Disillusioned Western men seek to Thai the knot

by AFP/Shino Yuasa, Jan 19, 2007 | Destinations: Thailand / Bangkok

Bangkok, December, 2006 - After a series of doomed relationships with American women, Marc Sullivan came to Bangkok in a bid to meet Miss Right at last.

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

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 United States.

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

"I think the feminist movement in America in the 60s 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 via e-mails for three weeks, Sullivan decided to meet her and flew to Bangkok in early December.

"Just from 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-centered and more family-centered than I find in western women," 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.

"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 and they smoke a lot and they eat a lot," says John, who declined to give his last name.

"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," he says on the telephone from London.

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

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

When he met six Thai ladies in Bangkok via the Internet, including a 32-year-old business woman who later became his wife, John says he was struck by their kindness and family-centered 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," he says. John and his wife now have two young boys.

John and Marc declined to say how much they paid to get their Thai wives. Sweet Singles says it can charge a foreign man up to 1,700 dollars for a three-year membership to meet Thai ladies.

Some 10,000 foreign men have signed up with Sweet Singles 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 60 percent of the company's male clients, with the rest mostly from Australia, Britain, Germany and Scandinavian countries. Their average age ranges from 55 to 60.

Some 20,000 Thai women have also joined Sweet Singles, with their ages ranging from 20 to 40. The company charges a Thai woman 700 baht (20 dollars) for membership.

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

"Many Thai girls were disappointed by Thai men who are famous for womanizing, drinking and gambling. Thai woman believe Caucasian men are more responsible and sincere and not playing around with other women," she says.

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.

"I was heart-broken. After I joined Sweet Singles, I started meeting foreigners and they were very kind and polite," she says at the firm's office.

Thanitchaya 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 Yoshita, her experiences with Thai men were more traumatic.

"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," Yoshita says. "My second boyfriend cheated on me and impregnated another woman."

But Yoshita, 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 nodded and held 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.

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