A Canadian man who has lived in Phuket for over a decade has been arrested for working illegally in Thailand, a charge he claims stems from a dispute over maintenance fees with one of the co-owners of a condominium complex in which he owns five units. [...]
Speaking to the Gazette from inside the jail cell, Mr Nixon explained that he started spending winters in Thailand about 20 years ago to escape the Canadian climate, and now owns five units at Blue Canyon. He has also been a member of the Blue Canyon Country Club since its inception in 1992.
He told the Gazette that he was not working in Phuket, but had merely been elected by fellow condo owners as their “juristic person” representative at an annual meeting. Serving as a condo owners’ representative is an unpaid position and does not constitute work, he maintains.
There are many foreigners on the island in similar positions, and to his knowledge none has ever been accused of working here illegally for this reason, he says.
Mr Nixon concedes that Thai labor law as it applies to foreigners is vague about what actually constitutes “work”, but he feels the authorities are selectively enforcing the law in his case at the behest of one of the condo co-owners who is in arrears on his maintenance fees. [...]
“Does the local government really want to ask us to keep investing in properties and not allow us to sit on management committees? There is something strange about this. If Thai authorities don’t want foreign investors, I think they should just tell us clearly, as opposed to arresting us,” he said [...] (Phuket Gazette)
A fascinating story.
-1- the canadian is wrong. He was “working” indeed. He needed a work permit.
Here is the definition from the Department of Employment :
“Alien” means a natural person who is not of Thai nationality; “ Work ” means to engage in work by exerting energy or using knowledge whether or not in consideration of wages or other benefits.
Now you start to understand… The trap.
[and we shall remember the.... Tsunami scandal... Foreign volunteers came to help cleaning the disaster... and the thai authorities were adamant : "they are not paid, they are volunteers, they help us, they do a hard work indeed, but... they need a work permit, comprende ? "]
-2- he’s right : everybody is doing it ! That’s the beauty of it. Many foreigners are violating the thai law… They don’t even know it… For years… And then, for some very specific reasons, one day they are nailed. Because, technically, they can be nailed.
You’ll find the same circus about business ownership, house and land ownership, visa etc.
A message on ThaiVisa Forum summarizes perfectly the situation.
You’ll find that the laws are specifically written so that they can be selectively enforced. I don’t think it is an accident that the law is vague.
If you refuse to keep a low profile and offend the wrong person you ARE going to be guilty of something.
-3- the canadian is right… Foreigners should ask themselves : Do I really want to invest in this country ? The Condo Law allows freehold ownership for foreigners… But many other laws try to prevent foreigners… to live in Thailand. It’s a huge Potemkin Village. There is no certainty.
-4- the thai laws rely on one very powerful principle : the fog of war. I showed it at lenght in my special Foreign Business Act dossier.
The fog of war creates and maintains the uncertainty. Uncertainty gives a competitive advantage… A leverage.
-5- the bottom line is simple : foreigners are tolerated in Thailand. Until one day… you piss off the wrong thai big shot… and then, oh my, it’s so easy to screw you.