Stickman's Weekly Column May 24th, 2015

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

The largest continent by land area spans 48 countries and is home to almost two thirds of the world's population. It also has an ever growing population of Western expats. From international mega cities to rural areas and traditional small towns little different to how they were hundreds of years ago, Western expats can be found all across the region. With such a huge land mass and expats not the anomaly they once were, you'd think Asia would be a great place to disappear…

It's hard to believe that it's almost 9 years since a storm blew through Thailand's expat blogosphere. Empowered by anonymity, a crazed man who identified himself only as an American businessman in Thailand's far north set about attacking and discrediting those with a high profile online presence. He went after webmasters before moving on to those he had personally had a bad experience with. Interest in his crazed rants swelled as he took on and in some cases took down known and established expats. His online posts became more diverse as he offered his own opinions about Thailand, liaisons with Thai women, life as an expat and some really weird stuff like the contents of buffalo shit. Brimming with confidence – he was always right and everyone else was always wrong – his sanctimoniousness knew no bounds. Hiding behind a keyboard, he disregarded the self-policing rules Thai expat webmasters of the day never breached as he went about naming, shaming and defaming those he had a bone to pick with. In the second half of 2006 his online rampage was the topic on Thailand expat forums. The whole affair briefly made the Bangkok Post, was covered in a lengthy article in The Big Chilli magazine and even some regional newspapers like The South China Morning Post picked up the story. Through 2007 and 2008 he continued to rant but his posts would become less frequent and interest in them diminished. 4½ years after he started his crazy online hate campaign he fled the country and went in to hiding. It's time to look back, to recap, to try and answer why he did it and bring the whole story up to date. Where is Keith Summers today?

Note: My version of events ran as the opening piece in this column 4 years ago. If you haven't read it, consider checking out
Cyberbullying And Karma first.

No-one knows for sure why Keith Summers set about his mad online rampage, taking on Thailand webmasters, bar owners, expat realtors and various other public and semi-public figures. It was this site and me who was his initial focus, before he moved on to others.

Hiding under what he thought was a cloak of anonymity, perhaps even invincibility, he chose to go after those who were not entirely compliant with regards to the law. That made it difficult for them to respond, especially in the early stages when no-one knew his identity. Some had other vulnerabilities – they were known to have fooled around behind their girlfriend or wife's back and / or had skeletons in the closet. As interest in what he wrote snowballed, that oh-so-common emotion in Thailand expat circles came to the fore – jealousy. He received tip-offs and tidbits about those he wrote about and others who were considered villains of expat society. Much of what he wrote was later shown to be made up. Whether he was tipped off with bad info which he published or perhaps he just made stuff up, we will never know.

Months after launching what seemed like a mean-spirited but otherwise innocuous site, his identity remained a mystery. It took much online sleuthing and the discovery of a single, simple website registration error – where he registered a website in his own name before later anonymising the registrant details – finally enabled me to work out his identity. I tipped off David at the defunct MangoSauce site who publicly outed him. The man behind the madness, Keith Summers, became enraged. He ramped things up further and spewed poison online at all who disagreed with him.

Nakhon Phanom

The riverfront building where Keith Summers lived in Nakhon Phanom (the river is just out of picture to the right).

The question which has yet to be definitively answered is why. Just why did he do it? Did he ever intend to take things as far as he did? Did he not realise that eventually all Internet bullies and trolls make a mistake and, sooner or later, their identity becomes known?

In trying to explain why he started his crusade, and why he had me in his sights, the reasons he gave and the attempted justifications constantly changed.

Initially he explained that I had lied about his friends. We would later learn that he didn't have any friends and the people he referred to as friends did not know him at all.

The story about me lying about his so-called friends relates to the beating dished out to a Pattaya gogo bar in mid 2006 that was reported in this column. Chuck was one half of the odd couple – the two Americans running what was at that time arguably the best gogo bar in Pattaya, Club Boesche. I wrote that Chuck had been beaten up in his own bar by bouncers from another bar – which is exactly what happened. Poor Chuck, who was liked by everyone, had not actually been the target and was an inadvertent victim. The intended recipient of the beating was the older American owner, Arthur, who was not at all popular. Arthur was in the bar when he saw the bad guys coming, suspected they were looking for him and went and hid in the toilet. When the bad guys arrived in the bar and asked who the American owner of Club Boesche was, the staff quite innocently pointed at Chuck and he was beaten up! It was as sad as it was humorous and Keith tried to say that the version of events in the column was wrong – and it made him angry because Chuck was his friend. Not only was the story accurate, Chuck did not know Keith and he certainly was not his friend.

