Stickman's Weekly Column November 16th, 2014

The Challenges of Thai / Foreign Relationships


From their shiny long hair and graceful movement to the attention they pay to the way they look and the way they treat their man, Thai women have long enchanted foreign men who prize them as a wife. Men from all corners of the globe flock to Thailand in their hunt for a partner, a soulmate, a wife. So why are so many in Thai / Foreigner relationships miserable and why do so many of these relationships fail?





In the restaurant of a 5-star hotel in the heart of Bangkok's expat enclave, a Thai woman and a foreign man talk marriage plans. Meekly – she fears his reaction – she explains that her family expects a dowry to be paid, as is the local custom. Demands would be just as accurate, but she fears he will explode if she uses that word. It is, she explains, part of her culture. If it was a Thai man she was marrying, she would not have to have this conversation. The foreign man is aghast at the idea, which he sees as buying a wife. He struggles to retain his temper. It's not about the money, he says, pointing out that he would gladly use the money to pay for the ultimate romantic honeymoon in Paris.

She can't understand how a guy paying 6,000 baht a night for a hotel room and 3,000 baht for dinner balks at the idea of a custom that brings face to everyone involved.

He can't understand why with everything he has done for her already, and all that he will do in the future, that he is being asked to stump up a cash sum to marry her.

The dowry issue represents the fundamental problem Western / Thai couples face: the cultural differences can be huge.

How do you measure the relative success of relationships? There are few metrics and the most common is that regarding marital failure, divorce rate.

The divorce rate in some Western countries hovers around 50% with the US and the UK both around this mark. In Belgium it is a whopping 70%.

Earlier this year it was reported that the divorce rate in Thailand is up markedly in recent times and is now a surprisingly high 35%. A little more than a generation ago it was not much more than 10%.

While figures aren't available, I'd estimate that the divorce rate in Thai / Foreigner marriages is high – probably 50% or more – and that's just in the first 10 years. Beyond that, the divorce rate probably plateaus out somewhat, but the overall divorce rate in Thai / Foreign marriages is, in my estimation, probably around 60% and 70%.

Many Westerners married to a Thai rave about how good their relationship is and how happy they are, the inference being that they are happier than they ever were with a lady from their homeland. No doubt some truly are happy – but many who say they are most certainly are not. The world over, no-one wants the embarrassment of admitting that their judgment was off and they married the wrong person. The truth doesn't come out until the shit hits the fan.

In so many Thai / Foreign marriages how often does either talk of the things they enjoy doing together, about how these activities are more enjoyable with their partner? How often do you hear about those small everyday things such as a Western husband and his Thai wife taking their dogs for a walk along the beach? Or how they enjoy their favourite mixed drink each evening while sitting together on the balcony, watching the sun go down. Or how they enjoy watching reruns of old James Bond movies together? How often do you hear of Thai wife / Foreign husband doing this sort of stuff?

Why are so few willing to acknowledge the fundamental and pertinent fact that Thais and Westerners come from such very different backgrounds, and likely had very different upbringings that a successful relationship will require great compromise, perhaps even sacrifice. And when sacrifice enters the equation, can either party be truly happy?

In so many Thai / Farang relationships there are few activities both partners enjoy outside of the bedroom. What often happens is that one party chooses to do something they think the other half will enjoy, when in fact neither of them gets much out of it. Each compromises and neither enjoys themselves! He wants to eat a burger. She wants to eat Japanese. They compromise and eat Thai which neither of them really felt like, and ultimately neither of them is happy!

A family outing is organised and the clan will travel to Jomtien to enjoy a day at the beach. It's a drive of several hours and they depart when the chickens are crowing and the dogs barking. At the beach they will eat, drink and be merry, and when the sun goes down they will make the journey back home. Total time in the pickup will be around 12 hours. Total time at the beach less than 6. Khun Farang mentions to his other half that being cooped up in a tin box all day is not his idea of fun – even when he has been offered the best seat. A dozen of his rallies sit in the rear of the pickup in the baking sun, smiles on their faces, enjoying the simple pleasure of a family being together. Deferring to the farang, the clan stops at a steakhouse in Saraburi. Farang food for the farang! It's 10 AM and the last thing the foreigner wants at this time of day is a big slab of meat. He's been complaining enough already so he will grin and bear it. With a dozen to feed and several thousand baht later, it's still only mid-morning and he has a brick in his stomach and just 3,000 baht left in his wallet. He didn't want to go to the steakhouse – and neither did the Thais. It was that classic compromise where one party tried to appease the other but ultimately neither was happy. It's a family day out and the Thais are happy. What could be better than a day out with family? The farang is now brooding. That quiet time to himself each day that he craves, those few hours when he does his own thing seem so far away…

