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Brides on sale at pounds 3,000; Thai virgins offered to Irishmen in glossy female order catalogue.

THIS is the latest crop of Thai beauties on offer to love-starved Irishmen - for the price of a second-hand car.

The mail order brides cost a mere pounds 3,000 and are described by the British- based company which is selling them as "docile, diligent - and young".

But last night Irish third world aid agency Trocaire said it was "deeply concerned for the welfare of Thai women who offer themselves as brides to foreign men that they hardly know".

Siam Introductions, based in Kent, say it is flooded with applications from Irishmen looking to get hitched to the Eastern beauties.

Company boss Charles Black claims he is arranging an average of eight marriages for Irish clients every year.

And he says interest from Ireland is soaring.

"When I began the company over 12 years ago one of my first clients was a man from Limerick.

"But that was it for years - I had no contact from Ireland," said the 65-year-old who has been married for eight years to a Thai woman half his age.

"But in the past few years, interest has really increased and now the applications are flying in.

"I'm sending out a huge amount of brochures to Irishmen at the moment. It must be the Celtic Tiger."

Packages

The company offers "packages" starting at pounds 3,000. The price includes an introduction to up to 20 of the 2,000 women on files, return airline ticket to Thailand for the client, two weeks accommodation, a single ticket for the bride, marriage registration fees and your partner's passport.

"Anyone who applies is sent a video of the girls and a file on them.

"If they are interested in pursuing it, they pay the pounds 3,000 and list who they would like to meet," Mr Black said.

"We fly them out to Thailand where they meet up with around 15 or 20 of the girls they have chosen. They spend some time with each and then decide who they want.

"They can either marry in Malaysia, back in Ireland or in Britain. It's all above board."

Mr Black set up Siam Introductions when he visited Asia 13 years ago after divorcing his wife.

He went to see a friend with the intention of setting up an export business but after a short time he said he realised "the best export Thailand had was its women".

"These girls are just devastatingly beautiful. They really are. And I just thought: 'What an export'.

"The girls on our books are nearly all virgins - 70 per cent of them are anyway. They are well-educated and some of them even speak English.

"They do not want to marry Thai men because they are notoriously unfaithful so they want to meet nice Irish and English men.

"My customers are not allowed to sample the goods, so to speak, before they marry the girls as most are quite strict about keeping their virginity until they are married."

Mr Black defends his trade in brides: "Men just have to go to Thailand to have sex. Any man can go to one of the bars in Bangkok and have a beautiful woman for pounds 15.

"My business is to actually set them up for marriage.

"I vet the women and I vet the men as best I can but it's all up to themselves if they want to marry. I can't stop them."

The burgeoning trade was recently highlighted in Britain when it was revealed that 75-year-old Brian Clegg, the former chairman of British Gas, had married 23-year-old Thai waitress Banjit Sawaengdee after meeting her through the agency.

Thailand has been slammed by child watchdogs for its sex tours industry.

In recent years, the authorities have tried to clean up the image of its bustling tourism business.

Prostitution

However, poverty has led many girls into prostitution and the bride-for- sale business. In some cases, families have sold young girls to sex bosses to survive.

Irish campaigners have hit out at the sex trade in the past and forced the government to bring in new laws, although they are aimed at cracking down on paedophiles who target the Far East because of a more relaxed legal regime.

Last night, Trocaire warned that the economic situation in Thailand may be forcing women to give themselves into marriage.

A spokeswoman for for the aid agency said: "Trocaire would like to make it clear that we do not want to comment on this company because we are not fully informed about it.

"However, from a general point of view the development agency would be deeply concerned for the welfare of Thai women who offer themselves as brides to foreign men that they hardly know.

"Their willingness to marry and emigrate from Thailand is an indication of the economic hardship they are enduring, particularly during the current Asia crises when many families are finding the prices of basic goods such as food are soaring.

"In these circumstances, marriage to a foreigner would be seen as an escape from poverty and the route to a better life.

"Trocaire would also be concerned for the welfare of any Thai bride who arrives in Ireland.

"Trocaire would be concerned that these women would be victimised twice - once by living in poverty which forces them into such a marriage and secondly by finding themselves ill-prepared to settle into life in Ireland with someone who is effectively a stranger."

Outrageous

The National Women's Council of Ireland branded mail order brides as being "outrageous".

Chief Executive Catherine Zappone said an independent group should investigate the Thai women for sale to discover why they are offering themselves as wives.

"I would have a lot of social and ethical concerns about this sort of thing. We all know about the height of poverty in Thailand and I would not like to see the women being exploited because of it," she said.

"If there are men here who think they can buy themselves a wife in such a way they are obviously going to embark on a very dominant and exploitative relationship from the start."

EASTERN PROMISE: Siam Introductions says 70 per cent of the Thai women in its marriage brochure, above, are virgins. But Trocaire says it is "deeply concerned" for the women who offer themselves as wifes to foreign men
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Article Details
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Author:Tallant, Nicola
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 24, 1998
Words:1051
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