Keith would later claim the reason he went after me and others was that we weren't entirely legal, that we didn't have a proper company structure set up and in his mind we shouldn't be operating. This, he claimed, was not fair because he was supposedly legal, and others weren't. He failed to realise that the vast majority of smaller foreign-owned businesses in Thailand aren't entirely legal. It was never established if he was in fact legal and his talk of regular visa runs across the river to Laos suggests that most likely he was not, which makes his claims all a bit rich.

It's generally accepted – and this became more obvious over time – that he was not right in the head. Keith showed himself to be a narcissist, totally without empathy. He was frequently caught lying, was highly manipulative yet was always convinced that he held the moral high ground. Extremely secretive and ultra sensitive to criticism, I believe he is a sociopath. Something – we will never know just what – triggered him in to action.

Nakhon Phanom

The beautiful city of Nakhon Phanom sits on the banks of the Mehkong River with Laos opposite.

After I finally write about the whole affair in late March, 2011, some expat residents of Nakhon Phanom who knew Keith contacted me. They first noticed him running along the waterfront promenade in tight shorts and he was termed the running man. They considered him strange, an unfriendly type who appeared to be a loner. He was said to have no friends and, unusually for expats in Isaan, didn't drink.

Here's an email from one Nakhon Phanom expat that came in soon after that column was published:

Just like to say your article was a nice piece of journalism made all the better by actually knowing the guy probably better than anyone in Thailand. He once described me as his best friend — yuk. Your conclusions and profile about the guy was spot on. I could be pedantic and correct a few things but you were close enough. He often came to me with his (self-inflicted) tales of woe and I seriously cautioned him about his apparent death wish. Numerous times I forecasted he would die of lead poisoning but he never did pick up on that one — too subtle I suppose. Funny story when he was knocked off his m/cy in Udon, I suggested it may have been done deliberate by someone he upset and he just could not see the connection — I mean ?*!

The one conclusion you made which was not quite right was about his attitude to the locals. On four different occasions I had to chastise him (yes, chastise) for berating Thais. He was and still is an extremely arrogant, self-righteous and lonely smart arse. Yes I complain about the driving and peeing in the street but he would actually go berserk if one did something he didn't approve of — too much detail for here.

Keith was found guilty in court after legal action by Pattaya realtor Clayton Wade who took out a private criminal case against Keith after he had been libeled. Keith was fined and sentenced to prison. The sentence was suspended. Clayton was relentless in his pursuit of Summers, saying that taking legal action against Summers was less about himself and more about what Summers was saying about Thai women.

Wade filed another case against Keith who refused to stop ranting online despite the suspended sentence hanging over his head. (One more conviction would mean the next stop was jail). Wade pressed ahead with the second case, Summers saw he was in trouble and flipped out in court and as Clayton described it to me, Keith did the wild thing in the court room. The judge sent Keith to the cells to cool down and the case was adjourned.

Those who knew Keith in Nakhon Phanom said he cut a forlorn figure shortly before his departure. He finally realised that with a suspended sentence hanging over his head and another case pending he was looking at time behind bars.

Keith Summers fled Thailand some time in late 2010 for China where he went in to hiding and his exact location was unknown.

Failing to turn up at court for the next round of proceedings saw Keith Summers become a fugitive and an arrest warrant issued in his name. That arrest warrant remains valid until February 17th, 2021.

Thailand arrest warrants are linked to the national computer system and if a person subject to an arrest warrant passes through Immigration they are detained and sent to the authority which issued the warrant. If Keith returns to Thailand before February 17th, 2021, he will be arrested, sent to Nakhon Phanom and go to jail.

Keith Summers Thailand

A copy of the arrest warrant for Keith Summers, and an English translation.

Over time it would become clear that so much of what Summers wrote was lies. Some of his so-called exploits were plagiarized stories he overheard from expats in Nakhon Phanom. He would sit amongst them and wouldn't say much at all, almost as if he was living life vicariously through them. One Nakhon Phanom expat confirms that some of the stories Keith told were not his own experiences at all, but borrowed from others!

We are left with the impression that Keith is just not right in the head. He has a very high opinion of himself and is incredibly vain, amusing given he has been sentenced to jail in two countries (USA and Thailand), hasn't tasted any great success in his business life and has failed to hold down a relationship, or even have a meaningful friendship.

