Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Recipes from Rattana

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Ask your local US Consul

Family Money: Trusts are for ordinary folk too! - Part 1

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

Mention the word ‘trusts’ and people think of large trust funds created by the very wealthy to protect their wealth from their spendthrift children. In fact trusts are now widely used for a variety of purposes. They are so common that people encounter them on a daily basis although they may not realise it.

Trusts originated in English law at the time of the crusades: wealthy landowners leaving for the crusades left their assets to trusted individuals to safeguard them while they were away on the crusade. To protect the assets from “trusted” individuals who unscrupulously galloped off with the assets, rules of equity were developed. Over hundreds of years the rules of equity have developed a complex trust law incorporated into Anglo-Saxon legal systems and, through the Hague Trusts Convention, into some civil law jurisdictions.

The trust has been a very successful and enduring legal concept because of its ability to adapt to accommodate new functions. While it is still used in the family succession context to hold assets for future generations, it has successfully been adapted to become an indispensable tool in the armoury of the tax adviser.

What Is A Trust?

A trust is a legal relationship between a settlor and one or more trustees. The settlor transfers assets to the trustees. The trustees hold those assets for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries or for a charitable purpose. The trust is created by the settlor either during his/her lifetime (an inter vivos trust) or by their will on death (a will trust).

This is a very general definition which understates the variety of different types of trust that can be established. Further, it does not refer to implied trusts (constructive and resulting trusts) which can be imposed or implied on a relationship in circumstances where some inequity may arise. Implied trusts are frequently invoked in litigation.

In order for a trust to be valid somebody must be in a position to enforce its terms. Generally this means that a trust must have beneficiaries. The principal exception to this rule is charitable trusts which need not have any beneficiaries; however, the terms of the trust are enforced by the Attorney General. Under English law non-charitable purpose trusts (assets held by trustees for a purpose rather than for beneficiaries) may be void.

Trusts other than charitable trusts cannot last indefinitely. Different jurisdictions have different rules as to the duration of a trust. Under English law a trust can last for either 80 years or a life or lives in being plus 21 years; that is, for the duration of a lifetime of an identifiable person alive at the date the trust is created plus 21 years (the life in being which is usually used is the last survivor of the descendents of George VI living at the date the trust is created).

The Different Types Of Trust

Let us look at the differing types of trusts most commonly used in the family succession and tax planning context.

The ‘Interest In Possession Trust’ (Aka ‘Fixed Interest Trust’ or ‘Life Interest Trust’). The beneficiary (known as the life tenant) has a right to the income from the trust fund (the beneficiary’s interest is referred to as an “interest in possession”).

For instance, Major Watkins leaves his assets to his wife for life and the remainder to his children. His wife has a right to the income of the trust fund (and to live in any properties owned by the trust); on her death the capital passes to the children. It is possible to have successive life interests. So if Major Watkins does not want his children to receive the capital of the trust fund they could have life interests after their mother.

As Mrs Watkins is entitled to the income, the trust capital will be subject to an inheritance tax charge on her death (as if she were the owner of the asset). The life interest trust in this context provides no immediate tax benefit; Major Watkins used a trust to ensure that his children received the assets on his wife’s death; as Mrs Watkins is only entitled to the income she cannot give the capital away and so the capital will be preserved for the Major’s children.

Some trusts fall outside the UK inheritance tax net - for example if the settlor is not domiciled or deemed domiciled in the UK and the trust assets are not located in the UK.

These trusts are referred to as “Excluded Property Settlements”. There will be no tax charged on the death of a life tenant if the trust is an excluded property settlement “ even if the life tenant is domiciled in the UK. Excluded property settlements provide considerable tax planning opportunities but have limited application given that the settlor must be non-UK domiciled or deemed domiciled.

(To be concluded next week)


Personal Directions: Get smart and set SMART goals

By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates

Last week we talked about goals and I shared some insights of well-known author and much sought-after speaker, Shiv Khera on this topic. To go further into the chapter on goal-setting in his book, “You Can Win”, I would like to continue with his thoughts this week as he offers such a no-nonsense and very simplistic approach to this task, which is seriously lacking in the lives of most people.

“Goal setting is a series of steps. When you buy a plane ticket, what does it say?

*Starting point *Destination *Class of travel *Price *Starting date *Expiry date

If you ask most people what is their one major objective in life, they would probably give you a vague answer, such as, “I want to be successful, be happy, make a good living,” and that is that.

