Stickman's Weekly Column June 14th, 2015

Thais in New Zealand





Impression of Thais in NZ

Stuck down at the bottom of the world, hours from the nearest developed country and almost exactly the same distance from Bangkok as London, you wouldn't expect New Zealand to have much of a Thai community. But it does. The most recent census indicated that of the 8,000 Thais resident in New Zealand, about half are in Auckland. From Thai food outlets to university students to construction workers, Thais are everywhere in Auckland and wherever I go I come across them. Do Thais in New Zealand go about their life the same way they do in their homeland – pursuing fun at every opportunity – or do they adapt to farang ways?





Songkran New Zealand

The Songkran festival in Auckland is popular with Thais and Kiwis alike.


The largest assembly of Thais in Auckland takes place at Songkran when a large city park is completely taken over by Thais celebrating their new year. Thai restaurants set up stalls with every variety of Thai food from som tam to tom yum. Thais flock to the event and the Thai ambassador brings the embassy troop up from Wellington.

Just like temple visits in Thailand, particularly in rural areas, the Songkran festival is not just a chance to meet with friends and catch up on the latest gossip, to eat their favourite food but to drink, sing and dance to Thai music. It's also a chance to show off. Many don their finery and their gold; it's a day to see and be seen. It's sanuk (fun, Thai-style) all day long!






Songkran New Zealand


Auckland's many Asian food courts are filled with Thais and there's often more than one Thai food vendor. Thais can also be found running Malaysian and Laos food outlets. What I find amusing is how Thais grumble when non-Thais operate Thai food outlets -arguing not just that the taste isn't authentic, but that the foreigners give Thai food a bad name. But when the shoe is on the other foot and Thais cook Malaysian or other ethnic food, it seems not to matter!

Curiously, New Zealand has a special class of visa for Thai chefs i.e. specifically Thai nationals qualified in the food industry (which according to my research does not limit them to cooking Thai, but any variety of food). This may partially explain why so many Thais work in the food industry here. It might also go some way to explaining why I think Thai food in New Zealand is better than in Thailand – it's made by Thailand-trained cooks using higher quality ingredients than you get in Thailand.

The other area you find lots of Thais working is in the trades and construction. A smattering of Thais are in professional roles with at least one Thai dentist – who apparently has the market cornered for Thais – and a Thai lawyer who it is said specialises in helping Thais screw divorce their Kiwi husband!



Songkran New Zealand

Plenty of Thais Robin Hood here, some taking it to extremes. One Thai tradesman was tipped off that I speak Thai. He came to me for help filling out a sponsorship form as part of the visa process to get a lady friend in to New Zealand. When we got to the section about providing proof of income, I explained that he had to submit either pay-slips or a bank account as proof of income. He had neither – as a tradesman he has been doing cash jobs exclusively for 20 years.

Auckland had a medium-sized Thai goods store but it closed. A smaller general Thai goods store opened which sells all sorts from popular Thai products like packet noodles, sauces, spices, sweets etc as well as the sort of things you can buy over the counter in Thailand but which are not usually sold here. Antibiotics and DVDs with copied Thai movies and TV shows are on the other side of the counter in full view.



Songkran New Zealand


The one thing most Thais seem to miss from home is the food. With the internet they have access to Thai TV, news from home, Thai language internet sites and forums, and with the likes of Line and WhatsApp they can easily chat with friends back home.

Thais in New Zealand remind me of Westerners in Thailand in so many ways – living a similar lifestyle to what they would back home, but transplanted in another country.



Songkran New Zealand


I have only heard one Thai say they left Thailand for New Zealand because they thought it would offer a better lifestyle / standard of living. Some came to be with a Kiwi guy, others to study the language.

For most Thais who have been in New Zealand for a while, the reason for staying here is the opportunity to earn real money. Even with many working basic jobs like kitchen hands or labouring, and earning the minimum wage of around $15 per hour, for the most part they seem happy in their work.

The Achilles heel for many Thais in New Zealand is the casino. While most Thais here make reasonable money, the combination of the high cost of living and their propensity to indulge in risky behaviour sees many end up at the casino. Plenty of Thais live here for years, making money the whole time but end up going home broke partly due to losses at the casino.






