Thailand pulls the plug on foreign land ownership regulation

The Thai government has already pulled the plug on the draft ministerial regulation that would open up new foreign land ownership options in Thailand.

The regulation proposed allowing foreigners who hold a 10-year Long Term Resident visa to buy a property and/or land of up to one rai in Thailand, given they invest a minimum of 40 million baht into Thailand and maintain the investment for three years.

However, the plan has been axed already amid backlash from Thais, with some political parties accusing the government of “selling off’ the country to foreigners.

The regulation was passed by the Cabinet on October 25, prompting instant backlash from critics. Today, the Cabinet agreed to withdraw the draft.

Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha insists that although the draft has been withdrawn, it is more accurately “suspended” for a while to give the government time to hold more discussions and “listen to more opinions” on the matter.

Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan allegedly had a significant role in the decision to withdraw the regulation.

Minister of Interior General Anupong said there are other ways for wealthy foreigners to buy land in Thailand. Foreigners are eligible for the 30-year renewable lease route on properties and are legally allowed to buy condominiums so long as 51% of the units in the building are owned by Thais.

Anupong reminded the public that a similar regulation was passed by the Thaksin administration in 2002 to give foreigners the right to own landed properties on up to one rai of land in Thailand if they hold their 40 million baht investment for five years.

However, since the foreign land ownership regulation was passed in 2002, only eight properties in Thailand were bought through the scheme.

The requirements outlined in the new ministerial regulation are tougher bills to foot than those specified by the Thaksin administration’s regulation, just with a shorter minimum investment period.

Anupong said the Thai government had to “listen to the voice of the people.” However, people really don’t have much to worry about. You can’t “sell off the country to foreigners” if no foreigners are interested in buying it.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.