Thai Life


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27th December

   Guns in Thailand ...

Thailand near the top of the league in gun murder

From Nation Master

On International crime statistics: Murder involving firearms (per million of population over a period of 2 years)

  1. South Africa: 719.8 per million people in 2 years
  2. Colombia: 509.8
  3. Thailand: 312.1
  4. Zimbabwe: 49.2
  5. Mexico: 33.8
  6. Belarus: 32.1
  7. Costa Rica: 31.4
  8. United States: 27.9
  9. Uruguay: 24.6
  10. Lithuania: 23.1
  11. Slovakia: 21.5
  12. Czech Republic: 20.1
  13. Estonia: 15.8
  14. Latvia: 13.1
  15. Macedonia, 12.7
  16. Bulgaria: 8.5
  17. Portugal: 8.0
  18. Slovenia: 6.0
  19. Switzerland: 5.3
  20. Canada: 5.0
  21. Germany: 4.7
  22. Moldova: 4.5
  23. Hungary: 4.4
  24. Poland: 4.3
  25. Ukraine: 3.7
  26. Ireland: 3.0
  27. Australia: 2.9
  28. Denmark: 2.6
  29. Spain: 2.4
  30. Azerbaijan: 2.3
  31. New Zealand: 1.7
  32. United Kingdom: 1.0

DEFINITION: Total recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm.

SOURCE: Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998 - 2000 (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention) via NationMaster


25 th December

   Married to Isaan ...

How Issan ladies meet their husbands

From The Nation

Only about 4% of women in Isaan, the Northeast of Thailand, met their Western husbands over the Internet, a brief study has found.

Most of the women first came into contact with their spouses at their work places or entertainment venues, the study by Asst Professor Supawatanakorn Wongthanawasu of Khon Kaen University found.

The information was part of an ongoing study of the cultural impact of Thai-Western marriages in the region.

Supawatanakorn interviewed 231 Thai wives in Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Roi Et. She found about 60% had met their future husbands at workplaces or entertainment venues, about 20% via mutual friends and 17% through relatives, most of whom were married to foreigners.

Supawatanakorn said the 4% of women who met their Western partners via the Internet and matchmaking services were an interesting group because they were single and most were well educated and had good careers.

The study found that about 80% of the women chose their partners solely on their own intuition, while 11% were influenced by parents, 7% by friends and 1% by their children from a previous marriage.

Meanwhile, 52% said there was no formal marriage proposal from the would-be husband to their families, while 51% had no wedding ceremony.


18th December

   Red Tape ...


Hard lessons in expat paradise

From the BBC

For Britons Thailand is a friendly Asian holiday paradise. But the reality of moving lock, stock and barrel to the other side of the world, has been a lot harder for some of the tens of thousands of expats.

To the holidaymakers visiting Frances Khetrat's bar on a picturesque Thai beach, it must seem as if she has the perfect life.

I often think how lucky I am, when I remember all the people stuck on the tube while I'm surrounded by crystal-clear water and beautiful scenery, she says.

But Frances readily admits that her life is not as idyllic as people might imagine: A lot of tourists say I'm living a dream life, but they don't know the half of it. It's very different being here all the time than just being here on holiday.

Frances is one of an estimated 41,000 Britons currently living in Thailand, according to research by the IPPR think tank.

She faced challenges from the start: I had a bit of tension [when I arrived] with local people, and I had to make sure I wasn't doing things they wanted to do. You get penalised a lot for being a foreigner. I've had to do things in a much more official way than Thai-owned businesses - and I had lots of visits from people checking I had the right permits and licenses, which is often quite complicated to get right.

Then came the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. While the bar escaped unscathed, few tourists came to the region for months afterwards, almost wiping out her earnings for the high season. To make matters worse, she faced losing the building she had constructed because she couldn't pay rent to her landlord - foreigners cannot buy land in Thailand. She was forced to take out large loans and is still paying them back.

Billy Brunsdon has faced other problems. He manages the Bull's Head - a traditional English pub in the heart of Bangkok. He has had to learn how to work under Thailand's often obscure rules and regulations.

Like Frances, he has made an effort to get to know local people and learn their language and cultural traditions, factors he says are essential to running a successful business.

I think some people who come here are quite naive. 've seen lots of people get into problems because they think they can just set things up with no local help. You need to gain people's trust, and that takes time. When I'd been there for a while and learned the lingo, I got so much more respect from my staff.

But there seems to be no shortage in the number of Britons willing to swap the rain-soaked UK for sun-drenched Thailand. Many are professionals - especially teachers. Some are retirees, living in a level of luxury they would be unable to afford back home, having cashed up in Britain to see a modest sum worth a lot more on the other side of the world.

Others live near the beaches, working in bars, hotels and dive shops and renewing their tourist visas every few months - although this is something the authorities have recently started to crack down on.

Thailand also has a reputation for attracting another type of foreigner - the so-called sex-pats who frequent the red light districts of Bangkok and beach resorts such as Pattaya.