They are all wishes, and none of them are clear goals. Goals must be SMART:

S - specific. For example, “I want to lose weight.” This is wishful thinking. It becomes a goal when I pin myself down to “I will lose 10 pounds in 90 days.”

M - must be measurable. If we cannot measure it we cannot accomplish it. Measurement is a way of monitoring our progress.

A - must be achievable. Achievable means that it should be out of reach enough to be challenging but it should not be out of sight, otherwise it becomes disheartening.

R - realistic. A person who wants to lose 50 pounds in 30 days is being unrealistic.

T - time-bound. There should be a starting date and a finishing date.

Goals must be balanced

Our life is like a wheel with six spokes.

1. Family. Our loved ones are the reason to live and make a living.

2. Financial. Represents our career and the things that money can buy.

3. Physical. Our health without which nothing makes sense.

4. Mental. Represents knowledge and wisdom.

5. Social. Every individual and organization has social responsibility without which society starts dying.

6. Spiritual. Our value system represents ethics and character.

If any of these spokes is out of line, our life goes out of balance. Take a few minutes and just think. If you had any one of the six missing, what would life be like?

More about balance

In 1923, eight of the wealthiest people in the world met. Their combined wealth, it is estimated, exceeded the wealth of the government of the United States at that time. These men certainly knew how to make a living and accumulate wealth. But let’s examine what happened to them 25 years later.

1. President of the largest steel company, Charles Schwab, lived on borrowed capital for five years before he died bankrupt.

2. President of the largest gas company, Howard Hubson, went insane.

3. One of the greatest commodity traders, Arthur Cutton, died insolvent.

4. President of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was sent to jail.

5. A member of the President’s Cabinet, Albert Fall, was pardoned from jail to go home and die in peace.

6. The greatest “bear” on Wall Street, Jessie Livermore, committed suicide.

7. President of the world’s greatest monopoly, Ivar Krueger, committed suicide.

8. President of the Bank of International Settlement, Leon Fraser, committed suicide.

What they forgot was how to make a life! It is stories like this that give the readers a false impression that money is the root of all evil. That is not true. Money provides food for the hungry, medicine for the sick, clothes for the needy. Money is only a medium of exchange.

We need two kinds of education. One that teaches us how to make a living and one that teaches us how to live.

There are people who are so engrossed in their professional life that they neglect their family, their health, and social responsibilities. If asked why they do this they would reply that they were doing it for their family.

Our kids are sleeping when we leave home. They are sleeping when we come home. Twenty years later, we turn back, and they are all gone. We have no family left. That is sad.

Quality not quantity

It is not uncommon to hear that it is not the quantity of time that we spend with our families but the quality that matters. Just think about it, is it really true?

Supposing you went to the best restaurant in town where they gave you white-glove service with cutlery from England, crockery from France, chocolates from Switzerland, and on and on. You picked up the gold plated menu and ordered a dish of barbecued chicken. The waiter within minutes brought back a small cube of the most deliciously prepared chicken. You ate it and asked, “Is that all I am going to get?” The waiter replied, “It is not the quantity but the quality that matters.” You said that you are still hungry and he gave you the same reply.

I hope the message is clear. Our families need both, quality and quantity.

Scrutinize your goals

A person who aims at nothing never misses. Aiming low is the biggest mistake. Winners see objectives, losers see obstacles. As Henry Ford once said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” Our goals should be high enough to motivate yet realistic enough to avoid discouragement. Anything we do, either takes us closer to our goal or further away.

Goals without action are empty dreams. Actions turn dreams into goals. Even if we miss our goals it does not make us a failure. Delay does not mean defeat. It only means that one has to replan to accomplish one’s target.

Just like a camera needs focus to take a good picture, we need goals to make a productive life.”

I hope you have enjoyed these writings and that they will bring some benefit to you. Until next time, stay focused! For further details on our Personal Development and Professional Skills Programs contact me at [email protected]


The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Breast Cancer, Chemotherapy and the Quality of Life?

by Dr. Iain Corness

Cancer treatments do differ all over the world. Some of these differences may be due to non-medical factors such as cost of treatment, while others may be due to differing medical points of view.

However, when looking at treatment options there are two sides to look at. Firstly, the treatment regime should be based upon EBM - Evidence Based Medicine - and secondly should take into consideration the Quality of Life of the patient. I have deliberately put Quality of Life in capitals. It must never be forgotten by the patient, or the patient’s doctor, but unfortunately is often ignored by medical “science”.

