Today we start a series of interviews with lawyers around the world, beginning in Thailand. The first interview is with Artemis (Archie) Glikakis. He is a Senior Business Consultant at JUSLAWS & CONSULT, Bangkok. He handles client inquiries and explains how the situation can be handled.
Mr. Glikakis, what types of cases does Juslaws & Consult mostly handle?
Our firm handles a variety of cases for individuals or corporations ranging from civil to criminal, company registrations to family law. Currently we are handling a lot of Labor cases on the side of both employee and employer.
What complications are foreigners or expats facing when they are looking for help?
The biggest complication they face is the translation. In most cases understanding the law is relatively easy but understanding the lawyer is not that easy. Our firm ensures that our clients understand and get the right translation. The other complication is that they sometimes forget that they are not in their home country which has laws that are used to protect the citizens of their country. Thailand is exactly the same, there are laws, rules and regulations in place to protect Thais.
How can a foreigner buy property or an apartment in Thailand?
OK this is a very common question because visiting foreigners fall in love with the country and then really want to come back and settle here. BUT I need to get one thing perfectly clear property in this question I assume means land. AND a foreigner is not permitted to own land in Thailand. That is not only law, but it is a royal decree.
Many schemes exist to fool foreigners into thinking that they can own land but in reality, it is a scheme and the foreigner will never ever own the land.
Now apartments also need to be explained as they are commonly referred to as Condominiums or Condos. A foreigner can own 100% of a condo which is allocated in the Foreign Quota of a building. If it is not in the Foreign quota of the building, then the unit cannot be 100% owned by a foreigner. Developers need to be very clear on the allocation of the foreign quota, so buyer beware.
What problems arise most commonly when moving to Thailand?
The most common problem is visas. Foreigners are told many things by many people, but the law is very clear. A foreigner cannot work in Thailand without a work permit. You cannot get a work permit unless you are hired by a business or a company. Next it is not always easy for a foreigner to open a bank account in Thailand. Also, because foreigners do not read or speak Thai, they are subject to twisted translations. They also spend far too much time looking for answers on Google when they want to know something, but they cannot hire Google to represent them when they have a problem.
How much money do I need monthly, in order to have a modest retirement in Thailand?
This is a very complicated question to answer. Because Thailand is so diverse an individual must carefully plan his retirement. If the person who wants to retire is a big city type, then a major city is where he will live and in a major city rents are high. Selection for food is more tailored to western tastes but they are expensive. But in rural Thailand rents are much cheaper and local shopping markets are more affordable, but the selection is seasonal. Another thing to consider is health. Healthcare is expensive here. Retirement needs to be planned carefully.
What conditions must be met when writing a will, in order to be valid according to Thai law?
The will should be signed in front of a notary and it needs two additional witnesses who are not related to the person who the will is for. Name beneficiaries clearly. It is imperative that the will is written in two languages to avoid any problems in the future. A clear picture of the assets also helps. A good lawyer knows how to write a will.
One very special note here – Thai Law is very clear on issues related to heirs. So, if a will does not exist it does get processed fairly. If there is a surviving spouse, they get 50% and if there are surviving direct descendants, they get the other 50%
What else should be considered, when writing a will in favor of a Thai?
Identify the individual(s) clearly, in some cases I would ask the client to provide the id card(s) of the beneficiaries and attach it to the will.
If getting married in Thailand to a local, would you recommend a prenuptial agreement?
Thai Law already recognizes that what you have before you are married is yours even after marriage BUT what you acquired during marriage is considered community property. Thus, a prenup is not needed. BUT listing pre marriage assets is always a good idea. There are many reasons for this but in most cases, it concerns debts on assets.
Are there any rules or laws in Thailand that might seem odd to the western world?
Yes, there is one which has recently caused me a great deal of grief. It is a criminal offense to write a cheque and give it to someone and that cheque bounces. (Non Sufficient Funds NSF) The receiver of the cheque can press criminal charges that carry a maximum penalty of 12 months in Jail, maximum 100,000 THB fine or both.
Next is Drug charges, specifically with an amount that will put it over personal consumption. There are severe penalties for those cases.
Are there clients, that you would not represent?
Yes, there are cases that our law firm will not take on my suggestion. We don’t like child molesters or people who abuse children. We will defend the victim but never defend the abuser.
Do you represent defendants you are sympathetic to?
Yes of course but at the same time we are a law firm and we charge fees. We do have somewhat of a pro bono quota. Meaning that there are times that we know the fee for a case can go very high and we will cap the fee or charge a small fee. I think what you wanted to ask me is if we take cases where we suspect the individual is guilty. And the answer to that is; our job is to do the best to help a client. Whether they are guilty, or innocent is a question for the court and the judges.
How do you feel, when you achieve substantial advantages for a client, that is not in balance with what he deserves (or expressed another way: you help a client to be acquitted who you know caused damages)?
We are simply doing our job. We are paid to represent an individual. If we take the case, we must do our best and use every angle to obtain the best result we can.
What part of your job do you like so much, that you have been in this job for so long?
Most people will tell you that they like winning a case in court. What I like the most is when we accomplish something good. It’s the feeling when someone tells you “no that is not going to happen” and then it happens. That’s the miracle, a special moment. Most recently we were involved in a custody case. Our client was the father, and the mother was relentless. This is usually a no-win situation for the father. All he can hope for is joint custody and a lot of fights to get his visitation privileges. When our client was granted 100% full custody and I saw the tears in his eyes that moment is the moment we work so hard for.
What is the best advice you have ever got?
Before you do it, think!
If you need legal advice for Thailand and you want to get in touch with Archie Glikakis, sign up now at LAWGATE.