One can only be unhappy for so long, the opportunity cost of giving up bachelorhood in Thailand is a high price to pay. Divorce is easy in Thailand, especially for men, the law very much slanted in the guy's favour. One day one party arrives home and the other's stuff has gone. Maybe a lawyer's letter is delivered. Or perhaps one partner feels the cold, stinging sensation of a razor-sharp blade plunged in to their torso after their partner snaps.

My best guess is that probably only around 20% of the Thai female / Foreign male relationships I know are truly successful, where each partner really is genuinely happy. There are a few commonalities:

• In most successful relationships he is well off. Either he works in a high-income job or if retired, he has a decent chunk of change – enough that money should never be a worry. Financial troubles can quickly become relationship troubles.

• The better her education, the better it seems the chances that the relationship will flourish, and the greater the likelihood of success. If, for example, she has a Master's and / or she went somewhere like Harvard or Oxford, or even Chula or Thammasat, the chances of relationship success skyrocket.

• There needs to be genuine mutual respect for a relationship to flourish and a lack of respect is like letting a cobra loose in the marital bed. There seems to be a lack of respect in many Thai / Foreign relationships where each partner enters the union for what's in it for them. Her mind may be on whether the promised new pickup will be a Toyota or an Isuzu, his on whether the promised daily blowjob will be administered morning or night. The quid pro quo so many Thai / Foreign relationships are based on is more like a business deal than a personal relationship where love is conditional. The lack of respect can extend to badmouthing one's partner, something rather too many Thai women do where he doesn't speak Thai, to philandering which is more a guy thing. The number of Western men who have fooled around within a week of getting married to a Thai woman is staggering. That they gloat about it is the ultimate disrespect.

• One clear observation is that a Thai woman has the greatest chance of success in a relationship with a Foreign man if he is her first Foreign love. It doesn't matter if she has dated other foreigners, even slept with some, but if he is the first foreigner she has really committed to, that seems to have a major weighting on the chances of success. If her heart has been broken by a foreign man previously (likely on top of being let down by a Thai guy), the chances of success take a massive hit. It seems to matter not if he has had a serious relationship with a Thai prior.

• Warren Olsen (once Thailand's best known farang private investigator) used to always say to me that the best thing to do to keep your Thai wife happy is to give her a baby. Thai women, he opined, make great mothers – and the absence of kids is less reason to stay together.

• In the most successful relationships there was never a race to Thai the knot. Many Thai / Foreigner relationships are rushed, the 0 – 60 equivalent of a track-ready sports car as rings are exchanged, and requests for a new house received before you've even met the family.

• In so many Thai female / Foreign male relationships there seems to be a connection missing. The idea of a bond just doesn't seem to be there and it all feels rather more like a business relationship where one party brings this to the table and the other brings that. That works in commercial relationships, but do you want to be taking account of KPIs at home? The more in common, the better.

• You never hear the term age-sensitive dating in Thai, but large age gaps seldom work. How much of an age gap is workable depends on many things, but when a woman is young, say aged under 25, and a guy is aged over 50, most agree it looks ridiculous but more than that, the differences between the two are so great on top of all of the other differences that it is very hard for each to be genuinely happy. If he is twice her age it's probably too much of an age gap. In fairness though, once a woman is north of 35 age gaps seem to matter much less. Do consider that Thai females are coddled by what in the West would probably be considered over-protective parents. The net result is that many Thai women in their early and even mid-20s can still have a certain sweetness about them, but may lack the level of maturity and worldliness of a Western woman their age. Many Thai women don't really start dating seriously until they leave home. Yes, you can find a younger wife in Thailand than you can at home, but it's very much a double-edged sword.

