It has emerged that the United Kingdom is the No.1 choice for Thai women who continue to marry UK men in increasing numbers.
Figures released by the Thai government for the Bangkok area in 2010 show that there were nearly three times as many marriages between Thai women and UK nationals than the nearest country which turned out to be the USA.
This comes as the growing numbers of Thai brides traveling to Britain is beginning to produce a reaction which is has both positive and negative implications for the future of the trend. The old concept of Thai mail bride has now being replaced by Thai women using the internet to open up the world and opportunities. In Britain, Thai women are increasingly being integrated into the UK community and countering the negative stereo types which are still very strong. More community groups are being set up by Thai women even in Scotland where there is now a growing Thai community in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Thai women are proving themselves here in the UK where, you have to say, British people have always been fair minded and willing to give a chance to those who work hard,' says Thanit Chomphra who is married to a building contactor in Manchester. In Manchester in 2010 a hit Theater production featured a Thai wife as the heroine in a comedy reminiscent of the British Carry on movies of the 1960's and 70's. the show, aptly titled Thai Brides and Tea Cakes.
The boom in UK men seeking Thai Brides means that there are now as many as 100 couples each week get married either in Thailand or the UK. The United Kingdom's embassy in Bangkok is one of the busiest in the world handling over 700,000 visits every year. It has also emerged that the extent of the phenomenon of UK men who opt to marry a Thai bride or seek a Thai life partner is increasing, with many men from the United Kingdom now opting to live in Thailand. The other emerging trend is that younger UK men have Thai girlfriends on a long term basis. One UK mother recently expressed concern that her 25 year old son, an internet executive with a stable job in the United Kingdom, had brought his Thai girlfriend from Pattaya home for the second time and as planning to settle down with her.
However, there is concern that the Cameron government in the United Kingdom may be about to tighten the screws on the immigration of Thai brides to the U.K. This is nothing new as the ex Labour Minister David Blunkett threaten to introduce legislation to deport Thai women who married UK men and requesting a pledge not to do so. The UK's immigration policy is already stringent and is destined to prevent abuse. However in recent months a number of incidents have occurred indicating that the government has tightened policy.
One of the victims of this new policy may be Irish farmer Eugene Mc Elroy whose Thai wife Saowanit is currently stranded in Thailand after being refused re-entry into the United Kingdom after returning to Thailand for her mother's funeral. Eugene and Saowanit live in Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland which comes under the jurisdiction of the UK Home Office.
Saowanit was refused a visa despite having lived with her husband for over two and half years on his 50 acre on the basis that the Home Office felt that the farmer's income was insufficient for him to maintain Eugene and his Thai wife. 'I'm heartbroken and I can't make head nor tail of it,' the Irish man told a newspaper in Ireland 'I've no money problems. I own my own home, 50 acres of land and a lot of cattle. I've no mortgage, but they don' take that into account. Their silly bureaucratic rule is preventing me from being with the woman I love,' he said.
Eugene and his lawyer in Ireland are currently fighting the UK Home Office decision.
Eugene's story comes at a time when the upsurge in the level of Thai brides entering the United Kingdom is provoking some negative media coverage despite positive efforts by the growing Thai community to integrate itself into UK society.
The following are some examples:
- A UK man in Southern England is speaking to the press after he returned to the UK having given up over $500,000 worth of assets following a dispute with his wife. Stephen Jones says he made the decision after a UK neighbour in Thailand, Ian Beeston was beaten to the death by a gang organized by his Thai wife in what Thai police confirmed was an attempt to get his money after he had married and settled in the country. Like Beeston, Stephen had married a bar girl from Pattaya and had settled in rural Thailand building a large home on land owned by his Thai wife's family. 'I know my Thai wife had set me up from day one. In Kalasin I know of three other foreigners who were kicked out by their wives after they completed property purchases. They say there's no fool like an old fool. But I did genuinely love Lamyai.' Stephen now lives in a housing association house in England on public benefits. His wife Lamyai disputes this saying 'If Stephen had been a good husband I would not have asked him to leave,' she said. 'But when he argued he called me a thief and a prostitute. We were quite happy for four years, even though he spent a lot of time going out drinking with his farang friends in the area. Stephen had a house he could have lived in all his life if he respected me as his wife, but at the end I was just his servant.'
- An UK agony aunt who advises a middle aged man in the United Kingdom that his marriage to a younger Thai woman was doomed to failure because the all the Thai woman wanted was a 'better life' and the man wanted an obedient sex partner. The tension in the relationships stemmed from the Thai woman's insistence that she must send money home to Thailand to support her family.
- A man from Scotland who is being sued by his Thai wife after she was refused entry at a UK airport after he informed immigration authorities that he was no longer interested in her. Konokrat Nimsamoot Booth (41 years), the wife of Dennis Booth (67 years) spent a night in a holding cell at Glasgow Airport in Scotland before being deported. This high profile and well to do Thai Bride highlights that not all Thai Brides are solely pursuing an economic motive. She is a now a regular guest on Thai TV chat shows and he case has been taken up Thailand's Royal Council as many Thai commentators and activists feel that Konokrat's human rights were infringed. Despite this, the UK immigration authorities in Scotland are standing firm on their position.
Annual research conducted by ThaiLoveLines shows that the average age for UK men who are successful in finding Thai life partners, Thai girlfriends or Thai brides is declining as more younger men use the service. While Thai brides and Thai women are founding new communities in the UK, the Thai government is believed to have set up special response units at Thai consulates and embassies throughout the world to deal with cases of abuse. A University graduate who has studied the plight of Thai women emigrating to foreign countries have called on the Thai government to take the following steps:
- To produce information for Thai women and foreign partners explaining the very real culture gap between Thai women and foreigners so as to highlight Thai culture and traditions. In particular the duty that Thai women feel to their extended family. It is also recommended that a course be made available to Thai women through colleges in the North east of Thailand.
- To produce information for Thai women emigrating to foreign countries on language requirements and consular services. Also information on how to represent Thailand in a positive way.
- To study the financial and economic impact of the growing trend on local communities in Thailand.
The continuing boom in Thai women who marry men from the United Kingdom and the newer trend of UK men opting to retire to Thailand continues in spite of the perils that have been highlighted. The situation is exemplified by one UK man who contacted ThaiLoveLines and who lives happily with his current Thai wife in Roiet province.
Ian Fletcher (55 years) has built a home there with his Thai bride of six years, Namthip. Ian was previously married to a bar girl whom he divorced in 2002 and was forced to make a settlement through his lawyers in order to avoid a claim against his assets in Thailand and United Kingdom. His advice: 'I never lost faith and I'm a wiser man because of it, my advice to anyone is simple, don't get sucked in by a dream, in Thailand there are all sorts just the same as home. Use your commons sense and realise that we're all shaped by our backgrounds one way or another. The internet has created a new era where international marriages are increasing and that's a good thing.'