Bank of Scotland brands Thai wife ‘criminal’

Couple receive 6,000 baht for “distress and inconvenience”

A Bank of Scotland apology to a Scotsman has come after the bank labelled his Thai wife a “criminal.”

Ashby McGowan, from Glasgow and Thanaporn Sonkew, received £150 (US$180, 6,000 baht) for the “distress and inconvenience” they had been caused, according to The Nation.

McGowan and Thanaporn find themselves trapped in a “hostile environment” with ordinary law-abiding Thais seemingly automatically considered to be crooks. The battle against Kafkaesque regulations for a Bank of Scotland apology has been quickly followed by entry into a confusing maze of visa regulations.

The couple were married in a Buddhist ceremony in Thailand, but the Home Office did not recognise it and refused three visa applications.

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They wed in Glasgow last month, but then McGowan spoke of the Bank of Scotland’s refusal to open a joint account for them.

When McGowan tried to send a small amount of money to Thanaporn in Thailand, Bank of Scotland staff described her as “a criminal.” The Bank of Scotland apology came accompanied by the rather strange amount of £11 (US$15, 450 baht) in compensation, but it made little difference. When he went into another branch to transfer some more cash, he was told by the manager that it was a scam.

Even when he showed her the evidence of the £11 Bank of Scotland apology had received for the previous insult, she kept him waiting for over two hours before eventually transferring the cash.

Professional apologiser for Bank of Scotland, complaint manager Courtney Speirs then wrote…

“I was sorry to read about your experiences trying to send money to your fiancée in Thailand over the last few years.

“I understand you have also faced difficulties adding Thanaporn to your account. Please accept my apologies for the distress and inconvenience you have both been caused. To say sorry more tangibly, I’m arranging to pay £150 into your account.”

Speirs expressed her “disappointment” about the difficulties they had experienced on several occasions. She went on…

“We take account security very seriously and have precautions in place to protect our customers from scams. These are not intended to get in the way of customers going about their everyday banking.

“I would like to reassure you that your experiences have not been due to bigotry, which we would never tolerate. Nevertheless, we have let you down on a number of occasions and left a poor impression.

“Going forwards, I hope we can restore your faith in us and thank you again for taking the time to raise your concerns.”

McGowan said their joint account was now active and he was happy. But the next battle for his wife to be granted leave to stay in Scotland is just beginning.

He said…

“For this visa, you need – dated within a week – 12 months’ bank statements, each to be stamped and dated. It is essential. At two different branches, I was told they cannot do this. They give out three months’ statements at most.

“They told me I could get 12 months’ sent to my home address in five working days. They failed totally. Eventually, I begged and someone broke the rules and gave me four pages of annual statements.”

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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