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Thai artist uses sex workers’ hair to make social critique in BKK installation

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Thai artist uses sex workers’ hair to make social critique in BKK installation | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Vivianne Chow

Thai artist, Imahathai Suwatthanasilp new work at the Bangkok Biennale has brought attention to the prostitution industry in Thailand. Through her work the artist critiques preconceptions on sex workers while highlight their prevalence.

Imahathai’s new work involved hair, specifically hair collected from a number of sex workers in Thailand. Her passion for hair started when her father was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2003 and he asked her to cut his hair. He had always grown his hair into four long ponytails, each of which represented one of his children. He had hoped that it could be a part of him his children could keep with him if ever he would have to leave them, he died in 2008.

Studying art at Silapakorn University she began to use her own hair as a medium for deeply personal artworks. Her new installation titled Good Girls Go to Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere is currently on display at the Biennale (taking place until February 3 in 20 venues across Bangkok) involves weaving the hair of Thai sex workers around 174 parts of a vintage sewing machine.

With a population of 70 million, it is estimated that there are around 800,000 to 2 million sex workers in Thailand. Often perceived to be generally accepted, prostitution remains illegal in Thailand.

Under a 1996 Thai law, there is no offence for the customer but the sex worker can be fined for offering his or her services and on top of that receive  up to a month in jail for working at a sex establishment.

Recent government discussion are moving to the notion of abolishing or regulating the business creating protective measure for the work force rather than current punitive ones. Sex workers have shared their opinion and agree that the trade should be legalised and the government should create worker ID’s so they can be identified and protected like other occupations.

For her current art work Suwatthanasilp reached out to the Empower Foundation in Chiang Mai. They provide support for those who work in the sex industry, fight for the decriminalisation and offer protection to the workers while helping them to learn new skills.

The sewing machines were part of one initiative to help provide an alternative source of income for the sex workers. People were kind enough to donate sewing machines but the organization notes they always came with a label of expected ‘salvation’.

Prostitution is deemed as a bad career choice, and all sex workers are under pressure to work in a  ‘acceptable’ job. Suwatthanasilp’s works has the hair of the workers shaped into leaves, grass and flowers around the sewing machine parts portraying the birth of something beautiful, delicate and intricate being able to born out of cold metal.

Thai artist uses sex workers' hair to make social critique in BKK installation | News by The Thaiger

“By changing the shape of the lifeless sewing machine parts into new and lifelike objects… I want to tell people that life is able to grow out of something cold, just like how sex workers survive the judgement of the society and social structure,” – Suwatthanasilp  

Very few of the machines were used for their expected purpose, as many of the women had chosen to work in this dark industry as a means to provide for their family. One woman know by the artist said that she worked her whole life in the sex trade as it was the only way to put her kids through university.

Regardless of the negative connotations attached to their job description, many of these women love their families and will do the necessary to provide for them.

In some countries with legal prostitution social benefits have shown that  incidents of rape have decrease due to the availability of the service, as well as lower the spreading rate of various sexually transmitted diseases.  Keeping prostitution illegal is often pitched as a act for women, yes it only detrimental to an huge pre-existing industry.

Decriminalisation can provide measures of precaution for the worksas well as access to legal protections although many advocated will say that only once prostitution has been completely erased will women be ‘saved’ form the exploitation and violence associated with it.

From an outsiders point of view, the conundrum stems by the juxtaposition of allowing the industry to flourish and exist in Thailand while not being willing to provide any form of legal safety net for the workers. Whether regulations and and a new approach by authorities would help remains to be seen, but it could be a first small step in the right direction.

SOURCE: Time, Quartz 

 



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UN election monitors spread across Bangkok and beyond

The Thaiger & The Nation

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UN election monitors spread across Bangkok and beyond | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: The Nation

Foreign observers representing the United Nations have fanned out across the capital and its outskirts today to monitor the long-delayed election. Today’s national election, the first since 2011, is also the first since the military-backed NCPO seized power in May 2014.

Four four-member teams wearing pale-blue vests were assigned to polling stations in Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani to monitor the electoral process, according to a UN official.

The EC briefed representatives of election commissions from Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, East Timor, and Vietnam at the Rama Gardens Hotel in Bangkok at 9.45am yesterday morning.

Representatives of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance also attended yesterday’s session.

EC secretary general Jarungwit Phumma told the representatives that the EC welcomed them to observe tomorrow’s election.

Jarungwit says the EC allowed the representative to monitor the election to show that the polls would be transparent, clean and fair so that the international community would have confidence in the next government.

The teams are watching for any issues that might occur as citizens freely exercise their democratic rights in today’s poll. Polls close at 5pm today around the nation and the alcohol ban extends through to 6pm tonight.

UN election monitors spread across Bangkok and beyond | News by The Thaiger

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Bangkok

Summer storms on the way for north, north-east

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Summer storms on the way for north, north-east | The Thaiger

FILE PHOTO

People living in the north of Thailand are being warned to brace themselves for some summer thunderstorms until Wednesday. The Meteorological Department issued an alert today saying the storms will be caused by a high-pressure system from China that will interact with the hot weather over upper Thailand.

Outbreaks of summer thunderstorms will be likely from today to March 27. Thundershowers, gusty winds and hail are possible first in the Northeast and the East then the Central, and the North region.

Are you affected?

March 23-24

North: Kamphaengphet, Phitsanulok, Phichit and Phetchabun.

Northeast: Nong Bua Lamphu, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Udon Thani, Buri Ram, Surin, Si Sa Ket and Ubon Ratchathani.

Central: Nakhon Sawan, Chai Nat, Lop Buri and Saraburi.East: Nakhon Nayok, Prachin Buri, Sa Kaeo and Chachoengsao.

March 25-27

North: Kamphaengphet, Phitsanulok, Phichit and Phetchabun.

Northeast: Nong Bua Lamphu, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Loei, Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Surin, Si Sa Ket and Ubon Ratchathani.

Central: Uthai Thani, Nakhon Sawan, Chai Nat, Lop Buri, Saraburi and Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya including Bangkok and its vicinity.

East: Nakhon Nayok, Prachin Buri, Sa Kaeo and Chachoengsoa.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Bangkok

Top Five things to consider if you’re buying a condo in Thailand

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Top Five things to consider if you’re buying a condo in Thailand | The Thaiger

Not quite a Top Ten but some good straight-talking about buying condominiums in Thailand from Desmond Hughes from Hughes Krupica

One of the most commonly read or spoken summary of foreign ownership of property in Thailand is along the lines of

“Foreigners can buy a foreign freehold condominium in their name”.

At this sentence, many foreign investors switch off, and assume that the rest of the detail provided by the author may be legal mumbo jumbo or a thinly veiled attempt to win their business.

In fact, there is quite a lot you should know about Thai condominiums, before you start property hunting. As my clients don’t generally spend their time reading legal journals and legislation unless they have to, I have set out a mixture of legal and practical matters below without much distinction:

1. Only 49% of the Registrable Area of a condominium can be sold to foreigners.

In Bangkok, this is not likely to have any impact on you. Most of the buyers and owners of condominiums in Bangkok are Thai nationals. Even in condominiums popular with foreigners, it is an uncommon phenomena that foreigners would ever outnumber Thais as owners in a building. You might ask why the rule even exists, but there is a fear and protectionism in many Asian countries, not just Thailand, to try and keep foreigners ‘controlled’ through numbers and perecentages.

In other places – Phuket; Pattaya; Koh Samui; Chiang Mai and Hua Hin particularly you should apply caution to ensuring that the correct ‘quota’ of foreign units is available to be sold to you on a freehold basis.

2. Banks often advertise they will give finance, even potentially to foreigners, but in the end – don’t

I speak from personal experience and from that of my clients. For my first condo investment in Bangkok, I had to take out a loan with HSBC which was then taken over by a Thai bank. My loan had to be in foreign currency, because in order to buy a foreign freehold condominium – you have to send foreign currency into Thailand from overseas to generate ‘foreign exchange transaction forms’ to register the title to a foreigner at the land office. This means a lot of hoops for a bank to jump through simply to provide a mortgage. Foreigners are also viewed as flight risks by Thai banks and they do not wish to spend their time chasing foreign assets. This all means that a very high percentage of the foreign buyer market is cash based, which is good for the stability of that part of the condo market.

If you are tempted to try and take out finance applications to banks, be aware that the banks are looking for you to have some business in Thailand; perhaps to be married to a Thai national who preferable from the bank’s perspective will have some degree of wealth for self-support; and that you have other assets in Thailand with a history of using and paying off credit such as credit cards.

3. There is an oversupply of condominiums in Bangkok at the moment and rental yields are traditionally low in terms of % compared to more expensive Asian neighbors – Hong Kong and Singapore, and further afield

A condo in a prime rentable area at a high investment price can remain rentable due to its extremely useful location and amenities. If such condo has a 24 hour supermarket in the basement of the retail area and dozens of restaurants, as a condo building I am thinking of does have such amenities, then it will remain rentable for some time if the property is maintained. However, another condo at the end of the same ‘Soi’ and post building and delivery could remain unrented after many months and even if the rent is cut to 50% of the market price. Don’t just take my word for the state of the market for condo rentals in Bangkok, ask the agents.

In addition to this, the authorities are taking a closer eye at tax declarations and ‘cracking down’ on undeclared taxes – not just personal income tax, but the ‘business tax’ of 12.5% for renting units out. This all adds to the costs of investing and renting in a condo, and you must calculate this into your budget and forecasts to avoid living in fantasy land about dream returns.

3. You won’t have any say in how the condominium is managed

Unless you buy up over half of the voting rights attached to units in the entire building, you will be a minority voice on issues like the raising of the common area fees; use of the ‘sinking fund’ – the fund to make capital repairs, changes to the rules and regulations and general maintenance decisions, even of some significance. Don’t imagine standing up at an co-owners meeting voicing your opinions and somehow making headway in ‘changing’ the direction of the management of a building. The way in which a building is managed boils down to how the developer has structured ownership, whether the developer retains many units and a large % of the voting rights or not, and whether the developer plans to self-manage or outsource management of the asset to a reputable or not-so-reputable management company.

If you don’t check the management plan then I can reference lots of analogous situations where you would take more care – if you buy a car, you should think if there are any decent repair centres nearby and at a reasonable price – Ferraris in Phuket aren’t currently easy to maintain, I would imagine, as a non-Ferrari owner and observer of the state and condition of the roads in that Province. You also wouldn’t, I hope, buy a smart phone without knowing you could have the phone service, fixed and various parts replaced on reasonably short notice. As a property is a far higher value of investment, a lot of investigation into the management plan is necessary.

4. Don’t Believe the Hype – It’s a Sequel

False Media, we don’t need it do we? If you see a glossy marketing brochure and are told that the developer ‘has to deliver on its promises by law’ – be wary. To take one example, I bought a condo under which a ‘private wine cellar area with personal secure wine bottle storage space’ would be provided to every buyer. Amazingly, without any shame at all, the famous developer constructed an unchilled cheap wooden cabinet with glass doors, no locks next to 4 sofa chairs in the open space corridor between a swimming pool and the gym. If you wanted to fry an egg on the ‘wine cabinet’ then that was highly likely to have been possible.

These kind of things are not all ‘horror stories’ – I actually got a decent condo notwithstanding the missing items. However, you will often have to compromise when in more highly regulated and supervised jurisdictions, you would not. Compromise is a very common work in Thai society and it applies to business and consumer purchases too.

5. Set up your ownership for easy re-sale

If you are buying a condo as a ‘foreigner’ and paying cash, then you can buy your condo through a foreign company, and sell the company later. This is only worth doing if the cost of setting up and maintaining the foreign company is reasonable and the company you set up is ‘saleable’ and attractive to others. You should not carry out this kind of structuring to ‘avoid tax’. However, you can set up this kind of structure, pay tax on the purchase, and subsequently deal with your company as you see fit, provided a buyer is willing to buy it. If such a company receives rental income, then even if it is foreign it is till liable to taxes as the use of the ‘immoveable property’ for generating revenue isn’t deemed to be ‘outside’ of Thailand, and that applies even if the company tries to contract for and receive the rent outside of Thailand.

Desmond Hughes has operated and owned 2 law firms in Asia in 14 years spanning Thailand; Vietnam; Indonesia with clients in all of Asia and other markets investing inwards into the region with his existing firm Hughes Krupica possessing a large market shares in its fields of expertise. 

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