Thailand dreaming turns to expat nightmares

Published:  21 Mar at 6 PM
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Expatriate life in Thailand, once a dream destination for Westerners, is becoming more and more difficult as out of date laws are revived and new visa hurdles erected.

For almost five decades, the beach towns and historic cities of Thailand attracted disenchanted expats from the UK, USA and Europe. Drawn by the endless warm weather, laid-back lifestyle and cheap cost of living, expats arrived to work, retire or simply explore the country and meet its people. The country and its buzzing capital city are still favourites with young professionals, whilst the smaller cities attract retirees and the 21st century equivalent of the backpackers who first discovered their version of paradise in Thailand’s tropical offshore islands.

Nowadays, expats are still arriving from across the globe, with unconfirmed estimates of at least a million now living in the so-called Land of Smiles. Sadly, Thailand today is no longer a haven for foreigners, with visa regulations tightening and tolerance levels amongst the Thais themselves dropping fast due to the country’s present-day cultural and social problems.

Retirees are perhaps the worst affected, as working expats can move on and find jobs in other, more foreigner-friendly countries. Many Western men who’ve married Thai women and started new families may also find it difficult to leave, as their wives’ first loyalties are to their parents. Others may have lost their retirement nest-eggs due to fraudulent financial advice, with depression amongst the expat community now becoming commonplace.

More worryingly, the death rate amongst Thailand’s foreign community is at an all-time high. Murders, suicides, road accidents and drownings combine with the outcomes of old age, poor lifestyles and alcoholism to paint a very different picture of expat life in Thailand. Many older expatriates nowadays are unable to afford the soaring costs of Thai healthcare, nor can they afford the overpriced premiums charged by international insurance companies.

Worst of all, an increasing number of foreigners, mostly Europeans and Americans, are becoming homeless and stranded as funds run out. In the ‘sin city’ of Pattaya and elsewhere, fraudsters lie in wait for expats, offering dodgy investments, spurious business opportunities and illegal property deals, all leading to financial disaster. Unable to fund visa renewals or pay the fines due and with no help from their embassies, expats face the horrors of a Thai prison as a result.
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