Stickman's Weekly Column April 12th, 2015

The Slyest Geezer


It isn't just the biggest expat website in Thailand, but probably the biggest site of its type in all of Asia. It boasts a mailing list approaching 300,000 dwarfing all other Thailand expat sites put together. But little is known about what goes on behind the scenes, nor about the site's owner who avoids publicity. It's time to take a closer look at the phenomenon that is ThaiVisa.com and its führer, the one known only as "George".

To understand the beginnings of ThaiVisa.com we have to hit the rewind button and go back to the days when even at peak hour you could get a seat on the skytrain, when Dave The Rave still had hair, and when Amstel and Kloster sat alongside Singha and Chang on the shelves at 7 Eleven.

I took the first year of the new millennium off, spending several months at Union Thai Language School. Thailand's oldest language school was dominated by Asians and bible thumpers, so Jeremy (* not his real name) was one of just two friends I made in all my time there.

We studied 4 hours a day, from 7:45 AM until midday, and during the short break after each hour of study everyone would pile out of the classrooms in to the central lounge area where a toothless, grinning old biddy sold sickly sweet treats and insipidly weak coffee. Asians outnumbered Caucasians and females outnumbered males. During breaks the Asians would mill around one end, the Caucasians at the other. The Asians would split off in to males and females, the Westerners in to bible thumpers and heathens. Each group looked at others with suspicion. During break time not a lot happened.

One morning I came out of class to see Jeremy pouring over the day's Bangkok Post surrounded by the Asian contingent. The Japanese, the Chinese, the Koreans along with English Sue and American Tim were all crowded around Jeremy. That was the only time I saw the different ethnic groups together outside of the classroom. I could hear oohing and aahing from across the room. What had grabbed everyone's attention?

The Bangkok Post was open at a lengthy article and interview with Lars Jansson, a Swede who operated Express Service Sabai Co Ltd, a visa consultancy helping foreigners stay in Thailand. The service allowed foreigners to extend their stay in Thailand without leaving the country (although their passport had to leave).

Most students at Union either came and went on 30-day visa waiver stamps, or applied for a non-immigrant visa at a Thai embassy or consulate outside the country which allowed them 90 days permission to stay.

The ED visa option didn't exist back then and Union Language School, the country's preeminent Thai language school, did not offer us any assistance with visas. There were only a handful of Thai language schools operating back then and you signed up because you wanted to learn the language, not because you were looking for an easy visa option.

As an American passport holder, Jeremy received permission to stay 30 days every time he rocked up to the border or airport. If he wanted to stay longer he had to apply for a visa outside the country, which was both time-consuming and costly. The service eliminated the need to exit the country to get a new visa. Passports were sent out of the country and stamped out and back in again while its owner could stay in Bangkok. It cost less than doing it yourself. Jeremy was thrilled!

The service offered didn't interest me or the Koreans. We were anomalies. Unlike most students who received 30 days entry when arriving at the border, passport holders from our respective countries received 90 days. We had to exit the country every 90 days, but there was no requirement to go to a Thai embassy or consulate and apply for a visa. We could just cross the border, go to duty free, buy a bottle of wine, cross back in to Thailand and the clock started again. We received a visa waiver stamp with 90 days permission to stay and there was no problem at all doing it over and over again.

Jeremy was keen to use the service but I tried to put him off. It just didn't sound right. Surely what the firm was doing was illegal. But it was featured in the Bangkok Post with a big splash, Jeremy said – how could it not be legit?

I put enough fear in Jeremy's mind that he asked me to accompany him to the offices of Express Service Sabai Co Ltd on Sukhumvit soi 23, up beyond what was then a sleepy Soi Cowboy. In the single shophouse office we met the affable Lars.

The office was a typical business premises with desks, telephones, fax machine and whatnot. There was a large sign outside and government licenses on the wall. It looked like the real deal.