• For all their femininity and demureness, their grace and charm, and the infectious sweetness and playfulness of an adorable puppy, communication is not a strength of many Thai women. Communication can be a challenge which transcends command of language and even fluency in each other's mother tongue won't necessarily overcome the inherent communication barrier. It has been my observation that in the majority of successful relationships, the language of the relationship is English. When he is fluent in Thai (and very few Westerners are), communication issues often persist. The more and norms of a relationship are inextricably tied to the cultural norms of that language. Arguing against the paying of a dowry in the Thai language would be like trying to play soccer with a rugby ball. And don't make the classic mistake of many who try and reinvent the wheel, foolishly announcing that communication is not important in a relationship.

• Let's not forget that many in Thai / Foreign marriages have already been around the block. Many Western men marrying a Thai woman are divorcees, and many Thai women involved with a Foreign man may have kids. The world over, the divorce rate amongst divorcees who remarry is higher than for those marrying for the first time.

The differences between Thai culture and Western culture can go right to the very heart of what you believe in, what you're willing to stand up for, perhaps even what you'd be willing to fight for. Compromise is a part of all relationships, but when the relationship is inter-racial it can be at a whole new level. If you're strongly principled, it might just be that you're not well suited to marrying outside of your culture.

That many long-term Thailand expats are far from the best of the West and that some Thai women who end up with foreign men are those who local men may not be interested in, it is no great surprise that so many Thai female / Foreign male relationships often don't work out.

It would be easy to say that this column, with a partial focus on the bar industry, provides a lopsided perspective. Eliminate those who met in the bar industry from the equation and there is little change.

When relationships between Thai women and foreign men go tits up there can be nasty consequences from violence to false accusations to revenge to, in the very worst cases, murder. So that all happens in Farangland too, but as is often the case it just seems to be that little bit worse in Thailand. And when things go bad for Farang, good luck seeking help or redress. The farang mightn't always be seen as the guilty party, but oftentimes he is.

Despite the many challenges, if you find the right Thai woman she can be a real treasure and make a fantastic life partner. At the same time I maintain that the odds of success in marrying a woman in Thailand is lower than with someone from your homeland.

Thai culture and Western culture are very different and while it may be true that people the world over want basically the same thing – to have a loving, supportive partner and enjoy a happy family life – it does rather seem that the differences in culture and upbringing are so great that each has to compromise to such an extent that it can be rather difficult. Factor in that you often have folks entering a relationship with baggage, that communication is seldom great in Thai / Foreign marriages and that each partner may not be entirely upfront about what they want from the relationship, while also considering age differences and socio-economic disparity, is it any wonder that the success rate in Thai / Farang relationships is as low as I believe it is?





Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok


Last week's photo was taken of the short lane between Sukhumvit soi 16 and Rachadapisek Road, between Long Table and the Foodland branch. This week's photo was taken in a popular tourist spot…but where exactly?


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 – Almost legless in Korat

I thought I would share something that happened to a guy from Scotland here in Korat. He is an older gentleman with diabetes that he hadn't looked after and had to have a toe removed some time ago which hasn't healed well. He visited the hospital a couple of weeks ago and was told that he had gangrene and would have to have his foot amputated possibly to just below the knee. Poor old chap hasn't got the money so a good friend paid for his airfare back to Scotland. He was met by his niece who works in a hospital there. After a consultation he was told that he doesn't have gangrene, just an infection that should respond well to antibiotics! Bad diagnosis or could it be the money that would have been paid for the operation? He was also 2 years over his visa here because of ill health and was hit with a 20,0000 baht fine. Somewhat of a catch 22, had he stayed here he would have lost his foot and part of his leg but would have been able to stay (albeit illegally). He now has no home and cannot return to Thailand but has still got his foot!

A Thai tattoo.

Speaking of tattoos, I saw a guy in a bar with ยาบ้า (ya ba – methamphetamine or literally "crazy drug" in Thai) tattooed on the inside of his upper arm (muscle guy in a tank top). Simply บ้า (crazy) would have been appropriate in his case!

Cathay's SOP ex HKG.

I live in Hong Kong and fly with Cathay regularly. Several years ago, I was surprised when the check-in staff member asked if I had a visa for Thailand. I'd never been asked that before. I explained that I would get a visa on arrival. Every time I check in for a flight to Thailand on this airline, I'm asked this question. Cathay runs several flights a day to Bangkok, and I assume it's a question that was added to their standard list some years ago. I assume it serves some sort of indemnification for the airline, but this is SOP for Cathay and has been for years. If asked this question and you have a visa in your passport, show it. If not, then simply state you're eligible for visa on arrival. Hopefully you are!

Discretion in Pattaya?

Back in 2006, on my only visit to Thailand, I recall a bar with an illuminated sign advertising "liquor in the front, poker in the rear". Hopefully such wordplay is lost on the Thais, even those with good English, but subtle it isn't.



Arresting the gogo girl drain.

I had a brainwave about how to arrest the talent drain from gogos, which is the principal cause of their decline. Retainers. No, not the train tracks girls put in their mouth to look younger, but having a payment due to the girls at the end of a certain period. Something akin to a loyalty bonus. Let's say Nok is getting 15,000 baht per month as base salary at a gogo. Presuming she fulfils her obligations by way of showing up the requisite number of days, pay her a 20,000 baht bonus if she's still there after 6 months, or to dazzle more, tell her there's a 40,000 baht bonus if she stays a year. You don't have to offer this to every girl, but only those popular enough or attractive enough to give the bar manager good reason to believe some customer might want to hook her out of the bar permanently. At present, if she quits a bar, she foregoes nothing but the rest of the month's salary, and if she leaves at or near the end of the month, she's giving up nothing. But with the loyalty bonus dangling, she might well resist lures from sponsors and stay on. At the very least, she'd put it on the sponsor to compensate her for foregoing the bonus. That alone might make the sponsor think twice, if he has to shell out close enough to $2K to get her away from the bar, counting both the bonus and monthly salary, and that's before even paying her the monthly stipend to prevent her going back. Now you may think bar owners who are struggling to cover rents and salaries as it is don't have the capacity to come up with yet more money for bonuses. But let's presume a mid-size bar offers 40K baht annual bonuses to its five most attractive girls, and that persuades them to stay. That's 200K baht altogether at year's end, less than $7000. That's only a small fraction of their overall budget, and it would lead to a much larger boost in revenue by having punters return to their bar and stay. Having as few as two or three attractive girls in each dance set will keep punters lingering over a second or third drink. At the moment too many bars have only UFOs (ugly, fat and old) and punters are out the door almost as soon as they're in, and they don't return. The jury is pretty much in on the coyote concept – it hasn't worked. The emptiest bars, both in Nana and Cowboy, are those which use coyotes. Even the rubber-neck tourists want to take in a real gogo experience for all its dubious morality rather than watching pretty girls in hot pants shuffling their feet to car alarm music in front of rows of empty seats. Persisting with that business plan is a road to financial ruin. They desperately need a new plan, and soon. I'm sure all of them would gladly hand over $7000 a year to get bums back on seats.

Non-North Americans to blame!

I would suggest some Americans in Thailand get ugly over Mexican food not to their taste because of the significant non-North Americans (Canadians generally have a good idea also) make stunning recommendations for various restaurants and they don't have any idea of what good Mexican, or Tex-Mex food for that matter, tastes like. I know I've gone to a place which received a glowing recommendation twice as I thought maybe they were having a bad day the first time and found the food to be acceptable at best – and I'm being nice. Not that it wasn't good, but it certainly missed the mark for Mexican. After listening to so many bad recommendations it may be understandable though a bit over the top.

Fighting over food.

I lived many years near the Mexican border in 3 states and the controversy about Mexican food extends there as well. Mexican food from Santa Fe, Tucson, LA, and San Antonio, Houston all vary tremendously and can generate bar fights in any of those towns. They are all different AND delicious. Folks who complain are clueless. I spent a lot of time on the other side of the border and Tijuana, Juarez, Acapulco, and Guaymas are all different as well. It is amazing how many different styles of tortillas, salsa and mole' are delicious although some of the best I ever ate was with a poor (middle class) family in Guaymas where I stayed in an immersion Spanish sabbatical. Nothing better than homemade fresh hot tortillas.