People look at me negatively sometimes when they find out I live in Thailand, says Billy: They assume certain things that aren't true, but I've learnt to live with that. But living with a media stereotype doesn't outweigh the weather, culture and easy lifestyle. If you'd told me at 18 that I'd live in Thailand, I'd have laughed at you. But when I got here, I just loved it. If I won the lottery tomorrow I'd still live here.


17th November   Pizza vs Somtam

From The Nation

Foreign husbands are bringing big changes to Isaan. Somtam (papaya salad)  is out and hamburgers are in as more Northeast women adopt husbands' customs, according to a survey of the cultural impact of increasing Thai-Westerner marriages

Many Thai wives now prefer celebrating Western holidays like Christmas and Valentine's Day to traditional Thai holidays, a Khon Kaen University study has found.
Also mixed families participate less in community activities

The head of the study, Prof Supawatanakorn Wongtha-nawasu said her team interviewed 231 Thai wives in Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Roi Et and found that foreign son-in-laws had caused the community-oriented Northeasterners to become the more individualistic and give less attention to social interaction.

Cross-cultural couples had less interaction with neighbours because foreign husbands faced language and cultural obstacles, while the wives tried to adjust by becoming "farang" rather than helping their husbands to be more 'Thai. Thai culture in these families was thus overshadowed by Western culture, with the families' own consent, due to the pride of having foreign sons-in-law, she said.

The researchers also found most wives interviewed were either not interested or less enthusiastic about traditional Thai holidays - such as Buddhist Lent and Makha Bucha Day - compared with Western holidays like Christmas Day or Valentine's Day.

On the other hand, many foreign husbands enjoyed celebrating the Songkran festival but did not understand the tradition and meaning behind it, she said.

The wives still ate somtam, which they grew up eating, but also ate pizza, hamburgers or fried chicken as a symbol of their adjustment to Western culture. Many ended up eating both local and Western dishes, while their husbands found it harder to adjust to local food and stuck more to Western food. Supawatanakorn said that since the wives found it more convenient to cook once for all family members including their husbands, Northeastern food - especially somtam with fermented fish - had gradually disappeared from their meals.

The foreign husbands had an average income of Bt60,000 a month, but most of their wives didn't know their husband's work or educational background. The wives were mainly interested in whether their husbands had enough money to support the family, she said.

With the obvious increase in wealth of wives married to farang, due to their husbands' financial support, some 90% of residents surveyed said they wanted their daughters to marry foreigners.

Cross-cultural marriages were also supported by the older generation as these couples took care of their own children instead of placing the burden on the grandparents, or could afford nannies.

However, the cross-cultural marriage weakened the children's language skills as parents spoke to them in a mix of Thai and English, which confused the kids and made them less fluent in the Thai language, she said. The children's English skills were limited to basic daily communication due to the parents' limited educational background or a less stimulating social environment.


30th October   Prohibited Occupations for Farangs

From Thai Visa

The list of prohibited occupations for  farangs was updated slightly and released on  Oct 26th 2006 by the Royal Thai Government. The prohibitions aren't really as strict as they appear as a good lawyer can suggest job descriptions that keep both the permit holder and the Thai Government happy.

1. Manual work
2. Work in agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry or fishery excluding specialized work in each particular branch or farm supervision
3. Bricklaying, carpentry or other construction works
4. Wood carving
5. Driving mechanically propelled carried or driving non-mechanically-propelled vehicle, excluding international aircraft piloting
6. Shop attendance
7. Auction
8. Supervising, auditing or giving service in accountancy excluding internal auditing on occasions
9. Cutting or polishing jewelry
10. Haircutting, hairdressing or beauty treatment
11. Cloth weaving by hand
12. Weaving of mate or making products from reeds, rattan, hemp, straw or bamboo pellicle
13. Making of Sa paper by hand
14. Lacquer ware making
15. Making of Thai musical instrument
16. Niello ware making
17. Making of products from gold, silver or gold-copper alloy
18. Bronze ware making
19. Making of Thai dolls
20. Making of mattress or quilt blanket
21. Alms bowls casting
22. Making of silk products by hand
23. Casting of Buddha images
24. Knife making
25. Making of paper of cloth umbrella
26. Shoemaking
27. Hat Making
28. Brokerage or agency excluding brokerage or agency in international trade business
29. Engineering work in civil engineering branch concerning designing and calculation, organization, research, planning, testing, construction supervision or advising excluding specialized work
30. Architectural work concerning designing, drawing of plan, estimating, construction directing or advising
31. Garments making
32. Pottery or ceramic ware making
33. Cigarette making by hand
34. Guide or conducting sightseeing tours
35. Street Vending
36. Type setting of Thai characters by hand
37. Drawing and twisting silk-thread by hand
38. Office or secretarial work
39. Legal or lawsuit services


25th October   A Customary Warning

It seems that the new Suvarnabhumi airport has seen a rather aggressive Customs welcoming committee set up. Customs are targeting excess duty frees and there are very severe penalties if caught. (of the order of $500 per carton)

So be warned. The duty free limits for travel into Thailand are:

  • 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of cigars or smoking tobacco
  • 1 litre of spirits

From Thai Visa

A group of five friends arrived at the new airport two days ago. Four of them being smokers, and not liking the brands available in Thailand decided to bring 10 cartons (10x200)

After being searched the five lads were dutifully wisked away to some police station approx half an hour away where they had all the cigs taken off them and a fine of £3,000 deducted from their wallets.