Breast cancer in women is an emotive issue at the best of times, and treatments have swung from radical, remove everything surgical treatments to remove only the lump (lumpectomies) plus or minus radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

With ‘Chemo’ there are also wide ranges of opinion. Some researchers have come up with the concept of using doses of chemotherapy so high in an attempt to stop the cancer or its recurrence that it destroys the patient’s bone marrow, so the patient ends up needing a transplant of blood-forming stem cells.

One reason that this was undertaken was that it had been seen that the cancer cells had escaped from the breast tissue and had gone into the lymph glands in the armpit. The rationale was that if it had got this far, you would have to really hit it hard. Well, that was the theory at least.

Fortunately, we are in this era of EBM, and some researchers have been keeping the scores. Normal chemo or high dose chemo? Studies have found that the intensive treatment did not improve the outcome for women whose cancer had spread to other parts of the body. In fact, there was little difference between the two approaches in survival after five or six years or in the rate of cancer recurrence.

Dr. Harmon Eyre, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society has now said, “I think the evidence of benefit is so minimal and the toxicity is so substantial and the cost so high that by and large people are going to say this approach is now no longer worthy of pursuing in any major way.”

Dr. Martin S. Tallman of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who led one of the studies into the high dose treatment, said the results could make it difficult to pursue the high dose technique. “It will be hard to generate enthusiasm and resources when, in general, the results have been disappointing - and there are other alternatives,” he said. It was also noted that five deaths in a Dutch study were caused by the high dose treatment and nine in the U.S. study were related to the bone marrow transplants. Side effects included nausea, vomiting, mouth sores and infection.

Dr. Tallman said initially the belief was that high dose chemo worked better, but the latest findings illustrate how important it is to do controlled studies to prove whether promising looking approaches really do work. In other words - EBM!

What also must be taken into account is the “Quality of Life”. I used to have a sign on the wall of my consulting room which simply said, “An increase in the length of life may not equal an increase in the Quality of Life.” Doctors and patients should not forget this.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

Perhaps Noi is a girl I sent $ to for several years. She taught me a lot such as never to sell my body to someone who doesn’t love me, especially if there is someone else who does love me who gives me enough $ to live on. She taught me never to think I am smart enough to fool someone who loves me just because that person accepts me as I am. She taught me that people find it impossible to see outside their own country and culture and that I’m in that boat too.

If this is the Noi I knew she was kicked in her back when she was two by her father who soon after disappeared never to be seen again. She quit school at grade two and went to work building houses at 12 or 13. At 18 or 19 she went to Malibu to earn her living. Her culture impairs the development of individuality though the people are friendly and likable. She had a lovable child, a boy, who she disciplined too harshly because her own harsh past drove her to it. When she was 12 or 13 she was thought to have killed a boy of 14 or 15 who bullied her with a karoti (sic) kick to the central nervous system.

She had dark hair with streaks of orange she put in it and often tied it in a ponytail with a chartreuse band. With all the gold hanging on her that she loved to wear I couldn’t wait to take her home to meet my mother who would be extremely excited to meet her. She stayed in a house with a man she said was her brother and they had regular arguments and he seemed never to be able to find steady work and I think she took care of him and her other brother who stopped by from time to time with the $ I gave her. The father of her son of about 6 had disappeared when the boy was about 2, the same as the mother’s father before him had. The boy was a lovable child.

But alas, love is not slavery and neither is slavery love. Perhaps one day our spirits will grow large enough to bridge the differences between us so the love between us is constructive.

Amish

Dear Amish,

I’m sorry, my Petal, but Noi, your karate kicking killer complete with chartreuse banded pony tail sounds just like someone I don’t want to know. Nor should you. Bury your grief and stop sending money. The situation isn’t worth it, believe me!

Dear Hillary,

I am from the UK. I have settled down in Thailand with a young Thai lady many years younger than me. My friends ‘back home’ do not understand this association and I’m afraid have branded me as a cradle-snatcher, but that is their problem. As well as the loving side of things, (which I had thought were over) being together has been very good for both of us. I have a companion that I still don’t believe I have, while she and her family has someone that they can turn to for help when needed. Unfortunately this is the reason why I am writing you this letter. The need for financial help seems to increase every week. I don’t mind helping out with the expenses for her three children from a previous marriage to a Thai bloke (he got killed in a motorcycle accident, not running away) but the family seems to get larger all the time. There are more brothers and sisters that need this and that, and while I didn’t mind to start with, I am on a pension too and have to watch what I spend. I don’t want to see my nest egg that I saved for disappearing too quickly. I have asked my young lady to tell her family they are killing the goose that laid the golden egg. What should I do about all the relatives?