Girl of the week

Linda, escort exclusive with BangkokEscort.com
A classy lady ready for every occasion.



Bangkok escort



Bangkok escort





No-one can agree when the high season officially starts, but it certainly felt like high season on Friday night with many Cowboy and Nana bars packed and few seats available in bars with outdoor areas. It was great to see many bars full, something we have not seen in Bangkok's bar areas for a long time.

It's that time when bar bosses urge the construction team to complete renovations and expansions to their bar – which often commence in the low season but invariably run in to the start of high season. No great surprise, few bars in Bangkok's expat bar areas have carried out any work to speak of as they remain apprehensive about where things are going.

Going against the trend is Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy as the downstairs section of the bar reopened this past week. Renovations continue upstairs and Darel says work should be completed in around 10 days' time. Downstairs, the bar has had a refresh with cleaner lines, a minor redesign and seats, tables and the stage replaced. The stage is more than a foot lower which allows for a better view of the dancers. The piece de resistance, a glass catwalk, is yet to be installed. One novelty in Dollhouse at present is that the girls kick their slippers off in the back corner before getting on stage and dancing barefoot. There is an issue with the floor and stilettos score it and more work is needed to get the floor right. Hopefully this won't last long because with most girls in the industry on the short side, dancing barefoot doesn't do much for their looks and can make some look dumpy. With that said, the girls much prefer dancing without footwear, reporting that they don't tire as fast. Downstairs, the humorous, but filthy Dollhouse wall murals that were long an icon of Dollhouse have been consigned to Bangkok bar history and have gone. Once the renovations upstairs are complete the exterior will be the last part of the bar to get a facelift. Here's hoping they don't mess with the iconic sign. Dollhouse was excellent this week with much the same vibe as Tilac had a few years ago – and that is a very, very good thing.

Wild Thing, Tokyo Player before it and Las Vegas before that never set the world alight despite the fine job The Nana Group did on the original casino-themed fitout of Las Vegas. Wild Thing may well be the worst performing bar in Nana Plaza for the past 3 years with fewer customers even than the single shophouse bars on the middle level. So when I heard that Wild Thing had changed hands this week and has been taken over by a couple of guys with much industry experience I scratched my head and wondered. These guys have the pedigree to make it work, but its location makes it a challenge. The plan is to install a bubble machine and rumour has it that the renovated venue will be called Bubbles. Here's hoping they can make a go of it.

Another two Pattaya gogo bar owners contacted me this week to say their business is up for sale. Neither are listed on the market, but they're keen to get out of the industry. How many people do I know who want to buy in to the industry at this time? None! In the past few weeks I have had close to a dozen gogo bar owners from Bangkok and Pattaya ask if I know anyone who wishes to buy. I don't. Bar bosses are lining up to get out of the industry. I have NEVER seen anything like this before.

From another Pattaya bar owner whose bar is on the market comes a simple explanation as to why he wants out, "The economics of running a bar just don't work any more. We tried to keep our drink prices reasonable but it's just not possible to run a bar with drink prices lower than 150 baht." This just reiterates what many Bangkok bar bosses say – that the Pattaya expat market is much more price sensitive than Bangkok.

Which Patpong bar boss is thinking outside the square to attract customers, and has been seen roaming other bar areas and handing out cards promoting specials in his bar? He knows that he cannot enter bars and hand out flyers, but he has a few friends who distribute the flyers for him. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

A reminder that the next official Nanapong dance contest will take place 2 weeks from today, that is Sunday, November 30th, at Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy.



If you find yourself on Soi LK Metro, do note that customers of Club Malibu are offered a free slice of free pizza after 9 PM on Mondays and Wednesdays. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, hit its sister bar, Champagne A Gogo, after 9 PM for your free slice.

Speaking of Soi LK Metro, its customer base is becoming a little more diverse with reports that Japanese and Koreans are gravitating to some bars in the soi. That can only be a good thing as the Japanese especially are discerning and you tend to find them where the most attractive girls are found – so that's a big thumbs up for LK Metro. And from the perspective of bar owners, the Japanese are good customers – they spend well, don't complain and seldom cause trouble.

