Record numbers of Belgian men are marrying Thai women in Thailand.
Based on a per capita analysis, the most likely foreign man to marry a Thai woman is a one from Belgium reflecting the growing numbers of Belgians
seeking love in Thailand.
Thai Airways last year restarted daily flights to Brussels in Belgium after an absence of thirteen years and was over 90% booked in its first week of
operation. Relationships between Thailand and Belgium have always been warm but the new growing numbers of relationships between Belgian men and
Thai women marks a new departure.
The figures also suggest that there has been a marked increase in the trend of Belgian men seeking marriage with Thai women. A 2009 a study of
foreign men marrying Thai women at a number of Bangkok registration offices showed that Belgium ranked fifth in terms of the number of Belgian men
marrying Thai women. Taking into account the population of Belgium, the statistics from Bangkok's marriage registration offices show clearly that, more
Belgian men marry Thai women each year surpassing the rate for men of other nationalities. While the vast majority of such marriages are very successful
and long-lasting, problems can occur, particularly when they couple decide to settle down in Thailand rather than move to Belgium.
Any regular visitor to Bangkok will be familiar with the Thai Belgian Bridge and the large numbers of Belgian businessmen who seem to operate in
Thailand's capital city.
The numbers of Belgian men travelling to Bangkok and Thailand each year in search of love and marriage continues to grow although the picture is
different to some countries in some respects and similar in others.
Researchers find it particularly difficult to identify the large numbers of Thai women living in Belgium who are married to Belgian men. This is a similar
pattern to the UK where Anglo Thai couples tend to keep to themselves and apart from the normal Thai community. One of the darker aspects of the story is
the large numbers of Thai women who are trafficked to Belgium and work in the sex industry comprised mostly of massage parlour in the urban centres
throughout the country.
This was brought to the attention of a Belgian government minister visiting Bangkok some time ago. When he asked why there were such delays in the
processing of visas for Thai women immigrating to Belgian it was explained to him that in Antwerp alone there are 600 Thai women working in the sex
industry. As in other countries, there has also been an explosion of Thai restaurants which have become unofficial hubs for Thais living abroad.
'I am a student that has come straight from my homeland to Brussels to study Accountancy; I cannot cook so well so it was a nice surprise for me to find
so many Thai restaurants here. Now when I feel lonely sometimes and hungry I drop in to feel at home again for a little while,' says Chalee from Bangkok
who studies at an international university in Brussels.
However, not all immigrants to Belgium are so lucky. The position of Belgium as a key transit point between Africa and former Belgian colonies and the
UK have made it a magnet for human trafficking throughout the globe. This has resulted in stringent government policies designed to clamp down on the
trade. In turn, this has made it more difficult for genuine Belgians meeting Thai partners in Thailand to obtain visas but the need for such regulations is
understandable. It appears that Belgium like Germany and some Scandinavian countries has an overlap between Thai women who are married to Belgian
nationals and those working in the sex trade.
'My wife was approached by another Thai woman that we had met in a Thai restaurant and told that he could make very good money in this business, I
told her to tell them to go away and now we keep to ourselves, this is a real problem in Belgium. I think there are many Thai people from the underground
here and you must be very careful. I have even stopped giving advice to friends about their girlfriend's visas' said one Belgian man from Bruges.
Many Belgian men marry Thai women and settle in Thailand rather than Belgium. While the majority of marriages or relationships between Belgians and
Thai women are very successful, it should be remembered that Thailand is not Belgium, and that Belgians may not receive the full support of their embassy if
things go wrong. Everything is not always ideal, as the following stories indicate.
Some Belgian men suffer bad experiences when they decide to remain in Thailand with their new Thai wife or girlfriend, and while any foreigner
deciding to relocate to Thailand should consider their financial situation very carefully before deciding to do so, sometimes this is not enough.