Songkran New Zealand

Forgive me, Mr. Monk, I have been to Pattaya and I have sinned!


Auckland has a Thai temple. Actually, it's a house with monks, Buddhists statues, Thai paraphernalia and pictures of the King….but they call it a temple.

The monks are friendly enough and always have a few words of wisdom for those whiteys who ask.



Songkran New Zealand


So what about the Thai women in New Zealand?

The first thing you notice is that the average Thai female in New Zealand doesn't retain the svelte physique they have in their homeland. Some talk of arriving in New Zealand at around 45 kg – and within a couple of years they're north of 60. Some blame the local diet, others say they don't feel the pressure to stay slim because it's not like the local populace is.

Some dress sexy but most slip in to the boring New Zealand wardrobe of dark colours. There seems to be less competition amongst Thai women here and they are much less concerned about looking great, unless it's a special occasion. The vanity so common in their homeland seems to wear off over time.

Being heavier set and wearing a wardrobe without the usual thought that goes in to making oneself look good in Thailand, Thai women who have been in New Zealand a while do not stand out as the beauties they may have been when they first arrived.



Songkran New Zealand


I only know a handful of Thai women in New Zealand and while I have talked to more, I can't say I actually know them. What I will say is that they can be very, very flirty, even more so than in Thailand. Whether speaking Thai with them has anything to do with it, I have no idea.

One peculiarity that comes up in conversations is their knowledge of Peaches & Cream, a nationwide chain of adult stores with 8 branches in Auckland. A good number openly admit to owning sex toys. What's that all about?

Many Thai women in New Zealand strike me as golden flowers (If you don't know what that means, ask your Thai girlfriend / wife). It doesn't help that some are involved with older guys in poor health, some even going as far to disclose the serious medical condition of their partner, explaining that he can't get it up so she needs to seek fun elsewhere. Such frankness is not the norm in Thailand where society takes a dim view of women fxxxing around, even when some suggest it is widespread.

In fairness to a lot of the Thai women who met a Kiwi guy in Thailand and emigrate here, they may find that there are single men here who compare favourably with their current beau.



New Zealand personals

From the adult entertainment section of the country's best newspaper, The New Zealand Herald.


There was a time when the local establishments were said to packed full of Thais. That coincided with when Thais received 3 months permission to stay in New Zealand on arrival, with no requirement to apply in advance for a visa. That all ended 14 years ago and today any notion that Thais dominate the local sex industry today is nonsense. The personals ads in the newspaper show the industry is full of Asians, but there aren't many Thais. And with a quickie just $NZ 50 (1,200 baht) all in, why would a Thai woman lower herself when she could get double that as a short time fee in Bangkok – which these days is often about 20 minutes.



Songkran New Zealand

The beauty pageant at the Auckland Songkran festival.


Most Thai women here have a comprehensive understanding of relationship and divorce laws, to the extent that you think Auckland Uni is offering special divorce law courses for female immigrants. Many a Kiwi bloke has come a cropper from a Thai woman who sets in place a plan of separating him from his money while giving the impression they are totally ignorant and know nothing about the relevant local laws. What do they say about love and war?



Songkran New Zealand


The average Thai doesn't have grand plans of leaving their homeland to live abroad, and many who travel overseas seem more concerned about it being an opportunity to show off. They take selfies of themselves and post them to social media and buy up large on brand name gear, not because they like it or want it, but because it's a brand name. Thais in New Zealand thrive on posting photos to social medial in situations that are simply not possible in Thailand, such as standing in the snow, picking cherries or playing cards for money.

As for how long the average Thai in New Zealand stays, I haven't been here anywhere near long enough to get an idea about that. Based on very small numbers, it seems that educated Thais and / or those in a relationship in which they are genuinely committed seem happy enough in New Zealand and want to remain here. Many reach a point where they dismiss the idea of ever returning to Thailand for anything more than a holiday. Some however – and they seem to be the opportunists – want to make money, and take it back to rural Thailand where they can enjoy the easy life.

Many in the Thai community here keep their head down and just get on with the goal of making money. The Thais here aren't high achievers but then neither are they trouble-makers. Most seem happy to live a low-key life. Making money seems more important to Thais here than the pursuit of sanuk. But is it any different in Thailand? Things seem to be going that way in the motherland too these days.



