Surreal Relations: The Sex Industry of Vietnam & Thailand.

Sex tourism offers the key to a deeper understanding of the real nature of the global economy, of the true meaning of so-called 'interdependence' between profoundly unequal partners.

By Jeremy Seabrook
Third World Network Features

Pursuit of Bliss is for dreamers to be shattered by schemers!

This issue has a peculiar poignancy, for the relationship between rich tourists and the sex workers they meet in Thailand or the Philippines. It is one of the rare occasions where privilege confronts poverty face to face. In this sense, sex tourism makes tangible one small part of a fateful global relationship, whereby the rich depend for their comfort and advantage upon the labor of the poor. The West usually perceives this relationship to be the opposite of what it is: we, by means of aid, humanitarian assistance, the promotion of 'free trade' and the market economy, like to think we are contributing towards the 'development' of the poor, towards global economic growth, the creation of wealth, with all the benefits that flow from these things to the disadvantaged.

This ensures that, for the most part, the global connections remain hidden, and the serene confidence of the West in its own goodness is maintained. Who from the West ever seeks to make friends, for instance, with the half million young women working in the garments industry of Dhaka, whose daily labor furnishes us with so many items of cheap daily wear - shirts, trousers, jeans, jackets, blouses? The slum hutments around the polluted ponds of Dhaka in which these young women live are not our concern, any more than is their daily remuneration of - on average - US$0.66.

The curiosity of people is not aroused by the army of Chinese workers who provide most of the toys which make the eyes of Western children shine on Christmas morning. Who asks in what conditions they work, how much they earn, how they live, what pressures have driven them into the factories and sweatshops of the city?

Similarly, the greatest obscurity envelops the lives of those whose efforts supply us with the kinds of luxury food that are available in any Western supermarket: fruit and vegetables from Venezuela, Zambia, Jordan, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Brazil. Whose land has been used to facilitate the export of these amenities, which subsistence farmers have ceased to be self-reliant in the process?

Similarly, who is bothered by the frightful industrial suburbs of Jakarta, whose occupants assemble electronic goods for world-wide distribution, or labor for sub-contractors to the transnationals, whose names are known to all. The global market has this immense advantage for the rich, that it sets up an almost total segregation between producers and consumers, an unacknowledged form of apartheid, which effectively obscures the connections between them. This, in turn, permits 'sovereign' consumers to consider only how they will spend their precious money, as though this bore no relation to the ways in which the goods they purchase are produced; and leaves ample space for the advertisers and publicists, whose job it is to cleanse all the objects of consumption of the filth, blood and pain with which they are created.

This is why the sex industry is significant and symbolic. It is one of the few arenas where people from North and South and east & West actually meet one another, where living humanity comes face to face with the reality of its own experience. Surely, nothing more direct, immediate and inescapable could be imagined.

And yet, these encounters remain, for the most part, full of lies, evasions, pretence and illusion. It should not be thought that while the real relationship between rich and poor remains in perpetual fog, mere flesh-and-blood meetings are going to dispel the cloud of unknowing in which these actually take place.

There is a broad pattern in the relationships that develop between Westerners and the young women and men whose lives they touch on their gilded and temporary migrations to the South.

Of course, some individual attachments become permanent; some grow and develop into enduring friendship. Lasting relationships, successful marriages do occur. For the casual tourist, there are brief meetings without consequences and no tomorrows. But many foreigners find themselves enchanted, attracted by the apparently compliant, welcoming and tender ministrations of Thai sex workers.

Their experience of Western sex workers is that they tend to be functional, mechanistic and loveless. When they meet Thai women, they believe they have found something special. The seemingly warm and affectionate sensibility of Thais makes them feel they have transcended the crude market transaction and found love.

Those who have recently 'discovered' Thailand can be heard praising the superiority of Thai over Western women. 'They are all woman.' 'They know how to give a man what he wants.' 'She cannot do enough for me.' 'When I go into the bathroom in the morning, I find the toothpaste already squeezed onto the brush - that's what I call caring.' Of course, in this version of woman as nurturer and as sensual Oriental there are sexist and racist stereotypes, which the delighted punter does not perceive.

What he also does not realise is that there may well be a whole network of extended family in the village depending upon the remittance of the woman who is, after all, a sex worker. There may be children, elderly parents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins whose survival is guaranteed only by her earnings. He believes that he is loved for himself. As one worker said, 'There is no man so repelling, so arrogant, so devoid of charm who does not think in his heart that he is loveable.' The monetary transaction becomes buried in a haze of emotion.

Only when he discovers that he is expected to pay for and help keep many dependents, when he learns there is a hospital operation for a grandmother urgently needed, a brother to be put through school, a vegetable plot to be bought for a poor relative, he becomes swiftly disillusioned. The demands for more money force him to reevaluate the relationship. Self-righteous anger and resentment come to the surface. He begins to see himself as victim.

'I was conned, cheated, betrayed.' He reaches for other, racist stereotypes which are always readily available in the Western psyche. 'You can't trust them.' 'You never know what they're thinking.' 'They're dishonest, treacherous.' 'You can't trust them.'

This second stereotype is already implicit in the first. The Eastern woman as sensual and instinctively seductive becomes the scheming, duplicitous whore. As Siriporn Skrobanek of the Foundation for Women in Bangkok says, 'In no other country do people expect to establish long-term relationships with sex workers; nowhere else in the world do they even think of marrying them. So what is going on in their head, when they meet women in clubs, bars and brothels?'

The transnational sex industry is unique in that it makes explicit the underlying relationship between North and South, between privilege and oppression. But it does not make that connection clear to the actors in these sad, doomed dramas. The men all too often return home full of bitterness and anger. They, whose money buys them the right to travel half way round the world to make use of the sexual services of the poor, become sour and self-pitying, as though they were the victims of a global system of which they are supposed to be the beneficiaries.

In a deeper sense, of course, they are. For as they take the unacknowledged luggage of strange unappeased hungers on their travels, as they seek to assuage who knows what aching absences and internal emptiness in their lives, they are showing the limits of the rich market economies to answer many basic human needs. That they imagine they will transcend this by rushing to find some exotic commodity not available on the home market, is a sad paradox; for in their flight from broken relationships, ruined marriages, spoiled loves, they find they have a rendezvous with the same market which offers only different packaging and alternative selling strategies to those which they have left behind.

Sex tourism offers the key to a deeper understanding of the real nature of the global economy, of the true meaning of so-called 'interdependence' between profoundly unequal partners. It might have been thought that where rich meet poor face to face, where flesh and blood establish some of the most intimate relationships which human beings are capable of, that those involved might discover this.

That they do not demonstrates the power of ideologies of superiority. Even when Western men have been compelled to revise some of their sexist convictions at home, as soon as they travel abroad, these readily spring back to life, reinforced by some of the variants of a racism which they have scarcely begun to question.

- Third World Network Features

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Good guys and bad ladies of the night!

This article is from The Thailand Guru
Ploymitr Bldg., Floor 7
Sukhumvit soi 2
Klongtoey Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110 THAILAND

Riviera Tower 3, 226/15-16 Bond St., Muang Thong Thani
Pakkred, Nonthaburi, Bangkok 11120 THAILAND

 

First of all, I must state the fact that I know several guys who have former bargirls as wives, and the ladies are exceptionally good wives. They cook, they clean meticulously, they serve their husband, and they put out an equitable effort to help their husbands in day to day life. They go to school to improve their English, and they complete their coursework for their level at a reasonable rate. They are full partners in a relationship.

However, these are the exceptions to the rule. Far more commonly, a nice guy puts out all the effort, and money, and gets burned in the end by an ungrateful and lazy bum of a lady who carelessly does things to piss off their husband/boyfriend (e.g., neglectful of his needs and/or blows money despite budget arguments and/or is unfaithful). When it comes time to part ways, she takes all she can get and makes his life miserable, in a most ungrateful manner.

When you're a guy in Thailand who starts talking with prostitutes, you find a few who say clearly that they do not want to do what they are doing, but they have no money, no skill, and few alternatives. You want to help, feeling that they've just had bad luck in life.

Many of these ladies are quite pleasant and calm. Others have a lot of energy and hustle at what they do. Some even have considerable education, e.g., are attending the university and supporting themselves by "working" on men at discos.

I'm an entrepreneur with 16 years of continuous self-employment and hiring people. I can always find something profitable for people to do in order to sustain themselves in society, including Thais from top to bottom. However, after several attempts at hiring university level ladies who asked me to hire them out of prostitution, and other freelancer down the skills scale, for anything from running messenger errands around town (low education), to answering the phone and making simple phone calls (medium education), to simple computer tasks (university level), I now must agree with my predecessors in this regard -- you will almost surely get burned.

The following describes some of my experiences. I have had 0% success with hiring ladies of the night who ask for and agree to a job, though admittedly it's a sample of less than 10, and I gave up a long time ago in view of alternative sources of hiring such as word of mouth in my Thai communities. However, I know a lot of good guys who have tried the same thing. The success of my associates is also pretty close to zero.

We always offer them more money than what other Thais are eager to work for, wage levels and job descriptions that many self-disciplined Thais would consider fortunate to get. However, the freelance prostitutes fail to be nearly as reliable or do acceptable quality of service. Fortunately, we usually don't even have to fire them. They just don't show up for work after awhile ... that is, they don't show up at the office, but they do show up at the discos again.

In considering "saving" a prostitute, guys lower their expectations for the lady's standard of work and professionality, and dramatically up the salary and fringe benefits.

I am sure that there are some prostitutes out there who would do a good job if given an opportunity, and be very appreciative. However, they are a very small percent, and I haven't met them in all my years here.

(If you want to know why the go-go bars are so strict and "cruel" by deducting a baht per minute for late ladies, and strict in enforcing that rule, this is why. As bar owners have told me, it's the only way to get them to work on time. Some companies have adopted this policy for professional employees, too.)

First, they usually don't show up for work on time, if at all. Secondly, if they do show up, then they aren't as good a worker as others, and often do careless work. You care for them, but they don't care much for your business and your clients. Why should you care any more?

In the end:

  • You have wasted effort, money and precious time

  • Your heart has been torn and your faith in mankind has disappeared as fast as your money!

  • Some things you expected to get done in your business and/or your surreal relationship just never materialize!

Fortunately, thanks to some of my predecessors sharing their wisdom with me, as I am sharing my experiences with you, I myself did not lose heavily. However, I know guys who tried to set up their former prostitute girlfriend in a business of their own and lost a LOT of money. Some have been successful, but they are just a very small percentage -- the exceptions to the rule. Far more commonly, the lady neglects to do what she says, spends the money irresponsibly "like there's no tomorrow", and sometimes outright scams the guy.

LISTEN TO THESE GUYS. Make up your own mind, but do listen, and look for the warning signs.

Hearing many of their stories, I quickly see their mistakes from the start, and excuse them for being new to Thailand. On the other hand, I learned some painful lessons several times over in my 9 years here. Each time, I raised my threshold for helping people.

I really don't like to be negative, and I hope that my experience was unlucky, but let me share with you my experiences.

First of all, unlike some other foreigners, I don't tell ladies what they should do, or lead ladies too much. I don't do that with anyone. For example, when I interview people for a job, I must see initiative from them, and I hire only those who express initiative.

I am guilty of lowering my standards when it comes to helping a lady get off the street. I have also been wrong to believe that they would appreciate it and try to help me back. The same goes for some of my friends.

Let's go thru some of our experiences.

I've changed the names to protect the not-so-innocent.

Noot

Noot was intelligent, street-smart and had a lot of energy. She could speak English well, and could read and write it fairly well, too. She could do email. Noot hung out at the open air beer bars but I never saw her flirting with men. She talked more with other women, a joker, and just watched people coming and going, with no interaction with men. She was a friend who was somewhat interesting to talk with, but not someone to have a sexual relationship with, and I made it clear that I did not have sexual interest in her. (She is quite pretty, nonetheless, but just not my type.) She expressed that she didn't like going with men, but she could not do get a job to make enough money to support herself, her son (foreign father long gone and she hated him) and crippled father.

She asked about me, and I explained my business with her. She expressed interest in helping me, including stating some solutions to some problems I had. I was fairly impressed. She seemed perfect for a particular role. I just had street errands for her to do for starters, as her first test, but she was happy with that, as she needed a financial break.

She had sold her mobile for needed cash but had an active SIM card, so I gave her an old mobile handphone of mine, and since she had only 78 baht credit, I also got a 300 baht recharge card, and gave her a little bit of cash to eat and general expenses for several days. (I figured it would take just one day to test her.) I told her to wait for my calls.

I immediately sent her an SMS on the way home that night with a concrete task for the next day. That next day, at the end of the day when I had some time, I called her to find out how she'd done. She hadn't done the task, and didn't want to talk about the SMS. She just wanted to meet with me to talk more about the possibility of her working for me. What DID she do that day? She didn't have anything to report, and pressing the matter I found that she had just sat around at home.

I sensed that she wanted to meet just to pressure me face-to-face for more money. I've heard this before. Nonetheless, I had already invested too much of my own time thinking about her, and wanted some answers to some questions about her past. I'd jotted them down on a pad, preparing for an interview. I had nothing to lose, and if the interview went bad and she just asked for money then I'd get my phone back.

I decided to meet at a quiet place outside the bars, and stated a specific place halfway, careful to pick a place where numerous air conditioned buses go and there were nice coffee shops. It would be a 30 minute ride for her in traffic.

However, then she complained about meeting me halfway. It was a cheap bus ride on a main route from her home, yet she complained about the taxi fare, and in a tone like she was seeking excuses not to go. She wanted me to come all the way to her. Then, while I was talking, she just started yelling at someone else, not giving me her undivided attention. I felt disrespected, and in response my tone got more disciplinarian, stating to her that if she wanted to work with me then she would need to be more professional. She lost her self-control and started yelling at ME about how I was letting her down and screamed "f*** you!" twice in the phone and hung up. (Ten minutes later, she called me but I had moved back to working with my other employees and didn't bother to answer.)

Maybe her explosiveness is why her farang boyfriend left her for friend (and now ex-friend).

I still feel sorry for her, but she had her chance with me and she blew it. There are a lot of other people in this world who I can give a chance to, and they are more sustainable, profitable and mutually beneficial.

Ae

Ae was proper and strove to run her own business selling nice clothes, with the ultimate ambition of exporting clothes and other labor intensive things. She had nice styles herself, clearly an artistic sort. She also had a full high school education and had started at a university but dropped out shortly thereafter. Her stated reason was lack of money.

I had a client who was upgrading their CAD computers and had an idle stack of Pentium I's and 14 inch monitors. (This was MANY years ago.)

Ae had expressed interest in improving her computer/Windows/business software skills, so I bought one from the client for cheap, spent time reformatting and setting it up for her with good software, bought books for her, delivered it all and helped her get started with some personal lessons. However, when I was gone, she did nothing more than write emails to guys. She made no progress whatsoever on our strategy. Whenever I'd stop by with cheerful expectations, I'd be disappointed to find her just sitting around watching trash TV. Checking the computer, she had only done emails, visited on-line games, and other trash things. The only questions asked was how we could get the computer to play 3D video games.

I discussed my issues gently, but she was just quiet and pleasant, always accommodating and made plans for the next day, but never executed them. After a few weeks of that, I just dumped that "project". Shortly after that, she was back into the discos without money.

Jae

Jae was similar to Ae in stated aspirations. A friend of mine sent her to BCC (Business and Computers). Unfortunately, he had to push her out the door to get there on time, as she didn't watch the clock. When he wasn't there, she skipped class.

Guys out of town get stories from the ladies that they are attending classes, but having a private investigator check up on them reveals that many do not. In fact, some go back and get a partial refund of their tuition.

Pim

Pim did more damage than any other Thai prostitute, as regards my willingness to try to help. Same story, about how she felt very bad about what she had done and was doing, but needed the money.

Pim was studying a difficult subject in a university, was studious (as I observed repeatedly), was oh-so-close to graduation, and some checking revealed that her grades were fairly good. She was in fact a good student. I thought that if there was any prostitute who I could help get out of the business, then Pim was her.

I went and paid her tuition for her, gave her some cash to get her by for awhile, and by email gave her a list of phone calls to make to get information, which she could do at her own schedule.

Unfortunately, the calls didn't get made. She would call ME very sweetly when she needed more money, and the money seemed to go too quickly. I knew other students who stretched their money much further. Pim was just months from graduation if she just past her last (and most difficult) courses, and with her degree and grades she could immediately get a good paying job. With some excuses, I gave her a second chance. However, round two of this got a couple of business calls made but then slacked off, not caring about my business.

She was just another lady who was good at pleading for help, but was not willing to help me in return. Big talk, no implementation. Talk is easy...

The next time Pim called, I specifically raised these principles with her. She said she was sorry, but I said I'm sorry, too, and no "salary" until she does her work. I gave her another chance -- when the work is completed satisfactorily, then the salary is waiting. Her response? A pleading but increasingly aggressive "please don't do this to me, I have no money, what will I do now, boo-hoo-hoo, please not right now, the worst possible time, I have just 45 baht now and I was depending on you, I must finish my classes, ..." bit.

Just a few hours before her call, a customer had called me to pay me 2500 baht which he owed me, but wanted me to go pick it up and sign a receipt with his accountant. I wasn't going to spend the time making a special trip, so I had made a "someday when I'm in the area" kind of arrangement. However, I called back and he agreed that this lady could go pick up the money and sign for it.

The office was right along an air conditioned bus route from her Ramkamhaeng apartment, maybe a 30 minute trip and 14 baht each way. I called her and told her that if she went to pick up the 2500 baht, then she could keep it all, and she'd have enough money to get by a while longer until she could complete the other tasks I'd given her. She said OK, though not as happily as I expected. A few hours later I called the client but he reported no sign of her. So I called her back. She hadn't gone, sounded lazy, and at that point she asked me to go get the money and bring it to her!

Non-prostitute employees

The difference between these ladies and the people I normally hire is literally like night and day.

With normal people, no up front money to pay their apartment, food, etc. They take the bus habitually with no complaints, not taxis. I get the feeling that they have normal communities and "credit" among family members and friends, and are trusted by others in their community. They are more reasonable and composed.

I am careful about who I hire. For example, after receiving a referral from someone, I'll call them. In the telephone interview, if their first question is "how much is the salary" then the interview is over. If it is about the job description, then the interview continues on to the next levels, including the salary.

So, what are prostitutes planning?

Usually, they have no plan, except to find a rich foreign guy willing to support them. They live day to day. They don't make much effort to think proactively. They just follow and react to others in their environment, passive.

If they have a plan, then it is to sit at home and watch TV all day, gossip with their friends, and go shopping.

If you expect them to cook special food for you or do other considerate things -- for them to put out the same level of effort for you that you put out for them -- then you're usually setting yourself up for disappointment. In fact, you will be lucky if they can even manage the maid and gain the respect of one for long.

That said, I must say that there are exceptions, as I know guys who have wives and girlfriends who are appreciative, diligent and more than earn their keep. (Sometimes I wonder if the guy deserves the lady!)

However, the good situations are far outweighed in sheer numbers by the negligent ladies.

Over time, a guy becomes more and more skeptical about ladies who express a willingness to develop a career alternative to prostitution. Is it just easy talk, "at the moment"? That is the issue to resolve.

For awhile, I gave them credit for having the courage to venture out into farangland in order to expand their horizons. However, more often than not, it's just to find someone to support their lazy, ultra laid back lifestyle, and take them away for some exciting and free (indeed, profitable for them) vacation adventures.

You can put in a lot of effort, time and money to help them, but when you need it in return, will they give you a significant amount of time and effort to help you?

Don't try to make them into something they are not. They are professional pleasers, and they will please your need to try to help them, but most of them won't help you back. When the time comes, after they've sucked you dry, they will just spit you out, often dramatically ... more often than not.

If misery loves company, then let it be known that I've known guys who have lost millions of baht ($25,000+), some their entire life savings, all hard earned and saved. Beyond people I've known, I've also heard of guys who have lost TENS of millions of baht. One guy married the lady and bought a life insurance policy, assigning her as the beneficiary. Her family hacked him to death (not very cleverly, either) in order to claim the money. Thus, he lost not just his money, but literally his life.

If you have invested a lot of money into a lady and have been ripped off, then be careful about trying to get any of it back, considering the possible dangers of this pursuit.

In most Asian countries foreigners can not own property and many put their homes and businesses in their local wife's and girlfriends names...a big mistake!

Be thankful for what you've got, and don't expect too much!

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Passport Visas for Thai Girlfriends

(in case you do find a good one)

The difficulty or ease of getting a travel visa for a Thai lady to enter your country varies greatly from country to country. I have not yet had the time to address the issue in regard to any countries other than my own, the U.S., as covered below, and I would like to hereby solicit inputs from others who are citizens of other countries so that I may post them here for the benefit of your compatriots.

If you're legally married in Thailand, i.e., a signed, registered marriage, which is a whole other process that will also involve your embassy/consulate in documentation, then getting a travel visa is usually not difficult. However, just going thru the Buddhist ceremony isn't the same thing. (You can take lots of photos, which can help your chances in getting another kind of travel visa, but it's not the same as a registered marriage.)

The process is for your Thai girlfriend to get a Thai passport, then for you and her to apply at your embassy or consulate in Bangkok for a travel visa to your country. The first thing you should do is inquire with your consulate for a list of required documentation. You should also seek out others from your country who have done this before, to get a feel for how your embassy/consulate handles matters, and for tips.

Your embassy/consulate can reject a visa application without stating any reason. Just because they have given you a list of documentation to bring together doesn't mean that if you follow all the procedural steps then you will get a visa.

Further, you want to give it your best shot the first time, and not submit an application to see if it's rejected before you go to great efforts. Your girlfriend does not want to get a rejection noted in her passport. Notably, most embassies/consulates don't put any ugly "rejection" stamp in the passport, but do stamp that a visa was applied for on a particular date. If there's no corresponding visa stamp (essentially an approval), then a subsequent officer will probably take note and read between the lines -- a rejection. This is standard procedure. In fact, they'll often put the "visa applied for" stamp into the passport as they're handing it back to you after telling you that you've been rejected.

The reason for these problems is obvious. People from less developed countries want to immigrate to rich countries so that they can work there and make more money. If international travel were free, then the rich countries would soon be overrun by people from less developed countries. The domestic governments would be overwhelmed in dealing with people working and staying there illegally. To some extent, they already are. In fact, countless people from less developed countries get entangled in mafia circles whereby they work in overseas sweatshops or brothels, or meet a worse fate.

Some kinds of Thais have little or no problem getting visas. One example is wealthy businesspeople who are obviously going for business or a short vacation. Another example is students who wish to study at a foreign university and who have good grades, speak the foreign language very well, and are from well to do families. Highly educated people who have a high tech skill in short supply relative to demand in another country can often get a visa and work permit. (The latter is an unfortunate phenomenon called "brain drain", where the most valuable people leave their own country.)

Besides that, the things your embassy/consulate will be looking for are reasons for them to return to Thailand, e.g., land ownership and major assets, money in the bank over a long time (looking thru past bank books over time), and/or a good job in Thailand. If your girlfriend has a 6th grade Thai government school education, no business of her own, and no assets besides a little farmland in the middle of nowhere with a buffalo, then her chances are often slim.

Bar girls are routinely rejected. They usually can't even read English (or any other western romanized language), are high risk to not return before their visa expires, and are seen as likely to be prostitutes and/or get into problems in the other country. The embassies/consulates are also used to dealing with lonely foreigners who have come to Thailand on a short visit and with awesome naiveté think they have met the girl of their dreams in a bar, who they think will be grateful and loving ... blah, blah, blah.

Finally, I would strongly advise people on two things:

  1. Don't marry a lady just to get a travel visa. A marriage in Thailand is recognized in the U.S., i.e., if you are legally married in Thailand, then you are legally married in the U.S. I would not be surprised to find that it's the same in other countries. If the relationship doesn't work out, it may not be easy to arrange a legal divorce, plus all the paperwork proof you'll have to bring with you, including the translation issue, since the marriage documents in Thailand are in the Thai language. Take your time to make sure she's really the one you want to marry. If you think that you can get a "fiancée visa" (see below), then consider everything.
     

  2. Don't get into human trafficking. The underworld often pays farang guys money to marry a Thai lady (sham marriage) and take her to another country. I won't address the moral issues here, which are obvious. Just look at the realities. If you get caught, you can get into serious trouble, especially in your home country or as regards Thailand. Thailand's immigration is computerized, so that they can see your history and all associated notes. With international cooperation on these issues, even if you change passports (e.g., losing your current one), your records may be linked (as already reported by others in Thailand). If the lady you "courier" gets harmed or in major trouble, you may be an accessory to that crime. In many cases, neither the man nor the woman has much of an idea where she will really be going, and there are a lot of tricks out there, including forced sweatshop labor, prostitution, porno flicks, "snuff flicks" (e.g., where they are viciously raped, tortured and murdered in the movie), and various other tragedies. It is common for a poor lady to believe a trusted associate and take a chance with wishful thinking only to find that she's been tricked on the other end (less pay, or the job isn't a restaurant but is prostitution, she's imprisoned until she "earns" the mountain of money she owes for being brought over, she's raped and told if she goes to the police she'll go to jail, she's blackmailed about revealing her shame back home, etc., etc.). You probably don't know what will really happen. Maybe she will be better off with a real job, but maybe it will be a terrible tragedy. They'll usually try to convince you that it's nothing bad, of course. Or, they may not really know... But YOU are documented on paper as her sponsor.

This concludes the general discussion of travel visas. Below, I cover what I know of particular kinds of visas, based on what others have reported. However, your best source of information is your embassy or consulate in Bangkok.

U.S. Fiancee K-1 visa

A client of mine, who is trying to get his girlfriend to the U.S. on a K-1 "fiancée visa", sent me the following info:

    You have to file an I-129F petition with the INS in the states. It is filed at the regional office of the INS that has jurisdiction over the state you live in. The petition is very detailed (long) and you must prove you are financially able to support your fiancée/wife when she gets here. The I-129F forms can be downloaded from the INS site or they will send you the forms if you call. If you have previously been married you have to send a certified copy of your divorce decree with the petition. The processing time ranges from 4-12 weeks. If approved, the INS will send you a I-797 approval form and forward your petition to the embassy in the country your finance lives. The petition is valid for 4 months, i.e., she must get the K-1 within this timeframe. Some consular officers will extend the time if given a good enough reason. My packet I sent to the Texas Center was 47 pages long. It included proof we had met in person.. pictures together, copies of my passport with Thai stamps, phone records, etc. The primary focus of the petition is to prove support and that there is a valid relationship. Most petitions are approved, but some are not. Sometimes the INS will ask for more information. This delays the process by 4-8 weeks. Once the embassy receives the petition, they send the finance packet #3. This includes a biographical sheet, the actual visa application, instructions for the medical exam was at Bumungard and cost almost 4000Baht), instructions for birth certificates (must be certified), divorce decrees. etc. When all the info has been gathered, she sends back a checklist of things completed and the bio sketch. She retains all the other info and takes that to the interview. After the embassy receives the checklist they will send her a letter in a few weeks telling her the interview date. That is usually 2-4 weeks later.

    The interview can be a bitch!! If they suspect she ever worked in a bar, she will be grilled. If she admits having working there, she is denied. They may lie and tell her untruths to get her to admit she "worked." If she cracks, she's a goner. They are tough!! If they so graciously give her the visa, it costs 45 bucks and she can pick it up that afternoon.

    She then has 6 months to leave the country. Once she arrives in the US, she has 90 days to marry. If this does not happen, she must return to Thailand. Her chances of ever getting back to the states [would be low if she doesn't marry within that 90 days]. If she does marry, they file for an adjustment of status, authorization to work, and advanced parole. That allows her to leave the country (US) for vacation, return to Thailand, etc.

    The whole process through the Bangkok Embassy takes 4-8 months. If she is denied, the consular officer's decision can not be appealed.

I would like to solicit others' experiences and inputs from all countries.

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