Foreigners own 100 million rai

Some 100 million rai of Thai land is owned by foreigners, mostly through their Thai spouses or nominees, Auditor-General Sriracha Charoenpanit revealed yesterday. He said if this situation was unsolved, it could lead to later generations of Thais having no land to live on. Sriracha told a seminar yesterday on concealed juristic acts that threats to national security came from: firstly, drug problems ruining people, and secondly, the lack of land for future generations, as foreigners now owned a third of Thai land - about 100 million rai.

Foreigners own about 30 per cent of Hua Hin and Pattaya

It was a long-standing issue that resulted from a policy in 1997 to stimulate the economy by giving a special right of land ownership to foreigners with one million US dollars, he said. Some 90 per cent of coastal land at Ban Phe Beach in Rayong was foreign-owned, and foreigners owned about 30 per cent of Hua Hin and Pattaya.

Land deals were done in ways such as via marriage with Thais or setting up a Thai-based company and a law which allows foreigners to hold up to 49 per cent of the shares. Indeed, he said, many companies let them hold the other 51 per cent through nominees.

Sriracha called for a limit on land owned by foreign residents and said the land tax should be hiked to promote the use of land, although doing this might be difficult, as the rich would object.

Arrests for those who break the law

As a long-term solution, he urged the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and Department of Special Investigation to look into foreign land ownership and give rewards to people who help police arrest those who break the law.

National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) lecturer Piyanuch Potawanich warned that the launch of the Asean Economic Community in 2015 would lead to more foreigners using nominees to own Thai land, especially Singaporeans, who were smart, had money and needed to invest for profit. Among many solutions, she also urged laws to punish nominees and deport any foreigners who do wrong.

Land Department executive Sujit Jongprasert admitted that finding nominees for foreigners who buy land wasn't easy. And AMLO chief Pol Colonel Sihanat Prayoonrat said the agency only checked land transactions that involved over Bt2 million in cash, so many buyers reduced the payment to avoid having to report such deals.

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Ombudsman says foreigners own third of all land

Bangkok Post March 13 2012

About a third of land in Thailand is owned by foreigners, many of whom have exploited loopholes in land ownership law, says the Ombudsman.

Ombudsman Siracha Charoenpanij revealed the information during a seminar on disguised legal transactions and foreigners' land ownership in Thailand held by the Senate committee on economic, commercial and industrial affairs at parliament yesterday.

By law, a foreign entity is allowed to hold no more than 49% of any land. However, the Ombudsman said in many cases, more shares were held by the foreigners via nominees.

There are more than 20,000 business-holding properties in Thailand with less than 51% Thai ownership, a property source said.

Since 2002, a foreigner is allowed to purchase a maximum of one rai of land in Thailand for residential purposes if they bring at least US$1 million (30.7 million baht) into the country.

"Right now more than one third of land in Thailand, or about 100 million rai, is owned by foreigners," said Mr Siracha, based on an academic study. (The total land area of Thailand is 319,855,437 rai)

According to the research, most of the land in foreigners' hands is in coastal resort areas.

More than 90% of the land along Ban Phe beach in Rayong province has foreign owners. In Hua Hin and Pattaya, foreigners own about 30% of the land. Other areas popular with foreign investors include Central Plains farmland.

Mr Siracha said the Ombudsman will propose a draft law to prevent nominee property holding in the next two weeks.

Piyanut Potawanit, the law lecturer at the National Institute of Development Administration and head of the research team, said the land ownership problem could become a critical problem in 2015, when the Asean Economic Community is formed.

"My question is how to strengthen the efficiency of agencies responsible for scrutinising land ownership in our country," said Ms Piyanut.

But Wason Khongchantr, managing director of Modern Property Consultant, said it was impossible that a third of land in Thailand is owned by foreigners. "I estimate less than 5% of total land is owned by foreigners," he said.

Residential areas account for only 10% of the country's total land areas, and only a handful of provinces typically attract foreign residents, Mr Wason said.