More and more Western men are turning to Thailand to find wives

Shino Yuasa

Shino Yuasa

BANGKOK - After a series of doomed relationships with American women, Marc Sullivan came to Bangkok in a bid to meet Miss Right at last.

The clean-cut, 52-year-old bachelor, who bears a passing resemblance to Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, says: "I could not find anybody in the States. There was nothing in America for me. That's why I'm here."

Sullivan, an emergency nurse from Florida, is one of a growing number of foreign men seeking young and beautiful Thai brides via the Internet.

Speaking at the Bangkok office of Sweet Singles, a Thai bride-by-Internet company, Sullivan says he has decided to "go beyond boundaries" in his search for a wife after a futile quest in the US.

"American women in my age group are, basically, a wreck. They are physically and emotionally beaten up from relationships and life. They are untrusting," says the well-built Sullivan.

"I think the feminist movement in America in the 1960s really trashed American feminism. American women lack a certain femininity about them that women of other countries have," he laughs.

Sullivan contacted Sweet Singles six months ago and was introduced to Yoshita Tongsalee, an attractive 27-year-old teacher of traditional Thai dancing.

After corresponding with her through e-mails for three weeks, Sullivan decided to meet her and flew to Bangkok early this month.

"Just from the e-mails I knew she was the one. I just knew," says the American, his emerald earring dazzling.

"I find Thai women in general to be less self-centred and more family-centred than I find Western women to be," he says.

The couple plans to marry next year.

John, a 43-year-old Briton, who got married to a Thai woman four years ago via an Internet bride agency, also has grievances about Western women.

John, who declines to give his last name, says: "English women are very demanding and they expect you to be good-looking and have plenty of money and give them lots of attention.

"They drink a lot, smoke a lot and eat a lot.

"I am not very good at getting women anyway. I'm not the best-looking guy in the world. I'm quite short and it's very hard for me to find an English woman who is shorter than me."

Before marrying his Thai bride, John dated six British women, but his relationships were anything but happy.

"I'm just fed up with British women. They are not so loyal,'' he says.

After meeting six Thai women in Bangkok via the Internet, including the 32-year-old businesswoman who later became his wife, John says he was struck by their kindness and family-centred values.

"I think Thai women are more loyal to their husbands. They are not just 'take, take, take'.

"Also, they have old-fashioned family values, which we used to have in this country."

John and his wife now have two young boys.

Both John and Sullivan decline to say how much they paid to get their Thai wives.

Sweet Singles says it can charge a foreign man about R10000 for a three-year membership to meet Thai women.

About 10 000 foreign men have signed up with the agency over the last decade, and nearly half of them were previously divorced, says Bee, the company's customer service manager.

Some 80 percent of them get married to Thai women through the agency.

Americans account for 60percent of its clients, with the rest mostly from Australia, Britain, Germany and Scandinavian countries. Their average age ranges from 55 to 60.

About 20 000 Thai women have also joined Sweet Singles, with their ages ranging from 20 to 40. The company charges a Thai woman R140 for membership.

Bee, a petite 40-something, says that Thai woman often have a favourable impression of foreigners.

She says: "Many Thai girls were disappointed by Thai men, who are famous for womanising, drinking and gambling.

"Thai women believe Caucasian men are more responsible and sincere and do not play around with other women."

Thanitchaya Buaban, a striking 26-year-old beauty from Thailand's northern tourist spot of Chiang Mai, says she used to have a Thai boyfriend but he cheated on her many times.

"After I joined Sweet Singles, I started meeting foreigners and they were very kind and polite," she says.

Buaban says she now has many American suitors who are trying to win her love with diamond rings and necklaces.

"I'm going to choose the best one," she says with a big smile.

For Sullivan's fiancee, Tongsalee, her experiences with Thai men were more traumatic.

She says: "I was planning to marry my first Thai boyfriend, but he did not show up on our wedding day. He embarrassed me and my family. My second boyfriend cheated on me and impregnated another woman."

But Tongsalee, who wears a golden heart necklace, says she is looking forward to living in Florida with the man of her dreams - even if she still refers to him by his last name.

"I believe Mr Sullivan is a gift from God. He is really a good man and respects me.

"Every day I pray and thank Buddha for giving me Mr Sullivan," she says.

Sullivan nods and holds her hand.

"I have to step outside my own culture to find someone with whom I am compatible. I am not narrow-minded in that regard," he smiles. -Sapa-AFP