Grapevine: Thailand myths


Thailand myths

To round off the old year, here are some of the most commonly believed myths of living here. So you won’t believe a word of them in 2022. Happy New Year.

The driving licence

It’s commonly supposed that a driving licence of your home country allows you to drive in Thailand for three months or so. Not so. Only international and Thai licences are valid for driving any vehicle here. The myth likely arose because many traffic police may not realize the difference, or prefer not to notice. If you wish to convert your home licence to international here, you may need to get your embassy to confirm its authenticity.

Prostitution question

You could be forgiven for believing that. But the Entertainments Venue Act of 1960, never repealed, did outlaw sex for money on a very wide basis indeed. The act, in its early days, was used once or twice temporarily to close down “bawdy” houses, but has since fallen into oblivion. There are separate laws against the prostitution of persons under 18, mostly recently in age-of-consent legislation of 1996, subsequently updated.

Visitors under 16

Many foreigners do register their children under 16 for the 90 days residence report and don’t allow them to have overstay visas before leaving the country. It is sensible to do that. None-the-less, immigration laws do not actually cover boys or girls under 16 so they cannot be penalized for overstay or expired visas. That discretion is specifically for immigration-related laws and does not apply to other crimes.

Digital nomads

There has been a barrage of publicity of late about foreigners who earn their living armed only with a computer and a WiFi connection. The impression has been given that digital nomads now have their own special visa. Not so. The whole issue is still a murky one. However, the authorities mostly ignore the issue unless presented with clear evidence that the individual in question is taking employment away from a Thai national.

Work permits

The common assumption that any work done by a foreigner requires a work permit is no longer absolutely true. There is, for example, a four year and hi-tech Smart visa which does not require a separate work permit, whilst voluntary work may now be covered by a special non-immigrant “O” visa. Also, short attendances at business meetings, trade fairs and the like are exempt as are some sports and artistic activities deemed to be in the interests of Thailand.

Divorce is easy

That is easy in Thailand only if both partners agree and can attest the fact at the local amphur office. In other words, they must agree the terms of the settlement in advance. Otherwise, it may be necessary to prove in court a criminal offence has been committed by the partner of the one seeking the divorce. Many foreigners have entered into marriage here too lightly, not appreciating how complex matters can turn out. Not everybody is lucky in love.

Buying a condo

Foreigners can indeed buy a condominium in their own name but subject to certain conditions. For example, he or she must be able to prove the cash was brought into Thailand for that purpose which in turn requires certain paperwork to show the Land Office. Another rule is that the units owned in the condominium must be in foreign names up to 49 percent and not beyond. The proposals to extend the percentage have not been adopted so far.

Embassies and safety

Foreigners frequently contact their embassy for assistance when threatened by someone. Diplomatic posts vary in which specific services they offer, but all agree that the Thai police are responsible for your safety here. Embassies do not offer personal protection programs and likely won’t help you financially. The worst embassies will just send you a list of lawyers without any endorsement or recommendation.

Feeding strays

It seems harmless enough giving out food to homeless cats and dogs. Just doing them a favour. But under a 2020 act, anyone doing precisely that is acting as a guarantor and can be held legally liable for other expenses, such as spaying or veterinary care. The same act orders domestic animal owners to register their pets with the district authorities. However, there has not been any visible enforcement to date. Maybe 2022 will be different.