Culture Shock! A Thai 'Bride's' Fight For Dignity
Scottish Daily Mail
December 11 2010
Scots kilt-maker Dennis Booth probably had no inkling that he was heading for stardom when he looked to the internet for romance…..now he is perhaps the most famous Briton in Thailand, excepting of course a few Premier League footballers.
Mr. Booth’s picture is all over the Thai newspapers and his ‘internet’ bride is a guest on television chat-shows.
In short, Dennis Booth, 67, has become the unwitting star in the Thai media in which he has been held to be an example of perhaps ‘who not to marry’.
And now the Thai woman he married, Kanokrat Nimsamoot Booth, has been commissioned by Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Thai universities to give advice on marriage to foreigners and she expects government funding for an organisation to counsel Thai wives in distress after marrying and living abroad.
My husband from the ‘wrong button’
Her pocket book: ‘Miracle of Love – My husband came from the wrong button’ is rising up the best-selling charts.
To an extent the story has it all. A whirlwind romance begun on the internet between an elderly Scottish kilt maker and mysterious 41-yr-old Thai women with society connections. It was a romance which blossomed among tropical palms and white sandy beaches and in the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, which finally came to fruition in a marriage ceremony in the Old Gala House in Galashiels.
However the marriage turned rocky and came to an unceremonious end when his bride was locked up in a Glasgow airport police cell, and deported.
His well-educated bride Kanokrat was beside herself with indignation. She after all had committed no criminal offence. And back in Thailand she had been variously a crime reporter for one of the biggest dailies, a magazine editor, and a government purchaser. She is a woman with many connections.
She could be forgiven for thinking, as she did, that she was being treated like a common prostitute.
‘What happened?’ asked the head of Immigration at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi airport, when Kanokrat turned up back in Thailand as a deportee. ‘We never thought that could happen to you.’
In Thailand Kanokrat is still seething. She is angry at the humiliation of a police cell, and a refusal to provide doctors to deal with an anxiety attack. She is angry that she has been tarred with the brush of being a prostitute and gold-digger. She cries when she talks about it.
It was not her intention to attack her husband: ‘He is a good man. He just does not understand Thai culture.’
And she is upset that she was given no chance to defend herself against ‘false’ claims that she had an affair with a Maltese waiter working in a, Newton Mearns, Glasgow, Italian restaurant, allegations which she strenuously denies.
Now she has spoken of her new crusade. ‘First I want to clear up the matter of my treatment and I have taken up the case with the European Court of Human Rights and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
‘And the next step, which I have begun, is to warn women thinking of marrying foreigners of what can go wrong, because there are many things that can.
‘The fact is that most Thai women marry foreigners to seek a financially better life because they have little. But this did not apply in my case. I had a good life, I graduated Bangkok University in Communication Arts, I became a crime reporter for the ‘Daily News’ – one of Thailand’s largest papers – I went on to become a magazine editor. I had my own home and car.
‘But as a result of my marriage I have lost all my rights in Thailand. Thai law dictates that I must have my husband’s signature if I buy a house or take out a loan. Dennis will not give me a divorce and I cannot go to the British court to apply. He says he is just not going to waste his money.’
‘The sub-title of my book ‘My husband comes from wrong button’ is what Dennis said to me during our relationship. He says he clicked the wrong button on the internet and unfortunately got me.
‘I met Dennis after joining an internet dating service for a laugh. An actress friend had joined the site, but wanted to stop. So I agreed that she could put my photograph up instead.
‘Dennis wrote to me and we began a correspondence. I had been married but divorced in 1999. I had two young boys, one autistic. Dennis was also divorced with two daughters. I thought why not. We appeared to have a few things in common. Although Dennis had been married twice before and his second wife was my age.
‘When he came to Thailand we found we could love each other and I think I treated him like a king. Although I am not very rich myself, a lot of my friends are, so I had full use of a top of the range Mercedes and I could get him special prices and even free accommodation in the best resorts.
‘Then later we became engaged and I flew to Scotland to see him. I did not need him to sponsor me. I went as a tourist because I am a Thai journalist but also at the time I was working on E-Procurement for the Thai governmen, so I had no problem getting a visa from the British Embassy’.
The couple went through a marriage blessing ceremony in Thailand attended by members of Mr. Booth’s family, and officially married on April 12 2008 in Galashiels.
‘I would have preferred to stay in Thailand but Dennis wanted to be near his children. So I agreed provided that I could go back regularly to see my children.
‘I told him I would need to get a job in Scotland so I could send money home, but that I could still write for Thai magazines for extra money.
‘But things never turned out that way. Dennis was a holiday man. He wanted to enjoy his retirement with me by his side. We were forever going off to Europe when I needed to work. When I said I had to send money home for my kids he said he would give me an allowance of ?200 a month.
‘So when I called home from places like Greece my family were a bit puzzled as to why I could only send such small amounts.
‘Back in Galashiels Dennis went back to work on his business which was in trouble. So I had to stay at home. I cooked him his breakfast and prepared his evening meals. Then normally when he came back in the evening he would drink with a neighbour while I watched the television upstairs.
‘I wanted to work, no matter what. I told him I could work at Tesco’s, or even wait at a Thai restaurant. It did not matter to me. But he said he could not have a wife of his doing such things.
‘We both went to and from Thailand and Britain many times but a strain developed in our marriage.
‘Dennis was always suspicious about me having an affair. I could talk to my neighbour, but not her husband, that sort of thing. I started finding Thai friends to see and would go and see them. But I could see Dennis did not want me to be independent.
‘There were incidents. He demanded my email password which I gave to him, because I did not want any secrets. But then he used my email to send a letter to all my friends saying bad things about me and the marriage.
‘I think that was the incident that really broke things up. In August 2009 we went on a sailing holiday in Greece. He really wanted me to sit in the sun on the deck or on the beach with him, but of course Thais do not do that. We stay out of the hot sun.
‘We got back home to Scotland and he returned to Greece and Turkey without me and I went back to Thailand to see my children. I expected him to join me for Christmas, but he never came, saying he had problems with his business.’
The couple exchanged Christmas cards and Valentine’s cards.
‘But a friend looked at the airline ticket my husband had booked for me and noticed that if I came back on the date booked it would be after my Residence Permit expired’, said Kanokrat.
‘When I called Dennis and asked him to change it he refused.
‘I do not know why. He said it would cost to much money. The ticket could only be changed at the agency which sold it. It made me angry so I bought another ticket and returned anyway and stayed with friends in Haddington and Glasgow for two weeks,’ she said.
It was when Kanokrat returned to Britain in May this year, she claims, to sort out her affairs, divorce and collect her belongings, that she was at first jailed and then deported.
She was stopped at Immigration and asked why she had been out of the UK without her husband for so long. They also asked her about the trip she had made in February without contacting her husband. Officials then called her husband who said the marriage was over. She was accused of having an affair with a Maltese waiter, who was waiting to collect her at the airport, and that was whom she was with in February.
‘I never had an affair. I used to stay with him and his girlfriend nothing more than that,’ said Kanokrat.
‘My husband knew I was coming back but he said he could not pick me up at the airport beause of his work. I told him I would get my friends to pick me up’.
Immigration officials, she said, claimed the waiter has admitted to the affair.
‘That is nonsense and of course I checked with him and he never said that. They also asked me why I had only ?70 in my wallet. But that’s all I needed. I had ?10,000 in my account and another ?2,000 on my credit card. And they searched my luggage for drugs!’
Kanokrat lost her appeal at an Immigration Tribunal insisting she had no intention to stay in the U.K. and had only arrived to clear up legal matters.
The tribunal ruled that as the marriage was over her residency in the U.K. was no longer valid.
‘It is appalling that officers can accuse me of having an affair and that is all agreed without going through judicial process. I have just been treated like a prostitute.’
Of her marriage she said: ‘I believe cultural differences were at the heart of our problem. In Thailand we have the freedom not available abroad. It is not a good life sitting home all day, and I would prefer working than to be on holiday all the time. The fact that foreigners do not understand our way of thinking leads to suspicion and mistrust.’
Kanokrat, also the auther of ‘I am Seh Daeng’s child’ about the plight of the wife and daughter of the ‘Red Shirt’ general who was shot dead during demos earlier this year, has started an organisation called the Federation of Thai & Foreign Spouse Networks and expects Thai government funding.
‘I am Thai and proud to be Thai.’ She expects to find many hardship cases including wives forced to have abortions and put to work in brothels.
She has already been to Germany to study cases there. Whether she will be able to do that in Britain depends on her being given a visa.
She has the support of Thailand’s former Ombudsman Theeradet Meepian who wrote in a preface to her book: ‘How many people dare reveal their own mistakes to help protect people from making the same mistakes themselves?
‘May her good intention, to give warning lessons to other Thai women, be accomplished.’
Her lawyer Namchai Ritkhampi, from Thailand’s Royal Council said: ‘My concern is less about the marriage issues, but more about human rights. We believe she was deprived of them and that is the issue to be resolved.’
The British Border Agency were unrepentant. A spokesman said: ‘The decision to revoke Mrs. Booth’s right to stay in the UK were given to her at the time in line with the agency’s policy.
‘The case has been carefully reviewed by an immigration judge who upheld the agency’s decision’.
Mr. Booth said; ‘With regard to her statement that I was controlling and that I would not let her work I would say that I encouraged her to work to integrate into the local community.
‘But she was not keen to do so saying that her command of English was not good enough. I assured her that it was. I suggested to her that she come and help me in my business but she did not wish to do so.
‘I have never at any time prevented her from applying for a divorce and she is perfectly entitled to do so in Scotland as I am domiciled here.
‘I would not oppose a straightforward divorce. Ultimately she decided to end our marriage and spent some time travelling around Europe avoiding any attempts I made to contact her.
‘ I have no interest in causing her any difficulty but I am disappointed at the way she seeks to portray me or our marriage particularly as her comments are neither accurate, nor truthful.’