Stickman's Weekly Column July 13th, 2014

Advice From 10-Year Expats



I have seen as many expats fail in Bangkok as I have succeed. Many who have relocated here later decided, or in some cases found themselves forced to return home, often in a worse situation than when they arrived. But that's not to say that there aren't plenty of expats who have succeeded in Bangkok. Many have done elegantly well, turning 5 or 6-figure investments in to 7-figure fortunes, legally. Others may not have got wealthy, but have succeeded in their chosen field.

This week I got in touch with some expat friends who have done ok for themselves in Thailand. Each happens to have been resident in Thailand for 10 years or more and some have something of a profile. I asked them each for one piece of advice for budding expats, and to keep their thoughts to less than 200 words. A couple got a little carried away.





Don't do things in Thailand that you would never do in your homeland, as doing so often leads to trouble. There are countless tales of foreigners in Thailand coming a cropper, experiencing major problems or getting in to serious trouble – and long-term expats aren't exempt. So many of these problems can be traced back to a single questionable decision that led to them doing something in Thailand they would never dream of doing at home. Would you buy a house in Farangland for a woman you hardly know? Would you consider a relationship with a woman 1/3 of your age back home to be about anything other than money? If you don't drive drunk at home, why do it in Thailand? Would you be willing to work for an employer who deducted 10% of your monthly salary with the promise that it will be given to you when you complete your contract at the end of the year? If you would never consider doing something at home, is doing it in Thailand really is such a good idea?

Stickman
Online Columnist



It is baffling the number of people who end up doing the wrong things because they were given bad advice; such as putting a car in the girlfriend's name, trusting someone other than independent paid counsel to check title deeds on a condo or letting it be registered by a girlfriend. Just use the same common sense you would at home.

As for business, if you were successful in your homeland then odds are you will be here, and vice versa. Thailand is not a magic wand that makes you a successful businessman / woman overnight. Try to get involved with something unique that is missing in Thailand.

Do something that you have passion for and see the business through your clients' or guests' eyes. Be honest and work hard. Success usually follows. Learn to laugh and have a sense humor along with a good-natured attitude since most of the time you are going to need it.

This is just my two bahts' worth, but I feel strongly that if you do these things it put the odds in your favor. It's not a guarantee that you will be a winner but every single big winner in business I know in Thailand had these traits.

Greg Lange
Managing Director, Sunbelt Asia



In the dim and distant past, when there was no Google, no wi-fi, no meters in taxis, all the buses had the routes on the side in English, and there was no Skytrain or Subway – I set up my website Bangkokbob.net. I realised that my little knowledge of the city was far more than that of people who had never been here before, my aim being to let people know which way to turn when walking out of the hotel for the first time.

It grew and grew until I was getting over 3 million page views per month, quite something at the time; I met some interesting people too, Stickman, authors Stephen Leather, Jake Needham, Christopher G Moore, Dean Barrett etc. as well as many other colourful Bangkok characters.

Sadly, I ended up like the chap from the Chinese State Circus who runs about trying to keep all those plates spinning on top of bamboo poles! Because as the city expanded, the act of just keeping the website current became a gargantuan task until I gave up trying to keep on top of it, and closed it down much to the regret of many people – if the emails were anything to go by.

When Stickman asked me to make a contribution, I was stuck for a subject but I thought of the dozens of people I have met here who are Bangkok experts after a couple of visits. You may have met some too – they think all the streets are called “soyas” and they're the ones who wai bar staff and waiters.

The longer you live here, the more you realise how little you know about what is actually going on. After 28 years I am still prepared to be amazed, and that is probably why we like it so much, the fact that everything from crossing the road to going to the toilet is so vastly different from our boring home countries.

Not so much advice, but my observation is the use of the word OBVIOUSLY – it simply doesn't work here! Whenever you hear someone use it in a sentence you are almost assured that whatever follows is quite wrong. So keep an open mind and prepare to be amazed as usually whatever you think is going on is actually quite different, obviously.

Bangkok Bob
webmaster, BangkokBob.net



One of the hardest decisions to make for any long-term expat here is to get up one morning, look in the bathroom mirror, and say "The Thailand thing isn't working for me and I need to move on." Whether that means returning home or re-locating to another country with more opportunities, I don't know. But I've seen far too many expats (good friends in many cases) just stumble from year to year – often existing on very little income – and shying away from making that all-important decision. Should I stay or should I go?

I arrived in Thailand when I was 25 years old. I'm now 50. Thailand can look very different through a younger and then older set of eyes. At 25, you're bulletproof. You can party every night of the week and literally not have a care in the world. But eventually the reality of getting old (or older) is going to catch up with you if you're here for the long haul. If you are not planning for the future financially, then there are sure to be some very tough times ahead. What about health care when all those niggly illnesses kick in? How are you going to cope with being less marketable (as we see happen to many expats in the English teaching profession)? And what about family members back home who become seriously ill in their old age and suddenly you need to get home to say your goodbyes? Those are just three reasons. There are many more.

You don't want to become one of those aging expats surviving in Thailand on the 'bones of your arse'. It's an extremely risky existence.

Bangkok Phil
Ajarn.com

Ajarn.com



Most of what you see looks familiar in Bangkok – Starbucks, McDonald's, KFC, shopping malls, luxury hotels and cars. That is the danger, an illusion of understanding. What you see is only the surface. To go beyond you need to equip yourself with knowledge of the Thai language, culture and history. Start with kreng jai; it has no translation into English. Buddhism, Hinduism, shamanism, like many other elements are also filters that shape the way Thais react to you, as well as their expectations, dreams, taboos, and desires. Observe without judging what you see. If you decide to take this journey, make it an epic one, following the Thai map of the mind and heart into unchartered waters. You may discover the reality constructed inside you is forever changed.

Christopher G. Moore
Author


Christopher G. Moore's latest novel is The Marriage Tree.



Plan carefully before you decide to leave home and move to Thailand. Remember the adage, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. I have seen thousands of foreigners fail in Thailand forcing them to leave. Sadly, there are also those who have paid the ultimate price. You must research and plan well to prevent becoming another sad statistic. Even though you had the time of your life, living in Thailand is very different to visiting for a holiday. Here are some questions to consider: Do you have the personal and business skills to survive? Do you have knowledge about Thailand, the Thai language and Thai lifestyle? What can you offer Thailand that others cannot? Have you done enough research and planning? If you can answer these questions positively with honesty and confidence, then you have made a good start. I wish you good luck!

Dave The Rave
Gogo guru, DaveTheRaveBangkok.com





Let me tell you the unpleasant truth, white boy. The single most important thing you have to know about living among Thais is this: they don't like you. Yeah, I know, they wai you like crazy, and they salute you every time you walk through a door, and they shout out that you're a handsome man when you're just walking down the street. It's all pretty pleasant, I admit, sort of like standing in a warm shower all day long. The problem, of course, is eventually you start believing that bullshit and think you've found the one place on earth where your true worth as a human being has finally been recognized. Don't be stupid. Regardless of how deferentially Thais may act toward you, they truly don't like you, not even a little bit. Worse, all their phony groveling has probably caused you to forget who you really are. So here's the thing to remember: no matter how much they fawn over you, you're still just the same hopeless schmuck you were back in Fresno or Stuttgart or Birmingham. Keep that in mind, and you'll probably get by okay.

Jake Needham
Author

Jake Needham





No matter how well you think you understand a Thai, you really do not. They have grown up in a totally different environment and simply do not see things as you do.

Do not let small problems grow into big ones. Much easier to take care of it early.

Learn the language. Better to know that you're being insulted, giving you the opportunity to walk away, than staying there and smiling ignorantly.

Family will always be numbers 1-10 on the priority list, and you will not be considered as part of the family, ever, regardless of what they say. This includes what your spouse thinks.

What constitutes virtue in your eyes is very different from what most Thais consider virtue. For example, I feel very strongly about not lying and also fulfilling promises but I don't know of many Thais who feel the same. So don't expect Thais to act as you would.

Logic is not a skill many Thais possess, so arguing with them using logic probably will not get you anywhere.

Don't sweat the ‘small stuff'. There are many things that are impossible for you to change or influence, so save your sanity and just accept them as they are.

Don't get involved in a clash between Thais. You may well become the common enemy of them.

Don't lend anything if losing it would be a hardship to you.

Let your spouse entirely handle Thai 'situations', such as possible altercations and such. Your spouse can read the situation much better than you can, so trust their judgement and follow their lead. If they say "We need to leave NOW!", leave immediately without asking why; you will have time to ask later.

When there's alcohol involved, situations can degenerate quickly and unexpectedly, much more so than in the west. Be wary when drinking with Thais, especially if you do not know everyone very well. In places where liquor is readily consumed, such as clubs, it is best not to draw any attention to yourself.

Be very wary of westerners. There are many scammers in Thailand, as well as long-time expats who are still fighting their own demons, which is perhaps the reason they left their home country.

Do as most Thais do, and that is to have as much fun as possible doing whatever you are doing. Do not have a sour attitude.

With regard to dating, it is almost impossible to find a partner who is 'different', no matter where you look. Impossible to find at the bars, gogos, etc, where foreigners frequent. If you ever give ANY financial support to them, no matter how small, this is proof that the person is not 'different'. Run (don't walk) away because you will always foremost be an ATM to them. The only Thai/western relationships which I've seen work long-term are those where no money has changed hands.

The Actuary
Old Asia Hand





Many newcomers to Thailand (just as I remember myself doing 20 years ago) get swept away by the enchantment of the country, and in my case Bangkok in the 90's just blew me away with its plentiful bars, frenetic lifestyle, wonderful food and the alluring women. It's all there: before you know it you are Peter Pan in Never Never Land – where having fun is a given and growing old is not really considered a disadvantage (unless you don't have a source of income!). My advice to newcomers concerns becoming involved with Thai women – particularly the North-Eastern variety. So many newcomers and occasional visitors catch Jasmine fever and find themselves getting into serious emotional and financial problems with their first (and predictably disastrous) encounters with Thai women often much younger than themselves. My advice: take your time and enjoy the adventure. A good starting place is to see and experience the environment where many come from.

Spend time in rural Thailand – try to stay in a village but never as a guest in the house of your newest girlfriend. Consider it as a homestay holiday with Thai friends – but pay your way. It's a great way to experience the lifestyle, festivals, hardship, fun, devotion to family, the land and their religious roots. Visit the rice fields, catch food, drink with the old men. It will help you understand the dynamics and bonds that create such fun-loving and dedicated young women you will most likely meet in the bars and streets of Bangkok.

In trying to understand the incongruity of these gorgeous creatures – consider the underlying nature of cats; extremely strong-willed. Affectionate and sensual but dangerous, happy to be around when there is comfort, food or somewhere to stay. You will never own them, but just like cats – relationships of extraordinary affection and enjoyment can develop. Thai girls don't automatically like each other so never expect your Thai partner to socially accept your mates or their partners, even if they are from the same province…they are not wired that way. Try to understand the concept of sixth sense and “Heart” – for me the best advice I followed was to read Christopher G. Moore's Heart Talk – it unlocked so many unexplained things.

Never try to make them do something they don't like. Try to give a cat a bath…they will never forget, hurt them and they never forgive. You will never be central to their lives…important yes, but not central. In order of gravitational importance to your partner are the Mother, Family, Friends, Thai society, then right on the outer orbit is where you fit in. If you can accept that – you have the chance to be happy.

Most Thai girls can be jealous and intolerant…dangerously so. For some, married life can be like living inside a National Geographic wildlife documentary about the Serengeti…you know where the lioness is chasing the gazelle. Although not the norm – often jealousy can arise from a sense of insecurity. Learn to watch for the Thai sulk – this is the period of silence often associated with deep brooding anger at you…often caused as a result of frustration they can't express their feelings. My own trick – teach your partner to let off steam the way Western women can – with the right language (no matter how bad it is). Your relationship will benefit – even though you personally may not. Never be scared of coming out second best in an argument, or a pitting of wills. If you do insist on winning every argument, never eat anything served to you alone with pink pellets in it. Start to believe in ghosts…it helps when you do eventually bump into one of her deceased ancestors coming to check you out late at night. Oh, and one last piece of advice, before you marry a North Eastern Thai girl – make sure you see what the mother eats.

Chris
Proprietor, CheckInn99



Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok soi


Last week's photo was taken of construction of the new Hyde condominium project right next to Sukhumvit soi 13. Where was this week's photo taken?


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.

Nongkhai ruined!

I've been a reader of your weekly column for 7 or 8 years. Your recent column on Nongkhai ticked me off a bit. If your article leads to a ruined Nongkhai bringing in droves of miscreants, and if anything has changed when I go back that I consider to be Pattayaesque or an increase of dumb assholes in the bars, I'll be quite pissed off at you. Nongkhai is a nice little party town for those of us who don't like Pattaya or the big lights in Bangkok. If the assholes from down there show up in numbers, I'll have to move to back to my girlfriend's house in Ban Dung, Udon Thani (the middle of nowhere). Please do not write any more articles on Nongkhai and do not mention it again. We don't want inflation in Nongkhai and the bars to stop serving big bottles at reasonable rates. If I wanted to hang out with assholes, I'd spend more time in Pattaya and Hua Hin. No thanks for doing an article on Nongkhai.

Sukhumvit sois not pedestrian-friendly.

I walked down soi 13 last night for old times' sake, as I had once rented an apartment in the Trendy. The same problem still remains – the soi still does not have a decent pavement / sidewalk and still has a large volume of traffic. I did not smell the reek of urine near the shrine next to the Miami though, but this may have been because I was walking down by the side of the road next to the new developments. As a contrast, on Friday night the street on soi 11 had the VW camper vans rolled out along the Villa / Ambassador side of the street and the crowds around them made it almost impossible to walk through without walking on to an already busy road. The next night these vehicles were more scattered and foot traffic better able to negotiate around (the not so abundant) customers.

Keeping Sukhumvit safe.

Lately I've been on a bit of a health kick and walking home to Sukhumvit soi 36, never a problem. Tonight I'm walking back at about 1 AM and 2 police stop me by Sukhumvit 41. They asked where I'm going, and I say home. I pull out my business card which has Thai on one side and my Thai driver's license and they were happy. They asked what was in my bag. I happily showed them my used gym kit and that was that. So I cross Sukhumvit and turn into soi 36 and another two cops ride towards me and stop. Unbelievable! These were really nice. So nothing for well over a year then twice in one night!



Massage girls doesn't get the message.

I'm all for the barladies making money but someone ought to try and get the message through to them that quoting an outrageous number kills the mood and no business will be done. I was in a tiny 3 or 4 square metre room in a massage parlour on soi 23 enjoying an oily with a comely maiden. She had pressed all the right buttons and when she asked if I wanted a special, I nodded in the affirmative. Boom boom 5,000 baht, she said. I thought she was joking, 1,500 being the standard rate on the street. When I said I would happily give her 1,500 she came down to 4,500 and only then did I realise that she really was serious. It was like it immediately started snowing in that tiny room, the mood was lost and from standing at attention I collapsed! Seeing a potential customer about to slip through her fingers – quite literally – she tried reeling me back in and the price tumbled. But the moment was lost. She then became stroppy, and the rest of the massage was spent with her complaining how I was the only customer that day. If someone can get the idea through to these girls that mood and feeling are part of it, those girls that get it might just clean up.

Bangkok and Pattaya today.

I was in Bangkok for less than 24 hours before I headed to Pattaya on the Sex Tourist Express. I hadn't been to the Ekamai intersection in years. All the buildings are new. I took the train from SVB airport. Again, so many new buildings. It never stops. Pattaya changes less and I actually ran into a couple of gals I'd seen before. Bangkok and Pattaya are different worlds in many ways, but while I understand the appeal of the Big Mango, I prefer Pattaya. It's lower-rise, breezier, and less pretentious. I got a nice new hotel (huge, balcony, comfy, good staff) just off Soi 6 Second Road on the other side, so 150 metres from crazy Soi 6. 3 nights cost me less than US$100. The town has a low-level of tourists, it's low season but it seems abnormal. I had a manicure and they said I was the first customer of the day – that's 16 staff sitting around from 9 AM and I was there at 14:00. Construction of new condos continues, and some blocks are blocked off / under destruction, but it's nothing compared to Bangkok, which seems convulsive in terms of construction.

Pattaya postcard.

Very pleased to find Pattaya none the worse after 8 months away. I couldn't help being amazed that I can actually walk the length of the beach without having to clamber over construction sites along the quite attractive walkway and the butchered palm trees are starting to give a bit of shade. As if that wasn't enough, the powers to be have actually got rid of motorbikes from the same walkway which is the biggest surprise. They haven't got rid of pickpockets on the Baht buses though, and last night 5 of them – 4 women and one dubious bloke – got on my bus. The bloke tried to move me in so they could surround me which I refused so he sat next to me and putting my hand on my wallet found an extra hand going for it. They all jumped off just before the Pattaya Police Station with one of the women shouting in Thai at a Thai friend opposite who was warning me. All were middle-aged, fairly ugly and had big flat shopping bags to hold on their laps to cover their hands. The Friday and Saturday booze ban here in Pattaya was the most strictly enforced that I have ever seen here especially the bars where I didn't see any exceptions.

What's the attraction?

It seems to me that Thailand has become largely untenable for foreigners, or at the very least hugely depressing, other than of course for the drunks and sex tourists who have always been the mainstays of the expat population. Those people are like the roaches that can survive anything down to and including a nuclear holocaust.





In March of last year I declared Pretty Lady as my favourite chrome pole bar in Bangkok. It was a fun bar in which the girls were genuinely engaging. Pretty Lady closed late last year and Spellbound was built in its place, a joint venture between the owner of Pretty Lady and a new partner, the founder of Angelwitch. These 2 bar bosses with a combined 30+ years running bars should have been a dream team but when Spellbound opened it was a disaster. With much spent on the new design, a monthly rent of several hundred thousand baht and opening when Bangkok was going through major political issues, Spellbound hemorrhaged money from before the doors even opened. I stuck my head in a couple of times and was put off by the music which can only be described as obscure hard rock music. The girls hated it too. This week I gave Spellbound a second chance, and am glad I did. The music playlist has changed to be dancer-friendly, and amazingly the fun atmosphere of Pretty Lady is back. There's a new dance crew while the old mamasans remain. Maybe that's the secret. With good music, friendly and engaging girls, a unique stage design, unusual red / black colours throughout, some of the best (read: least pushy) mamasans, Spellbound is absolutely worth visiting. It's so much better than when it first opened. Spellbound is one of the best bars at the moment, even if it does not get that many customers. If I wanted to go to a chrome pole bar for fun, probably Spellbound would be my first choice.

Why is it that the bars which belong to the largest operator in the plaza aren't showing while almost all other bars are?

Spanky's in Nana Plaza was given a spanking by the authorities for a perceived infraction, but escaped greater punishment and after being closed for 3 hours on Tuesday opened as usual the next day. Conspiracy theorists have it that the visit from the authorities was a case of mistaken identity after the mention of Spanky's in soi 13 by an investigative journalist, a beer bar with the same name but no connection to Spanky's gogo bar in Nana Plaza.

More bar bosses are cursing Lust in Patpong soi 1 which has been aggressively headhunting girls. Wild Thing in Nana Plaza is the latest bar to be raided, losing some of its most attractive talent to Lust.

The Robin Hood at the mouth of Sukhumvit soi 33/1 remains consistently popular and has lots of regulars – a sign of a well-run bar. Carlsberg pints are still 99 baht, all day every day, a special that other bars in the immediate area really ought to copy if they are serious about competing. There's also Magners at 199 baht a pint, all day every day. They do a 99 baht early bird English breakfast between 9 AM and midday which is cheap for Bangkok, and more like Pattaya prices. The Robin Hood will stay open for the World Cup final tonight (kick off is 2 AM) and the kitchen will be open for food.

As far as other bars open for the final go, I expect there will be a few although they may be discreet due to the late kickoff. The match will be screened on free to air TV so you should be able to watch it at home or in your hotel.



Down in Pattaya, Sugar Baby on Walking Street and Windmill on Soi Diamond – which share the same owner – were each visited by the boys in brown on Monday night with some performers taken away and accused of performing lewd shows.

Reports from Pattaya have it that there are more police checkpoints about town, some with the assistance of large groups of military. Exactly what they are checking or looking for isn't known, but if you're in Sin City don't be surprised if you are stopped and asked to produce ID.

And still in Sin City, some Soi LK Metro gogo bars were visited by the police one afternoon this week and in at least one case, a reader reports that the lights were turned on, the music turned off and customers were told to finish their drink, pay up and leave. There are questions being asked about whether Soi LK Metro gogo bars can open during the day or not, but certainly this week some were closed when they would usually be open. It seems to be a Soi LK Metro thing.

I often mention CheckInn99, a unique venue in the heart of Sukhumvit full of history that has something for everyone. It's where you will find Bangkok's longest serving mamasan, the grand dame of the industry, Mama Noi. The Filipino house band has been belting out numbers in multiple languages for more than a decade and the food menu is interesting, with the Chateaubriand amazing! What CheckInn99 does not have is ladyboys – but due to a case of mistaken identity some might think it does. The roofed sub-soi that runs behind CheckInn99 and is a short cut between sois 5 and 7 is known as The Tunnel. It features hole in the wall bars, tiny hair salons, dodgy dens and even dodgier denizens. The newest venue in that lane is Bangkok's newest – and apparently very popular – ladyboy bar called, get this, CheckInn! Rumour has it that a Trip Advisor map error placed the location for Checkinn99 on the iPhone app in the back lane and first-time visitors were ending up there looking for CheckInn99. Some enterprising individual realised this and named the ladyboy bar CheckInn (without the "99")! If you are a CheckInn99 virgin, please be advised that the entrance is on the main Sukhumvit Road between sois 5 and 7, and the venue is reached down a narrow passageway. Look for the 99 in CheckInn99 to make sure you're in the right place.

Like much of downtown Bangkok, Sukhumvit soi 22 is awfully quiet at the moment. And it is likely to be even quieter when Bangkok's largest hotel, Queen's Park Plaza, closes for renovations in the next month or so. With 1,200+ rooms, many of those strolling up and down soi 22 stay at the monstrosity.

Still in soi 22, while there are plans for new developments on the soi in the space that was Washington Square, progress continues at a snail's pace with a small demolition crew slowly dismantling what's left of the decrepit old bar area. This past week the dwellings along the northern edge near soi 22 were knocked down and are now a pile of rubble.


Washington Square, Bangkok

Washington Square this week, as seen from the soi 22 entrance.


Those who remain in Thailand beyond their permission to stay will soon face a lengthy stand-down period from when they exit the country until they are allowed to re-enter. The period for which one may be barred from entering Thailand is determined by the length of the overstay, as well as whether one exits the country of their own volition or is picked up by the authorities and found to be on overstay. For those who overstay by just one day and are picked up by the police or Immigration officers, you're looking at a year before you're allowed to re-enter the country. Those on longer overstays are looking at much longer stand-down periods. These rules will bring Thailand in to line with other countries which impose harsh penalties to prevent visa abuse. Those who inadvertently overstay could suffer. It should be noted though that in the case of overstaying by up to 90 days, if you leave the country of your own accord and are not picked up by the authorities before you make it to the airport that there is no penalty in terms of when you may reenter. You will still be fined, of course. The new rules have not yet been implemented.

The announcement of the new overstay penalties has shown that there is a not insignificant number of foreigners who are in Thailand on a long overstay. One law firm had 5 people enquire about getting their overstay cleared up the day after the announcement of the upcoming new overstay rules. Under normal circumstances said law firm barely gets one such inquiry a month.

More Brits are grumbling about visa issues. Brits applying in their homeland for a visa to stay long-term in Thailand have found the holy grail of visas, the multiple-entry non-immigrant B visa hard to come by with only single entry visas offered. And now some Thai consulates in the UK are tightening up on multiple-entry non-immigrant O visas for retirement, only issuing them to those over 65, or those aged under 50 who can show they have a Thai bank account with a balance in excess of 800,000 baht. It's the same old story with different interpretations of the rules at different consulates. Chins are now wagging about a possible increase in the eligibility age for retirement visas up to 65, although I don't see that happening.



But then sometimes I wonder if the Thais really want foreigners to retire here at all. When you travel around the region you often see advertisements in magazines from the government of the Philippines promoting the country as a destination for retirement. And in the Philippines I understand that eligibility to get a retirement visa is less stringent than in Thailand. Also, there are special provisions for former American military and government officials who receive preferential treatment.

With the tightening up of visa regulations, I am picking that the effects may not be what the Thai government had hoped for. Yes, there will likely be a small reduction in the number of foreigners living in Thailand. The most affected will be those aged under 50 who aren't legally employed in Thailand and those who aren't married to a Thai national. Some are desperate to stay in Thailand but don't qualify for any easy visa and my feeling is that they will become even more cunning and find ways to beat the system and stay in the country with goodness only knows what new tricks they will come up with.

A major reason for the drop in visitors to Thailand is not just Martial Law, but trouble getting travel insurance which is valid for travel to Thailand. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has announced that it is teaming up with several insurance companies to provide travel insurance. Apparently this will begin on July 15th – just 650 baht for coverage of up to 1 million baht. It will be promoted through TAT's 27 offices worldwide – so anyone in need of travel insurance ought to perhaps Google the TAT and see if they are represented in your homeland.



The Strip



The Strip Gogo Bar Bangkok




Threeexotic cars were destroyed by fire on a transport truck, including a Ferrari F430 and a Lamborghini Murcielago.

An Australian woman who jumped bail and fled Thailand from drugs charges in 1996 has been located working in Ireland.

The Bangkok Post looks at 5 scams in Bangkok visitors ought to be aware of.

The murder of an American teacher in Phnom Penh this week has a Thai twist – he used to live and teach in Bangkok, and had a connected Thai wife who apparently he was keen to get away from.



Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal

Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.



Question 1: I have a one-year visa based on marriage. I want to know I can get a work permit. My question is this: is there any way of obtaining a work permit without having to employ the obligatory 4 Thais? My business will basically be just advising clients, booking contractors and checking the quality of product. All my paperwork will go direct to an accountant so really it is just a one-person business. Thank you in advance.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds:

It is possible to obtain a work permit for someone who is married to a Thai national and holds a non-O visa based on marriage to a Thai national. You have the one-year extension of this visa and obtaining a work permit is no problem so long as your company meets two key requirements – it must have one million baht in registered capital (2 million for those not married to Thais) and it must have four Thai employees if you are planning on extending your visa at Immigration based on the 40,000 baht a month income.

Normally the Labour Department will allow you to have 2 Thai employees since you are married to a Thai national but Immigration requires 4 if you are using the salary qualification for renewal. If you have 400,000 baht in a Thai bank then they may allow only two employees. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has extensive experience in setting up companies and obtaining work permits. Please feel free to get in touch with one of our expert legal advisors to go over your options.



Question 2: My Thai girlfriend has a 400,000 baht debt to the bank and the repayments have been slow. The bank is asking for money. My main question is what sort of collateral or guarantee would a large Thai bank need to authorize such a loan in the first place. My lady friend lives in Isaan on the family rice farm with the typical family working the fields. There appears to be no other assets to her name apart from the family farm and house. Income is minimal, subsistence farming. If there is a default on the loan, what are the consequences? She does have a 500,000 baht car in her name which yours truly paid for.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Usually when a bank gives out a loan with the use of land / property as collateral, they would take not only take the value of the property into consideration, but they would also evaluate the borrower's financial background (through the credit bureau). Occasionally the bank may even require 2 borrowers to be listed to ensure repayment. If the borrower fails to repay the loan, the bank would file for breach of contract and would enforce the confiscation of the collateral property. Once confiscated, the property would be put up for auction. If the funds from the sale of the property do not cover the outstanding amount, the bank may push the case further (with the borrower's other assets) in order to recover the full outstanding amount.

Without contacting the bank it would be difficult to know what they chose to consider as collateral but if it is the family land then if the value of the land is equal to or more than the loan then that would suffice for the bank. It is possible to negotiate payments with the bank and Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors recommends that someone contact the bank before seizure procedures begin.



Question 3: I have heard rumours that it is possible to be tested and charged for drink driving in Thailand as a pillion passenger on a motorbike or a passenger in a car. In Farangland this would be considered absurd, however not much surprises me in Thailand. Is there any truth to this rumour?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: The law on driving drunk only applies to the driver. If the driver tests above the legal limit then they will be charged with driving under the influence. The passenger may be drunk but may not consume alcohol while in (or on) the vehicle. As with many countries, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the car (or while riding a motorcycle).

Do note that it is illegal to consume alcohol in schools, government offices and temples.


Phnom Penh


Much of South-East Asia has long welcomed outsiders. Foreigners have been able to stay long-term without having to jump through many hoops and our indiscretions which make many locals blush and occasionally frown, have often been overlooked. But there's a wind of change blowing through South-East Asia and where foreigners – read: Caucasian males – once received the red carpet treatment with ease to reside long-term and what at times seemed like a licence to misbehave, things are changing. Nowhere is that rate of change faster than here in Thailand, but change is happening elsewhere across the region too. Is South-East Asia's love affair with the white man in decline?



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


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