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Some western men think about buying a Thai Bride!

Friday 8th June 2012 1:22pm

Death of UK man in Thailand highlights Thai Bride stereotype in British press

In March this year a leading UK newspaper reported the murder of an elderly UK man and his 'Thai Bride'. The 'Thai Bride' was 52 years old and the couple had been married for a number of years.

Most foreign men and Thai women who are married and are located in foreign countries report that the single biggest obstacle to the success of their relationships is not cultural differences or language barriers but a real prejudice towards such 'Thai Bride' relationships which often takes them by surprise. 'I'd seen Fred on Corrie and I knew that many people would look at me a bit strangely but what I didn't anticipate was the hostility particularly from other women here,' says Andy from Chester in the United Kingdom. 'But my wife was great, she was stronger than me, she just wanted to make new friends.'

In most cases the Thai bride and her relationship partner simply 'get on with it' and despite the prejudice research shows that the divorce rate for such relationships is about 15% for marriages between Thai women and foreign men registered from 1992 to 2012 in Bangkok whereas a similar divorce rate for relationships in the United Kingdom was 33% and in some European the countries the figure is well over 50%.

It is quite normal to hear Thai women who marry European men referred as their 'Thai brides' rather than as their wives? There is a great deal of stereotyping of Thai women that borders on racism, yet Thailand and its capital city Bangkok are no more immoral than any other city in the world.

Thailand appears to have had a bad press in some quarters relating to Thai women and their motives for marrying Western men. There are many examples of this, not only explicit, but also implicit in Thailand being regarded as the sex capital of Asia by most Western men. In fact, that is nonsense, and before discussing the reasons for that statement let's have a look at some examples of the way in which a Thai bride is stereotyped and how Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, is maligned.

How much is a Thai Bride?

American TV serials and Hollywood often portray the hapless Thai Bride and the abusive US husband (or foreign husband). The truth is that most relationships between Thai women and men from developed countries in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia are happy and constructive marriages. Some are more old fashioned relationships while others involving marriages between younger Thai women and western men are comparatively modern. It is the success of these Western Thai relationships and marriages that is causing other women (and men) in Thailand and partners from developed countries to expand the phenomenon through word of mouth and recommendation. Nothing succeeds quite like success. If the horror stories about Thai Brides and abusive western men were the norm the trend would not continue to grow.

However there are certainly cases or even patterns of abuse in marriages between Thai women and foreign men particularly in northern European countries. The marriages and relationships which fail result in suffering for all parties. In many of these cases the foreign husband has entered into the relationship with the old fashioned concept of a 'Thai Bride' who can be bought.

'There are many older guys out there still trying to find out how to buy a Thai Bride! These men see this as an opportunity to exploit and not surprisingly these are the relationships that fail and it usually is more grief for the guy in the first place,' says a Canadian journalist who works for a leading newspaper in Bangkok. 'I wouldn't necessarily say these guys are looking for sex slaves but they often have a rigid idea of what they want and it is not exactly a meaningful loving relationship. Many of these guys think that they can find a Thai Bride without even coming to Thailand! All they want to know is what is the price of a Thai Bride!'

Documented cases of abuse of Thai women have been unearthed in Germany, Sweden and Australia in recent years where wronged Thai Brides have been rescued from lives of abuse but who successfully pursued their rights in court.

However the authorities in nearly all western countries have developed programmes to deal with these situations beginning with strict vetting of all visa applications. In these countries measures have also been taken to protect western men from abuse at the hands of Thai Brides who have deliberately entered into sham marriages in order to exploit visa regulations and spousal property rights in foreign countries. Some commentators feel that such measures are unjustly weighted against the Thai Bride denying her the same rights as that of indigenous brides. A Thai Bride married to a UK man with a university education and who had worked in Thailand's media scene was held by UK border police in a holding cell in Glasgow Airport after flying in from Thailand when her husband repudiated their marriage. The Thai woman sued the UK authorities and won her case but still faced difficulties obtaining a visa to travel to the United Kingdom to pursue her interests including a divorce from her UK husband. She is now reported to be taking a case to the European courts.

'I think that the governments are in a tricky position and are simply not really up to speed with what is going on. Part of this is poor media coverage. I feel most of these cases arise from the old fashioned mail order bride syndrome. It's quite different for many of today's Thai women, who are educated and prospects, just that they are looking for something more promising; they search for relationships through the internet. In fact I know of some Thai Brides who help support Western men living in Thailand but you'll never hear any Thai woman admitting this. I know of a few cases like this,' said our Bangkok based journalist.

Death of a UK man and his Thai Bride

The report, by the UK's Daily Mail newspaper in March of 2012, concerning a UK man and his wife who were murdered in Thailand caused quite a reaction.

68 year-old Michael Raymond and his 52 year-old wife Suchada were found dead in their beach bungalow on the Gulf of Thailand. Three suspects admitted to the murder: a local fisherman, chef and security guard. They had robbed Mr. and Mrs. Raymond of a cell phone, an ATM car and 2,000 baht.

It is not so much the murder that inflamed expats living in Thailand, but the way the UK press reported the incident. The headline referred to "British Pensioner and Thai Bride". The couple had been married for two years and had been living in Bangkok since their marriage.

Expats, many with a Thai Bride themselves asked why the couple was they not referred to as Mr. and Mrs. Raymond, rather than as Mr. Raymond and his Thai Bride, Suchada Bonkamdi - are Thai wives not worthy of taking their husband's name in the British press? This is an explicit example of how Thai brides are treated differently to wives of other nationalities - and borders on racism. Why could they not have at least been referred to as husband and wife, which is precisely what they were?

