Move allowing foreigners to own land sparks protest in Thailand
The anti-government Kana Lomruam Prachachon (Melting Pot Group) has filed a complaint against the move allowing foreigners to buy up to 1 rai (0.16 hectares) of land in Thailand.
Land ownership rights are meant to attract wealthy foreigners including retirees and skilled workers.
The group, led by former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan and lawyer Nitithorn Lamlua, marched to Government House’s Complaint Centre on Monday to file their letter opposing the Cabinet’s move last Tuesday.
The directive, which will come into effect for five years after being published in the Royal Gazette, allows foreigners who qualify for a Long-Term Resident (LTR) visa to purchase houses and up to one rai of land if they invest at least 40 million baht for a minimum of three years.
Nitithorn said similar measures implemented in the past by different governments had proved unsuccessful due to lack of interest from foreigners. The move had been opposed by the public in Thailand every time it had been introduced, he added.
“To attract foreigners to invest in Thailand, the government should focus on building infrastructure such as logistics and the digital ecosystem, provide tax and visa benefits, make it easier for foreigners to register businesses, and ensure high quality health and safety standards for foreign residents,” he said. “Most importantly, the government must create an atmosphere that promotes true democracy to make Thailand a preferred investment destination.”
Jatuporn said the group will deliver the same complaint to Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters on Wednesday, before marching to the National Anti-Corruption Commission on Friday to petition for an investigation of whether the move is legal.
Nipit Intharasombat, deputy leader of the Sang Anakot Thai party, said a similar measure implemented after the 1997 financial crisis had failed.
“By 2002, only eight foreigners had bought land in Thailand under this measure, so it clearly failed to attract investment,” he wrote on Facebook. “This time, the required investment period has been lowered from five to three years to make it easier to apply, but I fear this will only attract shady businessmen wishing to launder money by buying property in Thailand.”
“These people often have trouble with authorities in their countries, so they flee to Thailand and hand money to local politicians in exchange for protection,” he said.
Nipit also criticised the inclusion of government bonds under the 40-million-baht investment requirement, saying it was “unnecessary” since these bonds usually have no trouble finding domestic buyers.