At least one Soi LK Metro chrome pole bar is so desperate for girls that it is paying an agency 1,500 baht per girl, per night.

Why do some bars increase barfine rates on big holidays such as Christmas and New Year? Even on the likes of Halloween and Loy Kratong there may be increased barfine rates. Whenever there's a party taking place, the girls want to go and they often barfine themselves and they're off. Bars with few girls suddenly have even fewer and customers walk in the door and walk straight back out! The primary reason for increased barfine rates is so that the girls choose to go to work and not venture elsewhere. So while it might seem like the bars are punishing punters by increasing barfine rates, they are actually doing customers a favour because a bar without staff is no fun at all. It should be noted that on those nights when barfine rates go up the number of girls barfined doesn't drop…

A movie was being shot inside the Black Swan one night this week, the pub closed as film crew and all their gear filled the area outside.

And apparently one of the world's biggest action stars is currently in Bangkok with a movie starring Jason Statham being filmed in Bangers. Was the action star many Thai women adore in Black Swan this week, or was that something different?

It's official, political correctness has hit Bangkok's bars. There I was sat in a popular Soi Cowboy bar this week and something off stage really struck me – many customers were awfully restrained. Some were just sitting there like a bunch of bores and seemed, well, scared to enjoy themselves. The distinct impression I had was that they were behaving like they would in a similar establishment in the West – where groping might get you in a spot of bother with the bouncers. That's not to say you should grope the dancers, but they do enjoy flirting and humorous banter. Those new to the bars seem restrained to the point of being dullards, which I put down to political correctness gone mad in the West.

The recent dramatic fall in the value of the Russian Ruble has to have an effect on the number of Ruskies visiting. That might put smirks on the faces of some, but with many hotels and restaurants investing heavily in the Russian market, a significant drop in Russian visitors could result in unexpected fallout…like price increases to make up for the drop in Russians visitors!

I note the message on the pedestrian overpass at Sukhumvit soi 7 has not been painted over yet – it has been there for many months! A similar message on a bus stop shelter near Sukhumvit soi 22 was removed soon after being highlighted in this column some weeks ago.



Sukhumvit soi 7

Please would someone paint over or remove this profanity.





I gushed about Patong Beach a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed my time visiting Phuket's most popular beach in the rainy season. You might wonder why I never mentioned Phuket's gogo bars in my Patong Beach trip report. The reason is because I did not enter one gogo bar; I didn't even stick my head in the door. The pricing in some Phuket gogo bars is astronomical, with rates that I don't think we'll see in similar bars in Bangkok even 5 years from now. In some Phuket gogo bars lady drinks are outrageously expensive and while some bars price the lady-commission drinks at prices not dis-similar to Bangkok, there is one bar where a lady drink can cost as much as 480 baht! If you're a fan of the gogo bars, the message is clear – stick to Bangkok or Pattaya. If you like beer bars, Phuket is heaps of fun.

I note a sign on the door of a downtown branch of Subway which states "No ham 49 baht special". The sign is in English only. Apparently some foreigners get angry that the special is not available and storm out, hence at least one branch has placed a sign on the door so they don't have to deal with foreigners ranting. It's amazing how some foreigners in Bangkok seem so sensitive about price these days.

One of the advantages to being able to read Thai is that you can see if a business practices dual pricing i.e. one price for Thais and another for foreigners. Dual pricing may be common at some tourist attractions and at national parks, but it is not common in restaurants. There is, however, at least one restaurant in downtown Bangkok which practices dual pricing. I personally think this is just plain wrong, and as such I reckon it's karma at work that a certain seafood restaurant in Sukhumvit soi 12 with dual pricing has very few customers and looks like it is not going to be in business much longer.

You can at times get the impression that some in the tourist industry are out to get as much as they can from visitors. Fortunately there have been some warm fuzzy stories in the press recently where foreign visitors have left large sums of cash in taxis and the money has been handed in to the police by the driver and returned to the distressed visitor. This week I was down at the river and as the Chao Praya Express was pulling up to the pier when a vendor comes running along, screaming in Thai that someone has left their iPhone. Myself and another guy relayed this in English. A backpacker realises that his phone is missing and makes a mad dash to the old lady who is proudly holding his phone. Most Thais are NOT out to rip off visitors at all.