He thrives on his self image, vigorously defends any reference to his appearance and is ultra-sensitive about comments that he has aged and looks older than he is. He has no friends and the acquaintances he has are not friendship-based. Even those with whom he does business or shares similar interests he has shallow relationships with, like the vendor who makes your morning coffee.

After I published Cyberbullying and Karma I put the whole thing to bed. That was the end of it as far
as I was concerned.

Let's move forward and look at what Keith Summers got up to after he fled Thailand and went in to hiding, and bring things up to the present.

Keith sold his possessions and fled Thailand for China. Some say he headed for Shanghai but was there ever any evidence of that? A business website suggests that he eventually settled in Shenzhen, not far from the border with Hong Kong, but for a man on the run that could all have been a ruse and part of a smoke screen.

It can be confirmed that Keith isn't in China now. Why and when he left China is a mystery. Did he have troubles in China like he did in Thailand? No-one knows.

Keith may have had problems with officialdom in China after he started to get a bit of his own medicine. Just as Keith set up a website when he was in Thailand to attack others, some set up a website when he was in China and attacked him. It was all very unseemly and by that stage I don't think there was much interest.

So much of Keith's life is shrouded in mystery, hardly unexpected for someone who has done jail time in their homeland, been sentenced to prison in Asia and has an arrest warrant in their name that would result in incarceration in a country known for filthy, overcrowded prisons where drug use is rampant and prison staff show indifference to inmates' suffering.

So just where is Keith hiding out?

Happy days in Thailand are but a memory.

It can be confirmed that Keith now resides in Angeles City, in the Philippines. He is a regular at the SM City Clark Mall, a popular place for expats in Angeles to hang out.

Angeles City is popular with sex tourists and Western retirees. It is to the Philippines what Pattaya is to Thailand.

Angeles has many of the comforts of the West. Western food is everywhere as are businesses which cater to the needs of expats. A white face doesn't stand out and a newcomer can come and go as they please, largely unnoticed. Angeles is said to be an easy place to live, has a low cost of living, friendly locals and there's no language barrier like there much of the rest of Asia.

Affordable Angeles City would appeal to Keith who is known for being notoriously tight. He doesn't like spending money, or is it that he doesn't have much money? He talks himself up as a successful businessman while his spending patterns suggest otherwise.

Keith likes the ladies and Angeles City is ground zero for gogo bars in the Philippines with bars larger, more elaborate and with more dancers than any gogo bar in Bangkok or Pattaya. But being cheap, Keith won't limit himself to bar maidens. The Internet is the place for foreign men in the Philippines and FilipinoCupid
is THE site with more female users than ThaiCupid and ThaiFriendly combined. And with so many Filipino ladies genuinely keen to meet a Western man – particularly an American – FilipinoCupid would surely be on Keith's to do list.

After being tipped off that someone fitting Keith's description is a regular at the mall in Angeles, I set about trying to verify that. Extensive online searches were fruitless so I had to think long and hard about how to check that it really was him. My contact was absolutely certain it was Keith so I persevered.

A profile was created on the FilipinoCupid site and I set about hunting for the Keith's profile. Born 13th November 1962 makes him 52 years old – so I searched for 52-year old Americans in Angeles City. I searched long and hard but without any luck. Nada, he was not there – or if he was, he was not using a photo. I knew, however, that would be most unlike him. As vain as a preening ladyboy, I was sure he would post his mug shot for he truly believes himself to be special.

Knowing his propensity for lies, his shameless vanity and flagrant dishonesty, I suspected he would do like those who can't get laid otherwise and post photos taken of himself years ago, showing himself to look younger which in turn would allow him to knock years off the age in his profile. No stranger to lies, manipulation and secrecy, that could explain why I couldn't find a profile for him.

I redefined the search criteria and searched for American men in Angeles City aged 40 – 49, figuring he would not knock just one or two years of his age, but a good few. And listing his age below the psychological level of 50 might make him think that made him more attractive to the ladies. There were many matches. I scanned the profiles and was as methodical as I could be. I couldn't find him.

Had I missed the profile? Had I gone right past it? I decided to go back to one of the expats in Nakhon Phanom and see if perhaps he had stayed in contact with Keith. Could he tell me anything that might help me find the one they used to refer to as the running man?

One long-time Nakhon Phanom resident was particularly helpful and here is an excerpt from his email:

He appeared on my SKYPE one day out of the blue. Apparently he had retained some of his Thai telephone numbers and was able to trace me through that.

