The case before the court was not decided but the judge indicated that their relationship was one of marriage and therefore suggested that assets, excluding land, should be split evenly. A brokered deal between the Thai woman and the Danish man left him with a ฿1.7 million car he had paid for while his ex-girlfriend retained the house built on her mother’s land.

A Provincial Court hearing in Buriram last Wednesday allowed a Danish man to obtain some justice after his relationship with a local Thai woman was abruptly sundered within hours of a house warming party for a ฿3 million house he had built and after he earlier purchased his Thai partner a ฿1.7 million car in her name. 

A Danish man last week scored a victory of sorts when his case against his ex Thai partner came before Buriram Provincial Court for hearing and the judge, a woman, reached out to the parties to broker an equitable deal.

A victory of sorts. Outside the Buriram Provincial Court on June 24th, the Danish man who has not been named, poses with his compatriot and his Thai wife. The legal tussle could offer some hope to foreigners seeking justice in such a situation but it would be unwise to draw sweeping conclusions from the incident which did not result in a court judgment but a brokered deal between the Dane and his ex Thai girlfriend.

The Dane, who was not named, had come to Thailand in 2018 on a holiday. Like many Europeans and western men, he was looking for a love partner after his wife had passed away at home in Denmark. He had a friend, another Dane, resident in Buriram province who, again like many westerners, lives happily in Thailand with his Thai wife.

Dane and a fellow national visited Hua Hin in 2018

The two went on a holiday to Hua Hin where the Danish man struck up a friendship with a Thai woman working in a beer bar.

He took a shine to the young woman and paid the establishment to take her away on a two weeks to Kanchanaburi province with his friend on a golfing holiday.

Matters progressed and even though he returned to Denmark, he was back in Thailand one and a half months later. This time, the woman took him to meet her mother in Buriram province.

The foreigner stayed in Thailand for a further three months.

Paid Thai woman ฿25,000 a month not to work

A relationship developed and the Dane paid his new partner ฿25,000 a month to give up her work in the beer bar while he also commenced with plans to build a house on land owned by the woman’s mother.

The story is one that is quite commonplace since the boom in internet dating and foreign travel took off over twenty years ago. There are thousands of stories like this of similar relationships that go wrong. However, there are far more instances, however, that are not reported, of highly successful relationships where marriage partners are happy.

Relationship came to a sudden halt in February 2020

However, this case did not turn out to be one of the happier ones.

The man paid out ฿3 million to build the couple’s dream home next to her mother’s home and purchased a CRV Honda car for a further ฿1.7 million which was registered in the name of his beloved.

The home was completed this February and that is when the relationship abruptly came to a halt.

Danish man was uneasy about an elaborate and ostentatious housewarming party that lasted 24 hours

The Thai woman told her Danish partner that she wanted to stage an elaborate house warming party. 

The European questioned this ostentatious event but reluctantly went along. There was an elaborate stage with dancers, music and a party attended by between 200 and 300 people.

The affair went on for 24 hours.

Days after the relationship was strained

Days after the party ended, the Danish man felt that his relationship with his newly found life partner was strained.

He then noticed that building materials were being taken off the site and that construction work was taking place in the adjacent property owned by the Thai woman’s mother.

 A wall was being built.

Queried the new building work and was told to leave

He queried his partner about this. Who authorised it and how much was it going to cost?

This was when the mask slipped and the Thai woman advised him to leave the property which she reminded him belonged to her. She also made it clear that the new car was also owned by her.

The shocked Dane rang his friend and arranged to be taken to his home 50 km away also in Buriram. 

There, his friend and his Thai wife took him to a police station where he filed a complaint about the woman’s actions.

First court hearing seeking the return of the new Honda car floundered after the woman resisted

At length, this led to a court hearing where the Dane was initially only seeking the return of the Honda car. However, a lawyer for his former partner firmly resisted this and the action was shelved.

The Dane’s lawyers then advised a new case in which the foreign man went to court claiming that the relationship between the pair was one of man and wife.

Thai woman and her lawyers claimed the house and car were a gift of affection to her from the Dane

The Thai woman’s lawyers had claimed that the building of the home and the purchase of the car was a gift from the foreign man to the Thai woman out of love and affection.

Many cases, previously in Thailand, have been treated like this by the courts and by police who have regularly declined to prosecute Thai women unless it could be clearly shown that they had engaged in maliciously deceptive behaviour or fraud against the foreigner involved.

Thai law sees marriage as a joint property venture

Under Thai law, any assets gained by a couple while married are owned jointly between the two.  

Thailand’s legal system places great emphasis on marriage legally as a joint undertaking between two parties particularly in relation to property.

The problem, however, for foreigners is that they are prohibited by law from owning any land. Thai courts have taken this to include equity in the land as opposed to buildings and structures.

The issue, in this case, was the cost of building the house and the value of that building as well as the car.

Case came before the court for hearing on June 24th and the judge made her views known

The case came on for hearing last Wednesday, the 24th of June.

The judge, on hearing the evidence, interrupted the proceedings to make her views known.

She pointed out that, based on the evidence before the court, she was in no doubt that this was a case of common law marriage between the Thai woman and the Danish man.

The judge proposed a solution

On that basis, the judge suggested to the couple that the appropriate solution would be for the Thai woman to keep the house built on her mother’s land and for the Danish man to keep the car.

Otherwise, the judge explained that the court may have to order the breaking apart of the home or its removal from the land to realise any value from it while selling the car and granting 50% of the proceeds to each party.

The judge made it clear that such a proposal would be in the interests of the Thai woman to accept.

Thai woman broke down in tears, said she wanted the Danish man to return to live with her

Nevertheless, the woman did not appear to be happy with the advice tendered and broke down into tears.

At one point, she even told the court that her preference would be for the Danish man to return and live with her again.

Eventually, she conceded and the deal was drawn up between the parties and later ratified by the court.

Case highlights key nuances of Thailand’s marriage laws that are often dismissed by sceptical foreigners

To many observers, the court case is a sign that foreigners may have more legal rights than hitherto thought particularly for those who are not officially married to their Thai partner.

The judge in this case certainly appeared to accept that common law marriage was equal to a registered union.

The case suggests also that the heavy scepticism held by many foreigners in relation to fighting for their rights in Thai courts may be overblown.

However, it would be unwise to draw sweeping conclusions.

Thai law has always recognised the equity rights of foreigners who pay for buildings even though they cannot get possession, under any circumstances, in Thailand, of freehold property.

Thai law does not rely on precedent

It should also be noted that this case was not decided by the court but ended rather in a voluntary agreement entered into by the two parties.

There was no definitive judgement given. 

In any event, Thai law does not rely on precedent as is the case in many western countries where the common law concept is particularly valued and holds great sway.

Even if the case was decided, the judgement could have been appealed and later again forwarded to the Supreme Court.

The only court in Thailand that can issue judgments which are persuasive and that are often used but only as guidance by the lower courts, is the Thai Supreme Court.

Speed of resolution by the Thai court in the matter is impressive and compares well to western courts

What is impressive about this case, nevertheless, is how quickly the Thai judicial system was able to resolve this matter and get some sort of justice for the Danish man. 

In that respect, it must be accepted that it acted in an impressive and effective manner, particularly when compared to how long it would have taken the Danish man to deal with the matter in a European and western court system where the outcome in family courts is often protracted and unpredictable.

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