Spellbound in the Land of Smiles

Homeless monk

Bangkok Post 19th Aug 2013

The number of homeless Westerners is on the rise in Thailand and the government is poorly prepared to deal with the emerging social problem, a charity warned Monday.

“We are starting to see more and more homeless foreigners, many of whom have separated from their Thai wives and now have no money,” said Natee Saravari, secretary-general of the Issarachon Foundation.

While foreigners can own condos, houses and other property are usually registered in their wives’ or girl friends’ names, meaning they have no rights and can be ejected.

The Thai charity has been helping homeless Thai people in Chiang Mai, Chon Buri and Phuket provinces for the past 10 years, but has recently branched out into assisting homeless foreigners as well.

“In Pattaya we see them sorting through the trash in front of McDonald’s for something to eat, and hanging out in front of restaurants asking customers for money,” Mr Natee said.

He estimated that there were more than 200 homeless foreigners nationwide, compared with about 30,000 homeless Thais.

“As many as 40% of the Thai homeless suffer from mental illness, but most of the foreign homeless are alcoholics,” he said.

The foundation has urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address the growing problem by setting up a system with embassies to cope with their penniless nationals, most of whom are living in Thailand without passports or on expired passports.

Thailand attracted more than 22 million tourists last year and has a growing population of Western retirees living in the kingdom on a permanent basis.

“Thailand’s laws covering foreigners are very outdated and should be revised to deal with the changed circumstances,” said Buaphan Promphakping, an associate professor of social studies at Khon Kaen University.

“Under the current laws, foreigners’ rights are not very well protected,” said Buapan, who has done research on the growing number of foreigners married to Thai women in northeast Thailand and on the kingdom’s expanding population of Western retirees.

The article can be found here

Nana Station

22 million tourists. That’s not a lot – only a fraction of the Thai population. Yet, a fair number of these tourists are not content to remain tourists. They want to be residents. First impressions – superb Thai hospitality, low cost of living and pretty girls giving them a lot of attention without much effort on their part. These observations are almost irresistible to any any guy of limited means and popularity in a developed country. Like Gulliver in Lilliput, they feel big.

Not all Thais are greedy and uncaring money-grabbers. In fact, few of them are all out to fleece the unsuspecting Farang. But that does not mean that they would understand that Mr Big needs to own a gold mine to satiate their appetites as “nephews” and “nieces” start appearing out of nowhere. Eager to impress or at least not to disappoint, the Farang splurges on the girlfriend’s dependents.

When cash is low and Mr Big tightens up, his Thai family may not understand that it’s because Mr Big is not that big after all. All this in spite of the insistence that they are not after the foreigner for his money. Less money equals less love. If they’re so used to receiving $1000, giving $999 may trigger an emotional storm. Downgrading is not an option. The fact is, they would rather believe that Mr Big is not opening his wallet now because he is supporting some “new interest”.

Surprising as it may sound, many of the poorer, less well-educated Thais do not know how to look objectively at a large sum of money and calculate, estimate or predict when it may run out. Instead, they just view it as “a lot of money” and spend without thinking that it’s a finite amount that can and will eventually run out! When pressured to help the extended family, many Mr Bigs in Thailand run out of money far sooner than they thought they would.

A penniless Farang is a useless Farang.

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