I also would like to take my Thai girlfriend to England for a holiday, is this very difficult? Some people have told me that Thai women can’t get a visa.

Spencer

Dear Spencer,

First, the visa. All visa applications are dealt with on their own merits. The British Embassy deals with the applications to the UK and it seems that provided the application is genuine and the relationship is stable, there would be very few problems.

Now about her family, which no doubt by now includes the local buffalo herd. You have to deal with this yourself, your Thai girlfriend cannot. It is part of her culture, that the more well-off look after the needy. You are more well-off (at this stage) so the begging hand goes out to you. You will have to decide which family members and which needy causes you are going to support. You will probably then be thought of as ‘keeneow’ (stingy) by the family, but you can add that to ‘cradle-snatcher’ in your resume! You will never be able to please everyone on both sides of the globe. Live your own life as you see it, Spencer, I think you’ve still got your head screwed on.


Camera Class: Soft Focus Filter for sale. 1 baht!

by Harry Flashman

I am a great believer in DIY. Not only can it be fun, but I enjoy the thoughts about all the money I save. Photography is no different. You can spend oodles of money on filters, especially when in actual fact you can easily and inexpensively make your own. Remember that the first rule of DIY living is NEVER BUY ANYTHING, IF YOU CAN MAKE IT YOURSELF!

This week is a small project that can give you some very good photographic results, and costs one baht. Yes, one baht! On top of the sacrificial one baht coin there is a mild misappropriation of somebody’s hair spray. Do not buy a can!

While the use of filters can be overdone by anyone, there are times when filters do help, and the center-spot soft focus filter is a great one to have in the bag. It will enhance portraits, particularly of women, giving a soft dreamy look to the photo. Using this filter this just means the centre is in focus and the edges are nicely soft and blurred. This effect is used by portrait and wedding photographers all over the world to produce that wonderful “romantic” photograph.

The good thing is that to produce this type of picture is exceptionally simple and you can do it, no matter what kind of camera you use! I don’t care if it’s a Nikon state-of-the-art F whatever or the cheapest and nastiest pocket point and shooter. The romantic portraits are yours for the taking.

The secret is in the filter used. It is literally a clear piece of glass or plastic over the lens that is clear in the middle and opaque (but translucent) around the outside. This week’s project (great for school kids too) is to make one.

You will need one can of hairspray, a one baht coin and a clear piece of glass or plastic (perspex) around 7.5 cm square. This piece of perspex needs to be as thin as possible to keep it optically correct. One supply source can be hardware shops, glaziers and even picture framers.

Having cut out your square, put the coin in the centre of the perspex and then gently wave the hairspray over the lot. Let it dry and gently flick the coin off and you have your first special effects filter - the centre spot soft focus.

If you have an SLR (single lens reflex) camera you actually look through the lens when you are focussing and what you see is what you get (the WYSIWYG principle). For the compact camera users it needs a little more imagination, but do not worry (worry is bad for the soul and produces camera shake).

SLR people first - set your lens on the largest aperture you can (around f5.6 or f4 is fine). Focus on your subject, keeping the face in the centre of the screen. Now bring up your magic FX filter and place it over the lens and what do you see? The face is in focus and the edges are all blurred! You’ve got it. Shoot! Take a few shots, especially ones with the light behind your subject. Try altering the f stop as well, as this changes the apparent size of the clear spot in the middle. Remember that film is the cheapest part of photography (other than making one baht filters) so use plenty and experiment.

Now for those with the compact point and shooters, what you see is not what you get, as you are not looking through the lens. What you have to do is position the centre of the filter over the lens and, while keeping it there, bring the camera up to your eye, compose the shot and then shoot. Takes some fiddling and manual dexterity, but all those with at least two hands should be able to master it. Just make sure you are not blocking the light sensors on the camera. Backlighting the subject helps here too. Try it this weekend.


Recipes from Rattana: Oysters Kilpatrick

Oysters are plentiful and cheap, provided you buy the local ones! These generally come without shells, but to serve Oysters Kilpatrick, you will need some shells. Buy some unshelled as well (or beg for the shells from your local restaurant). There are many variations of this item, but this is a very popular one. To make this successfully, you do need a griller.

Ingredients

Oysters on the shell 24

Worcestershire sauce 1 tspn

Cream 1 cup

Salt and pepper to taste

Bacon, chopped finely 250 gm

Fine breadcrumbs

Cooking Method

Remove oysters from shells and put aside. Put shells on a baking sheet and heat in a moderate oven. Mix Worcestershire sauce and cream. When shells are hot, return oysters to shells. Use tongs to handle the shells, as they get very hot. Add a little of the cream mixture to each shell; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Note that if the oysters are small, you can put more than one in the shell, using some of the cheaper local market oysters.

Top each oyster shell with chopped bacon and fine breadcrumbs. Place baking sheet under a hot griller and grill until bacon is crisp but not burnt and oysters are warmed through. You can also give them another splash of Worcestershire sauce just before serving. For a final touch place the hot shells on a bed of rack (sea) salt.


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

In this issue I am going look at SMS (pronounced Ess Emm Ess or Short Message Service to give it its proper name). So just what is SMS and what has it got to do with my computer I hear you ask? Well, some of you have written to me about SMS’ing and I know for many, it’s a useful little tool which has been around for some time, but usually associated with our Mobile Phone. Bear with me and you will read why I also associate SMS with a computer.

Q. Dear Dr Byte,

I keep hearing about SMS. When I was with family in Manila a couple of months ago, everyone (from Nona down to my 8 year old niece) seemed to be playing SMS. “Meet me in 10mns at the Lobby entrance” ... “I’ll be late, meet me at the hair dressers at 10.30...” “Jamie says he has tickets for the concert ...” “The boss is upset because the delivery is late ...” and so on and so on.

What is SMS and can I use it here in Thailand? I can see many benefits.

Potential user

T. Chompoo, Sarapee

A. SMS has been around for many years now. Essentially an SMS is a small text message of usually up to 130 characters in length sent to someone else who has a mobile phone. Instant messaging is another way of thinking of SMS. Nokia, Samsung and Motorola screens are large enough to receive up to 5 lines of text. Erikson usually 3 lines. It’s an ideal way to keep in touch without the expense of making a real call.

Australians for example discovered SMS in the mid 1990’s. Young and not so young people discovered that this was a great way to message friends, family and so on. Schools now have to ask students to turn off all mobiles in class ... or even worse, hand them in before exams. One can only wonder why?

Apart from Australia, SMS messaging took off in a big way in many parts of Europe as well as here in Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong. I use it for messaging our technician when he is out on site here in Chiang Mai. It’s an easy way to tell him where to go next.

An interesting bit of trivia is the Australians have been holding the only World Championship since 1996 or 1997. Just how fast can someone send an SMS message? Well, recent winners achieved speeds of 170 characters or so a minute. Now that’s faster than my addled brain can think, I think. It’s surprising to find out that they have yet to really discover SMS in the USA.

Here in Thailand, you can SMS through your mobile phone. AIS, DTAC, 1800 and Orange all offer this facility with their plans. Its not always free, so check first. Also, some providers don’t like you sending an SMS to someone on another service. So also check if you can send an SMS to someone on any of the other service plans.

Now here is the fun bit, considering my right thumb does most of the tapping, I am pretty slow. But many years ago I discovered a South African Web Site that allowed you to send a free SMS message to almost any mobile telephone user any where in the world. Personally I like to use websites to send SMS messages rather than my mobile. It’s so much easier on a keyboard and faster than I can type with one thumb.

It’s sad but true, Money No 1 Syndrome has set in and now this South African service has decided to change to user pays. Also, many mobile telephone providers seeing the potential revenue in SMS services locked out the ability to receive an SMS from any but their own service. However, it’s not all bad news for newbies.

SiamZone.com offers free SMS sending service in both Thai and English language at www.siamzone.com/mobile/sms.php. It provides up to 135 characters, but one Thai character is counted as three characters, therefore SiamZone advises users to consider using the English alphabet. The service guarantees only 70% success for those who send message to post-paid services of AIS and Dtac. This service does not support Orange users.

KunPhone (www.kunphone. com) provides various SMS services, including sending free SMS messages to any mobile phone user for which it has a service option for you to select from. If you don’t know, you can make it “not-sure’’. KunPhone offers up to 50 Thai characters a message and 140 English characters. However, sometimes messages cannot be sent.

eSMSZone (www.esms zone.com) offers SMS service to only AIS and Dtac users whose number begins with 01 and 09. You can send messages of up to 149 characters and add your name in another sender’s box. It also offers links to World SMS services where you can select the country and area code of the recipient. Another service is QuickSMS, with options of numbers beginning with 01, 06 and 09.

You can also use ICQ to send SMS messages to your target phone numbers anywhere in the world. ICQ is now owned by the same company that provides most of our computer operating systems. Yes, Microsoft.

You can also send a message to AIS customers from www.ais900.com/t/cms/home.htm while for DTac users, visit their web site at www.dtac.or.th and for Orange users, you can access its SMS service at www.orange-today.co.uk/messaging

That’s it for this week. If you have any tips or tricks that you’d like to share, or any questions about your internet or pc experience, contact me: Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.


Ask your local US Consul

Dear Consul,

I used to satisfy the requirements for the Thai visa extension by supplying my local bank statements, along with a letter from the institution, which I had translated into Thai. In the past, there has never been a problem, but this time an officer had questions. She said that she would recommend that the extension be granted (implying that her recommendation guaranteed it being granted!), but strongly suggested that next year I obtain a letter from the Consulate giving the source and amount of my income. She also said that with said letter, I would receive the extension in one day from the Chiang Mai office instead of the normal two months required to send it to Bangkok. The fee she quoted was 3,500 baht instead of the normal 500 baht. I highly suspect that a receipt for 500 baht will be received.

Provided that the officer was correct and that the Consulate will issue some sort of letter, what is it? What do I have to bring to show you that I am really being paid the amounts I say I am? (By the way, are the letters you print really received by you or are they made up to introduce a topic you wish to discuss?)

- Please change my name if you mention the thing about the receipt

Dear Mr. PCMNIYMTTATR,

Been in Thailand a while, eh?

First things first. The letter to which you refer is, in fact, a notarized statement. You think I WANT to discuss notarizations, certifications, and authentications? I get much more of a kick, believe me, out of the fascinating and never-ending parade of what is technically known, in the lingo, as “Americans Behaving Badly.” But are you asking, if I did want to discuss notarizations, certifications, etc., would I stoop so low as to actually make up questions? Well ... yeah, probably. (Would I make up a question asking if questions are made up? Hmmm. We may make this interesting, yet.)

Let’s start with the dull stuff. The Consulate does notarizations and certifications during American Citizen Service hours, on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Authentications, for all practical purposes, we don’t do. A certification is simply a statement that an officer has witnessed an original document and its copy, and that the copy appears to be genuine. These are useful if, for instance, you need to send your passport to Social Security, and don’t want to send the original (a wise choice).

A notarization is a legally recognized record that an officer has checked your identity, you appear to be who you say you are, and you affirm that something is true. You affirm it, we don’t. So how do we know whether what you affirm is true? We don’t. (This is also why we don’t generally perform authentications.) Why would someone require such an act of apparently marginal value? Because, crucially, your signature before us indicates that you affirm your statement under U.S. penalty of perjury - meaning that if it later turns out there was some misrepresentation involved (not in YOUR case, of course, but, speaking generally) then there is a prosecutable offense (what is the penalty for perjury? That depends on what “is” is, I guess).

So ... long story short, Mr. PCMNIYMTTATR: bring your passport. Your statement covers the rest. We won’t ask to see your financial records, because we aren’t the ones affirming the substance of what you’re saying.

And, as to the rest ... I was about to remind you that Thai Immigration sets rules as it deems proper, and that you may have just been riding the crest of a rule change. Then I got curious, and called to make some inquiries. Here are the answers: you can match them to the questions as you see fit: (a) can be done in Chiang Mai, (b) 30 minutes for a short-stay visa, up to four months for a one-year extension, and (c) 500 baht per case, regardless of length of extension.

I would love to say that there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding here; one of many that every farang encounters on a daily basis (and I’ve committed doozies - another time, another column). And perhaps there was. Perhaps you got a bad apple, or any one of a dozen other possibilities. In any event, as in so many other circumstances in which language and culture may muddy perception: if an answer seems “off,” thank the person and inquire again with someone else the next day.

And watch for semi-annual sales,

The Consul

Have a question about visas, passports, travel to the United States, services for American citizens, or related issues? Ask the Consul. Send your e-mail to acschn @state.gov with “ask the consul” in the subject line. If your question isn’t selected, you can get an answer by calling the Consulate at 053-252-629, from 8 am. - 4 pm.