2014 has been yet another year in which Thailand grabbed headlines around the world, and not always for the right reasons. The street protests were brought to an end as the elected government was overthrown and the country's long-running political turmoil continued. The Immigration Department introduced policies to crack down on long-term visa abuse, getting stricter on the use of back to back visa runs, tightened up on various classes of visa although whether these measures did anything to curb the avalanche of Westerners moving to Thailand, I don't know. The bar industry had a nightmare year with fewer customers amid struggles to recruit staff. Economic growth was tepid and many business owners – Thai and foreign – complained of another tough year. 2014 was another year where we never knew what the next day would bring. In that respect, 2014 in Thailand was business as usual.
Rather than dwell too much on the year that was and go over stuff I have already talked about, let's take a look at the future. What might 2015 have in store for Bangkok? It's time to roll out my crystal ball and see if I can catch a glimpse of what may be on the horizon.
Thailand's Visitor Return Rate To Drop
Thailand's appeal as a holiday destination is partly that it was everything the West was not. Where much of the West gets cold, Thailand is warm year-round. Where the West is pricey, Thailand is (was?) cheap. Where the West is full of rules and regulations, at times Thailand can feel like disorganised chaos.
Western visitors crave the idea of escaping to somewhere relaxed and less regulated, but that comes with provisos. Today, visitors are concerned about general safety. And receiving fair value for money is important, as distinct to just plain cheap. Many have discovered that while Thailand offers excellent value for money in some areas, if you are looking for western standards of quality and service, you may find you have to pay Western prices.
In terms of tourist safety, Thailand has had a shocking year. There have been untold reports of visitors being the victim of crimes. And then there have been accidents, from drownings to Jet Ski crashes to accidents, many fatal, involving foreigners using just about every means of public transportation.
With numerous safety issues, a perception of increased crime against visitors and rising prices, what will happen to Thailand's high visitor return rate? So many used to make the clichéd comment that the plane had barely left the tarmac and they were already planning their next trip to Thailand. The country had an extremely high visitor return rate but in recent times the general level of visitor satisfaction isn't what it is – at least that's the impression I get.
There was once this idea that there was nowhere quite like Thailand. Now visitors have come to realise that warm weather and tropical beaches are not exclusive to Thailand and can be found region-wide. In terms of laid-back attitudes, Thailand has fallen behind some neighbouring countries. Admittedly, nowhere else in the region has the same mix of a decent infrastructure, a developed hospitality industry and such an exciting nightlife. Be that as it may, visitors are trying neighbouring countries which have opened up and which are developing quickly (Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) and some find they prefer the experience. Tourism will continue to be a huge industry in Thailand and the number of visitors will no doubt continue to grow, but whether visitors will return year after year as they used to, I have my doubts.
Bangkok To Become More Modern, And Less Exotic
I'll never forget when my ex asked me why I liked to listen to the Eagles. It wasn't that she asked me why I liked them, it was the way she asked me – as if there was something wrong with them and as such, there was something wrong with me! She explained – and she was absolutely serious about this – that the Eagles were old, their music was old-fashioned, the singers were now old (!) and as such I shouldn't be listening to their music, let alone enjoying it. She was embarrassed that I liked old music which she saw as very much a negative – and by association it reflected badly on her. She really believed there was something wrong with me. No normal person likes old music or old stuff, right?!
Thais like new & modern. They absolutely love cutting-edge. This is reflected in the pace of change in downtown Bangkok and the major commercial districts which look more like other modern Asian metropolises every year.
That which attracted some of us to Bangkok in the first place – the exotic and that which set the country apart from our homelands – is fast disappearing. Local markets, historic buildings, period cinemas and hotels that hold memories not just
for generations of older Thais but some long-term foreigners are fast disappearing and are being replaced by the same sorts of buildings and all the same brand names we already have at home. Most Thais don't see this as a big deal at
all. On the contrary, most see it as progress. Modernisation is inevitable, but the way parts of Bangkok are being destroyed with little consideration of the past is very sad.
The pace of change in Bangkok will continue at breakneck speed and temples aside, I wonder what slices of the city's rapidly eroding history will remain. Will the 1985-built MBK soon be considered an historic building?!