'I am a Belgian, I have nearly finished my work, and I am divorced from my wife after working with her in our restaurant for nearly thirty years. In three
months I will be setting off for a live in the sun and leaving the troubles of my old life behind although I have been warned that I must not be too comfortable
in Thailand which also now has problems, in particular for older farangs' laughs Dirk (53) who has rented a home near Jomtien beach in Pattaya for the next
Dirk may be one of the lucky ones who have decided to live in Thailand with his Thai girlfriend because the visa
restrictions made it difficult for him to
bring her back to Belgium. He is careful with his money and travels twice yearly to visit his son and daughter from his previous marriage in Belgium.
In spite of Dirk's enthusiasm for a new life in sunny Pattaya, he is cautious after reading reports of horror stories in recent years involving Belgian men
who have opted to live in Thailand.
An accountant from Belgium on Bangkok's streets
Fifteen years ago a 47 year-old Certified Public Accountant relocated to Thailand after divorcing his wife in Belgium with whom he had three daughters -
now married. He moved to Thailand because most of his external financial auditing contract work was in that area of the world.
Alain met his future wife while vacationing in Pattaya, and after they married they had two children, both daughters. His salary, plus travel and
accommodation expenses when travelling between Belgium and Asia enabled him to live comfortably with his Thai family.
Alain's problems began with a car accident in Thailand. He received severe injuries to his back which involved six months rehabilitation. His medical
insurance paid the initial costs, but in order for his insurance to continue after his release from hospital, he would have to return to Belgium. His problem was
that he required daily assistance in carrying out even the simplest tasks. Due to his estrangement from his Belgian family, he decided it would be best for his
family if he remained in Thailand.
After being released from hospital, his Thai wife looked after him but his rehabilitation costs were very high and after consuming almost all his savings, he
was repatriated to Belgium in February 2007 by the Belgian Embassy.
After generating sufficient funds, he brought his Thai family over to join him. Alain's daughters are now Belgian citizens with Belgian passports. After
rehabilitation he accepted a new job that eventually involved increasingly more travel to the Asian subcontinent. He then decided to move back to Thailand in
2008 after spending nine months in Belgium. Alain also believed Thailand to be a better place for his children to grow up in compared to his own childhood
experiences in Antwerp.
After completing his assignment in Thailand, he was persuaded by a fellow Belgian to start up a trading business in Thailand on his behalf. It appears that
the purpose of this was so that this friend could get a visa for his Thai wife to move to Belgium. Once that had been done, the business was to be
over to the friend.
Part of the 2 million baht ($65,000 US) declared capital of the firm was transferred to the friend's wife as a wage, which provided sufficient grounds for
her to be awarded the Belgian visa. The friend and his wife then disappeared leaving Alain in extreme financial difficulty. It was impossible to locate these
people, and Alain had to pay the 2 million baht before he could deregister the business.
Unfortunately, his three Belgian daughters had not been supportive of his decision to start a new family with his Thai wife, and he felt that he may have
lost contact with them and his grandchildren forever. They also refused to help with his financial situation.
The Belgian Embassy refused to help Alain, and his non-immigrant visa has expired. He was unable to leave Thailand and unable to work due to a lack of
a visa or work permit. His wife worked in a restaurant to feed her children, but the couple temporarily split up due to arguments about money. Her father, a
Tuk-Tuk driver, was not helpful. His wife had two children from a previous marriage, one of whom suffers from Down's syndrome, and her mother's time is
spent looking after them.
Once the world's financial downturn eased, Alain received a few offers of work from Belgian companies, but he has been unable to travel to Belgium
due to a lack of finance. To file for bankruptcy would mean an end to his career and CPA license. The Belgian Embassy refused to help him on the pretext
that it has already repatriated him once and that after he decided to return to Thailand, he was on his own in his embassy's eyes. It informed him that his
story is not unusual in Thailand.
Alain was left with hope the Belgian authorities will change heart and repatriate him to Belgium. However, when he informed them that his living
conditions would not be tolerated in Belgium, the response was 'This is not Belgium sir!' He became an illegal alien in Thailand, largely through no fault of his
own other than trusting a business associate. The embassy offered him a list of orphanages that would take his children, and he lived in squalor in Bangkok
Alain's unfortunate experience is not unique, and Belgian men should be aware of their rights, and lack of them, before deciding to move to Thailand with
their new Thai brides. However, it must also be stressed that the vast majority of men who do decide to live in Thailand are very happy with their decision,
and that so was Alain until he made that unwise investment decision.
However there are increasing reports of financial swindles and sharp dealings involving foreigners taking advantage of foreigners in Thailand
in urban centres like Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. 'My advice to any foreigner relocating to Thailand is to keep low profile and stay clear in particular of
other foreigner experts if you cannot verify or be absolutely certain of their bona fides. Any foreigner living in Thailand should be clear that you are an alien
and will not be treated the same as Thai nationals. I'm not talking about corruption; I think Thailand is improving somewhat in this respect. I mean when in
Rome do as the Romans do, in Thailand you're well advised to keep well within Thai law and be circumspect,' says a media observer who has lived in
Thailand for over 22 years.
Belgian with Thai wife found dead in Pattaya
Belgian man Gerard Kaufen married a Thai woman and decided to settle down in Pattaya. However, things didn't work out and his wife left him. Kaufen was
subsequently found shot, apparently by his own hand, after being attacked and robbed by his ex-wife and her boyfriend.
Three days after the robbery, Kaufen had telephoned a Belgian friend, also settled in Pattaya, to complain about being robbed of 3 million baht ($96,000
US) plus some other items. His friend reported to the police that Gerard Kaufen had been extremely upset at the incident, even three days afterwards.
The day after the phone call, the police were called to Kaufen's home where he was found lying dead on his terrace, with a gun lying beside him. A
neighbour had heard two shots, and run out to find Kaufen lying dead. He had suffered a 3 centimetre wound on his forehead and a shot through the head,
passing from right to left. The conclusion was that Gerard Kaufen had killed himself by shooting himself in the head.
Thai woman in Pattaya bites Belgian man's penis
Last year Pattaya Police were called to the Pattaya Memorial Hospital to speak with a Belgium Tourist who claimed that his girlfriend had attempted to
bite off his penis. Mr. Eddy Van De Velde aged 56 from Belgium who seemed remarkably calm received a serious wound to his penis caused by a bite. The
alleged attacker, his girlfriend of one month was apparently angry over accusations that Mr. Van De Velde was seeing other women and during love making
she attacked him and then left his hotel room. The wound to his penis was serious but reparable and Mr. Van De Velde did not immediately make a Police
Report relating the incident although the Thai Police took full details of the case.
Stories like this illustrate a potential negative side of Belgian men marrying or dating Thai women. These tales illustrate to Belgian and indeed all foreign
men in Thailand that things can go wrong. 'I think there is something about the laid back atmosphere and sunshine that causes middle aged foreign men to
lose all sense of reason in Thailand and when you involve beautiful Thai women, it can turn to madness', says our media source.
It goes without saying that the vast majority of marriages between Belgian men and Thai women are successful. This is why word of mouth has resulted
in increasing numbers of men from Belgium travelling to Thailand making them the most likely foreigners to marry Thai women. The continuing economic
downtown in Europe and dramatic changes in society has fuelled this movement.
One of these Belgians is Christian (41) from Ghent:
'My mother divorced my father after 25 years of marriage and my two older brothers have been divorced by their wives after only five or six years of
marriage. I had dated many women in Belgium but I have always thought the odds were against me if I decided to marry a Belgian woman. After my
relationship ended I talked to some friends and I decided to try Thailand.
'I know all the bad stories and I have already met some women online who wanted only money but I have also met some good Thai ladies and now I
have settled for one from Korat in Thailand. She has been home to visit Belgium now two times already and we are getting married later this year. 'I know
Aim (my girlfriend) and that's how I make my decisions. We are together and I want to be with her. I think many men from my country (Belgium) maybe are
just not ready for the different culture'
However for those Belgian men that decide to remain in Thailand should be aware, not just of cultural differences, but also of the degree of support they
can expect from the authorities, both Thai and Belgian. When things go wrong, you might be on your own and have to rely on your friends and family to help
you out. Thailand is indeed not Belgium.