Where was this photo taken?


Bangkok




Last week's photo was taken of the main entrance at Exchange Tower, the large building at the Asoke intersection which at one time housed some boiler rooms.


FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Here today, gone tomorrow.

It struck me when I was in Angelwitch last week. Back in the day, we threw a lot of cash about in gogos and had a good time and got along with the bar staff and management. But thanks to economic growth, a rise in mainstream tourism, a different staff attitude and a new business model by the gangster owners, it now seems we are just marks to be conned. I requested a couple of songs and tipped the DJ. Not one to miss a trick, the mamasan immediately asked for a drink, and being somewhat buzzed, I acceded to the cheeky request and got her and the DJ a drink on my tab. This was on top of the lady drinks I was buying the girl I was sitting with. Needless to say, I saw them repeatedly order more drinks on my bill and when I asked them who had authorised them to put it on my bar tab they literally just laughed. I didn't let the matter drop and I demanded they take the drinks off my tab. Much bad blood all around. It never used to be like this. There was always an implicit contract that we pay well and they give us a good time in good faith. Now it seems every customer is just a here-today-gone-tomorrow mainstream tourist to be treated like a mug and ripped off. I will never go to Angelwitch again. In fact I mourn the passing of all the old Nana / Cowboy vibe and I actually cheer its downfall now. I am glad when I hear of bar owners going to the wall. They only have themselves to blame. I even risked a beating by flipping the finger at the DJ and mamasan as I left, I was so fuming.

Escaping the apologists!

After 15 years of listening to so much bullshit from the locals, the thing that really tipped me was the Apologist Farang, the total denier, with stiff happening right in front of their face who says, "Nope, not happening". I finally said enough, gave my car, motorcycle, all the house furnishings and appliances to the orphanage and bought a ticket to Penang 2 years ago. I now have a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 2-kitchen house with a lounge, roof garden and balcony overlooking the park. There are hundreds of food vendors at my door and I get this all for 6,000 baht per month (yes that's correct). Utilities run 1,700 baht. I have never looked back. As you say, with Air Asia you can go anywhere. Fxxk Bangkok! India is knocking out online visas for US$ 60. I was just in Calcutta and at the right season it's a fabulous place, as you're aware. I spent many years in India, and a friend in India is a true friend. Bamboozle yourself as to how majestic it is to be away from the apologist nobodies!

Bye-bye Thailand, hello Japan!

I too left Thailand last year. I didn't go home, but to Japan. I had to laugh when you mentioned missing tropical fruit. Dragonfruit is what I miss. I can find it here, but at 350 – 500 Yen it is a very occasional treat. Do I miss Thailand? The short answer is no. Of course I miss my friends and some of the cheap food and the overall cost of living. However, I am really enjoying living in a country that is truly developed. Food may be more expensive, but it is high quality. Everything works here. The people are very polite and think about how their actions affect other people. There is no cutting in line, no special prices for foreigners and taxi drivers take you where you want to go, no questions asked. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. This was a great move and I wish I had done it years ago. I really thought that by now I would want to go back to Thailand for a short vacation, but I am totally not interested in going back any time soon. There are tons of other interesting places to visit and it is time to seek them out. I had a great 5 years in Thailand, and then kind of existed for 3 more. I don't regret my time in Thailand, I just wish I had left earlier.





Too much of a good thing.

It's nice to see someone write about something that I've long thought but is rarely mentioned – that there can be too much of a good thing to the point where you're not interested any more. As you said, you've not been a fan of the bar scene except perhaps the early fascination. My first extended business trip to Thailand is an example. I worked for a quality company who put up their staff at the Dusit Thani Hotel. A wonderful place, located conveniently close to the office and Patpong. I had a 13-week assignment and I spent every night of the first week in Patpong. It was great fun and I enjoyed drinking & flirting with the girls. After several nights I found it too much effort, too much time and too tiring for work the next day. So I stopped. I spent my time in the room and for entertainment I'd go down to the lobby and as often as not talk to the lovely ladies who worked on the front desk, obviously not a naughty girl among them. In the last week of the assignment I went out to the Patpong bars every night again; I figured I'd miss it the following week. But I didn't miss it in the 11 intervening weeks. It was novel in the beginning and I knew I'd kick myself not to do it again in the last week but in the meantime it was too much of the same thing and not a lot of fun. I tell this story from time to time and people rarely understand. I think you understand. If I try to summarise, I guess the bars are an interest, a novelty when you don't normally have that kind of thing around you, but for most people the bars are not a lifestyle. And if they are then maybe you have other problems to deal with.

Did you witness the soi 11 incident?

I thought I'd post you on an incident I witnessed tonight. I was in a taxi on soi 11 at about 10:30 PM, heading towards Sukhumvit. A motorbike coming the other way went for the gap between my cab and another alongside it heading the other way. It couldn't make it and crashed into both cars with a massive bang that brought out bystanders. At first I thought it was a legitimate accident but suddenly the driver and passenger on the motorbike (and it was an expensive motorbike, not a scooter) just jumped over their bike, which they abandoned, and hit the ground running for their lives further down into soi 11. Seconds later a mob caught up to the crash scene, some on scooters, some on foot. It was mostly comprised of motorbike taxi drivers and security guards, and all were carrying batons, looking ready to deliver the beating of a lifetime. I can only imagine the motorbike pair had carried out a robbery or assault, as the mob's reaction was way too much for a mere insult, even in touchy Thailand. I thought maybe they had even stolen the bike they had crashed, but nobody in the lynch mob seemed to lay claim to it and it continued resting against the side of one of the damaged taxis. Anyway, they were lucky that their wedged bike caused a log-jam in soi 11 and they had a head start, as they seemed to escape their pursuers. I wonder if any other Stickman readers were in soi 11 and can fill in the back story? There were plenty of witnesses.

Not in denial.

I disagree with the email that said "it's all prostitution." It's not. If that were the case then the column would be about Ratchapisadek and New Petchaburi Road – the big soapies, the streetwalkers. It's about booze PLUS neon PLUS music PLUS girls. Some guys need that. Some may even use it to delude themselves into thinking they're not actually johns, but of course they are. I am. I'm not in denial about it.

Remembering Goldfinger.

Regarding your comments about Goldfinger, the last time I recall good looking girls in there was in 1989! Don't get me wrong, I spent time in there every trip to Patpong (about once or twice a month for many years). I once asked Randy why his girls were so hard on the eyes and he replied, "I used to have good-looking girls and by midnight they'd all be gone, as were my customers. Now at 2 AM I still have girls and customers!" I might add however that it was usually the same 6 – 10 customers and some of the girls were as old as the bar. Still, many fond memories of the place; although after so many kamikaze shooters some nights, I don't recall much at all except that the DJs never played rap or techno-crap.

National Park entry fees.

You won't miss the discriminatory tiered pricing structure in Thailand. I'm not sure if you ever discussed National Park entry fees but the attached table shows just what a farang rip-off this can be. I visited site 12 on the list and was quite taken aback comparing Thai / farang charges. Some are 10 times the Thai price. What lunatic thought that up? Needless to say, I didn't pay up.







From my old partner in crime, the dirty doctor, comes word that Tilac bar, once upon a time the best gogo bar in Bangkok, is rebounding in popularity. There are loads of new dancers – and collectively a few hundred less kg than before.

I reckon Dave The Rave got out of Spellbound at just the right time as the plaza slowly goes down the gurgler. Dave missed the nasty incident in Spellbound this past Wednesday night when a middle-aged foreigner was badly beaten up inside Spellbound. In a country where even those seriously injured are often thrown in to a tuktuk or pickup truck and raced to the nearest medical facility, it must have been bad for this fellow was taken away on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance. The police spent quite some time inside Spellbound and their presence along with an ambulance in the plaza is the sort of drama nightlife areas can well do without.

The same rumours have been doing the rounds of the bar crowd for as long as I can remember. Nana Plaza is going to be turned into a hotel or a car park for the Landmark Hotel. The Thermae is full of girls who are HIV+. And The Office on soi 33 is up for sale. The first two rumours are old Bangkok wives tales but this time it looks like the third of these may have some truth in it. For so long the anchor property on Sukhumvit Soi 33 and the venue by which all others in the soi are measured against, rumour has it that Bob has put The Office Bar and Mojo's on the market. Apparently, the plan is to offload the two bars and then head back to Australia where Bob's wife can get the Kangaroo pass she has long been promised.

The sun really is setting on The Tunnel, that name of the shady lane behind CheckInn99 that connects Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7 that is home to a mix of bars, karaoke dens, bonking booths, Nigerian-only hair salons and the classic Country Road. A notice posted in the soi in Thai stating the lane will close for improvements. Of all the venues, Checkinn ladyboy bar should be ok as it has a back entrance. Some of the really long term tenants will be slowly eased out. The owner is loyal to long-term tenants so don't be surprised to see the same stall holders back in the new Marrakesh Market lane.

This past Monday morning between about 2 – 5 AM, Mother Nature decided to have a bad hair day and vented her fury with an unbelievable electrical storm over Bangkok said to have 20 – 30 lightening strikes a minute along with a mega downpour of 150ml over much of the city. Sukhumvit was hit and anyone with a basement copped it big time. Checkinn99 was flooded out. What saved major damage to the stage and musical equipment was the boss's plush basement became a swimming pool. A stroke of luck was that Chris Coles had just finished an exhibition of his Noir paintings and had picked them up from the cellar hideout the weekend before….except for one painting, Obsession, promised to a buyer. Hearing of the flood and having lost three of his paintings in the Bacarra fire, noir artist Chris resigned himself to having lost a fourth to Checkinn. He remembered it had been carefully placed at floor level but it turns out that the owner's wife Mook moved the painting just before leaving the night before. It's safe and the buyer will pick it up this weekend. To the credit of the staff and band, the next 24 hours were spent hand-bailing the estimated 20,000 gallons of Sukhumvit flood water from the boss's cellar (he was in Vietnam) so the bar could open for business on Tuesday. A remarkable effort, and that's what you get when you profit share with your staff.




Flooding in CheckInn99 on Monday, this past week.

Photo provided by CheckInn99.



Another small single shophouse bar on Soi Nana has the shutters pulled down and looks like it has said goodbye. A few months back Finnegan's, the small Irish pub on Soi Nana, closed after a rent increase that meant the venue was no longer viable. Now, Naughty Girls, a small shark tank beer bar on the main road down beyond from the plaza, has also closed. No reason for the closure has been forthcoming but it would seem reasonable to speculate that it too might be related to an increase in rent. Naughty Girls was one of those pokey bars with some really hard girls that you – or at least I – never heard much about.

The lady drink rules in one Patpong bar have changed and the girls are telling regulars they are not happy. The new system means that girls receive zero baht commission on the first lady drink bought for them by a customer. They do get something from the second drink but it is less than before. The exact details are unclear – even the girls are not clear – but it seems like a curious measure. My initial thoughts are that it will make the girls hungrier for lady drinks which makes it all the more curious given that is one of the major complaints of many punters. It will be interesting to see if this policy remains, or things revert back to how they were – or perhaps this will be the start of a new way of doing things and be adopted by other bars.

Down in Pattaya, The Castle, a fetish bar in which I have seen the most bizarre acts, far exceeding anything I have seen in any chrome pole bar – or even the antics at Nanapong dance contests – will celebrate its 11th anniversary in a couple of weeks, on Saturday, June 27th. The Castle is located on Third Road in Pattaya – their website has details on how to get there.

One of the former owners of legendary Pattaya gogo bar Club Boesche tells me there are plans to reignite a bigger a better Club Boesche in 2017. In his words, it will raise the bar again. Perverts can live and hope.

Fun Pattaya bar Babydolls (a little further up the sub soi from Sapphire and Angelwitch) will throw a party this coming Friday, June 19th, to celebrate Mama Koy's birthday. Friends new and old are all welcome. And if you look like a lost lamb who doesn't know anyone, don't fret too much for customer relations manager, Great Uncle Larry, will look after you.

The once familiar sight of the one known as Glitterman, the Brit in the outrageous outfits cycling his decorated bike on the streets of Pattaya, remains a familiar sight on the streets of London.



Glitterman

Glitterman, performing the show in London.

Photo kindly provided by a friend of a reader.



The old Carousel A Gogo on Soi Diamond was sold a while back and renamed Dream A Gogo. It closed again and has just reopened as Maxine's A Gogo. You don't need a crystal ball to know that in a few weeks I will be letting you know it has closed again.

Word from Pattaya is that a number of bars reported closed in recent months remain closed and do not look like reopening any time soon. And in some of the larger beer bar complexes (away from Walking Street, are there many still going?), fewer beer bars are actually open in each complex. It's many months since I was in Pattaya but it hardly sounds like a party vibe when beer bar complexes have so many vacant spaces. Walking Street is said to be busy, at least in terms of pedestrian traffic, and soi 15 with the likes of Sapphire, Angelwitch and What's Up is thriving.

With that said, Gentlemen's Club on Soi Diamond reopened on Friday night.

If each of Bangkok's major expat bar areas was a country in South-East Asia, Nana Plaza would be Thailand – the perennial favourite, but with ongoing unresolved issues. Soi Cowboy would be Indonesia – stable and staid. Patpong would be Vietnam – full of history, scary to some but with a small but loyal following and an undeniably bright future. In other words, the future remains uncertain at Nana. With outrageous rent rates and huge key money being asked, bar bosses have big headaches and there is no clarity about where things are going. Patpong is dismissed by many with some saying you're 20+ years late if you expect to have a good time there. I say think again. The Patpong area is full of history, and the bars are stable which is partly because the cop shop which looks after Patpong does not constantly hassle bar owners and change the rules as is the case on Sukhumvit. Patpong suffers none of the vagaries of fluctuating closing times and being forced to close certain nights of the year. When making the rounds I have long observed how much more relaxed bar owners and foreign bar staff / managers are in Patpong compared to their counterparts on Sukhumvit (Nana, Cowboy and the smaller areas like sois 7, 22, 33). On Sukhumvit, foreign bar staff are often nervous about police visits and strike me as not feeling secure in their jobs. That's not the case in Patpong and I think that is one reason why, amazingly, Patpong these days is more relaxed than lower Sukhumvit which has become a jungle.

Popular Stickman readers' submissions writer Phet has collated a bunch of his stories and published them as an e-book. You can grab the collection titled, “The Bangkok Ladyboys Male Voice Choir And Other Stories” on Amazon for just £1.99.



The Bangkok Ladyboy Male Voice Choir



There is no shortage of single, attractive women in Thailand. From so-called good girls to those who have not had it so easy and have ended up working in bars, from those who have never married to those who are divorced, wherever you find yourself in Thailand there are always heaps of local women available and interested in Western men. With so many available, single women, why oh why would you fool around with another guy's bird? That is just plain bad form. And when she happens to be the partner of a figure in the bar industry who is known to be a heavy hitter, someone who takes no nonsense and a person you really don't want to mess with – no matter how much you may fancy yourself as a high flyer – seems just plain stupid and the risky behaviour of a gambler. Those-in-the-know will know who and what I am talking about.

The owner of AfterSkool bar has opened an American deli on Onut. John's Shophouse Deli is at 250/2 Sukhumvit 77, just past Big C. Stop by the bar for a card and directions if you enjoy great deli sandwiches.

Can the differences between Thais and Westerners be easily explained by communication difficulties and the fact that most Thais are Buddhist and probably the majority of religious Westerners follow one or other Christian denomination? Different attitudes and ways of thinking between the average Thai and the average Westerner run deeper and transcend language and religion. Often when a Westerner in Thailand meets a Thai with strong / fluent English and / or a Thai who is a Christian, they are mistaken for thinking that they are on the same wavelength. Communication is easier and through a shared religion there may be a common bond, but don't let that make you think fundamental differences in beliefs and values don't remain.

Songkran was 2 months ago but the thermometer refuses to drop. Even from the relative comfort of Auckland I see daily temperatures in Bangkok have refused to drop below the mid to high 30s. I don't miss that!

Is it just me or is the Bangkok Post covering more stories of interest to Westerners in Thailand? I always thought of the Post as a newspaper for educated Thais that happened to be in English with Westerners hardly its primary readership. Recently the tone in some articles and the general editorial content has been objective and I get the impression there is more that appeals to expats, stories which most likely don't appear in the Thai language dailies. I find it a more interesting read these days.



The Castle, Pattaya fetish bar



Beer bounty



Babydolls Pattaya



Quote of the week comes from regular Bangkok Post letter writer Eric Baht, "I'm disgusted by foreigners who as long as they have their booze and hookers couldn't care less about the injustices that are going on in this country right now."

Reader's story of the week comes from Hermites, "When the Condom Breaks, the Truth Leaks Out Part 2".

Things are getting explosive in Pattaya after youths throw homemade grenades at foreign residents.

Thailand is called the Land Of Police Shrugs after police shrug when some Chinese go to a police station to claim lost items.

New laws are aimed to punish not just those who spit or litter in public, but those who blow their nose!

The police announce that foreigners gambling online in Thailand face being deported and blacklisted from the country.

The video of a foreigner urinating out the back of a baht bus has caused widespread anger on social media in Thailand.

Murder charges against an Aussie in Phuket are dropped after video evidence shows he acted in self-defence.



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: After reading in Stick's column recently about 3 farangs caught gambling, what is the legal situation regarding gambling here? Is playing cards with friends with no money involved ok? What about online?

Sunbelt Legal responds: All gambling in Thailand is illegal unless regulated by the government, such as the lottery. There are two lists of types of gambling; those which are strictly prohibited and those with are prohibited by permissible, for example raffle draws, darts, bingo. Online gambling is illegal in Thailand the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology generally blocks those websites that offer online gambling.



Question 2: I am a 60-year old retired American. Over many visits, I have spent about a year and a half in Thailand since 2008. I have decided to seriously consider moving there if possible. I have studied the visa situation and if I am looking at this correctly, I would first apply for a Non-Immigrant 'O' one-year visa, and then transition either to a retirement, or a marriage visa. Correct? In any case, I can meet the requirements stated, except for one thing – the stipulation that you have no criminal history, and the requirement for a notarized statement from the USA stating such. Like many, when I was young and dumb I got myself in trouble. I have a criminal record, unfortunately. Being that is the case, can you outline what, if any, options or work-arounds are possible? I would eventually like to marry a Thai girl and live there for the rest of my life, if possible. Do I have any options? Is the best I can hope for to bounce back and forth between 2 countries every 60 days, employing a 60-day tourist visa? And then be at the whim of the Immigration officer on duty and his tolerance for multiple-entries? That sure would not be an ideal situation. Many thanks for your help and advice!

Sunbelt Legal responds: In large part it would depend on whether or not you have been blacklisted by Thai Immigration and if they prohibit you from entering Thailand. If you successfully obtain a non-O visa based on retirement from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate then it is likely that you would be able to extend that non-O for one year in the country so long as you meet the financial requirements of 800,000 baht in a Thai bank or official proof of a pension no less than 65,000 baht per month. As for the non-O visa and extension based on marriage to a Thai national, please be aware that once married you will need to show 400,000 baht in a Thai bank or that you are working in Thailand and earning no less than 40,000 baht a month. You must remain married to retain this visa.

A retirement visa generally gives you more independence as it is not reliant on your marital status. Were you to get divorced your non-O based on marriage would be invalid and you would have to start the process over again whereas so long as you have the funding the Non-O based on retirement can be extended indefinitely.

In your home country it is possible to obtain a Non-Immigrant visa Non-Immigrant OA – which would give you one year upon arrival. Please be aware that the requirements for this visa are more stringent in your home country and require a health check in addition to a few other things. Entering the country and obtaining the non-O extension inside Thailand has less stringent requirements. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can assist you in obtaining the one year extension upon your arrival in Thailand; we have extensive experience in handling these kinds of visas and can take you through the process.





Wellington

Mount Victoria and Oriental Bay, Wellington.



I'm currently in what Lonely Planet described as the coolest little capital in the world, Wellington. It's been no problem to put the column together but I have not spent the usual time editing it so hopefully there won't be too many typos. A friend who reads the column kindly points out the typos which I tidy up, but that's usually a few hours after it has gone live…so if the typos make it a less enjoyable read, don't tune in right at 6 PM but wait an hour or two – and you should get the tidied up version.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick