a Do Not Travel warning issued by Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Going to that website indicates that the warning given for Thailand is "Exercise a high degree of caution". It does not say not to travel to Thailand. Therefore, the exclusion does not apply, and all else being equal, the policy should be effective. From the UK, there is one policy costing 36.67 British pounds. Not otherwise excluded. From the US, the cost is $49 USD for Standard policy and $64.73 USD for the Explorer policy (these are the costs if coming from Colorado). There is an exclusion for war (whether declared or not declared), civil disorder, riot and insurrection.
Girl of the week
Escort exclusive with PureBangkokEscorts.com.
New to the industry, she would love to watch World Cup
matches with you and help you cheer on your favourite team.
Bangkok remains under a midnight – 4 AM curfew in Bangkok. The curfew has however been lifted in many tourist hotspot beaches and islands including Pattaya, Phuket, Ko Samui, Cha Am, Hua Hin, Krabi and Phang Nga. In the capital, there's been no change on Sukhumvit which is as quiet as ever. Quieter than the 2010 red shirt occupation and quieter even than during the 2011 floods. The city feels safer than usual, but perhaps a little less fun.
May (along with September) is the quietest month of the year. We're now in to June and things usually pick up a little as Aussies and Kiwis escape Winter. But this year many are looking at alternative destinations with Bali a major beneficiary. From one of Bangkok's premier hotels, a 5-star on the river, comes proof of how grim things are. The occupancy rate earlier this week just made it in to double figures, at 12%.
It looks like the curfew in Bangkok is going to clash with the World Cup. With many hotels, condos and apartment buildings NOT having coverage of the tournament and only 22 games to be shown live on free view TV, football fans were prepared to go out to their favourite bar to watch matches. That might not be an option if the curfew is still in place.
Current bar opening times in the capital vary from bar to bar, area to area. Most gogo bars open mid / late afternoon and close at midnight. Some bars can't open until later as they wait for girls to show up for work who have not adjusted their routines to the new schedule. With trade so low, some bars are cutting costs and cancelled their agency girls. Wild Thing and Angelwitch 2 are dominated by coyote dancers / agency girls and these 2 Nana bars are closed for the time being.
Club Electric Blue in Patpong soi 2 has discounted its barfine rate until the curfew finishes with a standardised 700 baht for both gogo dancers and coyote dancers. The action starts at 5 PM and runs through until midnight.
Policemen descended on Patpong soi 1 on Thursday night as a number of upstairs bars were visited and closed, some of which have long been known for systematically ripping off customers by presenting them with an outrageous bill with a "show charge". A good few Thai males were taken away in handcuffs although what it was all about is unknown. The rest of the night was very quiet on Patpong soi 1 with the pesky touts conspicuous by their absence.
Business is no better for stallholders at Patpong than it is for the bars and some stalls at the infamous market have not been set up as foreign visitors seem less willing to venture out at night.
The Nana Beer Garden – the ground floor beer bars in the centre of Nana Plaza – has been purchased by the owners of Stumble Inn. Beer towers have been reduced in price to 500 baht, and barfines will drop in price in a month or so. Food is now available and comes from the kitchen in Stumble Inn. There are plans to develop it with ideas currently being bounced around including the possibility of making it a real beer garden, a more open style of bar where you can sit, eat, have a drink and relax.
The Londoner has long been and still remains my favourite English pub in Bangkok. Late last year I mentioned a couple of times that The Londoner's future was uncertain. Things went quiet and nothing much has been heard since. The 6-month extension to The Londoner's lease comes up at the end of the month and with an impasse in negotiations to extend it, the long-running pub will close its doors for the last time on June 18th. The Londoner will build their own place off Patthanakhan Road which they hope will be ready in 4 – 5 months. During that time all staff will be paid. All drinks are now 2 for the price of 1, every night, from 7:00 PM until closing.
In last week's column I commented how the signage at Crazy House in Bangkok and Crazy Horse in Phuket was almost identical, and I wondered who had copied who. It would seem that neither had copied the other. Confused? In fact they both appear to have copied the sign for Crazy Horse Cabaret in Paris.
Down in Pattaya, the Walking Street bar known as Teazers has been refitted, redecorated and renamed Crazy House. I am not aware of any connection with the bar of the same name in Bangkok.
Soi Cowboy seems to be riding out the storm better than other bar areas.
Emails in recent weeks have questioned what I have been saying about the state of the bar industry, with some readers of the belief that things are booming and that I am, for some strange reason, telling fibs about how bad things are. Oh, how bar owners wish that was the case! Casual tourists hitting the Bangkok nightlife on a busy night (Fridays are always busy, as is the end of the month when locals get paid), may not get a full picture of just how bad it is. Of course not everyone is hurting and the best bars do fine day in, day out, year round. Nana's Rainbow bars pack the punters in nightly and are highly profitable. And you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue against Baccara being the best bar in the business and it's still uber popular, doing more trade in a week than most bars do in a month. But if we look around the various bar areas, there are clear trends. The biggest group of bars in Nana Plaza is said to be running at a loss, at least if you aggregate the numbers for all of the bars in the group (some of which are profitable and some of which are not). A number of the independents in Nana aren't doing well, and in the two large, recently renovated and renamed bars, I have no doubt the owners have to put their hands in their pockets at the end of every month to pay the bills. Nana Plaza bar owners face outrageously high rents and that coupled with an overall drop in total visitor numbers, Nana Plaza is probably the most difficult bar area to make money in. Down at Patpong, the better bars are profitable but some Patpong bar owners tell me they have not made a profit since November of last year. Rents are relatively low in Patpong, but the area gets nothing like the farang foot traffic of Sukhumvit. Bars in Patpong with pretty girls and a loyal following – think Club Electric Blue and Pink Panther – do well, while the rest struggle. At Soi Cowboy, my feeling is that every bar is profitable. Cowboy has a strong expat following and crucially, rents are low. With fixed costs under control and a solid customer base year round, trade at Cowboy may be down, but no Cowboy bar owners will be going hungry.
In many ways Thailand's bar industry has changed – and in just as many it hasn't. I was browsing a Trink column from early 1998 and saw mention of a small Irish bar in Soi Pattayaland 2 the owner wanted to sell and get out of. I note that 16 years on said owner is still in charge, and still wants to get out!
Prices continue to creep up in Phuket's bar ground zero, Patong. Lady drinks at Rock Hard are 200 baht and the longest running gogo bar on Phuket has introduced the Baccara barfine pricing system where if you wish to barfine a lady you MUST buy her 2 lady drinks, on top of the barfine.
For naughty boys who are keen to fit in a side trip to Angeles City comes bad news with Tiger Air announcing that from July 1st, its 3 flights a week between Bangkok and Angeles have been suspended. With that said, when Harry The Horse, Angeles City's top bar commentator recently said, "The chances of a bar being raided is a high percentage bet" after being asked about recent bar raids in Angels City, it does rather put one off visiting.
London Pie is a new restaurant on Ekamai worth checking out for lovers of English food. It's located just a bit beyond what was Durty Nelly's (which closed for renovations but seems unlikely to reopen) and is open from 8 AM – 10 PM. Their pies are said to be excellent.
Over recent years the appearance of the British Embassy has changed and various services offered have been overhauled. First, they sold off the vast front lawns which are now part of the monstrous Central Embassy shopping centre. They streamlined the procedures for Brits in Thailand applying for a new passport. And they have outsourced the way UK visa applications are received. Amidst a sea of confusion and misinformation, the tracking / notification system for visa applicants is said to have worsened. The option of paying the visa application centre for a text and an email to notify you of the progress of your visa application has been withdrawn and there are doubts about whether the average visa applicant has a clue about how to find out if / when the visa application has been decided. Iain and his team at MyThai-Visa.com has knowledge of how the system works and of the only method which is still reliable (paying for a courier service for delivery of returned documents after processing). They have the means to deliver an application with a guarantee against failure and to make sure the applicant and sponsor know when their application has been processed so they can recover their passport / support documents. If you're a Brit going crazy at the UK visa application process, contact MyThai-visa.com for assistance.
Some taxi drivers are trying to make up for lost revenue due to fewer passengers during the curfew by charging many times what the metered rate would be. And at the airport, some drivers at the departures level (the top floor) are asking 500 baht for a run in to town instead of using the meter as they are normally happy to do. Even during daylight hours some use the curfew as a reason to go off meter. Refusal to agree to their asking price sees them sulk and pout. For the time being it might be easier to go straight to the organised taxi queue. You might wait a little longer but the driver is compelled to turn on the meter (and remember that he has the right to charge a supplementary 50 baht airport pickup fee).
It's not a soi I particularly like and late at night the impression I get is of an African slum. Nonetheless I am picking Sukhumvit soi 13 to become gentrified in the next 2 or 3 years – and property prices in the central Sukhumvit soi to shoot up. Just as I am no fan of soi 13 itself, I don't care for Trendy Apartments – but if I was sticking around I'd buy a couple of units in that building. With a high-end development going up at the start of the soi, talk of more high-end developments within the soi and with the soi being on the busiest part of Sukhumvit Road, property prices on soi 13 are only going one way.
I have only seen the advertising board above in one single space in town, close to the Asoke intersection. It was the photo that first caught my eye – a guy behind bars in a suit. It made me chuckle because it goes against the local perception that those who wear suits don't end up in prison. The large text in black says "People who cheat must go to jail". The two lines of red text below that say, "Help to teach and raise our children so they do not grow up to cheat". The black text above the URL says that teaching this has already started in schools. The pictured prisoner is made to look like the devil, with tusks coming out of his mouth and red and black face paint. I wonder if it might have been more effective to simply show a clean-cut and respectable looking guy without the face paint and props? If you watch Thai TV, you know that Thais place a huge emphasis on the way people look and it is widely believed, perhaps even accepted, that criminals actually look the part i.e. they are scruffy, dirty, ugly etc. Clean cut people don't cheat, right?! Plaudits for the campaign, but I wonder how effective it will be.
Numerous newsbytes in recent times have outlined the visa difficulties young expats face, especially those aged under 50 and not married to a local. Rather than talk about the problems, it's better to give advice on a solution. If you're not sure how you can continue to stay in Thailand legally, I suggest that you go and have a chat with Tanya, the charming owner of Bangkok Buddy Travel Service which offers a visa run service and visa assistance. Tanya is a true professional, very knowledge about visa options, and she will be able to outline your options of how to stay in Thailand legally. You can find Tanya's office in the Korea Town Building near Sukhumvit soi 12.
Quote of the week, "I imagine by now that Thais must view the frequent protests, coups, or attempted coups in the same nonchalant way that the Japanese view the frequent earthquakes there."
Reader's story of the week comes from Steve Rosse, "No More A Dancing Monkey".
Two foreign teenagers are electrocuted at a condo block popular with
foreigners in Sukhumvit soi 22.
A genuine effort seems to be being made to rid Phuket of its taxi mafia with 73 arrested this week.
The military government has put on a charm offensive to restore happiness to the people.
A 49-year old American hiding out in Udon Thani is arrested for the murder of a 19-year old Thai woman in Pattaya.
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: What happens to the estate of my legal Thai wife should she die intestate with no legal documents specifying any distribution of assets? Specifically the house with a mortgage, a car with an outstanding loan, a leasehold property fully paid and her work pensions and insurances? Thanks for your help.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: If your wife dies without a will then the assets will need to be categorized as to whether they were acquired before the marriage or during the marriage. Assets that were acquired during marriage would see half of them distributed to you, her legal spouse (except the land and house – which if she had acquired during marriage you would have had to declare at the Land Office that they were her property alone) and the other half distributed to beneficiaries under Thai law. Assets that she owned prior to marriage would be distributed to beneficiaries as determined by Thai law. Thai law has 6 levels of inheritance. The beneficiaries are:
Level 1 – child(ren) of the owner of the estate – the legal spouse of the owner of the estate is also considered a Level 1 beneficiary.
Level 2 – parents of the owner of the estate – parents of the owner of the estate (in Level 2) will also be considered as Level 1 Inheritance.
Level 3 – brothers and sisters of full blood of the owner of the estate.
Level 4 – brothers and sisters of half blood of the owner of the estate.
Level 5 – Grandfathers and grandmothers of the owner of the estate.
Level 6 – uncles and aunts of the owner of the estate.
Those below level 1 will not be entitled to any part of the estate unless there is no-one in the levels above still living.
The inheritance / beneficiary will not only inherit the assets that are in your wife's name, but he / she / they will also inherit the liability. But there is a limitation on the liability that each inheritor could inherit. The liabilities will be shared proportionately but shall not exceed the amount of assets they received.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors strongly recommends that your wife execute a will determining how assets will be handled so as to avoid future conflicts and potential lawsuits. We have Thai-speaking legal advisors who can assist her through the process.
Question 2: I have an account with Bangkok Bank and a balance of approx. 130,000 baht. I have the bankbook with me here in the States along with the expired ATM card. I cannot access the account at present. I don't plan to visit Thailand again until the end of the year. As I have not been in Thailand since late 2012, I will not have accessed the account in about 2 years. Is there any danger of the account being closed if there is no activity? I have heard that if you don't access your bank account over a period of time it can be closed. Please do advise me of this situation and if there is anything I can do to make sure I don't have a problem. I will sign up for Internet banking when I next visit Thailand so I can access the account from here and also get a replacement ATM card, but that won't be until the end of this year.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Normally this is governed by the individual bank's policy but in general the account is deactivated if there is less than 2,000 baht in the account for over a year. The bank usually imposes a 50 baht service fee each month and the fees would be imposed until the bank account balance is 0, then the account is deactivated permanently. The expired ATM card will need to be re-issued at any branch and must be done in person, but Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors recommends that you do so at the branch where your account was established to avoid any potential difficulties.
Yes, there is a military-controlled government in place and yes, the midnight – 4 AM curfew remains in Bangkok and there is no sign of it being lifted any time soon. Many are understandably put off visiting. On the other hand, there are some pretty good arguments that now is in fact a great time to visit. There are fewer people around which means you can get your favourite seat in bars and restaurants and in bars you might just find yourself the centre of attention. Bangkok is probably safer now than it has been in a long time. It might not be quite its usual self, but Bangkok remains a great place for a holiday. I absolutely understand how some felt the 10 PM curfew was stifling, but midnight isn't so bad and most seem to have adapted to it. And if you are a late night guy, just go down to Pattaya where the curfew was lifted days ago. If you do visit there's little reason not to have a good time.
Your Bangkok commentator,