Mobile Phones To Reduce Hassles And Corruption
The fact that police are no longer stopping and searching foreigners in the Asoke area is partly due to concerned foreigners fighting back. Once it became known that these stops and searches weren't allowed under law – at least in the way in which they were being carried out – foreigners started posting to forums online, writing blogs and forming Facebook groups. Such interest was generated that the story was picked up by international media. Word reached senior figures who wanted proof. When a grainy, 15-second video showing such a stop taking place was released online, 3+ years of police targeting Western males for questioning and searching of their person came to an abrupt end.
Foreigners in Thailand now know that if we have done nothing wrong and are wrongly accused that the best thing to do is to take out one's smartphone and start taking photos or recording video. Various police figures have stated publicly that anyone being questioned in public by an officer may take out their mobile phone or camera and record proceedings. For anyone – be they officials, fake officials or others – looking to take advantage of people, mobile phones are Kryptonite.
Expect minor hassles from the authorities to become a thing of the past and expect petty corruption to decline. It is a double-edged sword, of course. While you might not be asked to submit to a search of your person near Asoke, it also means that if you are driving and break any traffic rules that you will likely be issued with an official infringement notice, which means a fine and demerit points against your licence and you may not be able to settle on the spot!
Coyote To Become A Swear Word
It has not been an easy year for the naughty bar industry with numerous challenges, the biggest being recruitment. Girls are hard to come by and bar bosses have been forced to hire coyote dancers – attractive girls who (are supposed to be able to) dance well but who may or may not be barfineable. And if they are barfineable, they can command a premium barfine rate.
Customers often don't know which dancers are coyotes and which are regular gogo dancers. And even if they do know, the sort of money that is asked for anything to do with coyotes can be ridiculous. 3,000 baht barfines are the norm for coyote dancers in a bunch of Soi Cowboy bars. Drinks for coyotes often attract a premium. Some coyote dancers can be barfined and others cannot. There is zero transparency and in a changing world where customers are better educated and have higher expectations, it's hard to argue that the coyote concept is not flawed.
There has been a backlash against the concept of coyote dancers with some customers saying enough is enough and avoiding bars with coyote dancers altogether.
In Bangkok, the most successful bars are coyote-free. The two gogo bars that stand out from the rest – Bacarra in Soi Cowboy and Rainbow in Nana Plaza have always been coyote-free. Arguably the next most popular bar in Soi Cowboy after Bacarra
at this time is Shark which is coyote free. In Nana Plaza, the best bars after Rainbow 4 are the other Rainbow bars and Spanky's – all of which are coyote free.
The word "coyote" will become the equivalent of a swear word in the bar industry and bars with coyote dancers will be avoided by the genuine sex tourists. Will there soon be signs up that state bars are coyote-free?
From the archives, Nana Plaza at the start of 2009 when it was shabby.
Something Is Going To Give At Nana Plaza
It's not that long ago that Nana Plaza was a rat and cat-infested dump. But that all changed when Bangkok's biggest bar group bought the plaza and spent a reputed 60 million baht renovating it, improving the electricity and water systems, adding safety features and giving it a much needed facelift. Today the plaza looks so much better than it did just a few years ago but that doesn't mask the fact that many Nana Plaza bars are doing it tough. Low visitor numbers due to the political uncertainty and economic issues in the West are contributing factors, but they are not the only issue. Some would say they are not the main issue.
The problem bar operators in Nana Plaza face are the rents which are far and away the highest in all of the expat bar areas. These numbers are so extremely high and out of kilter with what is paid in other bar areas. Some bars in Nana Plaza pay 700,000 baht rent per month. Let's put that in perspective. One of the most popular gogo bars slap in the middle of Soi Cowboy – not one of the pokey single shophouse bars but a full 2-shophouse wide, medium-sized gogo bar pays just 65,000 baht per month in rent! And a very popular gogo bar in Patpong pays just 80,000 baht per month. Nana Plaza may be the premier nightlife area, but the rent is astronomical.
And it's going to get worse come the middle of 2015 – some say it is going to come to a head – when the rental contracts come up for review. The killer could be key money which is due. Could there also be a, gulp, rent hike too?! Key money can run to many millions of baht and some bar owners have already privately raised their concerns. Come mid-2015, the start of the tourism low season and on the back of two of the quietest months of the year, something is going to have to give otherwise keys are going to be handed back to the landlord.
Punters and bar bosses alike are hoping that some sort of compromise can be reached. Quite simply, with the state of the bar industry and peak gogo long passed, one questions whether the current rents make bars in the plaza a viable business model. Will the landlord come up with a creative solution?
If no compromise is reached, the only option would seem to be for bars to hike prices – and not just 10 or 20 baht, but 50 baht or more. Ditto for barfines. A business needs to be viable. However, if this were to happen, Cowboy and Patpong bar owners would be absolutely delighted for there would be a stampede of customers in their direction.
Mid-2015 is going to be very interesting in the plaza.
Naughty Bars Which Don't Look After Customers To Face A Backlash Online
The mix of generally poor service, unsatisfied and sometimes aggrieved customers, and the fact that the internet gives everyone a voice means that businesses should take more care to look after customers than perhaps they did in the past, especially those who are seriously dissatisfied. But in Bangkok's expat bars customer service borders on non-existent. And I predict some bars are going to pay dearly for it.
One of the most disillusioning stories from the naughty bars in recent years for me personally was when a reader reported to me that he had been robbed by a lady who worked in a bar that I used to mention frequently in this column. I know the foreign owner and manager of the bar. I was unable to get in to the bar to see them about it so I sent emails to the manager about what was a very clear cut case of theft by a member of staff. Basically, the manager wasn't interested. He was not prepared to stand by his product, notwithstanding that the customer had barfined the lady from that bar and had proof of that he had been robbed by her. It was not like he had met the lady elsewhere in which case the bar could argue that in this case it was not responsible.
Customers generally accept that a bar cannot guarantee girls will provide a performance to match their promises – after all, they can't even acknowledge what may happen after she leaves the bar – but if a bar is not willing to follow up in cases where an employee steals from a customer who had barfined her then the obvious question is why should you pay a barfine in the first place? Bar owners argue that part of the reason for paying a barfine is the guarantee that if something goes wrong you can go back to the bar for help. But the truth is that too many businesses here don't stand behind their product at all.
The propensity of many today to go online when they feel slighted by a business means that incidents like this should not be ignored. Out of sight, out of mind can resurface online and yes, there is a precedent in the bar industry.
An American resident of Bangkok was so angry after a dispute with a local escort service that he set up a dummy website to seek revenge at the bar from which the girl worked at, and the escort service operated from. With almost zero effort he managed to get the site to rank high in Google and appear on the first page of search results for it so that when anyone searched for that bar by name they would come across his site, which was not the official site for the bar, even though it looked like it could be. He never wrote anything nasty on the site, but he threatened to. It could have got ugly.
Bars need to make a better effort to stand by their product. They should refrain from making false promises. Yes, I know, it's prostitution and you cannot expect the same standards as with other types of businesses – but the world is changing and in the internet age businesses need to stand by their product. You only need to piss off one customer, because with the internet things can get very ugly very fast. Rip off or cheat someone today and the world knows about it tomorrow. And then you have the Bangkok factor – the characters who have nothing better to do than air their grievances online and bars which fail to appease disgruntled customers could see themselves embarrassed online and business suffer. Bar customers who don't know that you can't rely on false or exaggerated promises shouldn't be underestimated by bar bosses.
I'd like to say that bars will take customer satisfaction more seriously, but I am not sure that will be the case. I simply think we are going to see more disgruntled bar customers going all out to seek revenge and some bars getting the online equivalent of a bag of smelly turd being thrown in to the bar.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the old English public telephone box inside the Robin Hood pub.
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.
At least it's warm.
We are looking to visit again around Xmas 2015 and flights are around the same price as a couple of years ago (good), hotels around the same sort of price. I guess the pound to baht ratio won't change a lot so that's ok. But the actual cost of things has changed. With beers @ £6 a pint or 150 baht a bottle, barfines up as well as the girl's price, well, it makes for an expensive holiday when you factor in the amount of drinks per evening. Girls with tramp stamps and a mobile phone glued to an ear, I ask is it worth it? The food is great, I know, but farangs get ripped off left, right and centre with the dual pricing scam. The only saving grace is Bangers at Xmas is warm…but so is half the rest of the world! I think it's time the Thais took a reality check. There has been massive coverage in the UK about safe travelling and Thailand comes out badly in everything from motorbike taxis to rapes. It all has a knock on effect. I got ripped off a few times in a bar on Sukhumvit soi 11 and I voted with my feet. I never went back and still to this day I write shit reviews about the bar online. I lost £100 but I've cost them that 50 times over using social media to warn others off. So will we return? Yes, I can get some tailoring done at half the price of the UK, it's warm and the food is great. My son summed it up when he said, "Dad, you took me when I was 10 and I loved it and never wanted to go anywhere else. When I was 18 I never knew that girls were that pretty and interesting but at 25, I'm sort of bored. They're lovely to look at but too shallow to interact with. Still, it's warm though."
Morlam warms them up.
A year or two ago in Tilac, in Soi Cowboy they tended to play a wider-than-usual variety of music, and I'm (among my other sins) a musician (clarinet, guitar, some keyboard), which means I can listen to just about anything and enjoy it. They started playing morlam, and the girls went wild! The traditional bargirl shuffle was forgotten and they were all dancing! The funny thing was it was enjoyable, both watching the girls enjoying their music, and listening to the music itself!
Quiet lead up to Christmas.
Out in soi 4 last night it was like a morgue with not many customers around. I rang up one of my "lady friends" to tell her not to bother coming to work. Talking to 2 mamasans, they have never seen it like this and Christmas Day is tomorrow!
Police stop and search continues.
Yesterday, while sitting outside at Nadimos restaurant opposite the Davis Hotel towards the end of Sukhumvit Soi 24 with two retired US police, we all witnessed 2 motorcycle cops standing on the corner detain a clean-cut 30-ish white Caucasian male dressed in nice shorts & T-shirt and ask for ID, turn out his pockets, and frisk him right on the sidewalk. He showed some kind of ID. It was all basically opposite the hotel he was staying in. A great feeling to have as a tourist, eh? I wanted to film it with my IPad as we had a clear view only 10 meters away, but chose not to invite any undue attention. My friends were worried about the Viagra they were carrying. They said, as ex-cops, that if the Thai police randomly wanted to search them, they would flatly say 'No'. They have travelled extensively, as have I, including Russia, the Middle East, China, Laos, Vietnam, Syria, Israel, South America – and never experienced anything like this. In my 25 years living in Asia, I've never seen this before. Some of my expat friends thought the reports of this practice had been overblown, but I definitely believe it all now. I will confirm that these cops were real cops and appeared to be of upper rank – not the plain traffic guys. Full uniforms with more than the usual 'trimmings', guns, etc. Both with police motorcycles and probably around +40 years old. They appeared to be polite with the guy they stopped, but the tourist was obviously shaken and hurried off with an exasperated look.
Free STD testing in Bangkok.
One can get free STD and AIDS / HIV testing at the Red Cross. This clinic is right near the snake farm section and is free and anonymous if you can wait a few days for results. If you want the results a few hours later the same day, it is about 200 baht if I remember correctly.
High risk visitors?
Last December I was leaving Bangkok for Phnom Penh and joined the queue to go through security when I heard a gruff voice say, "You, this way." So I turned and went that way to line up before a metal detector. To my unpleasant surprise, it was the newer type of full body scanner which emits low levels of radiation. It was my first time seeing these machines which are deemed unsafe in Europe and therefore not used. As I stood with my hands up for what seemed like an unnecessarily long time, I noticed the personnel talking and joking and not paying attention. I shouted, "Hey, can I step down?!" The guy just nodded without even bothering to look in my direction and continued joking with the girl. Glancing back, I saw a long line of farangs waiting to be processed through the same machines while Thais and other Asians were being checked through the old harmless classical metal detector machines. At this point I called the head of security and asked how come I and all the white foreigners had to go through the full body scanner as opposed to the Asians and Thais. All I got was some reply that I and the rest of farangs were selected as a high security risk. After almost 30 years of coming to Thailand I decided it is no longer worth visiting and I plan on travelling to neighbouring countries. As I still have to transfer through Bangkok Airport I wonder whether your readers had a similar experience and if it is possible to opt out and go for a pat down instead of using this machine. I know this is possible in the US. This machine definitely poses a small health risk, especially when improperly used or maintained. I just don't feel comfortable being exposed to unnecessary radiation and we all know that maintenance doesn't rate high in Thailand.
Girl of the week
Peung, coyote dancer, The Strip, Patpong soi 2
With less than a month in the industry,
21-year old Peung Krabi is fresh-faced.
Some bar owners are putting a positive spin on it and will tell you that the week before Christmas is not usually that busy – people's minds are on Christmas and not on going out – but that does not get away from the fact that the bars were much quieter than you would expect. The trend of recent times continues with Friday and Saturday nights busy in the expat bar areas with other nights a bit of a lottery. Fridays are usually busy as gainfully employed expats can have a night out without the worry of work the next day. Ditto for Saturday although many out have their eyes glued to TV screens and the latest round of Premier League matches. The number of visitors in downtown Bangkok's bar areas reflects general tourist arrival numbers – they're both down.
When Voodoo was renamed to Underground and the ladyboys replaced with a troop of all girl coyote dancers, it looked like the trend of more bars with ladyboys in Nana Plaza would finally be arrested. However, Underground never attracted the crowds and things have reverted to how they were – the ladyboys are back. And just to really confuse things, the ladyboys are mixed in with female coyote dancers as this questionable policy of bars having both genuine ladies and ladyboys dancing side by side spreads. The owners of Underground are (or is it were?) the same people behind London Calling and they previously stated that they are not keen on running ladyboy bars – so is this is an indication that the much rumoured sale of Underground went through? That remains unknown, but what is known is that if you don't like coyotes and don't like ladies packing meat and two veg, Underground might not be to your taste.
Playskool on Nana's ground floor will host another disco party on New Year's Eve, featuring disco dance hits, free black crack and white line shots, bottled Chang, Leo and Singha at 100 baht all night long, shower shows and promised special shows. Playskool is a well run bar with many pretty dancers. If you fancy seeing in the New Year in a gogo bar then it would be hard to find a better spot.
iDarts is the new name for the bar in the sub soi of Soi Nana that was previously known as The Big Mango.
Just as the Nanapong movement has started to gain momentum, word is that the next official Nanapong dance contest, which is likely to be held in late January at the Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy, is likely to be the last – at least for a long time. Why would that be the case when interest in the events is so great and Nanapong has quickly developed a new wave of followers? There is a feeling amongst some of the organisers that things have perhaps gone a little too far with some in the audience and also some of the judges becoming over-exuberant. At times, the last couple of dance contests have become unseemly, to the point that some folks walked out and others sent in strong emails of complaint about some of the carry on. Attitudes aren't what they were when Nanapong first launched and some feel things may have gone too far. The Nanapong dance contests showed that from some punters there remains a complete lack of respect towards the girls – and that is a great shame.
Speaking of Dollhouse, it is one of the best bars of the gogo genre in Bangkok at this time. Not because of the manager, although he is a good guy doing a very good job. And not because it has the hottest girls in Bangkok because it certainly doesn't. What it does have, however, is a nice vibe, a generally happy troop of staff and to my ears the best music playlist with a nice balance between old and new.
Still in Dollhouse, management has finally ordered the dancers to put their shoes back on. Since the lower floor was renovated the girls had been dancing barefoot which wasn't a great look. The reason for that is that their stilettos scratched the new floor. The girls now sport matching high-heeled silver shoes which they were none too happy at being asked to fork out for themselves, to the tune of 800 baht.
Do you remember when almost all the dancers in all the bars wore knee-length high boots (and often nothing else)? These days it's hard to find a single bar where the girls wear boots.
Houses of oral relief have limited appeal and other than a quick hit and run to see what all the fuss was about and take photos somewhere you're not supposed to be able to shoot, they're not places I stick my head in. Lolita's is the big name in the industry and has been around for as long as anyone can remember. It was the first chain of houses of oral relief with branches in Bangkok, and once upon a time in Pattaya and Hua Hin. Anyway, word on the street is that Kasalong is the place to go these days. Kasalong is just a few metres away from Lolita's, around the corner from the sub soi off Sukhumvit soi 8 and from all accounts, it is blowing away the competition.
I like the Japanese and pretty much every Japanese person I have met I have liked. At the same time I don't really get them. They have some awfully odd idiosyncrasies although usually it's all harmless enough. A Japanese fellow in Soi Cowboy has done his bit for the reputation of some of his countrymen being a little odd at times. He sat down at the edge of the stage in a popular Cowboy gogo bar and placed his small backpack on his lap. From the backpack he removed a dog collar. He then removed his shirt and his shorts, stripping off down to a tiny thong. He put the dog collar around his neck, stood up and started dancing beside the stage. This went on for about 20 minutes before he wandered outside, took the dog collar off, got dressed and continued on his merry way!
If you were to go back and read archives from the Trink column you would see that punters complaining about the girls' asking prices is nothing new. Back in the late '90s, just as many were complaining as do today. And the prices they were complaining about back then? Apparently in Patpong some girls had dared ask for 5,000 baht for an all-nighter. That was when the baht collapsed, plummeting from 25 to the dollar to 56 in the space of 6 months. People complain about prices today when actually I think that what they are more concerned about is service levels. I think irrespective of the agreed price, the issue most have today is with the level of service – or lack of it. They agree to a price and then later complain about the price – which I take to mean that what they were expecting to receive for that price is different to what they actually got.
It used to be that a major indicator that one's bargirlfriend was not at home watching TV but rather up to no good was that her phone would go unanswered for hours at a time, often overnight and beyond – a sure sign that she was with someone she shouldn't be with. That's still very much the case today, but there is a new indicator that she does not consider you her boyfriend and that you are nothing more than a customer to her. If she has a Facebook page and she will not allow you to be a friend on her Facebook page, then you certainly are not her boyfriend. If you were genuinely her boyfriend, she would be happy to let others know. If you're not her Facebook friend, you are but a customer and are not important to her.
Bangs seem to be coming back in fashion in Thailand as the new trend in hair styles. I wonder if we will see more bargirls with bangs? It's a style that does rather suit and look good on pretty Thai ladies.
I avoid the skytrain and the underground like the plague, so crowded and uncomfortable have they become. The short stretch of stations south of Sukhumvit down to Silom and Hualumpong is not nearly as busy, fortunately. My other pet hate on each of these systems – beyond being packed in like sardines and being reminded of bus travel in the early days – when it could be a struggle to get off when approaching your stop – is those who insist on leaning on the poles inside the carriage so you have nothing to hold on to.
If you're in to chess, the Bangkok Chess Club meets at the Queen Victoria on Sukhumvit soi 23. Head along to find out more about the club.
What sort of effect is the increasing number of Thais studying abroad going to have on Westerners in Thailand? As the country gets wealthier, more Thais are studying abroad and returning to Thailand with fluent or near fluent English and a decent understanding of how things are done in the West. Where once English-speaking foreigners were sought for various positions in Thailand, will some of these positions now be filled by Thais who have the required English skills – and being Thai means they know the local environment, don't need a work permit and will likely fit in better. Factor in the number of EP programs (where the Thai school curriculum is taught in the English language) and the fact that there are more international schools than ever, what sort of effect will this growing local elite have on foreigners looking for employment in Thailand?
Out at Khao San Road this week, I saw a lady with the biggest coconuts I have ever seen. I said to her that she had lovely looking coconuts. She told me that her coconuts were Cambodian – and Cambodia is known for big coconuts. When I asked her if her coconuts were sweet, she said I would have to taste them. She explained that Thai soil is good but the soil in Cambodia is not (!) and as such she could not guarantee how her coconuts tasted. I don't know anything about soil or coconuts that grow on trees, but I can confirm that while Cambodian coconuts might be bigger, Thai coconuts taste better. It seems that coconuts are not the only spherical-shaped things larger in Cambodia than what is typically found in Thailand.
Quote of the week comes from Pattaya Gary, "The great thing about prostitutes in Asia is that when they come to your room they know what they're there for."
Reader's story of the week comes from Mega, "The Ides of The Blind in Thailand".
The Nation summarises the tourism industry in Thailand this year.
On the 10-year anniversary of the tsunami, Thailand's tsunami warning system buoys are lost or broken.
A New Zealander is looking at a long visa-free stay in Phuket after being caught in possession of illegal drugs.
Two foreigners were arrested for theft from safe boxes at Phuket hotels and guesthouses.
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: My Thai wife is eligible to apply for United States citizenship in 2015 but does not want to give up her Thai citizenship as all her family's land and businesses are in her name. Is it possible for her to become a dual citizen of Thailand and the United States?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: There is no prohibition under US law for your wife to obtain nationality in the United States and still retain her Thai nationality. The US government will not require her to renounce her Thai citizenship.
Thai law also does not prohibit dual nationality of its citizens. There is no law in Thailand that stipulates she must lose her Thai citizenship.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors recommends that she enter and leave Thailand on her Thai passport and enter and leave the United States with her US passport. She may be required to show her passports to the airline on check in to prove that she does not need a visa.
Please be aware that if she purchases land in Thailand you will both be required to sign a standard declaration stating that the funds used to purchase the land were the Thai partner's personal property and the land would be excluded from marital assets.
Another year has passed us by, another year to forget for Thailand. The country is still going through a period of change, a period in which inevitable changes will be made, changes that they hope will create a better Thailand in the future. Just where the powers that be see foreigners fitting in the mix in 2015 and beyond will be interesting…
Your Bangkok commentator,