We met the man featured in the article, Lars, who struck us both as professional. Any concerns Jeremy had – all put in his head by me – were instantly allayed. Jeremy handed over his passport and a few thousand baht, and was told to come back a few days later when his passport would be ready for collection.

We probably spent about 5 minutes with Lars who I remember as friendly, helpful, tall, bald and with a cone-shaped head. He was over 6 feet tall, of average build and I would have guessed around 40 – 45 years old.

A few days later Jeremy collected his passport. Everything went like clockwork. The passport had taken a holiday to Malaysia and came back to Bangkok. With a new set of border stamps, Jeremy could stay in Thailand for another 30 days.

I accompanied Jeremy when he dropped his passport off but not when he collected it. He later told me that there was a stack of passports there. Lars was doing a great trade!

Jeremy used Lars' service a few times without problem. But then one day later in the year he went to collect his passport and got the fright of his life.

The front window of the office was smashed and there was blood on the pavement. Standing outside, Jeremy said that it looked like the office had been turned over. No-one was there. Jeremy called the company's mobile phone number. It was dead. Jeremy did what so many farangs in Thailand facing a predicament do: he turned to me.

Jeremy still couldn't see that the whole operation was obviously dodgy. It could not possibly be legal, I told him, but he kept coming back to the professional manner of Lars, the fact that the business was operated from an office and what really sold him was that it had been given a big splash in the Bangkok Post.

Jeremy had 3 options. The first – and the option I recommended – was to go to his embassy and be honest about what had happened, and ask for their advice. He'd seen bundles of passports there on his various trips to the office so he couldn't be the only one caught out. The second was to go to the police and plead ignorance – but that was risky and came with uncertainty. The third option was to wait, do nothing and hope for the best. At the end of the day Jeremy wanted to stay in Thailand and he didn't need his passport at that time so he decided to not to do anything. It would turn out to be the right option.

A few days later Jeremy was contacted by a Thai woman who had his passport. He didn't know who she was, but she delivered it to him. The passport had a new stamp in it. Jeremy had another 30 days. From then on Jeremy would accompany his passport out of the country on visa runs. Jeremy never did have any problems due to the illegal visas he got through Lars and the last time I bumped in to him, a couple of years ago, he was still living here.

The popular Thailand expat forums at that time were Nanaplaza.com and Nanapong.com, both of which were very much nightlife-focused, a reflection of expat society in the day. The incident at the visa shop didn't make the newspapers but it did make the forums.

Some said there had been a fight between Lars and the lady he worked with, who it was assumed was his wife. Others said that one of the dodgy visas Lars had arranged was picked up by an observant Immigration official. So the story goes, an observant officer noted someone had a visa issued by a consulate in Australia which has long been known as a soft touch – but there were no entry and exit stamps for Australia in the passport. Upon questioning, the passport holder admitted that he had never been to Australia and the visa had been procured through Lars. Apparently Lars was visited by Immigration and Police, the operation closed down and he was deported and blacklisted from ever returning to Thailand. That's all plausible, but it doesn't explain the broken windows, the shop being turned over and the blood outside.

At this point it should be pointed out that I have no confirmation that Lars was ever charged, prosecuted, that it ever went to court or even if he was visited by police. Neither can it be confirmed that he was deported or blacklisted – although that is what you would expect to happen.

What is known is that the office closed, the visa service stopped and Lars disappeared. Forum posts suggested Lars went to Malaysia where he was working on a new project, EThailand.net.

The whole incident didn't attract that much attention; dodgy visa dealings were de rigueur back then.

At one time it was estimated there were 20,000 foreigners in Thailand who had used such visa services. A guesthouse in Nana Plaza providing visa services was the preferred agency for bar owners and managers. There was the Aussie whose nickname featured two "V"s who was perhaps the best known visa agent and a favourite for teachers whose schools did not get them a blue book. There was The Wall Pub on lower Sathorn that offered everything from food to laundry to visas. No doubt there were many more. Some even openly advertised in the Bangkok Post. But at the end of the day, it was illegal. Illegal visas obtained legally, some called them.

