Condo owner arrested… for working illegally

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.

30 Responses to “Condo owner arrested… for working illegally”

  1. 1 Bedwyr 31 March 2009 at 11:34 am

    I don’t agree. He was engaging in his democratic rights pursuant to the Condominiums Act.

    Some piece of shit Thai did what piece of shit Thais do best, ratting out people whom they have a grievance against.

    I hope his balls fall off.


  2. 2 fall 31 March 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Hey, they can always ask for a Royal Pardon!

  3. 3 sammy 31 March 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Under this scenario, in order to serve on the association the foreigner would have to start a company for the sole purpose of serving on the board, which would require 2 million baht capital and four Thai staff in order to get the work permit. Even then he could own no more than 50% of the company and would eventually be required to pay corporate income tax on imputed profits. This, just to serve in a non profit advisory role. And it is doubtful whether the Corporations Department would accept such a company for registration anyway. So, what the Phuket labor department is really saying, essentially, is that foreigners may not serve on a condominium association’s board in Thailand.

    We all know that the laws here are intentionally vague so that corruption money can be extracted to solve the problems created by the same officials who interpret the law, but the real story is how local officials in each province are a law into themselves and can do anything without fear of accountability. It seems there is that there is no such thing as Thailand; there are, what, 76 Thailands? Each one a province and law unto itself. that is why it is so likely the country will split apart when the time comes.

    Anyway, it is well known that Thais don’t pay their condo fees and maintenance falls onto the foreign owners who have common sense to know that if there is no maintenance the entire building will eventually fail. Mr. Nixon pushed too hard and they slapped him down. Whether or not he broke the law is not the issue; there is no law to break. They make up the laws any way they wish. Mr. Nixon lived here a long time and he thought he was safe because he was seasoned; he was wrong.

    Anyone who buys a condo in Thailand outside of Bangkok must assume they will lose their investment. Anyone who invests in anything in the South must assume they will lose their investment. Thailand is a great place to live, in many ways, but you must never forget that one chance encounter with the wrong person, one traffic accident with the wrong person, one wrong word with the wrong person and you can lose it all.

    I will never forget after the tsunami how the tourists working here to help the Thai people rebuild their houses were threatened with arrest by the police and Phuket labor department. What was bothering them was they did not want the local people rebuilding their houses. The rich Chinese from Bangkok, the people who actually own this country, had already bribed the local officials to get chanote title to the beach lands the locals had lived on their entire lives. The tourists were messing up the scam and had to be gotten rid of. The labor law was the tool. You can see the hotels being built on that land now.

    The worst thing you can do here as a foreigner is to become successful, independently. Once you start making money you are no longer an investor but an exploiter of the Thai people, and then your troubles begin. Mr. Nixon either forgot that or thought he was somehow special. He was neither, and neither are you or I.

  4. 4 World Insanity 31 March 2009 at 1:20 pm


    “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.

    Taking the above literary. So if I grow flowers in my garden then I’m working illegally?

    How stupid can this get? Or is this a stupid question!

  5. 5 ThaiCrisis 31 March 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks Sammy. A good reminder of the Tsunami scandal. I didn’t make the link with the land issue. That’s probably the most horrible part : thais are good with scams against foreigners, but they are also very good at swindling their own fellow citizens.

    However I stick to my analysis : there is a law. The legal definition of “work” is very clear, albeit vague because very broad. The problem is : the law is not enforced… the same way, at the same time.

  6. 6 ThaiCrisis 31 March 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Well… I wouldn’t say it’s stupid… On the contrary it’s very smart. 😉

    The official definition is so broad, that indeed, they can nail you, for whatever reason. For that matter, having a drink in a bar could be interpreted as “working”.

    I remind you : we are talking here about the Department of Labour. It’s an official department of the Labour Ministry. It might be interesting to translate the thai version… But in any case, I knew that “work” could be “work” even with no “income”. We learned that during the Tsunami.

    In any case, it’s part of a system, that I called the “fog of war”. We have exactly the same principle with the Foreign Business Act and the infamous List 3 that gives the list of “businesses forbbiden to foreigners because thai are not ready to compete unless a licence is asked“.

    After hotel, restaurant, rice milling, legal services, architecture services etc… the last item of this list is : “(21) Other categories of service business except that prescribed in the ministerial regulations.” !!

    In other words : EVERYTHING they want. 😉 If they need to…

    It’s exactly the same logic, the same philosophy….

  7. 7 Fish 31 March 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Another great advert for coming/staying in Thailand , figures are showing huge drops in Tourism, the whole world tightening there belts..the reds are kicking up, people still remember the PAD acting up. And all they do is make it so difficult for the Farang that are staying here spending there money..Makes no sense..But then you give up after a while trying to make sense of it all.. Who are the real Thais anyway ? if the Chinese have such sway which the running of it all , i would be very interested to know how many full blooded Thai’s there are in this country ??? “The Land of Smiles”.. more like “The Land of one big Mirage” !!

  8. 8 George P Tuckeer 31 March 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Sammy, Thanks for such a succinct summery.

    This is the reason that no matter how many years you live in Thailand, how well you learn the language, how many Thai friends/relatives you accumulate, and how many deep fried insects you eat, it never feels like home.

    Anyone who brings all their money into the country thinking Thailand is where they want to hang their hat for good, is delusional.

    Always have an exit strategy.

  9. 9 Bedwyr 31 March 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Mr Handley describes the occasion when yet another constitution was being drafted (groan). I believe the hapless clod who was tasked with it that time was the senile old fart Chavalit, who was presumably less senile and less fart-like then than he is now.

    Mr Rex is reputed to have exhorted Chavalit to ‘Keep it vague. leave lots of room for interpretation’.

    Seems to be a conscious strategy to ensure the law can mean whatever you want it to mean and keep the tea money flowing.

    God I hate these fucking people.


  10. 10 Lothar 31 March 2009 at 5:31 pm


    I think the many Farangs here had a bad effect here. It’s not only that they are giving money they are also raising the prices and destroying social structure and consent.

    So kicking a lot of the rich Farangs out which were spawning like cockroaches in Pattaya/Phuket area might be good for ordinary Thai people.

    By the way, you see the same in New Zealand. There the rich US refugees made it almost impossible to buy a home for an average local.

  11. 11 prokester 31 March 2009 at 7:58 pm

    I thought you needed to be caught red handed so to speak….WORKING. Otherwise it’s just the same as the LM laws….blind accusations and all that.
    So in theory, cooking the wife dinner is working….so is cutting the grass…sending the kids to school…helping translate a sales assistants bad English in a shop to a tourist…
    Sounds like this chap got shafted right and good, but it is more of an isolated case rather than a new norm.
    Trully hideaous by any standards.
    I doubt they can make a case against him.
    A point worth considering is that the vast majority of Thais really do not know how much bull foreigners have to deal with. Most are V surprised to hear that a farang cant buy a house if they are married to a Thai etc etc.
    As they say, if you realy hate someone, take them through the Thai courts…..far better than a a beating.
    There is almost no hope of positive change. It’s a timebomb and my money is it will go off before the rains.
    This issue will really piss a lot of people off and wake them up to something they can relate to. Much credit to TC for posting it so quickly.

  12. 12 James 31 March 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I dumped my investment condo in Phuket for safety concerns last year. I’ve been hearing of too many muggings, stabbings, and other legal problems for expats living there. It seems the authorities in Phuket are not interested in providing for the safety or rights of foreign investors. I’ve also decided not to vacation there any longer, just doesn’t feel safe anymore.

  13. 13 sammy 1 April 2009 at 1:00 am

    >>>The problem is : the law is not enforced… the same way, at the same time.

    That is by design, Which is why you cannot call it “law”

    >>>So kicking a lot of the rich Farangs out which were spawning like cockroaches in Pattaya/Phuket area might be good for ordinary Thai people.

    Few Thais lived in Phuket or Pattaya before the tourists came. Outside of these provinces land prices are very affordable for Thai people. Besides, foreigners are not allowed to own land. Right? Wink, wink.

    >>>Anyone who brings all their money into the country thinking Thailand is where they want to hang their hat for good, is delusional.Always have an exit strategy.

    The Thais dont want us here; they resent seeing foreigners living here. It makes them feel small that they need to allow fat, beer bellied, tattoed drunks to marry their daughters just so their family can afford a D-Max truck to drive around during Songkran. Who can blame them for that? I cringe seeing too upon seeing Thai women with the jetsom of Europe.

    Someday they will kick all these people out, back to the factory in Scotland or wherever, and no one will care.Their cars, retirement mutual funds, bank accounts, furniture, provident fund contributions, all of it will of course remain behind. But it is the good people who invested in holiday homes, established real businesses that employed Thai people who will lose the most. Why do you think they let all these houses be built knowing the owners are skirting the law by falesly registering the houses under company names? Because they intend to take them away some day.

    When you here the drum beats to protect the “Thai People” you know the Chinese in Bangkok and their lacky Thai bribe taking stooges are ready to cash in on the efforts of others.

    The Chinese own this country. They dont eat Thai or speak Thai at home. They wai to the Thai officials outside and laugh about it when they are at home.

    It is a race between the Chinese and the Muslims to grab as much as they can before the whole house of cards collapses. The Thai and us are just caught in the middle.

  14. 14 crocodilexp 1 April 2009 at 1:30 am

    Sure, we Farang can complain, but we should never lose sight of who is *really* exploited and cheated out of their labor in Thailand, without any way of getting out or moving elsewhere. The poor of Thailand, the farmers, street vendors, sales people, the bargirls… they’re being f***ed by us Farang, and by rich Thais alike.

    So, open your eyes, take it for what it is. Law is weak, and you can lose a lot by offending the wrong person. On the other hand, most of us came to Th precisely because life here is not as rule-bound and stilted as it is back home.

  15. 15 DavidB 1 April 2009 at 2:41 am

    I notice today is 1st April………

  16. 16 Krid 1 April 2009 at 2:58 am

    This kind of story always reminds me of a farang friend teaching village kids English in the local temple. Until someone told him he needed a work permit. The kids are certainly better off now…

    Anyway, the condo scam (foreign owners pay the entire upkeep whose amount is decided by the majority Thai owners who themselves pay 0) is in the same mould as another scam: The land rental scam.
    Remember about three years ago authorities started targetting limited companies formed to buy land?
    This was am important step in the land scam: Now the only way to “buy” a house in Thailand is to rent the land long-term. So the rich (Chinese-)Thai families with land in Southern beach resorts rent out the land to foreigners (agents or buyers) for a legal maximum of 30 years. And for this they get amounts that equal the price of freehold! The deal is sweetened by owner/agent talk of one or two 30 year extensions. These extensions may be put into the rental contract but this is null and void as the promise won’t be registered by the land department. And when the lesser changes, the new one is not even bound by these promises.
    So, the Thailand-addled holiday maker has a nice house built, pays for electricity and water supply and gets the place wired up. And in thirty years, the land owners get the upgraded land back (without any payment whatsoever of course), in most cases with the house, because who will break his “own” house down. And the house/land can then be rented out again, this time for a much better price. The return on investment with this system is enormous and risk-free, and the foreigner gets shafted as usual.

  17. 17 Fish 1 April 2009 at 3:43 am


    I agree with your points, the Farang have over run and ruined areas of this country, the same thing has happened in countries like France and Spain whole areas brought up by a foreigners and i understand how countries want to protect this area.But don’t
    still build hundreds of condos or house projects aimed at the Farang ?The government should bring in some rules against the rich Thai / Chinese from building more and more of these projects but they don’t or won’t will they..because they are the ones who put them in power.They push the prices up by selling at prices that the locals can’t afford..

    They tempt people here whilst on a hoilday “come and live the life in the land of smiles” and when your here we are going to fuck you over where ever we can with visa rules etc etc ..

    I agree with Prokester many Thai’s can’t believe the rules and rubbish we have to put up with..Why can’t a farang that is married to a Thai and has a family with her own a house that he will mostly likely pass on to his kids ?

    What is it they are so scared of ?they should be scared about what is happening now and the next few years instead of doing everything in their power to make us think i will go to other areas of Asia instead where i will not be treated with contempt.I am not talking about normal Thai’s because as said many have no idea what rules are in place for us .

    We are living in a global world almost every country is made up of all races, all manners of people. They need to decide what they want and stick with it.They either want to stay in touch with the rest of the world or not .If they can ever get some one to run the place instead of them milking the people for what ever they can. That does not help the average Thai..

    I know the Thai are a fairly racists bunch even towards their own people , which is why i would love to know how many are full blooded Thai’s ? they are as mixed us the Farang the English, Americans, why this attitude towards anybody not 100 % Thai..? Are there any ?

  18. 18 Fonzi 1 April 2009 at 4:48 am

    The irony of this blog entry is that PM Mark will be running all over Europe telling all and sundry what a liberal and open economy Thailand is, which is just a bunch of BS, especially if a condo owner can’t exercise his basic rights as part of a condo association.

    In a civilized country, this wouldn’t be prosecuted.

    It’s funny. I just read a story in the San Francisco newspaper about a Thai guy who is running around buying foreclosed houses in the Bay Area. Yes, Thais can own free hold property in the US, and get national treatment under the law.

    The hypocrisy never ends.

  19. 19 ThaiCrisis 1 April 2009 at 5:44 am

    Yes It is april 1. But you would notice that the article was published on march 31. 😉 And the original story in Phuket Gazette on march 24

  20. 20 Dboy 1 April 2009 at 5:48 am

    It’s a comfort to know that even with the world economy going up in flames, some things never change. If you are a farang in Thailand, you will NEVER, EVER be anything more than a temporary visitor. You could live here 50 years and still be a temporary visitor. You know at 6PM when Thai TV plays the national anthem? Give it a read (pasted from Wikipedia):

    Thailand unites flesh and blood of Thais.
    Nation of the people; belonging to the Thais in every respect.
    Long maintained [has been] the independence
    Because the Thais seek, and love, unity.
    Thais are peace-loving;
    But at war we’re no cowards.
    Sovereignty will not be threatened
    Sacrificing every drop of blood for the nation
    Hail the nation of Thailand, long last the victory, Hurrah

    Thailand unites its people with flesh and blood.
    land of Thailand belongs to the Thais.
    long maintained its sovereignty,
    Because the Thais have always been united.
    thais are peace-loving,
    no cowards at distress.
    They shall allow no one to rob them of freedom,
    Nor shall they suffer tyranny.
    ready to die for freedom, safety and prosperity.

    Remember, white man…you’re only a visitor here. And even if you “own” that condo or business, you don’t REALLY own it.


  21. 21 Fish 1 April 2009 at 7:42 am

    Thanks for that Dboy i enjoyed reading that. Goes to show what a load of shit goes in to a National Anthem..when was that written when the Burmese were sacking the place..? I love the last few lines..! We can see how united they are everyday in holding protest after protest, and pick any of the 17 coups in 60 years to see how united they are..

    The only things that unite’s the Thai’s are Buddha and we know who, so time will tell how untied they are when one of those is not here !And now fueled with the world problem ,job loses etc etc..

    I agree white man your never anything put a guest how ever they want to play it its there country ,but as sammy’s post says dont be under the illusion that only us get fucked over, they fuck their own over for the $..!

  22. 22 Fish 1 April 2009 at 8:17 am


    Its true take it for what it is,its got nothing to do with us how they want to run the place.

    I don’t really see how the Farang are fucking over the farmers though ? that i think would be just the Thai’s who give them peanuts for the crops ..and then they send their daughters to the city who then end up as bar girls ( Thai’s go to these bars too as i am sure you know !) because the wages and jobs are so shit. Whilst the family sit on there arse’s getting pissed all day driving about on scooters..

    We give money to the street venders and the others you mention so how is that fucking them over..? plus the street venders will always up that price for that coconut !!

  23. 23 DavidB 1 April 2009 at 11:47 am

    Point taken TC.
    I am sure it is “real” and a”real serious” matter.
    Having just read the item on 2Bangkok about, farangs posting – which I think is a joke(?)- although the Cultural Ministry is capable of this sort of thing- I thought this was more of the same…that’ll teach me!

  24. 24 ThaiCrisis 1 April 2009 at 11:56 am

    Yes the article on 2Bangkok is (probably) a April Fools day joke. 😉 Albeit a good one.

  25. 25 crocodilexp 1 April 2009 at 12:13 pm


    The point I was making is that Farang are very much benefiting from the lack of opportunities and low wages of the Thai lower class (majority of the people). It takes many forms — from going with bargirls, to paying $1 for a meal that would cost $5 in an just and orderly society. There’s nothing directly wrong with this, but it’s hard to complain when the same social forces (pervasive injustice, discrimination and arbitrary laws) come to bite us back occasionally. If Thailand like was Switzerland or USA, many Farang wouldn’t be here in the first place.

    Overall, Farang benefit from injustice in Thailand in the same way that Thai ruling class does. Of course, Farang don’t have the moral responsibility that Thai overlords do, they’re just taking the opportunity. Still, two groups mostly end up on the same side of the line.

    This in no way means us residents (both Farang and Thai) should not try improve Thailand whenever possible (almost never possible in reality).

  26. 26 Fish 1 April 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I agree we benifit from what you say but my point is its not our doing .. We don’t set the prices or make the wages so shit the girls end up in the bars..and i dare say alot of Farang tip because its so cheap i do i feel bad eating a meal for 25 baht when it worth more than that, so i always give more.

    Your right its not an orderly society or even a orderly system here so they should stop pretending it is.

    Your last few lines sums it up well, no matter if we try to improve something here for the Thai’s in reality its very hard ,and that is sad for the normal Thai’s here because they lose out in the long run.. They need to look in the mirror some of these twats that make these descions..

  27. 27 petri 1 April 2009 at 9:11 pm

    @ 2bangkok news abt Culture Ministry and foreign criticscism of Thailand: Sadly, this news is not an April fools joke!
    The culture ministry regulations controlling what websites say about Thailand are right in line with the current thinking; a renewed vigour applied to the obsession to control every aspect of what is said about this land of the free… and it’s robust identity…

    I wish it were an April Fools Joke! Sadly, this is very much the reality of Thailand today.

    Thailand is definitely suffering a cultural menapause. Off the rag, into the fire!

  28. 28 ThaiCrisis 1 April 2009 at 9:16 pm

    It is an April Fools Day joke : “This article is a fake, April Fool’s Day posting”. This is a quote. 😉

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Thailand Crisis

Coup, Economic slowdown, Terror In the South... The situation is worsening in Thailand. Bumpy road like often before.

But this time, it's different.

The key to understand the present turmoil is the inevitable... succession of King Bhumibol.

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