Nanapong Bangkok gogo bar dance contest






Quote of the week comes from Hong Kong Jack, "I've seen katoeys prettier than any girlfriend I ever had!"

Reader's story of the week comes from Mega, "Doomsday in Pattaya; Redux".

Nightspot workers at Phuket's Patong Beach threaten to go on strike due to what they claim is an increase in corruption.

UK police return from Thailand after reviewing the investigation in to the murders of two English tourists on Ko Tao.

An Australian woman tells how a security guard at a 5-star Phuket hotel tried to rape her.

4 Nigerians in Pattaya are arrested and charged with social media fraud targeting Thai females.

A soon to be published book claims Thailand is the world's most dangerous tourist destination – which seems quite a stretch!





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: A basically decent woman lent money to my 'ex-barlady' girlfriend (nothing official, nothing written), and now she wants it back with 20% a month interest. Isn't this illegal in Thailand? What should I do? I see the options as: 1) Just give her what she wants. This is what my girlfriend would do but I'd like to help stopping her sink deeper and deeper in to debt by discouraging money sharks while teaching her good money management. 2) Give her the principal only but no interest, and advise her against lending money again. 3) Give her nothing and warn her against lending again, and maybe call the police.

What is the legal situation here?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: According to Thai law, the maximum allowable interest rate that a lender can set and collect from the borrower is either 15% a year or 1.5% a month. Whichever approach you and your ex-girlfriend choose to take you may want to consider negotiating with the lender on the interest rate. If you do think of just not paying at all then you may want to consider how many loan sharks collect on loans, sometimes resulting in threats and injuries.



Question 2: I am English and married my Thai wife in 2002. She came to live here in England in 2003 and has permanent leave to remain. Our marriage ceremony was in her village and we registered in the District Office in Chaiyaphum. I'm sure we also went to another office in Bangkok but I don't recall why. She left me in January, 2010 (adultery on her part). We have lived apart for almost 4 years now and have remained civil to each other. We have decided to get divorced in Chaiyaphum next April as we will both be in Thailand on separate holidays. I have read online that after getting the divorce papers signed in the Chaiyaphum District Office that I need to go to the Foreign Affairs Office in Bangkok to get it legalized. Is this true? And if so, will she have to be present in Bangkok too? It will be a straightforward uncontested divorce with no property or children involved. The marriage was never registered in the UK. Any idea of the costs involved? And finally, after the divorce will she be entitled to any inheritance that comes my way from my parents being that we married and divorced in Thailand?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Usually, when a couple registers their divorce at a District Office (Amphur), that would be considered as an end to their formal marriage. But for some it is only considered as half complete, as when they registered their marriage, they also went to their respective embassy to get their marriage formalized and / or recognized by their home country. This is usually for the purpose of trying to obtain a visa for their Thai spouse. To get their respective Embassy to recognize / record their marriage, the couple would need to translate their Marriage Certificate (from Thai in to English) as well as getting the original and its translation certified by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

So, when you register your divorce, you will also need to notify your embassy of the divorce. The divorce certificate will need to be translated and certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Coming back to the divorce process, if both parties mutually agree to register their divorce (without any issue concerning alimony and / or child support), then it can be done very simply at any District Office. Assets that each spouse inherited from their parents will be considered as personal assets. Once the divorce has been registered, any assets that you owned and / or inherited after the divorce will be considered as your personal asset.

Another issue for some Thai spouses would be that they may need to visit their hometown (that they had their name registered in the house registration) to change their family name back to their maiden name.



Chinatown

Leave your umbrella at home, the rainy season is over for another year.



A shroud of uncertainty hangs over the country, and a stench of negativity lingers in the bar areas. With the high season upon us, we should be happy and at last things took a turn for the better this week. The clouds parted in the capital, both literally and figuratively, with the rainy season over for another year. Each morning I woke up to the sun rising over cloudless skies. And it was just as bright in the bar areas this week with more punters, more smiles and trade well up. With the high season comes an improved vibe so shake off any concerns you may have about whether you'll have a good time, bring your best smile, don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy!



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Firehouse

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