The headline was a form of disrespect that inferred marriages between Thai women and Western men to be a sham, and arranged only for sex or money. Mixed marriages are not uncommon in Asia, and it seems only in the West that they are regarded as abnormal enough for the wife to be referred to as the man's 'bride' and not his 'wife', even after years of marriage.

Is every woman in the UK who has been married for only two years still referred to as a bride? Absolutely not, so why this stereotyping by people ignorant of the true situation in Thailand? What is it about Thai women that some should regard their marriages to foreigners with suspicion? It all started with the Americans back in the Vietnam War!

Thai Brides and American R&R

In the 60's and 70's, Thailand was used as a huge airbase by the U.S. during the Vietnam War, from where they launched air strikes on North Vietnam. Thailand was requested by the government of the USA to provide rest and recreation facilities to the American airmen, known as R&R. The Americans relabeled this to I&I: intercourse and intoxication, which appeared to be permitted by the Thai authorities because the financial benefit of the occupation to Thailand was significant. It is important to note however that prostitution in Thailand was made illegal by the government in 1960 and this remains the position. However a law was introduce in 1966 which seems to have allowed the establishment of the sex industry which thrived in this era. It was the birth of what we see now as the infamous Thai sex industry.

The 'year after year' $16 million cash injection into the Thai economy became an essential part of the country's income, and after the war it had to be replaced somehow. This was achieved by rising tourism which in turn fuelled increased 'I&I', with growing numbers of Thai women flocking to the capital and other tourist centers to make some extra money - keep in mind that there was, and still is, a vast gulf between the rich and the poor in Thailand.

Although many American men married Thai women, many also used them as mistresses and looked after their financial needs. However, once the Americans left many women were left destitute and had only one way to make money. Many American men, and those from other Western countries plus Australia, returned to Thailand after the war seeking more I&I, and the myth grew.

In fact, the truth is that Bangkok has only three red light districts, and is no more immoral than Amsterdam or the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. Are Dutch and German women stereotyped in the same way as Thai women? Of course not. How many people are aware that the concept of bargirls and go-go bars originates in China? Is China declared immoral, and do we hear of Chinese 'brides'?

Also, why is it when a British, Dutch or American man states that he is marrying, or even has married, a Thai woman, he is asked if she works or has worked in a bar - or even if she is or was a prostitute? If they don't ask it outright you can bet that's what his friends and family are thinking! How would you feel if your friends asked you if your fiancée or new wife used to work in a sex bar? It's the same thing - and if you don't think so then you, yourself, are guilty of stereotyping young Thai women.

Prejudice and Racism about Thailand

In fact, the word 'degrading' would be more appropriate than 'stereotyping'. Europeans and Americans appear to be completely ignorant, both of the Thai way of life and of their social structure. The vast majority of Thai families are hardworking and completely respectable, and those Thai women that marry Western men do so both for love and to improve their social and financial standing.

Yes, there are bargirls that will take advantage of westerners, but such young women are not restricted just to Thailand - you find them in every city in every country in the world. It appears to some to be both prejudice and racism that is involved here. The question has been asked many times - if a white man married a young white woman living in Thailand would she be referred to as his 'wife' or as his 'Thai bride'?

The problem actually goes further than that - young Thai women are generally regarded as being of loose morals. Whenever discussions get round to Thailand, the sleazy comments and sexual innuendos are endemic. Thailand appears to be regarded the country of sleaze, even though the country offers no more paid sex than most others in the world. The problem with Thailand's image is that the authorities are seen to support the Thai sex trade because it is thought to represent a significant part of the country's imported income. However the authorities in Thailand do take steps to deal with the sex industry and prostitution is not legal in Thailand as it is in some European countries. Even the attitude towards the Thai authorities needs to be examined.

Thailand is a developing country where corruption is on the decline and there is evidence that many deprived young women in Thailand are now opting for education and work opportunities as the Thai economy is improving. Part of the reason for this is the internet which has assisted many younger Thais particular Thai women. It is true also that many poorer Thai women use the internet to find friends, boyfriends and even life partners abroad. But this is not confined to poorer Thai women but also extends to more affluent Thai women. It is sometime difficult for those outside Thailand to understand the trend among this generation of Thai women and Thai men to look further than Thailand to embrace western culture and to learn. Many Thai women and Thai men using Thai dating sites simply want to interact with foreigners and learn English. Internet research shows that 75% of those using the internet outside Bangkok are Thai women.

Moral and Religious Thai women

The reality is that only a very small proportion of Thailand's population is involved with the infamous Thai sex industry, so it doesn't say much for the education or the morality of European men if they regard Thailand as the place to go for sex - particularly for underage sex. What many do not realize is that Asians look younger than Europeans and Americans and your 14 year-old Thai is likely to be aged over 21!

Next time you are in London, Paris, New York or Melbourne, check out the classified ads and men's magazines. You will find just as many massage parlors and escort agencies as you will in Thailand, and that's without looking at the sleazier areas of New York, Paris and London.

The stereotyping of Thai brides is a sign of the way that westerners are uneducated about Thailand as a land of beautiful temples, wonderful art and strong family relationships. The people are largely very moral and religious, and Thai families as supportive of each other as anywhere else on earth.

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Prejudice towards Thai Brides exists and is the single biggest problem for Thai women and their foreign partners
Reporting the murder of a UK expat and his 'Thai Bride' highlights the stereotyping of Thai women in the UK press. Success rates for marriages between men from the United Kingdom and their Thai brides registered in Bangkok are twice as successful.
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