The logistics of these visa service operations were complicated with many people involved, meaning many people on the take. Let's say an American in Thailand wanted a non-immigrant visa. He remained in Thailand but his passport had to be stamped out of Thailand, and then sent to a friendly embassy or consulate abroad which processed the visa application. The embassy or consulate had to be either incompetent or, more likely, was willing to overlook the fact that the passport did not have an entry stamp for that country. The visa was processed and the passport sent back to Thailand. Someone at some border point stamped it back in to the country and activated the visa. The number of grubby hands involved was numerous.

Back to the present day, I thought it would be fun to do a Whatever Happened To….? article on expats from my early years and thought Lars might be fun to profile. So, just what did happen to Lars? Where did he end up? What I stumbled upon is as amazing as it is shocking as it is, in some ways, for want of another word, well, impressive!

When I started researching what had happened, I came across old posts from Lars talking about the service. And in some of these posts he listed a website for service. The domain name? ThaiVisa.com.



Screen capture of a post from 1999 showing the connection to ThaiVisa.com.



Could there be a connection between Thailand's largest expat forum, the sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, more-Thai-than-the Thais ThaiVisa.com and, ironically, a company which procured dodgy visas for expats and whose owner was – it is believed – deported and blacklisted from Thailand?

Little is known about "George", the owner of ThaiVisa.com. Few people have met him. He is the mystery man who never attends ThaiVisa.com events or parties and who shuns publicity. In a country where expat society is very social, why does "George" avoid the limelight when he has been so incredibly successful?

I know many who have had dealings with George but few have actually met him in person.

There are two people who have told me about "George" over the years, both long-time readers who are neighbours of his in Hua Hin. I fired off an email to each of them.

One neighbour described "George" as a bit of a character who eschews the ways of his homeland. His appearance is sloppy, he is often unshaven and looks unkempt. The other neighbour reports that "George" has alcoholic tendencies and is quick to anger. That neighbour attributes the police callouts to his house and fights (usually vocal, at least once physical) with his on again / off again wife as most likely due to alcohol. Once the sun is high in the sky, a glass of beer or wine is usually within George's reach.

Next stop was the Bangkok Post archives. I wanted to find the article from 2000 when the Bangkok Post profiled Lars and his dodgy visa service. Unfortunately, the Post's website does not allow online searches going back that far unless you pay. I was happy to cough up the $$. An email to the digital sales department bounced. Typical Thailand. An email sent to another email address at the Post has yet to be answered, and I guess it probably won't be until after Songkran.

I spoke with a friend who has contacts at Immigration and called in a favour. He used his contacts and I was able to source a photo of George. It wasn't recent, but any doubt I had was gone. I blurted out to myself, that's Lars!

George, the owner of ThaiVisa.com, Thailand's largest expat website where moderators and prominent posters have an utterly unforgiving and sanctimonious attitude towards anyone whose visa status is in any way questionable, is Lars, the owner of Express Service Sabai Co. Ltd, the company which arranged dodgy visas for foreigners wishing to stay in Thailand!

Had Lars managed to get around being blacklisted from Thailand – if indeed he was blacklisted – by simply changing his name?

At this stage it should be noted that "George"'s real first name is NOT George at all. I have no intention of publishing his name, the photos I have procured of him from his neighbours and other contacts, nor reveal any other details about him.

ThaiVisa.com is not just the most popular expat discussion forum in Thailand, it is the biggest forum of its type in, I believe, all of Asia. It might just be the biggest expat forum in the world. It's an impressive operation pulling in an estimated million baht per month, most of which is profit. Its Google Adsense income alone is said to be well north of $10,000 per month. There have been rumours over the years about the site being sold and at one stage it was rumoured "George" wanted 90 million baht for it.

ThaiVisa.com is many things to many people, but what it is not is an advocate for the rights of foreigners in Thailand. While I am loathe to criticise another website – every website is free to operate how they wish – the way ThaiVisa.com masquerades as a community acting in the best interests of foreigners in Thailand is a bit much. And what really irks is the actions of the little Hitlers who run the site, the moderators who act with an iron fist, sometimes banning users for the most innocuous reasons.

Let's take a post made about the Santisook Dog & Cat Rescue Centre in Chiang Mai. A user posted about this wonderful organisation and how it is very grateful for cat and dog food donations. Not money, but cat food or dog food. There wasn't even a link to the organisation's site, something ThaiVisa.com does not allow. The post was taken down by one of the moderators and the poster received a warning that he had breached the rules by soliciting for donations. He tried to send a message direct to "George" but that didn't work. He tried to appeal to the moderator and was banned for criticising a ThaiVisa.com moderator, a very serious taboo!

ThaiVisa.com's moderators have a long history of being heavy-handed and many act like slavemasters, treating users with contempt. Posts are deleted and accounts are banned if a user touches on anything considered questionable, which is a joke when you consider the forum's owner was involved in visa fraud. It's the haughtiness, the sanctimoniousness and the holier than thou attitude that has turned some off the site.

ThaiVisa.com is so dominant that the attitudes of the moderators permeate every corner of the country and some weak-minded foreigners adopt them. Is ThaiVisa.com partially responsible for the increasing prevalence of farang apologists? I often visualise a cartoon with a bunch of farangs bending over a barrel with a ThaiVisa.com moderator instructing them to drop their draws around their ankles as Somchai stands behind them with an evil grin.

The sanctimoniousness of some moderators is all the worse when you learn about their respective pasts. I'll save the blushes and humiliation by refraining from identifying anyone, but a couple are worth a mention. One ThaiVisa.com moderator used to own and operate the website www.sextours.com. I know this because that site had copied and pasted some info from this site a very long time ago. Before parting with the domain name for $USD 2x,xxx, this fellow who went on to become a ThaiVisa.com moderator was a sex tour operator, amusing given ThaiVisa's anti-nightlife stance. He was banned as a poster a couple of times but created new usernames, returned and eventually became a moderator.

Another user worthy of mention is dr_Pat_Pong who was given a most fitting title, honorary member. Fitting because for many years he was a Thailand honorary consul, oversaw a full service consulate and as an honorary consul, he signed off on visa applications. That made him a great person to know for someone in the dodgy visa business. Rumour has it that this honorary consul resigned because he is embroiled in a dispute with "George" over a business relationship that dates back 15+ years. It is alleged that back in the day the consulate received passports direct from Lars and whichever visa was requested was issued. Needless to say, the consul received a kickback for every visa processed. The relationship soured and when "George" threatened exposing him he resigned and must have been left wondering about what he had dunn. It's amusing that someone who served as a Thailand honorary consul for so long and who was such a prolific poster (he made in excess of 30,000 posts) on ThaiVisa.com did so with a username celebrating the country's most infamous red-light area.

In the business world, you hear plenty of ill talk about "George". Granted he is a smart guy good at making money, but at the same time he is known for cutting people off at the knees in business dealings and being a bully. There have been countless disagreements over the years and he has a court appearance in June over a business dispute, a hearing which promises to attract curious foreigners to the gallery.

Andrew Drummond broke the news that "George" is facing legal action and has to report to post bail in June. Can "George" expect to be finger-printed? Does the system match new fingerprints with those already in the system? If it does, will the police station light up like a Christmas tree as it is discovered that "George" is Lars – and Lars – it is believed – is blacklisted! Presumably "George" was finger-printed when his visa service was raided all those years ago, or has this already been….what's the correct term….sorted?

Is "George" a bully in the cyber world too? One ThaiVisa.com moderator, furious that he was promised shares in a company which unbeknownst to him was worthless in return for moderating, spoke on the promise of anonymity. He alleges "George" has a number of different usernames and recent posts from a Hua Hin IP address attacking Thailand's foremost investigative journalist, Andrew Drummond, are the words of you-know-who.

Visiting ThaiVisa.com is not a fun experience and time on the site feels like being in a schoolyard with a bunch of spotty-faced teenagers bickering and talking shit about stuff they know little or nothing about. The sad part is that ThaiVisa.com was the one and only vehicle which could have been an advocate for the rights of Westerners in Thailand. Alas, it is not to be. Bickering, tyranny and lording it over the community is the preferred option. Talk about a sly geezer.

But ultimately "George" deserves the plaudits. That someone who it is believed was not just deported from Thailand, but also blacklisted from the country after operating a business which deliberately sought to circumvent Thailand's immigration laws – yet manages to return to the country he is banned from and build up and operate the best-known, highest traffic and most profitable expat website in all of Asia – making an estimated $30,000 a month – is an amazing achievement. It's just a shame he is such a tyrant and that his attitude has been adopted by the forum's moderators and some of its users.









Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok


Last week's photo was taken from just below the Ploenchit BTS station with The Address Chidlom seen in the background.


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.

A happy camper.

I have a feeling that I am in a position that frankly very few farang have ever been in. The odds seem to justify my opinion considering I work for a Thai company in Chonburi with 4,500 people and am the only farang here, let alone the only one that is not a teacher in the entire industrial estate. I'm 33, have a work permit, do the same professional work I did back in my country, make a pretty damn good income and am treated extremely well both at work and in the town I live. Based on everything I have seen, read and heard, I feel like I have won the lottery. I sense I am in an incredible position compared to how ruthless and xenophobic Thailand is portrayed. I haven't met one Thai person who has been rude, derogatory or angry at me for being here. In fact I've only received the opposite. Adulation, even just for being a farang (which perplexes me). Most of my friends (all Thai) have uni degrees and are intelligent people. I asked a few of them why they love farangs and the answers I got back were (hell, I'll quote one verbatim) "I think farang people are just perfect". I get drinks and food bought, given or offered to me all the time. I've had more interest from beautiful women since arriving here 2 months ago than I had in 10 years back home. I don't get farang prices at shops or stalls and to top that all off I can barely speak Thai to save my life. This isn't aimed as a gloat email. It's more a case that sometimes there are examples that differ from the norm, as per the Don't Move to Thailand post. I feel like this country is one of the last bastions of optimism left in the world and I plan on trying to be as good and honest with the people here as they have been with me. I don't know if Thailand attracts fools who cannot make it or I lucked out. Either way, sometimes stereotypes can be broken. I love this country and it's been incredible to me.

Thai baht crushes Norwegian kroner.

During the last 6 months or so the Norwegian currency has dropped dramatically against the baht. I used to get 6.50 baht or more for one NOK and now I get around 3.80. If this goes on much longer one NOK will be one THB! We are oil producing and as such a very oil-dependent economy. The oil price has dropped from 140 USD to around 50, and that has had a terrible impact on us, especially when travelling. The Thai baht is super strong!

Alcohol and the girls.

Bravo on calling out bar owners who get their girls on hard liquor – we'd call that stuff rot-gut in the USA. This is another contributing cause to the major decline in the P4P industry. How can an owner expect drunks to be disciplined? Not to mention alcohol is often a gateway to more serious and addictive substances. It's a shameful practice that inherently devalues human life. That is never good for business; never!

The alcohol issue lingers.

I was not surprised to read about alcoholism amongst bargirls and the irresponsible nature of bar bosses encouraging them to drink. As you mention, this has a lasting legacy long after leaving the bar. I know of two young ex-bargirls married to hard-working English lads about their own age, living in London. Although they never knew each other before arriving in the UK, they somehow met and bonded as drinking buddies. Maybe it's boredom or the mundane existence of being a stay at home wife that drives them on day-time drinking binges while spouses are at work, or the reminiscences of the fun times they experienced in their past occupations. Unfortunately they would appear to have all the symptoms of alcohol dependency which no doubt will come to a head when hubby has had enough. You can take a girl out of the bar etc.




Different strokes.

I stumbled across your website many years ago and it was your website that piqued my interest in visiting Thailand and South-East Asia in general. I have been an avid fan and loyal reader for many years and I am saddened that you have decided to stop writing your column. I want you to know that I appreciate the time and effort maintaining your website and writing your weekly columns. It must be very time consuming and draining to do it week in and week out. What I am most grateful for however, is the fact that you have always written about Asian men in a positive light. Let's face it, white farangs demonize Koreans, Japanese and Chinese men with stereotypes and for reasons that we are all familiar with. Yet, on more than one occasion you have come to our defence and it's something I have never forgotten. I was planning on writing something on this topic from an Asian man's perspective, but I don't think the typical white Farang in Thailand will ever understand us as we will never understand how white Farangs are attracted to such wretchedly ugly bargirls and try to marry these whores. Take care and all the best to you, Stick!

British pubs booming.

We have just returned from Bangkok and whilst there I noticed how well patronised the proper pubs were. One night in the Robin Hood we walked in just after 5 PM and couldn't get a seat. When we did, we could barely carry on a conversation because of the din relating to the number of patrons in the bar. We walked around the corner to The Dubliner and whilst it was not as crowded as the Robin Hood, it too had about 40 patrons. A little while later we had a couple of G&Ts in the Royal Oak, and once again there were 35 – 40 customers at quite an early hour of the evening. Finally, much later, we had dinner at the Queen Victoria on Soi 23. This was our favourite drinking hole in Bangkok. It had the best ambiance, lovely food and good service. It was a good deal quieter than the aforementioned, but nonetheless it was doing a brisk business. I'm wondering if the modus operandi of the single male traveller in Bangkok has changed over recent years, from girlie bars with their seedy ambiance and high prices to the genuine pubs with their happy hours and what appeared to be equally happy patrons.

Massage deception.

I do not often go for a massage. On the last two occasions I chatted with the girls outside and then agreed to a massage. The girl I selected took me inside and showed me the mattress. Off she went and then a few minutes later in came a Thai guy. Pretty much the last experience I want is to have a Thai guy giving me a massage, even the idea I find repulsive! I got up and walked out. The first place I simply carried on walking, feeling annoyed. In the second place, the original girl grabbed my arm and said she would give me the massage. It seems they have a queue system and the Thai guys don't get much work, and obviously never stand on the street because then nobody gets any work. Make sure that the girl offering the massage is the person who actually gives the massage.



Songkran in Patpong around 25 years ago – photo provided by reader, Kenny M.



Officially, Songkran starts tomorrow but water warfare has started in some places already. My thoughts on Songkran are known – it's a total nightmare, a dreadful imposition on the lives of those who'd rather not have anything to do with it. If you absolutely have to have female company over Songkran, Nana Plaza is traditionally the most happening of Bangkok's bar areas read: where more water fights take place than anywhere else, and getting in to the plaza dry means running the gauntlet. Soi Cowboy and Patpong are not usually as bad but there are no guarantees. Of course, you can always order in and use Bangkok's premier escort agency, BangkokEscort.com, where it's business as usual.

If on the other hand you want to get amongst it, Strikers on Soi Nana is the place. Soi Nana is a hotspot for water sports and many use Strikers as a home base. The bar is set back about 15 metres from the road so you can get in to the thick of the action and just as quickly retreat to a safe area, dry off, take a break, have a beer etc.

While most bars in Bangkok close at 2:00 AM (some Patpong bars are open until 3:00 AM), if you want to drink late in to the night but don't fancy any of the late night venues, The Corner Bar at the Asoke end of Soi Cowboy is open nightly until 4:00 AM.

The Black Swan pub under the Asoke BTS station on the even-numbered soi side of Sukhumvit Road has not closed down, but has moved over the road to Sukhumvit soi 19, next to Take Care Salon.





The rumors were true and Gentleman's Club in Pattaya's Soi Diamond is on the market. They're looking for offers of two million baht or more. The lease is said to have four years remaining. There's a 150,000 baht fee for the lease transfer and paperwork to be covered by the new owner.

Soi Diamond is rapidly becoming a graveyard. Remember Diamond A Gogo closed a few weeks ago and now Dream Gogo has closed after the manager took all the staff to the cop shop to complain that they have not been paid for the last 7 weeks. Every year we talk about how bars won't make it through the low season but seldom does much happen. Is this the start of something?

I don't wish to dwell on the negatives too much but what is it with this worship of mamasans? Of course, there are a few pleasant ones out there, but many mamadragons are bitter, unpleasant and do not have a customer's best interests at heart. In fact I often think they don't even have the girls' best interests at heart and are simply in it to line their own pockets. The way they parade around like they still have it, lord it over others and pester customers for drinks is ridiculous and wouldn't be tolerated in any other industry.

I read that the 90-day foreign resident police check can now be done online. If you don't know what I am talking about, that is the requirement to report to Immigration every 90 days. Your current address is recorded and a quick check of the computer is made to see if you are wanted. There is a trick to avoid it – don't start reporting. Those who never report are not usually fined whereas those who start reporting can find themselves fined up to 5,000 baht if they are late reporting. I have a few friends – long-term residents with more than 10 years in country – who have never reported and who have never had a problem.

And on the topic of the Immigration Department, a long-time Canadian reader who is one of these FIFO (fly in, fly out) workers who is employed in China but who lives in Thailand was hassled at the border and almost turned around this week. He was told by an officer at Suwannaphum that he had too many entries in to Thailand without a visa. As best as I can determine, there is no specific requirement to have a visa – and funds are certainly no problem, so maybe it was the case of an officer having a bad day?





Quote of the week, "If you want the girlfriend experience, you must be willing to give the girl the boyfriend experience."

A Brit is assaulted in Pattaya – something which seemingly happens so often I guess it's hardly newsworthy.

An American bird is going to get an almighty bill after driving like a lunatic and damaging 13 vehicles in Pattaya!

There will be fewer Ruble rubble in South-East Asia this year after the crash of the Russian currency.

A Brit and an Aussie are caught skimming ATM machines in Phuket.

A Bangkok Post looks at real people and how the economy is starting to stutter.



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: Can you please give me a brief overview on the statute of limitations in Thailand? If I commit a crime in Thailand – mildly serious but not extremely serious – and I go away for a few years and then return, could I still be charged with that crime? Any basic information on how this works in Thailand would be appreciated.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors responds: Without a specific instance of the crime committed it is impossible to give specifics on what the statute of limitations may be as it depends on the type of crime committed. For example, if you write a fraudulent check then the complainant has three months to file the complaint with the police. Once the complaint is filed it can remain a criminal charge for one year and civil case for five years. However, if you are charged with a crime and leave the country before trial it is possible for the case to go ahead to trial without you being present. If you were found guilty then the punishment can remain in effect from one year to twenty depending on the offence. You should consult a legal advisor before making decisions that may affect your future here. Sunbelt Asia Legal advisors have experience in Thai courts and can discuss your options with you.





Soi Cowboy

The column continues but nightlife news and gossip might wane.


I like to think that I plan things well and that my departure from Thailand had been worked out down to the last detail. The condo lease was up, I had the column mapped out and goodbye dinners were held. Everything was on schedule until the phone rang – and then everything was turned on its head. That phone call was an effort to save the column and I now find myself in discussions about that. Everything is very much up in the air and for the time being at least, the column continues. Expect less nightlife news and less news in general, but the rest should be largely business as usual. So the column survives another week and the uncertainty continues. I had mentally prepared myself for leaving and some keen readers mentioned they'd done the same. I hate to muck people around so hopefully next week things will be clearer.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick