Thai Government Does a 360 Reversal on Foreigners Owning Land

After receiving a huge backlash and harsh criticism, the government is allegedly withdrawing its plan to enable affluent foreigners to buy up to 1 Rai of land only for residential purposes in exchange for investments.

On Monday, Chayawut Chanthorn, director of the Department of Land, announced that Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon approved the removal from the Interior Ministry’s draft regulation on foreign land ownership.

The draft legislation, which the cabinet approved in principle last month, permits four groups of well-to-do foreigners with long-term residence visas to purchase up to 1 Rai of land for residential use if they invest at least Bt40 million in the country for at least three years.

However, some have accused the administration of “selling off” the country by enacting the policy, which is geared at luring more foreign investment.

Mr. Chayawut stated that the Interior Ministry sent a letter to Gen Prawit last Friday requesting that the proposal be withdrawn and that Gen Prawit approved the request on Monday morning before it was delivered to the cabinet secretariat.

“The ministry chose to withdraw the draft regulation due to significant public concerns,” he said. “If the house agrees with the the proposal, the ministry will take the opportunity to study it and decide whether or not to proceed with the plan.”

Mr. Chayawut claims that if the new regulation is dropped, the ministry’s 2002 restriction on foreign land ownership will remain in effect.

Mr. Chayawut’s statements came after media reports that Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda would seek the cabinet to remove the draft land ownership rule today.

Last week, Gen Anupong warned the House of Representatives that the land policy might still be abolished if major public concerns were raised.

According to a source at Government House, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is genuinely worried about the concerns and believes the draft legislation will be scrapped entirely.

“If the cabinet approves the withdrawal, the Council of State will be notified, and it will discontinue its review [of the proposed legislation],” the source said. The legal branch of the government is the Council of State.

Rich global residents, wealthy seniors, those wishing to work in Thailand, and highly qualified professionals or specialists may purchase up to 1 Rai of land in Bangkok, Pattaya, or any municipal region designated as a residential zone under the proposed regulation.

On Monday, Gen Prayut declined to comment on the matter.

Mr. Supattanapong Punmeechaow, Deputy PM and Energy Minister, stated on Monday that if the people are unhappy with the policy, and the government will listen to their concerns.

“If people are uncomfortable with it and the regulation must be withdrawn, so be it; cabinet should take their time because it is only an option,” he explained.

Mr. Supattanapong stated that the administration is aware of the public’s concerns and is eager to make adjustments.

He also downplayed fears about the policy shift’s impact, saying the government will do its utmost to clarify the situation to international investors.

Meanwhile, property developers called on the government on Monday to clarify legislation to curb property speculation, claiming that the measure would boost the economy.

The Housing Business Association’s honorary chairman, Atip Peechanont, said on Monday that the government should heed criticism and reform its land policy.

According to Pipat Luengnaruemitchai, chief economist at Kiatnakin Phatra Securities, the policy contains positives and cons that the government must carefully assess.

However, he believes that the government should not focus only on affluent foreigners or pensioners because these individuals are not fully invested.

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Foreigners and Land Ownership Laws

According to Siam Legal, Thai Property Laws prohibit any foreigner from owning land in Thailand, however, there are other alternatives to owning land in Thailand.

A foreigner may own land in Thailand in the name of a Thai corporation (at least 51% Thai and 49% foreign). This can be accomplished through the formation of a Thai Limited Company or a registered Thai Partnership.

The Thai Limited Corporation is the most popular type of company registered in Thailand. A two million baht capital is required for each work permit if a corporation is going to support a work permit application.

Married to a Thai citizen

Thai property law was changed in 1999 to allow a foreigner with a Thai spouse to lawfully acquire land in Thailand. Nonetheless, the land must be registered in the Thai national’s name at the land office.

The foreigner must also sign a declaration declaring that the funds used to acquire the land were the Thai National’s finances, not the foreigner’s.

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