living in the ‘Land of Smiles’

Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Music is Over

Via: Citylife

Chiang Mai’s fledgling music scene has suffered a setback of late due to the crackdown on foreign musicians playing live music in the city. A number of arrests were made during the months of March and April at Guitarman and Northgate, nightspots that have gained cult status within the foreign community, among local Thais as well as tourists. The arrests, which the immigration police have said were an action against people working without the requisite work permits, has created confusion and a small void at a time when Chiang Mai was fast becoming a creative nexus for foreign musicians.

Since the arrests, the expat community, musicians, bar owners, as well as music aficionados, havebeen voicing their opinions, though mostly in the shadows, debating the issue of whether the arrests were just and in accordance with the law, or whether it is yet another attempt to intimidate foreigners out of money and how much affect it will have on Chiang Mai as a whole. Questions have been raised as to what is exactly illegal concerning playing live music. One of the arrestees at Guitarman was in Thailand for just a short time when he was arrested just for jamming, although some of the musicians playing at various venues in Chiang Mai have admitted that they were paid for their services, thereby undoubtedly violating the law.

An anonymous musician from a popular foreign band based in Chiang Mai told Citylife that his regular venue is now virtually deserted with no music being performed anymore, “Open mic nights are done, musicians in Chiang Mai are done”, he said. He also explained that a large number of foreign musicians have cancelled their gigs out of fear of being arrested by immigration, and a growing number of foreign musicians who have settled or retired in Chiang Mai are leaving as they feel that the city no longer offers what was once a creative hub for performers.

According to the Alien Working Act, B.E. 2551 (2008), any non-Thai nationality may not work inside Thailand for wages or benefit without expressed official permission, i.e. a valid work permit. And while the Labour Department can issue work permits quite easily and with few restrictions, within permitted fields of work, the problem is often the monetary restrictions required by the Immigration Department in issuing visas (a westerner has to earn – and pay taxes and social security on – over 50,000 baht (approx. $1,650USD) per month to receive a visa).

Though musicians ‘jamming’ for no wages, as one Chiang Mai lawyer put it, is a different matter and a complicated issue. Many foreign musicians may in fact not be accepting payment and are just ‘jamming’ for enjoyment and therefore not breaking any immigration laws.

However, this can be difficult for immigration police to discern who is ‘legally’ playing, and who is not. Ruchuachai says, “There’s a process in place, if you’re following it and can prove it, you’re innocent. No problem, jamming is OK for sure. No judge is going to punish you for it, but you may have to go through the legal process nonetheless.”

Read the entire Citylife article, HERE:


‘However, this can be difficult for immigration police to discern who is ‘legally’ playing, and who is not’.


‘Evidence of absence’ in general, such as evidence that there is no milk in a certain bowl; i.e, you might (?) need to prove you didn’t get paid, or receive a free meal/drink.


There’s fair and unfair; and there’s the law.



June 4, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,


  1. A long long time ago
    I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
    And I knew if I had my chance
    That I could make those people dance
    And maybe they’d be happy for a while
    But February made me shiver
    With every paper I’d deliver
    Bad news on the doorstep
    I couldn’t take one more step
    I can’t remember if I cried
    When I read about his widowed bride
    But something touched me deep inside
    The day the music died

    ‘American Pie’ – Don McLean

    Comment by seattle99 | June 4, 2011 | Reply

  2. I really appreciate your way of presentation. Some great information to be absorbed in this post.
    Thanks a lot for sharing

    Comment by The Shine Condominium | April 15, 2014 | Reply

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