He appeared in an almost skeletal shape having lost a lot of weight and now had shaved his head. I had a 10 minute chat — said I lost my connection — then blocked him.

The running man has aged terribly.

I was almost ready to give up but decided to give it one more shot. I didn't want to go back and look at all of the profiles I had skimmed over, but at the same time I knew I had made a silly mistake. I hadn't considered how time ages us all and how a man on the run trying to hide would probably cause the ageing process to accelerate. I had been looking for a man with a receding hairline, as per old photos I had of him. I had not paid any attention to the profiles of men who were bald.

I would redefine the search one more time, this time for Americans living in Angeles City aged 35 – 52. Surely he could not be so bold and claim to be so young? I ran the search and started scanned through the matching profiles.

I was tired, and I was running out of hope when finally I hit pay dirt. The profile in front of me was a bald man who listed his occupation as self-employed. He was American. He was 38 years old, and his name was "K". I looked closely at the photos in the profile and compared them with old photos I had on file. There was no doubt in my mind – this was one of Asia's most loathed expats. I had found Keith Summers! And his flagrant dishonesty was there for the world to see, listing his age as a whopping 14 years lower than it really is.

The profile of the 38-year old "K" on FilipinoCupid.

I had to laugh to myself. In the country in Asia where Western men are better received than any other, where you don't have to do anything other than smile and say hi have a heartbeat
to meet a nice lady, he has to resort to bullshit. Who's he trying to kid that he's 38?!

What is Keith doing in Angeles?

He is operating an LED company in Angeles with a workshop at Philexcel, the largest business park in the area. It is not known whether he has a business licence or a work permit, the very things he claims bothered him about some expats in Thailand. It is not known whether he is operating alone or if he has any employees.

Why include a photo of yourself with another lady on a dating site?

Keith has always made it clear he has a preference for young ladies and saying that he is seeking females aged 18 – 25 may only be limited by the fact that you cannot search for ladies any younger. That he is lying about his age it is probably fair to assume he is lying about other things. No doubt he is telling the ladies he meets that he is some big shot American businessman. In a country as poor as the Philippines many young ladies dream of meeting an American who can take them to the States. He knows pumping himself up to be a successful American businessman will pay dividends.

Keith is very secretive, even with the poor women he defiles. Typical of sociopaths, he is paranoid. Is he more worried about those who he unnecessarily caused so much grief, or that he might finally be located and brought to face justice in Thailand?

Keith has a habit of running hot and cold, staying within his shell for long periods before loneliness kicks in and he reaches out. The problem he faces is that his social skills are poor, he is quick to anger and in a pattern that has repeated itself from North America to Asia, that is often the start of his downfall.

Those who knew him in Thailand talk of how he berated the Thais and spoke ill of them. He might have got away with that in a country where the locals' English was poor and they didn't know what was being said – but he won't have that luxury in the Philippines. And in a country which produced Manny Pacquiao, where there is more of a macho culture than Thailand and where guns are common, will he finally suffer the lead poisoning an acquaintance in Nakhon Phanom once intimated? Given his past record of fractured friendships, how long will it be until we hear of him coming a cropper in Angeles?

A very old photo from Keith Summers' online profile where he claims to be 38 years old (he is actually 52).

I will always think of Keith Summers as the prince of idiots. He loved life in Thailand. He lived and worked in a waterfront property in the heart of a lovely town with magnificent views across the Mekhong to Laos. He operated a small business which presumably made enough money to allow him to enjoy life. The women in provincial Thailand are friendly and beautiful, and the cost of living low. He had a pleasant life that from all accounts he enjoyed immensely but he fxxked it up.

It would be nice to think that Keith has turned his life around, that he will build up a decent business in Angeles City, employ locals, train them in electrical engineering and share his technical knowledge with them. There is no doubt he is an intelligent man and it would be nice to see that put to good use with the local people and economy benefiting too. But if past actions are any predictor of future behaviour, there's a good chance that sooner or later he's going to explode.

After Thailand and China he probably seems himself as quite the old Asia hand. Be that as it may, if he hasn't changed his ways, his big mouth, belligerence and inability to control his temper could once again be his undoing. Filipinos have a much better grasp of English than the Thais and what I understand about Filipino men is that they are less likely to look the other way and avoid confrontation if they feel they have been insulted.

Keith Summers fled Thailand and went in to hiding in China. Thinking the coast was clear and he could move to a more liveable part of the continent, the fugitive moved to the Philippines and is currently hiding out in Angeles City. Will he cause problems in the Philippines the same way he did in Thailand? Is he a reformed man who will put his head down and concentrate on rebuilding his business? Or will Clayton Wade press to get Keith back in Thailand to answer the outstanding charges against him and face justice?

The running man can run, but he can't hide.

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken from the stretch between the Asoke BTS station and Terminal 21. The location of this week's
photo is not that far away from last week's.

(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 – Evolve and be rewarded.

As a frequent visitor to Bangkok since 2000 I always enjoyed a night out around Nana and Cowboy, not just for the girls but for the buzz that surrounded the place. Bar a few places, the friendliness is gone and so has the buzz and while it is sad in a
way it has forced me to explore other ways to enjoy myself. I now find myself enjoying nights out in some of the nicer hotel bars, with the Diplomat Bar at the Conrad a particular favourite. It is a pleasure to receive levels of service and friendliness
that one would associate with Thailand as opposed to the surly, ungrateful attitudes encountered at many places around Nana and Asoke. If you dress well it is quite possible to hook up with the kind of lady that you would want to hook up with,
though that is not my modus operandi. I also find myself heading to the likes of the Oriental, Shangri-La and Peninsula for lunch which never disappoint. I used to stay in expensive hotels but never used the facilities, instead preferring to save
money for the seedier side of things. Now I stay in moderately priced hotels and spend money on the nicer things in life. I actually spend less money than I used to and return to my homeland feeling more satisfied than I used to. I have several
giks who I have met in nice places and they are a pleasure to hang out with and cause no drama. A little gift before I go home and they are more than happy. While I have many cool memories of Nana and Cowboy, I really did waste too many
years hanging out there. No more.

A new era coming?

I still feel so many who came to Thailand for strictly prurient reasons overlook the dawn of a new era in The Land of Smiles. Competent, ethical leadership is all Thailand needs to excel in the global marketplace. I admit hard choices need to be made to make this happen. These men lament the lack of low-hanging fruit only because they now must clean up their acts and actually earn the company of a decent woman.

Leaving, the right decision.

I totally get your reasons for leaving Thailand. The mix of being forced to deal with unsavoury expats and crooked locals in a place where you have very limited rights must be very stressful. I have never lived in Thailand but I have visited many times. There was a time when my greatest desire was to relocate there. I just could never figure out a way to make use of my talents in Thailand the way I can back home so the opportunity cost was too great for me. These days I have no such desire. Even as merely a tourist I have picked up enough not to want to try and call Thailand home. Sure, I still like the place and I will probably keep on visiting, but I'll never attempt to commit to it. So I get your reasons for relocating, and I am not among those who will try to tell you you'll be back there. Rather, once you grow accustomed to not having to deal with so much bullshit my bet is you'll pat yourself on the shoulder for making the decision to leave and actually going through with it.

Don't hold back!

mens clinic bangkok

While I was visiting Thailand for 17 years in a row, I never knew the ins and the outs. Now that I have lived here for over 4 years I do. Would I report the same way that you do? No way! Pattaya and Jomtien are the wild west. You are so lucky that you are now back home and can tell it the way it is. Don't hold back, mate, us old timers of your weekly need more of your insights.

Where people pretend they are something they are not.

Now you are no longer in Bangkok you are beginning to expose a few of the cretins in Bangkok who really piss everyone off. Your tone has changed in the past 2 columns as if you have wanted to expose these fraudsters, liars and cheats before but have been unable to for fear of reprisals – which in Bangkok is always a real threat. Please carry on. There are a few more Gs out there who go around pretending to be mafia and connected to corrupt officials. Bangkok is like many large cities in the world but it seems to be the only place where Farangs seem to pretend they are something they are not. It is not the East End of London 50 years ago but it is easy to hurt someone and get away with it. Many modern cities have an efficient police force which will investigate attacks and corruption and they also have security cameras on most streets so it is easy to capture any physical attacks or violence and identify the attackers. This is not the case in Bangkok. I would suggest that anyone being scammed by fraudsters in Thailand, especially the local women ripping off Farangs, should write their experiences to you and you expose the culprits. I think I have read in your column before that you were not in favour of doing this but now you no longer live in Bangkok it is worth a thought. Whilst I am not suggesting you piss people off, I think you could devote a small part of your column every week for people to write in and expose these scammers. It would make very interesting reading. I am sure some people in Bangkok and Pattaya are probably worried that they are about to be named and shamed. Take the foreign policeman you highlighted. Excellent. I want to see more of this.

It's tough at the top.

Following on from your comment recently about the top floor of the plaza and Billboard's chance of surviving on its own, I took a look in there this week and was frankly horrified. Three years ago this was my all-time favourite bar. A year later it was a shadow of its former self. Now? I'd be embarrassed to be running a business in this state. The Jacuzzi had only one or two girls at a time, who didn't have a clue what to do with the foam, which was barely even visible, and were just standing there doing nothing. At the other end half a dozen 'statues' held on to rotating poles; indeed the only thing moving in the bar was the turntable. But the final insult was the departure scam. As my change was returned to me a girl I hadn't seen before suddenly descended on me, wanting to know all about me, and seemed determined to distract me from my intention to leave. Actually she just distracted me from properly checking my change and it was only when I was outside that it dawned on me – I had been short-changed. I had no intention of risking being beaten up for such a small sum and didn't go back to say anything. I have no idea whether this is the bar's policy, or just a scam by the two serving girls BUT I lost 100 baht, Billboard lost a loyal customer (and they don't seem to have many left), and only a miracle is now likely to save the top floor of the plaza.

Bar war games.

wonderland clinic

I was visiting one of your favourite gogo bars in Patpong. They were celebrating some sort of military event I guess as the dancers were wearing bikinis in camouflage colors. One girl was carrying a toy gun, loitering on the floor and was shooting at people playfully. There was a guy who appeared to be bar staff, wearing a white t-shirt, serving out drinks occasionally. The playful girl became over enthusiastic and went out and held her gun right behind this guy's head. The guy turned swiftly and pulled out a gun from his hip pocket (beneath his t-shit) with such an ease that not only startled the bubbly girl but had also jolted me for a moment. I only hope both were toy guns!

Following on from news that The Tunnel – the passageway connecting Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7 – would be renovated and transformed in to a market, some of the bars operating in the sleazy alley have been told to close. Country Road is one spot which must relocate by the end of next month. Historic Country Road and its house band which have been playing together for an amazing 40 years have been shunted around Sukhumvit. Country was located on the corner of Sukhumvit 19 when I first arrived in Bangkok before it moved to the space above Foodland in soi 5. Next stop was down the soi to the corner of soi 5 and The Tunnel before it moved in to The Tunnel proper. Part of The Tunnel has to be dug up to relay drainage pipes and that will have to happen before the redevelopment which is expected to take about 3 months. Getting the current inhabitants out is being done amazingly sensitively by Bangkok standards. Remember the Sukhumvit Square / Chuwit Park eviction?!

Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy remains on top of its game. Besides what they have for your eyes, there is plenty for your ears with a very well-chosen music playlist. Other bars could learn from Dollhouse.

Dollhouse owner Darel is back with an aluminum walker and a couple of dozen screws holding his shattered leg together. He is off the drink but whether that's because the only toilet in the Dollhouse is up that steep flight of stairs or for health reasons is not known. There are questions about whether Darel can get it up – the walker up the stairs, I mean!

The barfine for coyote dancers in some bars is silly but taking a coyote from Dollhouse is not as costly as you would think – and I believe all of the coyotes in Dollhouse go. The barfine for coyote dancers in Dollhouse is 1,000 baht; the rest is between you and her. From a good mate who was in Dollhouse on Friday night and who delighted in telling me how good a time he had and what I was missing, he says some of the current crop are so cute that they should be reserved for the Gods.

Is there a subtle message to customers of Spellbound from the proprietor? The sign above the entrance of the ground-floor Nana Plaza bar uses a symbol as a logo that looks almost occultist. It is in fact the international symbol for bio-hazard. I guess what the boss is trying to say is that what's inside Spellbound, presumably the dancers, is hazardous to your health!

Spellbound gogo bar, Nana Plaza

The symbol either side of Spellbound is the international symbol for biohazard.

I wish I was in Bangkok the weekend after next to help the manager of Club Electric Blue, Jim, celebrate his birthday. The popular manager invites friends new and old to
join him for a night of fun and frolicking which will include a free pig roast, 10 baht Tequila shots, 100 baht Captain Morgan and Coke, free drinks for ladies and more than 50 dirty dancers on stage on party night.