Given the choice of pay or go directly to jail (Whether Bluffing or not) the lads coughed up and after five hours were let go to continue on their journey to Patters.

Another family of four were fined £1,000 pounds and not having enough money to continue their holiday got the next flight home.


27th October   Loi Krathong: Festival of Lights

From TAT . Loi Krathong Day is on November 5th 2006

As the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (usually in mid-November) lights up the night sky, throughout the Thai kingdom, hundreds of thousands of ornately-decorated krathong or traditional banana leaf floats are set adrift in rivers and waterways in a spell-binding ritual called Loi Krathong - the 'festival of lights". This is one of the Kingdom's oldest and best-preserved traditions.

The Loi Krathong tradition we know of today has evolved from the royal rituals of the early Rattanakosin period in which several types of lanterns were set afloat in the Chao Phraya River and its waterways. The practice was subsequently adopted and adapted by common folk.

Krathong floats are made from basic materials easily found around the village and reflect the simplicity of life beyond the palace walls. They typically take the shape of lotus in full bloom, swans, chedis (stupas), and Mount Meru from Buddhist mythology. However krathong floats in the shape of lotus blossoms are most popular.

There are various accounts about the origins of Loi Krathong. It is not known as to when the tradition first began but authorities speculate that it is of Indian origin and based on the "Deepavalee" ritual which is also accompanied by floating lights in an act of worship of the Brahmin gods. According to another school of thought, the ritual is said to be based on ancient Buddhist tales and is undertaken to pay respect to the sacred footprint of the Lord Buddha on the bank of the mythical Nammadhammahantee river.

However, given the river-based culture that formed the foundation of the traditional Thai way of life, Loi Krathong evolved into a ritual in which offerings are made to Mae Khongkha – Mother of Waters, the Thai equivalent of the Hindu goddess of water, in an expression of gratitude for providing life-sustaining water throughout the year. It is also believed that the offering are made in an act of appeasement to beg her forgiveness for Man's carelessness in polluting the pristine water that nourishes all life. Over time the tradition spread throughout the country.

Some believe that by setting the krathong adrift, one symbolically casts away one's grief, misery and ill-fortunes to the extent that there are bizarre tales of the superstitious placing tufts of hair or clipped finger-nail into the krathong in the hope of ridding themselves of a spell of bad luck or misfortune. Coins are also placed in the krathong as offerings.

For the romantic at heart and young couples, Loi Krathong is the time to make wishes for happiness together and success in love.

At dusk, as the full moon begins to rise, the krathong is decorated with fresh flowers and the candles and incense sticks are placed in the krathong. The float is then taken to a waterway where the candle and incense sticks are lit and the krathong set adrift. The floats are carried downstream by the gentle current, candlelight flickering in the wind.

The lighting of fireworks is undertaken in the same spirit as when lighting candles in an act of worship so fireworks displays are very much an integral element of the secular and religious rituals performed.

Soon after, attention turns to celebration. The evening's festivities consist of impressive firework displays, folk entertainment, stage dramas, song and dance.

Loi Krathong customs and traditions reflect local beliefs and cultural evolution. Interesting regional variations can be seen. In Tak province, the banana-leaf floats are replaced by coconut shells which are threaded together and launched simultaneously so they appear as long chains of hundreds of glittering lights on the Ping River, hence the origin of its name, Loi Krathong Sai.

In the Northern Thai provinces that were once part of the ancient Lanna Thai kingdom, the Yi-peng Northern Lantern Festival is still being celebrated. Tubular lanterns, resembling hot air balloons, are lit and released into the night sky as an offering the Lord Buddha. As hundreds of illuminated lanterns drift into infinity, this conjures the same sense of wistful closure as the krathong float downstream.

15th October

  Another amplified holiday?

by jj, Loy Kratong Day is on November 5th

We are fast approaching another Loy Kratong. Loying (floating) your Kratong (basket) is an ancient and beautiful Thai tradition of ridding yourself of all your cares and woes. You are supposed to place all your worldly concerns and those few sins you have committed in the past year in the basket and let them float peacefully away. Who can forget the sight of thousands of candled kratongs floating down the Chao Phya at the King's 60th celebration? It is a true family day. Why is it then that the modern Thais have to amplify the tradition?

