Thai TV soaps are a big influence on Thai women in Thailand as soaps are in most countries around the world – happy endings are popular but there is another route

The increasing popularity of foreigners marrying Thai women is true and justified by the success of these relationships. Many cynical people claim it is just about money and even more cynical people talk about love triangle murders engineered by scheming Thai wives.

Nichaphat Aolueknua was arrested by Thai police in relation to the murder of her husband, 57 year old Montri Uppala in February in Krabi province, Thailand as he drove to meet his mistress. The couple had been engaged in protracted divorce negotiations. The 54 year old Thai wife denies any involvement in his killing. French man Amuary Rigaud and his Thai girlfriend Rujira Klaylamai from Phichit province were both arrested by Thai police at a tree plantation area of Tak province after the couple fled following the murder, dismememberment and burning of Rujira’s Italian partner Giuseppe de Stefani whom the Thai woman had been in a relationship with.

Love triangles in Thailand are quite common. The accepted social norm for Thai men to take ‘giks’ or mistresses leads to a constant stream of incidents reported on Thai media and news outlets on a near daily basis. Sometimes the outcomes are quite disastrous leading to murder. The growing number of foreigners in Thailand who marry Thai women and opt to live in Thailand has also become a facet of the story which includes tragic deaths, murder and subsequent police investigations. It must be understood that foreign men marrying or living with a Thai woman in Thailand are joining this society but that it also a society where most women cherish their partners of husbands.

Thai TV soaps that play out in reality

Love triangles have long been a common topic for Thai soap operas popular with women in Thailand. Often featuring a dazzlingly array of good-looking cast members, the popularity of these TV dramas is growing. The storyline of the soap often deals with either personal conflict as two best friends, brothers, sisters find out that they love the same person or how the pure, innocent love between a couple destined to be together is muddled by an evil third party. The shows, targeted at Thai women, often have a happy ending as this boosts viewer satisfaction. ‘If it’s not a happy ending, then it’s not a good show,’ says James Morris, an international commentator who lives in Bangkok and ascribes this view to his Thai wife who is an avid viewer. ‘In evening at home, the TV is out of bounds to me.’ Producers of the TV soaps are therefore looking to create entertainment value above all else although many of the shows attain high levels of production and acting as well. Many of the Thai TV soaps end with a storyline where the main characters live happily ever after. But Thai TV producers also play with another storyline that feeds into traditional Thai thinking to do with fate. A sort of warning of what happens when people indulge negative instincts. Someone cheats on their spouse, a betrayal prompts an evil plan for revenge or retribution that lead ultimately to tragedy. Such a storyline, it appears, sinks into the hearts of some Thai women and the scenario has been known to play out in reality, even with foreigners.

A Thai woman implicated in the murder of her husband denies any involvement

On the 21st February 2018, Montri Uppala, a 57-year-old civil engineer working for the Krabi provincial government, was shot dead while going to see his girlfriend and their two children. His bullet ridden body was found near his pickup. Montri had been drinking at a service station with a friend at 9pm after which he left to visits his mistress, Thai police found his body beside his vehicle with 5 spent cartridges at 10pm that evening.

The police came to the conclusion that his wife was the mastermind behind the murder. He was married to Nichaphat Aolueknua, who quickly became the chief suspect for the crime. She was in the process of divorcing her husband but the proceedings were held up due to disagreement over how to split the couple’s assets and property. The Thai police speculated that she may have hired some assassins to kill her husband out of jealousy and a failure to resolve matters to do with the couple’s divorce.

Divorce in Thailand or marriage breakdown can lead to murder when face or money are involved

While Thailand has a very sophisticated legal process in relation to divorce and marriage, it is quite different to the western legal system. A marriage in Thailand is a joint enterprise or civil contract and divorce is effectively a liquidation of that enterprise on equal terms. It differs from western systems as there is an emphasis on the equitable division of the property interests with both parties treated equally and strict division between assets and debts incurred prior to or during the marriage. There is provision for alimony and maintenance but is far less in Thailand than western countries. There is a tendency among Thai people to resort to extreme measures where a legal standoff occurs. This can be aggravated where there is a loss of status or ‘face’.

There is also an extensive, powerful and organised criminal underground in Thailand that wields extensive power. Contract killings can be arranged quite easily. While some claim that a murder in Thailand can be bought for as little as $50, this is quite low and it depends on the target. But it is possible to have someone murdered in Thailand for as little as 20,000 baht ($630) or perhaps 50,000 baht ($1600) if the target is a foreigner. These figures can increase by a factor of ten depending on target, his or her public profile and other circumstances. ‘It’s a golden rule that most foreigners in Thailand observe, don’t get yourself into a confrontation legal or otherwise with a Thai person or in fact anyone, Thailand is a land of many freedom but also many dangers,’ says James Morris.

Police arrest Thai wife, middle man and three gun men for ‘hit’ on husband

Nichaphat Aolueknua was  subsequently arrested along with suspected gunmen and an alleged middleman who hired three men between 39 and 47 years of age to carry out the brutal murder in February this year. Thai police believe that another gunman may be on the run. All the arrested parties vigorously denied any wrong-doings but the police are reported as saying that they have sufficient evidence to bring charges against them to pursue prosecutions and were reported to be confident of a conviction.

Foreigners increasingly prevalent in love triangle murders in Thailand

Foreigners, who are increasingly marrying Thai women in Thailand, are also increasingly seen in news reports of tragedies involving entangled love affairs that have gone wrong and where Thai partners have turned ruthless. Early this year, the police discovered the charred and dismembered body of  61-year-old Italian man Giuseppe de Stefani in a forest in Thailand’s Phichit province approximately 330 km north of Bangkok. The identity of the Italian man was only confirmed by a tattoo in his severed right leg. The police soon alleged that his Thai ex-girlfriend, Rujira Klaylamai, and her French boyfriend, Amuary Rigaud were the prime movers behind the murder. A love triangle gone wrong was the motive they attributed to the crime and grisly events that unfolded. The police established that the Thai woman and her Italian partner were heard to argue a lot and that she was formerly married to a Thai man.

Italian offered French man 100,000 baht to leave his Thai woman alone and left poignant note

Giuseppe de Stefani is believed to have offered Amaury, a former French army sniper, 100,000 baht in exchange for ending his relationship with Rujira, to which Amaury refused. A police search at Rujira’s house where she and her Italian ex-boyfriend had lived together produced a poignant note written by Giuseppe saying that Rujira had loved him simply for his money. The suspected couple were captured near the crime scene days later after the body had been found after an extensive police search. Locals of nearby Tak province reported to Thai police that they had spotted the couple living in a tree plantation in Chao district. It is thought that Amaury was using his army skills to survive in the forest. Rujira was captured the after her French boyfriend was apprehended hiding in a tree.

Two different accounts of Italian man’s murder in a Thai forest

Passport of Italain man with Thai girlfriend murdered in Phichit province Thailand
The passport of Giuseppe de Stefani which Thai police found at the home he shared with his relationship partner, Thai women Rujira Klaylamai in Phichit province. Following his murder and police enquiries, it emerged that the Italian man had offered the French man 100,000 baht to withdrawn from his involvement with his Thai partner. In a poignant note from Giuseppe to the Thai woman, he expressed the view that she had only loved him for his money. His dismembered and badly burned body was located by police in a nearby forest. Thai police believe that a multiple parties were involved in his murder and subsequent disposal.

During interrogation, they gave contradictory accounts of what happened that day, effectively blaming each other for the horrific crime. Rujira claimed she and Amaury met Giuseppe at a forest area in Phichit to resolve the dispute but the argument got heated and out of control, in which Amuary killed Giuseppe. She admitted helping dispose the body but not the killing. The french man had a different story, he said that Rujira and a former Thai husband together with accomplices committed the murder and he simply assisted her escape. The police suspected that there might have been at least five people at the crime scene.

More foreigners marrying Thai women in Thailand

These stories are far from uncommon and may be linked to the growing numbers of Thai women marrying foreigners in Thailand. Marriage in Thailand is to a large extent based on social standing and of course financial advantage, which leads to a popular belief that marriages between Thai women and foreign men are simply for money. This is not quite true it may be a part of the bigger picture. Most marriages between Thai women and foreigners in Thailand and throughout the world are very successful.

Thai foreigner relationships popular but do go wrong

But there is increasing evidence in Thailand that some do go wrong. This is attested to by a report uptick in divorce cases in Thailand’s Isaan region involving foreign men and Thai women. A significant proportion of Thai women  who marry foreign men originate for this region in North eastern Thailand. However The divorce rates are still well below average for marriage in western countries. The popularity of these marriages is due to their perceived success by other Thai women. The problem occurs, as this story attests, when the wrong Thai woman meets the wrong foreign man.

Some Thai woman ‘are done’ with Thai men

According to a study by Patcharin Lapanun, a sociologist from Khon Kaen University, Thai men are undesirable partner choices for their female counterparts. Traditional practices and Thai culture are no longer enough for some Thai women who, influenced by western culture, no longer accept the macho ways of many Thai men. This includes heavy drinking and sexual infidelity. Many traditional Thai men are set against more modern lifestyles and are determined to underline old fashioned rights. Thai men have a distinct and unique way of thinking and interacting with women particularly those who live in more rural areas. Foreign men are seen by a minority of Thai women as more liable to be caring, financially secure and responsible to their spouses. As one Thai woman seeking a foreign husband put it: ‘we’re done with Thai men’.

Love triangle murders involving foreigners a popular myth in Thailand but they do happen

The problems is that there are many different types of foreign men that come to Thailand. Many who develop successful lives and relationships in Thailand come to live in the kingdom as a lifestyle choice and are financially secure. Others come to achieve a break from the past sometimes after a relationship breakdown. Another coterie come as sex tourists who don’t want the holiday to end while other, more sinister types, are running from the law or face legal complications in their home country. Problems arise where there is a character deficit in one or both parties to the relationship and where expectations or needs are not met. There is also a risk of negative mindset among some Thai men who see the allure of money drawing Thai women to foreign men. A key component of many murder love triangles involving foreigners in Thailand is a Thai woman who returns to her former Thai lover to seek revenge on the foreign interloper. It rarely happens and to some extent has become a myth in Thailand as most foreigner Thai  relationships are happy and successful but as this and other stories suggests, it can and does happen.