Down in Pattaya, once popular What's Up in soi 15 off Walking Street is not as popular as it was. Since opening the upstairs area which houses what is probably the best high-end gogo bar in all of Thailand, where the dancers are decked out in elaborate outfits that wouldn't be out of place in a cabaret show, the bar seems to have inadvertently cannibalised their own customer base. Many of those who go upstairs are the same crowd who probably would have visited What's Up downstairs. Don't let this put you off going upstairs though as What's Up upstairs is absolutely worth a look, even if it has some of the highest prices in a Thailand gogo bar. It's sufficiently different and classy to warrant a visit.

Speaking of other popular Pattaya bars, Sensations on Walking Street isn't perhaps the sensation it was 6 or 12 months ago, but is still doing well.

Sapphire in soi 15 off Walking Street – one of the most happening sois in Pattaya these days – will have a modeling competition tomorrow night from 10 PM. I wonder if cameras are allowed? That would be one way to fill the bar.

Spicy Girls in Pattaya is the latest gogo bar in the seaside city of sin to close its doors.

Babydolls will host its 7th anniversary party this coming Friday, May 29th. Larry and co promise to put on a great show.

The old TQ2 in Soi BJ is now named Wildcats and is up for sale with an asking price of 4.5 million baht.

We've all got opinions about the bars, especially those who have been around for a while. It's easy to point to higher prices, fewer dancers and the various grievances the average long-term bar customer has these days. I do think however that you can summarise things in one sentence: Not that long ago pretty much any Bangkok gogo bar was a fun place to be. Now – and I think this applies to each of the 3 major Bangkok expat bar / gogo bar areas – there are a handful of fun bars in each area which are surrounded by a bunch of duds that are no fun at all. These days it helps to know the name of the best bar; in the past pretty much every bar was fun.

One of the frustrations learners of Thai face in Thailand is the way many Thais fail to understand what is being said when the speaker's pronunciation is not absolutely spot on – and when we're talking about a tonal language that's a problem. In most cases it's fair to expect that a native Thai speaker should be able to get what someone is trying to say from context – but with Thais so often they don't. I understand where the pronunciation is so bad it can be difficult and of course the Thai words for near and far, and the words horse or dog require you to get the tone right because the pronunciation is the same, the tone aside. Often it strikes me as poor form that the average Thai makes no effort to understand what the non-native Thai speaker is saying and just looks at them like they are a blubbering idiot butchering the language, despite the obvious effort they're making! It's not just a frustration of learning Thai, it isn't a great reflection on Thais in general.

Is Thailand expat society becoming selectively politically correct? An article published on this site outlining recent changes to the visa system highlighted the reasons why some of these changes had taken place and offered thoughts on where it might all be going. Some jumped on the use of the term half-breed in the article. These two words got some very upset and they became quite vocal about it. The term half-breed might not be nice – that I agree with – but it's the way a term might have been used inadvertently that sees someone attacked over it when no harm was intended that is curious, especially when you consider that the term was included in an article on a website that chronicles, amongst other things, the seedy underbelly of expat society which is hardly a PC environment!

Thailand has long been a popular place to live amongst those who make a living playing poker professionally online, despite gambling being illegal in Thailand – and that includes accessing any gambling or betting websites. On Wednesday night a Bangkok condo with 2 Spaniards and a Brit was raided by police. Police broke the door down, executed a search warrant and caught the 3 foreign professional poker players red-handed. They were arrested, taken to the local cop shop along with computers and phones. In addition, some of their general stuff was also confiscated, items which had nothing to do with the crime for which they were being investigated such as designer sunglasses. Unfortunately this sort of thing is nothing new and foreigners who have been raided by the cops often report that some of their fancy possessions were brazenly stolen by uniformed police officers. The police told the 3 that they had been monitoring their IP address and that is how they were aware of what was going on. That strikes me as very unlikely. More likely is that one of the 3 talked and that person, perhaps a jealous friend, neighbour or spurned lover, told the cops what they were up to. Apparently they were logged in to various online accounts at their computers so the police didn't just catch them red-handed, they now have access to their social media accounts, Facebook and they were even able to check balances they had on gambling sites. Anyone who was in contact with them could in fact now unwittingly be communicating with the local plod. In what is common in cases like this, they claim to have paid a large amount of money – said to be 300,000 baht – in exchange for facing lesser charges. As the cops executed a search warrant they insist that it goes to court, but they gave the 3 careless foreigners the chance to avoid more serious charges. This whole story is a reminder that if you're up to anything that is illegal in Thailand to keep it to yourself! Jealousy is a big problem in expat circles, especially when it comes to $$. Also, given the way that computers and mobile phones can reveal a huge amount about your life, every expat in Thailand should have their computer set up in such a way that simply closing the screen (in the case of a laptop) or pressing a button puts in to a secure mode where it cannot be accessed without a password. Of course you'll also need your hard drive to be encrypted for maximum security.

Medical care in Thailand gets mixed reviews. Some swear by it while others – and count me amongst them – are less convinced that medical care in Thailand is as good as some expats claim. If you'd prefer to be seen by a Western doc in downtown Bangkok, the option exists. Dr Donna Robinson is a British General Practitioner in Bangkok who has been offering medical services for expats and tourists since 2003. The clinic offers sexual health checks and vaccines among many other services. Medconsult Clinic
can be found on the 3rd floor of The Racquet Club in Sukhumvit soi 49/9.

Babydolls Pattaya

Club Electric Blue Patpong

The Strip Patpong

Quote of the week comes from a reader, "The greatest public service Thailand offers the world is to act as a Daycare Center for people none of us really want in our own neighborhoods."

Readers' story of the week comes from Rich Archer, "After 3+ Years in Thailand, Reflections From Home".

The taxi takes passengers to a seafood restaurant where they are ripped off in an overpriced food scam
is still taking place.

22 Thais are arrested and charged in a crackdown on long operating scams perpetrated against foreign

An East / West double team is caught extorting money from their
fellow foreigners in Pattaya.

What is happening to the prices of older condos in Bangkok compared to the prices of newer units?

A Swiss tourist dies a horrible death in Phuket after his head gets stuck in a malfunctioning lift!

Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal

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

Question 1
: I am living and working in Thailand, have a work permit and am all legal. I have been told that Thailand does not have anything like we have in the USA in the way of IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts). Depending on the type
of IRA, you may be able to add funds to the IRA pre-tax or for the Roth IRA, you add funds after tax but when you withdraw from the Roth IRA you will not have to pay tax on the money withdrawn. Is it possible to have the same in Thailand?
If so, how and who would you recommend to set this up?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The Social Security Fund in Thailand provides Retirement Funds (Pensions), but it is considered minimal. For every month that a person works in Thailand, 750 baht (maximum amount) of the employee's salary will be paid to the Social Security Fund. Part of this is allocated for the healthcare scheme while the remaining part is saved for the retirement pension. The net amount of the social funds paid and the number of years served in the workforce will determine pension calculations and the amount one can expect to receive during your retirement.

In addition to the social funds, some private businesses provide additional benefits to their employees called provident funds – where 5-10% of the employee's salary is deducted and paid to the provident fund company. The employer also makes a contribution to this saving (similar concept to the social funds and a saving scheme), but employees are entitled to receive the savings plus the extra top up from their employer upon termination of the employee's employment (for whatever reason). The amount of the top-up will be determined by the amount paid and the number of years served with that specific employer.

Alternatively, if your employer did not sign up for provident funds you may look into your own personal savings plan with an insurance company.

Question 2
: My Thai friend has an 8-year child to an expat in Thailand. The expat father has never paid support or maintenance and my Thai friend doesn't have the resources to chase him for support. They were never married. The expat
father is on a work / business visa currently. What are the laws for this in Thailand? How is it calculated for previous years and ongoing. What is the process?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Since your friend was not married to the father at the time of birth, first a DNA test must be carried out to verify that the father of the child is her ex-partner. She can go to the courts and ask the courts to compel him to be tested. Once the courts verify that he is the father then they would determine child support due. This is done on a case by case basis but in general the courts are favourable towards instituting child support. Retroactive payments for child support can be applied for with the courts but it would need to be proved that it was required and the amount would be up to the judge's discretion.

Soi Cowboy

Friends and bar industry figures agree, Bangkok's expat bar areas are quiet.

I felt the pressure a little this week as I sought to gather news and gossip from Bangkok and was told that there is not a lot going on. That's the one part of the column which will be a bit of a challenge until the systems are in place so that I don't miss out on what is going on. The news section aside, the rest of the column is a breeze to write remotely. I have no shortage of ideas for opening pieces. Your emails are always interesting so that section takes care of itself – do keep the emails coming! The legal section also looks after itself and for the photo competition I have a huge archive to delve in to. There are plans to resurrect the girl of the week section although it might be 2 or 3 weeks before that comes to fruition. Geography notwithstanding, I find myself enjoying writing the column more than I have in some time. I hope you enjoy reading it too!

Your Bangkok commentator,


nana plaza