Last year, I took the entire family over to the Pattaya's Map-pra-tan reservoir to rid ourselves of worldly concerns. At just about dusk, we loyed our kratongs -- no mean feat when there is no current – and then retired across the road to have dinner in one of those many "lake-view" restaurants. No sooner had the sun set and the food arrived than they plugged in a set of speakers the size of small houses. We were 100 meters away but the music helped us chew our food. Even at that distance it was tooth-rattling!

Why is it that "modern" Thais have to push all the ancient traditions to the brink? Song Kran was once a time to pay homage to the elders and to wash away the cares of the hot season in preparation for the new planting season as the rains arrived. Now it is little more than a battle of the pick-ups laden with talc powder and icy water. New Year's Day was once a time of gift-giving and family reunions. Now it is just an excuse to get drunk and kill-off young people on motorcycles. Loy Kratong, too, is now just another over-amplified excuse to party. Thailand is less for the conversion.
I think this year we'll loy in the swimming pool.

16th October   Comment: Pattaya out of Control
by David

I have visited Thailand for over 20 years and lived here for 12.

This previously peaceful and reverent city is now totally out of control as far as holidaymakers are concerned.

Traditional holy days. such as Loy Kratong have degenerated into chaos, violence and mayhem.

Tourists - please ! stay clear of Pattaya. You will get ripped off, mugged or worse. The Thai people here are no longer interested in showing you Thailand's character but only in profiteering, scams, robbery with violence and so on.

The criminality here is beyond belief. Do not trust ANYBODY.


28th August   A Good Little Earner

From The Nation

Cross-cultural marriages between Thai women and farang men are better received in Thai communities, a recent study has revealed, with northeastern villagers in particular praising their foreign sons-in-law for better supporting their new Thai family.

With many northeastern villages organising "Bai Sri Soo Kwan" blessing ceremonies for foreign husbands during the Thai New Year festival, Asst Professor Buaphan Promphak-ping of Khon Kaen University called this a meaningful honour resulting from a cultural change in Thai communities.

The National Culture Commission Office sponsored a study to investigate cultural changes in Thai rural areas resulting from such marriages.

Twelve Thai women - from one community with Western-Thai marriages and three communities with Eastern-Thai marriages (husbands from Hong Kong and Japan) - took part in the study.

Most of the women married to Western men had been married before, to Thai men, and most had intentionally sought a new foreign husband, the study revealed.

Following marriage, the women's financial status had improved, with foreign husbands bringing steady income to the family, the study said. The marriages also brought the women more respect from neighbours, enabling them to move up the social ladder in their community.

The marriages were accepted within the communities and even encouraged by the women's relatives, as they were seen as a way to gain income. Foreign sons-in-law were better able to financially support the family than Thai husbands, the study said.

Udon Thani villager Supira TraiPhu said she had been married to a German national for nearly 15 years and initially lived with him in Germany because her German husband had retired from work.

The family built a Bt2-million house, the biggest in the village, and had gained the respect of the neighbours, she said: At first, the neighbours were critical of my bringing a foreign husband home, but then they realised we did not cause them any trouble and brought good things here, so everyone wanted to talk with my husband and invite him to join their merit-making activities and parties.


6th August


  Tax Allowances to Raise

From the Bangkok Post

Taxpayers nationwide will receive a tax break of up to 40,000 baht per year under a revision to the tax code approved by the cabinet yesterday.

Chaiyos Sasomsap, the caretaker deputy finance minister, said the amendment was aimed at reducing the tax burden for taxpayers, and is part of a broader plan by the Finance Ministry to streamline the country's laws.

Individual taxpayers currently receive a deduction of 40% of their taxable income up to a maximum of 60,000 baht. Under the new amendment, the tax deduction will be increased to up to 60% of income up to a maximum of 100,000 baht.

In practice, single taxpayers earning a monthly income of less than 19,166 baht will face no personal income taxes at all, compared with the current level of 15,833 baht.

A married couple with one child will pay no tax if their monthly income is less than 22,916 baht, compared with the current level of 19,583 baht.

Also approved was a minor change aimed at reducing administrative costs for small businesses. Currently small businesses with monthly revenues of less than 300,000 baht are required to issue receipts only for transactions of more than 1,000 baht, which under the new rule would increase to 5,000 baht per transaction. Stores would also need to only consolidate receipts once each day.

Chaiyos said the new Parliament would have to approve the proposed amendments to the tax code before they took effect. The tax reduction would help increase disposable income for households, ultimately helping economic growth and domestic consumption.


1st June 2006    Rules of Bar-hopping for Thailand ...

Nightlife tips

The following rules are mere suggestions for actions that might enhance your pleasure as you move through the maze of bars in Thailand. They are general in nature, are intended for the 'new guys' in town and are not meant to encourage prostitution.

  1. Go early!
    [The prettiest gals are still there. Often, they don't last long]
    COROLLARY a) If you don't find what you like at the first stop, there will still be pretty gals at the other places. [see Rule 6c below]

  2. Survey the contenders .
    [Don't necessarily grab the first gal who presents herself. Watch the parade for a little while. Bide your time. YOUR special lady might still be getting (un)dressed in the back room.]
    COROLLARY a) Don't hold out forever for that 'special someone'; you CAN waste a lot of valuable time by doing so.

  3. Don't sit near the door.
    [Don't make yourself too visible. The gals tend to be less inhibited if you are 'in the corner, in the dark'. Some of the larger bars have some very nice corners or out-of-the-way spots where the action and reaction might be a bit freer because she knows that she is not being watched either by the other patrons or the owner. Some bars have private rooms; ask about them (see #9 below; be wary of possible "extra charges" though!].

  4. Try to sit under or behind a speaker.
    [One of the biggest problems is COMMUNICATION. If you can cut the noise level even a little, you can improve the quality of the conversation. This fits with Rule #3 above]

  5. Buy that first Lady Drink.
    [Unless you have a prior 'relationship', you are two strangers meeting in a strange place. She has no idea what to expect. She also has a quota of drinks that she must solicit. However, many of the gals do not drink alcohol (surprise). After the first drink, ask if she'd rather have a tip delivered directly, rather than more Lady Drinks which she might not really want in the first place (see #7 below). Often, she'll take the offer of the tip and provide her own refreshments. By providing that first drink, you have established that you are willing spend at least a bit of money in return for her time.
    COROLLARY a) It is NOT necessary to buy the waitress a drink. Sometimes this is useful in establishing a foundation for future service and attention, but it is NOT a requirement and one should never feel bad about refusing her request.

  6. If you are NOT going to bar fine (off; buy out) her, TELL her up front.
    [If she is desperate to fill her quota of OFFs, she might find an excuse to leave. At least you have established your intentions and given her the option of finding another benefactor for the night.]
    COROLLARY a) Don't feel rejected if she is the one who opts to leave; she has her own needs as well.
    COROLLARY b) If, after a short time and that first drink (#5 above), you are not satisfied for ANY reason, make a change.
    COROLLARY c) It is often better to start over at a different bar than to choose a different girl from the same bar. But if that 'special someone' just walked by, you ARE free to make a change.

  7. Tip early and generously .
    [One must remember the life style of these gals; it revolves around money. After some period of mutual body surface exploration, provide a tip of moderate proportions; 1-200 baht is usually sufficient. This will often loosen any inhibitions (and sometimes clothing).
    COROLLARY a) Sometimes while on stage dancing, the gals will be a bit 'inhibited' but a tip given in public at stage side not only announces your intentions but often lowers the level of inhibition. Even the 'shyest' dancer might loosen or remove something for a small tip.
    COROLLARY b) Like the Lady Drink (#5 above), tipping establishes your intention for future possible 'rewards' based on reaction and performance. It very often has an immediate effect on body language.

  8. NEVER give out too much personal information.
    [Real addresses, telephone numbers and birthdates are VERBOTEN!
    The Thais believe that if you have someone's birthdate, you can cast Black Magic spells to affect their life. The gals from the Eastern Border regions of Thailand are renown for casting spells on the "best" customers in an effort to entice them to "invite" the girl into their life....]

  9. Ask about the possibility of "special shows".
    [Some bars will offer the possibility of spending some time with one or more of the dancers or waitresses in a more 'private' setting. It is NOT necessary to have all out sex with them (see Rule #6 above); the action can be limited to up-close performances and shows. Often the gals are somewhat relieved in not having to actually have sex with the customer (Yes, it DOES get old for them after some time.) and are willing to show-off in exotic ways. This may also present the opportunity to 'review the assets' of a number of gals before making a 'final' decision. This is especially true in those bars where bikinis or uniforms prevent a clear view of all the assets.]

  10. Protect yourself at all times.
    COROLLARY a) If you decide to 'do it’; wear a condom (or 2);
    COROLLARY b) When walking between bars, especially if you are alone, be aware of your surroundings.
    COROLLARY c) Never carry more money than you can afford to spend or lose.
    [It is best to prepare for the night's outing by purging your wallet of all but the most essential items. Carry only the money that you are willing to spend. On the outside chance that you might forget yourself or that she might walk away with your wallet, remove all credit cards and ATM cards. Better safe than sorry.]

  11. Treat her with respect.
    [Yes, she is a prostitute but she is also a woman; worthy of your respect. Treat her right. Pay her a fee commenserate with the services rendered; toss in taxi fare home. If you think that you might want to see her again, tell her so. Most Thai gals DO NOT like to have their pictures taken, dressed or otherwise. If you are so inclined, ASK first and take a "No" as a No.]

  12. Be wary of the sob story : mother sick; buffalo sick; house needs new roof; child in hospital. [Given #11 above, SOME gals are in it ONLY for the money and will use ANY ploy at any time to extract more from your wallet (see #9). Especially effective is the "I want to stop 'dancing' and open a business" story. Don't fall for it; unless you have know the gal for at least six months and visited her home town with her. Then, it MIGHT be serious.]


31st May   Discouraging Property Purchase Via Company

Perhaps a news item not to be taken at face value as enforcement in Thailand can always be regional or even just be a short lived fad. Anyone effected should follow more detailed debate on forums such as Thai Visa

From the Bangkok Post

Thailand's booming property sector has been thrown into confusion by a new regulation issued this month that requires all partly foreign-owned companies to prove the source of their funding before purchasing land, industry sources said Tuesday.

The new Interior Ministry regulation that went into effect on May 25 has already started to slow sales of housing estates in Thailand's popular seaside resorts, such as Pattaya, Phuket, Hua Hin and Samui Island, which have been specifically targeting well-to-do foreigners as vacation getaways or retirement homes.

The property boom ended on May 25 , said Ronachai Krisadaolarn, managing director of Bangkok International Associates, a Bangkok-based legal consultancy firm that caters to foreign clients.

Thailand has strict laws prohibiting foreigners from directly purchasing property themselves although loopholes in the law allow them to own land and their houses through long leases or a "nominee company," providing the company is majority Thai-owned.

It is common practice for such "shell companies" to include Thai nationals who have been paid to act as nominees to facilitate the deal and who have invested nothing in the purchase.

The new regulation, signed by Suraart Thoingniramol, deputy permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry, is designed to halt the use of such companies for property purchases in the future.

If it appears that an alien holds shares or is a director or it is reasonable to believe that a Thai holds shares as a representative of an alien, the officers shall investigate the income of Thais holding shares, delving into the number of years [they have spent] in the current profession and monthly salary, reads a translation of the law. The provision of necessary evidence is required.

The new regulation is actually an enforcement of Thailand's existing laws, legal experts said. It's not a radical change. It's a radical implementation, Ronachai said.

The regulation has already started to stall home sales to foreigners, sources said.

There's a lot of confusion, said Simon Landy, managing director of the Primo Co, a property-development firm. Some land offices don't know what to do with it, and many have simply stopped transferring land.


18th April   Passports Last 6 Months Longer

From Stickman

The Thai government has made some changes to immigration laws.

Foreign nationals who are visa exempt or able to obtain a visitor permit for Thailand (that's the 30 day stamp), no longer require passports to be valid for a period of six months. All that is required for these nationals is that the passport be valid for at least the period of maximum stay allowed (i.e.. 30 or 90 days depending on nationality).

If the passports expiry date is less than the maximum period of stay, visitors may stay up until the expiry date of their passport. For example Americans can travel with passports valid for at least 30 days and should receive the 30 day visitor permit or should the passport be valid less than 30 days, they will only be permitted to stay until the expiration date of the passport.

This is a very welcome amendment to immigration laws. I used to always think that the requirement to have 6 months left on your passport essentially meant the expiry date on your passport was 6 months earlier.


18th April   One Way Tickets

If you are arriving in Thailand without a visa and are expecting a 30 day entry then you really should have a booking for onward travel. If you have a valid visa then you do not require onward travel booking.

From Pattaya Secrets

Proof of onward transit is something of a sticky issue among airlines operating into Don Muang Airport in Bangkok. An archaic Thai immigration law states that one must have return/onward transit in order to be admitted without a visa at the airport, but in practice no one is ever denied entry and Thai immigration officials do not check for onward/return transit.

Hundreds of thousands arrive each year at Don Muang with one-way tickets and the intent to leave the country overland. However, because this always-ignored law states that the airline responsible for bringing you to Thailand with a one-way ticket must pay for your return ticket in addition to a fine if you are denied entry. for this reason, a number of airlines do not allow you boarding at your point of departure without a return ticket (though they will let you purchase a one-way ticket in the first place, strangely).

The airlines that give you trouble over this fluctuate wildly, and often it simply depends on the mood of the airline staff at the check-in counter. It does seem to be mostly western-based airlines that raise problems with travelers over this issue, but in truth it is impossible to list which airlines will or will not because there is no way to tell. Trying to phone your airline for information on this issue is mostly pointless, as the operator will simply quote official policy and tell you what you already know. The best advice if you end up in the situation of being denied boarding for this reason, is to simply to purchase a one-way cancelable ticket from Bangkok to a neighbouring country's capital (ie. Vientiane) on the spot, for after your arrival in Thailand, at your point of departure, and then simply cancel the ticket once you arrive in Bangkok. Make sure that you arrive in good time if you end up having to do this.


12th April Drink Drive Limits

From Pattaya City News

Police checkpoints are armed with breath-testing equipment and we would like to remind you that the legal limit blood-alcohol level here in Thailand is 50mg per 100ml of Blood which equates to one glass of wine and one small bottle of beer. (The limit is the same as for the majority of European countries but is less than the UK limit of 80mg) If you are caught over the legal limit you will spend one night in prison, or you will have to pay 20,000 baht bail. This will be followed by a court appearance.

Ensure that you are carrying your driving license and insurance documents along with ownership papers for your vehicle and most importantly do not drink and drive.


27th February   Thai Whiskey

By David Swartzentruber who has lived in Thailand for more than six years and, in the United States, worked as a psychologist treating alcoholism.

From the Bangkok Post

It seems that on a weekly basis Public Health Minister Phinij Jarusombat floats new proposals to curb drinking in Thailand. The latest suggestion, to prohibit the sale of alcohol at hotel bars and restaurants at certain times of the day, brought with it a predictable backlash from the Association of Thai Travel Agents and the Thai Hotels Association, who are demanding more public input on these ''decrees''.

On the face of it, the government should heed the tourist sector's request, because the new curbs smack of prohibition, which has been proven not to work. Read up on the failed Prohibition Era in the United States (1916-1933) and you will understand why.

That is why taxation and education are the tools most modern countries use, but it seems that the message has not yet reached Phinij. It might be good at this point to take a step back and examine what Thailand's actual drinking problem is.

The latest figures available are the World Health Organisation's (WHO) 2004 ''Global Status Report on Alcohol'', which suggest that Thailand's drinking profile differs substantially from most other nations.

In the consumption of beer and wine categories, Thailand doesn't make a scratch; it is not among the top 20 consuming countries for those drinks. However, when it comes to spirits Thailand ranks sixth in the world, with a consumption rate of 7.13 litres of alcohol per person.

The drinking profile of more advanced countries shows that citizens consume beverages of lower alcohol content, such as beer and wine and not hard liquor. That is why Thailand's consumption profile is unique and tragic.

If this figure surprises you, it should not, as it is a mirror-image of the excise tax structure on alcoholic beverages in Thailand. When the Excise Department adjusted excise taxes on alcoholic beverages in October 2004, the tax on whiskey went up slightly, but taxes on beer and wine could not be raised as those taxes were at the highest possible level under the department's current tax structure. Thus, it is not surprising that Thais drink high-proof whiskey in large quantities, it's what they can afford.

The result is Thailand's tax on table wine is the second highest in the world, for example, and it is the world's seventh largest Scotch whiskey market, Scotch industry executives say.

Thus, the current excise tax structure encourages the consumption of beverages containing high amounts of alcohol and discourages the consumption of beverages with lower alcohol content.

This taxation system is a sure recipe for the alcoholism problem Thailand currently faces. It is actually a government-sponsored problem that goes back many years when the Thai government had a monopoly on the production of alcohol.

As the Excise Department has failed to adopt a more socially-conscious excise tax structure, it has fallen on the shoulders of the Public Health Ministry to tackle the problem. This accounts for some of the bizarre and seemingly outlandish policies coming out of the ministry recently.

For most of last year continuing into this, the ministry has forbidden the sale of alcohol in stores or departments in stores that sell alcohol before 11am and between the hours of 2pm and 5pm. It is doubtful that this move has reduced alcoholism. The ministry has not offered any statistics that it has. But it has caused inconvenience to shoppers and added stress to the clerks at the counter. It is totally absurd and also turns off tourists.

So what effective steps can Thailand take to combat alcoholism?

Perhaps Thailand can draw some clues from what has transpired in mainland China's most trendy city, Shanghai. At the end of 2005, the consumption figures for alcoholic beverages in Shanghai showed a dramatic shift. For the first time in history the consumption of moderate-alcohol wine and beer topped spirits. This result is not a chance occurrence; it is a result of Chinese government policy. In 1987, the Chinese government began urging citizens to consume more beer and wine and less spirits to reduce alcohol-related health problems.

So where is Thailand on this progressive path to better public health? It appears nowhere. Completely lost, without a clue, is the Excise Department.

About four years ago at a holiday wine tasting, this writer bumped into the then Public Health Minister, Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan.

After the traditional exchange of opening pleasantries, I told Sudarat that the country's excise tax policies did not mesh with its public health goals to contain alcoholism. She looked me in the eye and said, ' You have made your point ,' shrugged her shoulders and then walked away. It seems even very powerful politicians are humbled by the intransigence of the Excise Department and its relationship with the liquor industry.

But Sudarat is not alone; add Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the list of politicians who have seen their power diminished by the people at Excise. On May 28, 2005, Mr Thaksin proposed a reasonable solution to rectify the excise tax on alcoholic beverages. During his weekly Saturday morning radio broadcast he suggested that alcoholic beverages should be taxed according to the amount of alcohol they contain, that is the ''international standard'', he said, and it is. That is what China has done.

In October 2005, the Excise Department trotted out its tax revision. What they did was to cobble together the traditional ''ad valorem'' tax (cost of production) with a coating or veneer of the international standard that has created a multi-headed monster that appears to be the worst of both systems. The Excise spokesman who presented the new tax structure said it would ''take longer'' to study a more comprehensive revision of the tax method on alcoholic beverages. Most people construed that statement as bluffing on the issue.

Without the cooperation of the Excise Department, Thailand will continue to be a whiskey-inebriated country and the Public Health Ministry's efforts will damage the economy but not curb alcoholism.

Unless the excise policy is re-jigged to address the problem of consumption of high-proof whiskey through taxation and education, Thailand will continue to have an ineffective grasp on the drinking issue.

Implementing the ''international standard'' of alcoholic beverage taxation combined with education could help Thailand get a grasp of the drinking problem and even increase tourist revenues at hotels and restaurants, rather than the prohibitionist tactics currently being proposed.


26th February   Tea Junction

From The Nation

After being deluged with complaints from the public, the Royal Thai Police has ordered a probe into the widespread allegations that traffic police collect illegal tolls from motorists.

The roads where most of the illegal tolls are allegedly collected are Vibhavadi-Rangsit and Bang Na-Trat, said Maj-General Somyos Phumphanmoung who is in charge of the probe.

Officers will monitor the locations identified in complaints and take photographs and videos to use as evidence of any misconduct they uncover, he said. If no misconduct is found, the traffic checkpoints will be inspected to ensure they are official.

Public complaints indicate that there are many unauthorised checkpoints set up by rogue officers throughout Bangkok.

Officers found guilty of collecting illegal tolls face charges of extortion and abuse of authority, Somyos said. Initial investigations found that the illegal tolls were being collected in the same way a criminal network extorts money, he said.

He urged the public to file complaints of police corruption at the website , or by calling the hotline 1299, or (02) 205 1148 and (02) 205 1299. The lines are open 24 hours a day.

Somyos also identified 14 places where illegal tolls are allegedly collected, including Vibhavadi-Rangsit, Rama IV, Kanchanapisek, Phaholyothin and Rachapreuk roads. Checkpoints have been set up near areas where minor traffic infractions are common.

For example, for the inbound lanes of Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road, a checkpoint was set up about 100 metres from the passenger pick-up spot in front of Jae Leng Plaza.

Rather than directing traffic and helping motorists, officers at the checkpoint were focused on collecting money from taxi drivers who picked up passengers outside the authorised zone, he said.

Police at three other checkpoints – near a police housing compound on Ratchayothin, the entrance of Din Daeng tollway and in front of Don Muang Airforce Base – spend much of their time ticketing drivers for illegally switching lanes.

Illegal tolls are also allegedly collected at Soi Charan Sanitwong 13, and Tripetch, Ngarmwongwan, Sathorn Nua and Phetburi roads, as well as at the Surawong and Urupong intersections.


16th February   Tourist Police Overstay their Welcome

From Phuket Gazette

The 12 foreign tourists arrested on the morning of February 8 for overstaying their visas, were freed on Sunday.

The most that any of the 12 had overstayed was six days. Others were just 24 hours over the limit.

During their five-day ordeal they spent the first two nights on dirty police cell floors in Kapoe District and the next two locked up in minibuses on overnight journeys to and from Bangkok, where they were sent to be processed for deportation.

The detainees were eventually spared deportation from Bangkok following successful negotiations between their embassies and top Immigration officials in the capital.

They were then returned, still under detention, to Ranong, from where they finally left the country under expulsion orders. They then re-entered the country as free men and women on new tourist visas.

The arrests have caused confusion and fear among foreign tourists and resident expats, who for years have been able to depart the country after overstaying – within reason – their permit-to-stay by simply paying a 200-baht-a-day fine.

One of the 12 arrested, Australian Chris Taylor, 31, told the Gazette today, We were under arrest the whole time … when we weren't locked in a cage we were being escorted by Immigration or other police officials … many people did not sleep at all for the whole time … They weren't giving us information, and when they did give us information they lied to us," he said.

He said that when he finally got back to Phuket, nobody could believe he had been locked up for five days because of a one-day overstay: The way we were treated was shocking … Some of the food I couldn't eat; it was just bloody dog food. The Kapoe Police did their best to accommodate us; they tried to make us comfortable. They did their best with the sleeping arrangements, but I don't think they really knew what was going on.

But the Tourist Police, Immigration Police in Bangkok and especially the Immigration Police in Ranong, none could speak English at all – and they were very rude, treating us like crap.

Janpen Munsa, owner of the Penphet Visa Run Company, said the arrests were unprecedented in the company's six-year history and had hurt her business because former customers now feared arrest if they use it: Why was our vehicle pulled over and our overstayed customers singled out?" she wanted to know.

Anchalee Praphut, owner of Angelina Travel and Tour Agency, which arranged the visa tour for one of the overstays, said the whole episode had sullied the reputation of the Tourist Police. She had to plead with the police to allow two of the group who were diabetic to have insulin shots, which they had to pay for themselves. She called on the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to look into the matter, saying that TAT efforts to promote tourism abroad would be all for nothing if the Tourist Police treated foreign tourists so badly after they arrived.

Ranong Governor Mekin Methawikul, who was informed of the issue by K. Anchalee, told the Gazette that he had sent a formal request to the head of the Ranong Tourist Police for a report about the incident.

Gov Mekin added that, as the arresting officers were low-level police, it was unrealistic to expect them to communicate well in English. The tour company staff, who speak English, should have explained to the tourists what was going on.

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