Stickman's Weekly Column August 3rd, 2014

The Things Some People Do To Stay in Thailand



Some are so desperate to stay in Thailand they do some crazy stuff and take great risks to make it happen. Visa services have long been offered by enterprising folks working in conjunction with the odd crooked official, where unbeknown to the passport holder (or otherwise, as the case may be), questionable and oftentimes illegal methods are employed to get a new visa. For as long as I can remember, foreigners in Thailand have been queuing up to utilise these services.





While many foreigners affected in Thailand's latest visa crackdown have a self-pitying attitude, when you take a look at the lengths some have been prepared to go to, it's easy to understand how this crackdown has come about.

10 years after the authorities discovered a widespread scam by foreigners keen to stay in Thailand, I remain incredulous at what some people will do to live here.

It's time to take a walk down memory lane.

Soon after moving to Thailand, I got lucky with my first teaching gig at a high-end language institute. With premises more like a fancy office than a language school and a bunch of qualified, professional teachers, it was the ideal place to start a teaching career. There was, however, one proviso. With relatively few Thai staff, the ratio of Thais to foreign staff meant that only 4 of the 7 foreign teachers could be issued a work permit. There simply weren't enough Thai staff for all the foreign teachers to qualify. I was promised that as teachers left, I'd be third in line to get that little blue book. The thing was, everything from the work environment to the motivated students to the remuneration was so good that no-one was in a hurry to leave! In fairness to the school they were open about this. That little blue book might be a year or more away. I didn't mind. It was as good a place to embark on my new career as I could have hoped for.

At that time probably half of the foreign English teachers in the city didn't have a work permit. Bangkok really was different back then. Things were much more relaxed and working without a work permit was no biggie. Immigration raids on language schools were almost unheard of. The Director of Studies' words still ring in my head today, "Don't worry, if the Labour Department or Immigration raid the school then they will walk out the door not with teachers in their clutches, but cash in their hands. We protect our teachers!" The authorities never did come knocking.



No work permit meant no 1-year visa. I would have to make visa runs. I was new to Thailand and I was keen to check out the neighbouring countries, so every 3 months I would disappear from Bangkok for a few days. At that time my passport got me 90 days per entry, with no need to go to an embassy or consulate and apply for a new visa – so visa runs were no great burden. I could travel and enjoy myself without the need to waste time queuing up at an embassy to lodge a visa application and then go back a day or 2 later to collect it. Those visa run days are full of good memories.

Teachers away from the classroom messes up schedules and after 3 trips the Director Of Studies approached me and said he didn't want me to take any more visa runs as it caused scheduling issues. He offered to get me a new visa without any need for me to leave Bangkok. What's more, the school would pay the fee. He was doing me a favour, he said. I was suspicious. It didn't sound right.

When I asked him for more details, he said that he would take my passport to a (long since closed) hole-in-the-wall expat bar on Sathorn Road which arranged visas. A few questions later – he would not have told me had I not asked – I learned that the bar was essentially a collection point for a visa agent. For those who wished to remain in Thailand, their passport was sent via the postal system to the south, taken across the border in to Malaysia and brought back in to Thailand – and would get a new stamp so the passport holder then had another 30, 60 or 90 days permission to stay. Apparently the service only took a few days and the passport would be sent back to the bar from where it could be collected. The clock would be reset, so to speak. With a completely straight face he said my passport would be going on holiday but I wouldn't.

I refused. It sounded seriously dodgy.

When I asked my fellow teachers without a work permit about it they were amazed I had turned it down. Two of them had been using a similar service without a problem.

It turned out that there were agents all over Bangkok offering this service. The old guesthouse in Nana Plaza offered the service and was a favourite with expat residents at the time. Various travel agencies in Khao San and other parts of the city did too.

The dangers of identity theft are understood today so handing your passport to someone who will send it to the deep south to a stranger who has some system of carrying it across international borders to get a new stamp sounds crazy. But back then it was remarkably common.

I resigned from that teaching job (for reasons unrelated to the work permit / visa situation) and chose to spend my time studying Thai full-time.

There were few Thai language schools and those who signed up actually wanted to learn the language – and not because what they really wanted was a visa that would allow them to remain in the country! At that time not one Thai language school offered assistance in getting an ED visa so most language students were on visa waiver stamps, tourist visas, or visas for religious purposes (many students of Thai were missionaries studying Thai formally before they set about the task of trying to convert the locals).


Amazing Properties


I'd been studying Thai for a few months and some time around the middle of 2000, I was sitting in the lounge of Union Language School during a break as a bunch of my fellow students crowded around that day's edition of the Bangkok Post. A full-page article profiled a company called Thai Visa which operated out of a shophouse on Sukhumvit soi 23. Run by a Scandinavian and his Thai wife, they assisted those who wished to stay in Thailand.

Many of my fellow students would go on to use this service and I quietly laughed at these sanctimonious do-gooders using an illegal service to send their passport out of the country to save the hassle of doing a visa run themselves.

This was a different time, a very different Thailand. Such services were openly advertised in newspaper classifieds and in fairness to many people using the service, they really did think it was legal.

It wasn't to last.

Waves went through the language school one day when someone announced that they had gone to collect their passport the previous afternoon only to discover the front window of the shophouse had been smashed, there was blood everywhere but no-one present.

The Scandinavian and his wife had had a fight, literally. The Thai Visa operation had closed.

But what about the passports that had been lodged with Thai Visa?

A few days later those who had lodged their passport with Thai Visa were reunited with it. The exact details of what happened were never known, but the Scandinavian was deported, blacklisted and later relocated to Malaysia.

The city was awash with visa agents offering the service. Passports would not just cross the border and come back again, but could be sent to Thai embassies and consulates all around the globe with an application for a long-stay visa. While Mr. Farang remained in Thailand, his passport was sent to a border where it was stamped out of the country. From there it would be sent to a Thai embassy or consulate in the West along with the paperwork for a new visa. The embassy or consulate was none the wiser and processed it as a regular postal application. With the visa issue, the passport would make it back to Thailand and be reunited with its owner who has a new visa, but never left the country. The cost was something like 15,000 or 20,000 baht. It was said to be a legal visa, obtained illegally.

Around 2002 or 2003 the shit hit the fan.

It is believed that it all came to an abrupt ending after a Khao San Road travel agency misunderstood how the scam worked and tried to replicate it, but messed things up.

Apparently this travel agent saw what these "visa agents" were doing and believed that it was simply a fake Immigration stamp scam i.e. a passport is stamped with a new set of exit and entry stamps giving the passport holder permission to stay longer. The optimistic entrepreneur must have had fake border stamps made. When a foreigner took their passport in to the agency in the belief that the agency was going to handle their visa extension, the agency simply stamped the passport with a new permission to stay date. A savvy traveller should have realised this was not right as their passport had a stamps showing they had gone out of the country and come back in when in fact they had not!



The problem was that the passport had never passed Immigration. As such the fake new stamps in the passport had not been entered in to the Immigration computer system so when the passport holder exited Thailand, their latest visa stamp would not show up – and the system would show they had overstayed. Officers would discover the fake stamps and the traveller was in big trouble!

The services were used by both expat residents and travellers. Most expats must have known it was one big scam. Probably many travellers did not.

Before long it was all over the forums. What followed was a huge spike in foreign residents reporting their passport stolen, soiled or ruined by washing machine. Anyone who had dodgy visas in their passport destroyed the evidence and instead chose to face the music for overstaying and pay a fine.

At that time it was estimated – although I didn't believe the number at the time, and I am not sure I do now either – that an estimated 20,000 expat residents – many of them teachers – had dodgy stamps in their passport. Certainly it was widespread and perhaps as many as 20% of the foreigners teaching English in Thailand at that time had dodgy stamps.

Apparently it was narrowed down to one stamp (each officer has a different numbered rubber stamp, I believe) which had been copied and when people passed through Immigration checkpoints or went for visa extensions at any Immigration office, officers would examine their passport, looking for a stamp with that number. If you had that stamp in your passport, you were in trouble! Offenders were given a chance to come clean and few were prosecuted, most claiming that they thought the visa extension service was legitimate.

Immigration made announcements and posted notices to the effect that visa extensions could only be made by the passport holder themselves in person. They even went so far as to make announcements on local radio stations in English. They were fair in the way they treated those with dodgy visas, giving them a chance to come clean.

The passport goes on holiday visa scam ended more than 10 years ago and was followed by rapid growth in commercial visa run operations and other means of working around the visa system.

From the agents who facilitated dodgy visas all those years ago, to the language schools of today which promote themselves on their level of visa assistance with no comment about teaching methods or course material, visa work-arounds have long played a part in the underbelly of expat society in Thailand.

When you understand the long history of foreigners in Thailand rorting the visa system, it's easy to understand why the Immigration Department is so keen to fix it. Foreigners have taken the piss for so long that Immigration has finally said enough is enough.





Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok


Last week's photo was taken of Exchange Tower at the Asoke intersection, from the club floor at the Westin. This week's photo is not too far from there.


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 Welcome back!

You know you're back in Thailand when:
– Your DTAC SIM card won't register with the DTAC network.
– They announce that baggage from your flight is delayed due to operational problems – and it isn't.
– A taxi driver asks for 500 baht to take you to Asoke / Soi Cowboy.
– A taxi driver who agrees to take you to Asoke / Cowboy inexplicably turns off of Asoke and drops you off on Soi 23, and when you remonstrate with him that now you have to carry your luggage to where you to wanted to go instead of where he dropped you he says fxxx yxx.
– Your hotel room has no towels, two lights don't work, and the staff laughs.

The tired retiree.

Yep, times are changing. I arrived in Bangkok 2 weeks ago after 3 months away, got a new passport and a new 90-day Non-O visa based on. At Immigration passport control something happened for the first time in 13 years: I was asked what I do here, do I have family, do I work etc. Very strange, so I told the officer that I was retired, which he apparently did not understand, because he asked if I lived in Pattaya! No, I said, I'm retired, and he replied "Are you tired?" Then I just gave up and laughed my ass off – and he waved me through. On the arrival card I wrote "Retired" – but he did not see it, or read it, or understand it. As you mention, retirees are probably next in line with new tighter rules, I guess.

Visa crackdown u-turn coming?

I think you're spot on about the tightening of regulations and the less welcoming nature towards farangs. I also think 'we' (not you and I, but other assholes) have brought it on ourselves. But I think that, just as the NCPO did a swift U-turn on the Cambodian illegals, they'll have to do the same once schools can't find enough qualified, legitimate teachers without spending the necessary cash on work permits etc.

Searches have jumped the Asoke intersection.

I got searched on Sukhumvit soi 11 last week. I was quite annoyed and quizzed them about their motives. Thai law says police need a 'valid reason' to search people. So I asked them what their reason was. I was walking home from work carrying my laptop, not drunk, doing nothing suspicious. They couldn't come up with a valid reason, so I suggested that they simply chose me as a farang (it's also illegal to discriminate against race or colour). They got embarrassed and apologised for causing me to lose face (a lot of people stopped to watch and make incorrect assumptions). Then I let them look in my bag, which was full of money. They let me walk 10 seconds later. It's got to the point now where searches are so common, I'm EXPECTING to get searched out late at night.



Ashamed by your fellow countryman.

I was at our small embassy and was provoked to the point I became less than very nice. There was a Norwegian man, aged around 65, who was there to apply for a visa to Norway for his girlfriend. I knew this because the man was rather loud and very vocal, sharing his "plight" with all and sundry. It was his first visit to Thailand, Pattaya the chosen spot. He had dragged in the most cold-eyed, hardcore two-decades-on-the-job mercenary bargirl (or rather bar-dragon) with him who was to accompany him back to Norway. If I had any sympathy it was for the woman. I recall him well to this day, dressed in a Singha singlet, not clean. And small shorts, training / running type, also not clean and partially shredded. And the simplest of flip flops, the type you may use in a communal shower. No effort from Gillette's marketing had reached him. And he was drunk. His English was bad to non-existent – somewhat unusual as most Norwegians can cope at least at a basic level. It had also eluded him that visa application forms and other related forms were available in a number of languages – including Norwegian. He approached me, standing nearby, for some help. There was a form, you see, for a guarantee / invitation to be made out, to support his chosen angel's visa request. One field asked about "Occupation". I told him to fill in 1940 to 1945. He did. Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany those years.

Considering China?

In a recent column a reader talked about moving to China. I have spent the better part of the last 12 months in various places in China – Beijing but also the provinces. I haven't been to Shanghai yet and it might be different than what I describe, but one flower does not a garden make. Beijing is *expensive* to maintain a Western lifestyle. People are incredibly rude and nationalistic. English levels are very low in Beijing and major cities, and inexistent elsewhere. Perhaps 1% of the females one sees in major cities are alluring; the rest are a mix of uncouth (saw a young lady carrying a (fake?) designer bag blowing her nose on the pavement in the middle of the CBD in Beijing, and this is not at all unusual), weird sense of style (you have to see to believe), and North Korea-levels of worldliness, with a dash of sense of entitlement (“I'm Chinese, and white, and we are a superpower, and I deserve”). Some are plain nutty – I was approached by one in a Starbucks in the ritzy China World Mall who started ranting about how much she hates Chinese men and deserves (there we go) much better and how she will marry the next President of the US. I really was at a loss for words as this lady was loud and people were looking at us. She just approached me and started droning without asking if I wanted to even talk to her!

Travel insurance experience.

I thought I'd make use of the information you provided about travel insurance for farangs and sign up for a policy, as I will arrive in Thailand early next month. The process turned out to be a nightmare, and after several attempts I gave up, as my patience ran out. It wasn't too bad completing the proposal, if one took into account the Thai way of doing things. The page kept switching from English back to Thai as I progressed through each page, and when I changed the page back to English the saved information was lost and I had to start again. The worst of it was when it came to the 1,400 baht payment. Do you think they would make things simple and accept a normal online debit or credit card payment using one of the international payment security systems such as WorldPay? No! You have to register for PAYSBUY (the only option) which I've never heard of. Ok fair enough, I'll register, so I went through the usual registration process only to find that like PayPal, you have to register a bank account (Thai bank only – I thought this insurance was for farangs?). If you wish to register a credit card it takes a few days whilst they send a security code to the card company which then shows up on your statement so you can verify back to PAYSBUY that it's your card. The worst of it is not just the time and effort this takes, but you then have to withdraw funds from the card to credit PAYSBUY, just so you can pay the travel insurance premium you simply wanted in the first place! You can see why I gave up, and I guess I'll stick with a UK-sourced travel policy. The policy looks good and cheap compared to UK travel policies even though 1 or 2 million baht cover may not be sufficient in the event of a serious illness or accident requiring long hospital stays or major operations.


Girl of the week

Priya, Bangkok-based escort
Escort exclusive with BangkokEscort.com



Bangkok escort



Bangkok escort



Bangkok escort





The dates for the upcoming Nanapong dance contests have been confirmed. The first will be held on Sunday, August 17th at Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy. The second will be at Club Electric Blue, Patpong soi 2, on September 14th. They will feature girls from these 2 bars dancing off against each other for 10,000 baht for 1st place, 5,000 baht for 2nd and 3,000 for 3rd.

The Nana Group has been busy recently, offloading some of its less popular bars so it can concentrate on running its best properties. They plan to make Wild Thing more Japanese, utilise Japanese DJs, and even plan to put a speaker outside the bar with announcements in Japanese stating when the next show is etc. The Japanese market is where the money is.

The gradual, but at the same time clear trend in Bangkok's naughty boy bars is a move away from sex tourism and towards nightlife – mainstream nightlife and mainstream tourists. The ever growing numbers of coyote dancers are part of that and there is every reason to expect things move more in that direction. And many bar owners now acknowledge this and are looking at how they can promote their bars through tour agents as Bangkok's once naughty nightlife is now part of the tourist experience with tours of the neon jungle. The days of sex tour groups are long gone but following on from the success of the likes of the Hangover tours, more operators are setting up tours which offer a safe journey through Bangkok at night. A move away from sex tourism towards a more mainstream nightlife is sustainable as the industry slowly becomes a parody of itself. The old sex tourism model in Thailand is in rapid decline but that does not mean the bar areas have to close. They will almost certainly shift their focus as Bangkok's nightlife adopts something closer to the Amsterdam model.

With this in mind, some would like to see the message emblazoned across the main sign of Nana Plaza taken down. Don't be surprised if before too long the words The World's Largest Adult Playground are removed.

And still in the plaza, every single night of the week without fail, cops and army pass through, keeping an eye on things, as I am sure they do in the other major bar areas too. No, they're not in uniform but neither are they hard to spot. Has the bar industry ever been under such scrutiny? It has been mooted as one reason why the largest operator of bars in the plaza has given notice to its remaining farang staff. For bar operators, things aren't laid-back any more. The old days of the cops turning up after a fight in a bar and everything being settled on the spot are long over. Whenever there is any sort of incident these days it all becomes official and it's much more difficult to resolve issues on the spot.

Bar trade is back in the toilet as Bangkok bar bosses across the three major farang naughty bar areas shake their heads and wonder what they can do. It's even worse in the second-tier bar areas – Sukhumvit soi 7/1 is dead, sois 22 and 33 no better. Even on Tuesday nights when a bunch of soi 33 bars offer their weekly 2 for 1 drinks special all night long, few bars have more than a couple of open checkbins and in some soi 33 bars there are no customers at all.

The Volkswagen cocktail bars that set up on narrow Sukhumvit soi 11 are a nuisance, but at the same time they have become an icon on the soi. Word is that they may not be around much longer as pressure from the authorities mounts for the streets to be rid of them. Some have moved position and are operating from private property – parking up and paying, if need be, to use the small unused space in front of hotels and other properties, while others are looking at moving to other sois.

And in the many massage shops on Sukhumvit soi 22, it's a complete reversal of the old days as massage girls consider factory work which might pay more than working in a massage shop. There are days when massage shop staff go home without a baht in their pocket. The small massage shops employ up to a dozen ladies and as is the norm in this type of business, staff earn around 100 baht per hour of massage. There is no salary so if there are no customers, they don't get paid. If they're lucky they might also make a little in tips. Business is so bad that some days some girls don't have even one customer. They may spend 12 hours at work, and not be paid a single baht. With bills to pay and family members to support, the guaranteed minimum of 300 baht per day from factory work may look attractive.

Angelwitch 2 has a ping pong ball machine mounted from the ceiling, directly above the dance floor. Customers can pay 1,500 baht for it to be filled with ping pong balls which are fired on to the stage. Girls scramble to grab them, each ball redeemable to the bar for 10 baht. I'm not sure I can think of anything worse to spend 1,500 baht on.

Popular bar point of sale system Blue Bartender has a new rep in Bangkok, Al Lock. Al's been around a long time and has done a bit of everything in this city. He knows just about everyone so would seem to be a good choice.

Pattaya's Blues Factory with its live music was something different to the standard Pattaya bar formula and had quite a following. But nothing lasts forever and the owner is another long-term expat who has decided to call it a day and return back to his corner of Farangland. The Blues Factory will close on August 20th.



The barfines in some Bangkok bars have reached such levels that girls are quoting even higher prices for personal services than they used to. It's just not right that a girl should accept less than the customer paid the bar to allow her to leave, right? Related to the amount of money customers pay ladies, one thing I have recently learned goes against everything I previously believed about Asian guys, particularly the Japanese. Many of us white guys think the Asian guys pay silly money to the girls – and of course some do. There are, however, Asian guys who are quoted a price, but who later pay the lady what they thought the experience was worth. If expectations are met, they pay the quoted price. If, however, the experience is lousy, she is given less. Apparently the girls who go with Asian guys understand this and if they are paid less than they asked there are none of the tantrums and fireworks a western guy might expect if he tried that approach.

It used to be unusual to witness a bargirl talking with a customer where her English was better than the customer's. You sometimes see that these days as bargirls command of English is superior to and the industry attracts a more diverse range of customers, many from countries where English is not spoken well.

Sukhumvit's newest restaurant, Margarita Storm, opened on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 13 this Tuesday, at 9 AM. The menu features a mixture of farang favourites and they have a heap of margaritas.

I note that Sunrise Tacos is expanding further with new branches opening in Mega Bang Na on August 12th in the new zone called Money and another branch will open at Sukhumvit soi 33/1 on August 17th as the Sunway becomes a dual Sunway / Sunrise Tacos outlet.

Are you a foreign chef looking for a job in an American bar and grill in Bangkok? An established business is looking for a farang chef. If interested, send me a short email and I will forward it to the business owner who will get back to you directly.

Over the years I have met the office manager at Sunbelt, Khun Bhun, several times. One of her many duties is providing assistance to and overseeing the safe exit from the country of those who have overstayed their visa. I was having breakfast one day this week and overheard Sunbelt boss, Greg, talking to her saying "Oh, no" over and over in that way he sometimes does, his head wobbling left and right like an excited Indian. Apparently Khun Bhun was with an officer at Immigration and had been waiting for this fellow at the airport since 7 AM that morning! The flight was due to depart at 9:45, it was after 9 AM and the fellow on overstay still had not showed up. Khun Bhun kept calling as the client claimed he could not get a taxi to go to the airport from the Nana area. Maybe it was more a case of Thailanditus, and he did not want to leave! Sunbelt has helped heaps of people with overstay issues and is processing many cases these days, some of whom have overstayed their visa by years. If you're on a long overstay and are nervous about what might happen at the airport, drop Khun Bhun an email at : [email protected]. I am sure she will be able to make sure you get out ok.

The Immigration Department this week published the number of people who overstayed their visa last year – about 70,000. Given that last year Thailand had around 25,000,000 visitors, that means that around 1 out of every 350 visitors overstayed.

I have to admit that I am coming around to the way of thinking of others that the current visa crackdown is going to see a number of long-termers move on as getting a new visa just becomes too hard. I didn't think that before, but the more I hear, the more I believe this will be the end result. The sad part is not necessarily the economic loss from the departure of these people, but the fact that these people really want to be here. They are happy in Thailand – and that sets them apart from many residing in Thailand who have no such visa problems. Many Western retirees live here because they don't have the money to live elsewhere and some retirees are trapped here – and they can be downright miserable. The likes of the digital nomads enjoy life and are amongst the happiest people around. When they leave – and some are leaving already – there are going to be fewer genuinely happy expat residents and a higher proportion of miserable sods.



Contrary to what I wrote in last week's column about a change in service standards at Thai consulates in Australia, I can confirm that it is only the Brisbane consulate where things have changed. Elsewhere it is business as usual.

For those who have chosen to go the ED visa route as a means of residing in the country, note that not all ED visas are the same. Some language schools provide you with all of the paperwork you need to take to a consulate / embassy to apply for the ED visa within a week, whereas other schools can take up to 6 weeks to get you that paperwork. Some language schools are able to help you get a full 1-year visa i.e. you get a stamp in your passport allowing you to remain in the country for 12 months – so you don't have to leave the country or renew the visa every 3 months, whereas at other schools you might need to traipse to Immigration every 3 months. Every language school handles it differently so if you do go the ED visa route, 2 pertinent questions to ask A) are how long does it take for the paperwork to be issued and B) will you have to go to Immigration every 3 months to renew the visa. You may be able to get a better deal at another language school so shop around.

Isn't it amazing how interconnected the world is these days. Brits in Thailand currently on overstay are screaming because they have found themselves in a pickle. With the axe hanging over their head as Thailand is about to introduce stand-down periods in which those on overstay of more than 90 days cannot return to the country for a period, these overstayers want to get the situation sorted out i.e. leave the country before August 29th, pay the 20,000 baht fine and return with a new visa. The issue some face is that their passport has expired and no country will admit them with an expired passport – their own country aside – and they either don't want to return to the UK or they don't have the money to do so. They would much rather just fly to a neighbouring country and then return to Thailand. With delays in issuing British passports a big story in the UK press – at one point the backlog was said to be 360,000 applications – Brits who have overstayed in Thailand are stuck. It's something all overstayers should remember – an expired passport means you can only travel to one country – your homeland!

For readers in Pattaya, a friendly Norwegian asked me to mention his small but growing chiropractic practice in Theprasit Road. If you are in need of a spinal check up, pop by and visit Vincens Steen, a government authorised chiropractor. More details can be found at his website, Backinmotion.no.

I heard an interesting theory from a friend and long-time expat, someone I'd describe as one of the more successful and respected expats I know. He believes that Thais like foreigners resident in Thailand to be in a sort of grey zone. Foreigners in the white zone would be totally legal in every way, meaning they had the correct visa, always did their 90-day reporting, had a work permit if employed, paid all their taxes etc. Someone in the black zone would perhaps be here legally in terms of their visa but in many other aspects they would be illegal i.e. no work permit, and possibly leading a questionable lifestyle. I believe most expats are in something of a grey zone – most do the important stuff right, but there are areas where they don't necessarily comply. He reckons Thais like us to be in the grey zone because of the vulnerabilities that may open.

Thailand's red-light bars for foreigners got going during the period of the Vietnam War for American soldiers based in or on R+R in Thailand, gogo the preferred format. And it is gogo that has been the mainstay of the bar areas for naughty boy foreigners in Thailand ever since. When I first arrived on these shores it was Americans who made up the largest group of customers by nationality, but today they comprise a smaller percentage of bar customers. Perhaps only 15% of customers are American whereas once it might have been 40% or more. I therefore wonder if the gogo bar format – started by and catering to American tastes – could do with tweaking? With more customers from Europe and Asia – so many customers today come from Japan, Korea, India and the Middle East – is packaging the girls up in gogo bars the format with the widest appeal? With the industry meandering along, what did Einstein say about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Just throwing a few thoughts out there…



Nanapong



The Strip



The Strip Gogo Bar Bangkok


Quote of the week comes from Jumpingmcmflash, "Arriving in Pattaya for the first time is like arriving in heaven and hell simultaneously."

A disabled Scot ends up in a prison near Pattaya for the sinister crime of visa overstay.

The Bangkok Post highlights the way Immigration will deal with overstayers, come August 25th.

Vice takes a closer look at blowjob bars in Bangkok.

A trip rope is used to knock a Phuket tourist off his motorbike after which he is subsequently robbed.

Thailand's expat resident visa crackdown has made the international media.

Popular author Christopher G. Moore published an insightful essay this week, "The High Cost of Badly Paid Cops".

The military has declared success in making sure nightspots close by 2 AM.

The Post looks at how the great Thailand visa crackdown may have an effect on English language schools.



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.



There were no legal questions for Sunbelt Asia Legal this week.




Bangkok gogo dancers

There's a lot of negativity around at the moment so let's finish this week's column with something more positive,
a photo of some of the pretty ladies in Playskool, Nana Plaza.


Ever since I wrote that I had plans to depart Thailand, I keep being asked…when?! It was March when I first mentioned that the end was nigh and there has been much speculation since as to when I will say goodbye. In an effort to put an end to all the speculation, my departure will be in the first quarter of next year. That means a good few months of my weekly ramblings to go before I finally sign out.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick