Govt may drop or revise directive on land sale to foreigners: interior minister
The Cabinet may bury a draft directive on the sale of land and houses to wealthy and skillful foreigners following a public outcry, Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda told the House of Representatives on Thursday.
He said the government would attempt to address issues of concern resulting from the controversial directive.
“We will do our best to address all the people’s concerns. I will relay to the Cabinet the concerns voiced by the public and the House of Representatives,” said Anupong, who represented Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in answering an opposition query.
“Additional steps are likely to make it more difficult [for foreigners to buy land]. Also, it’s possible that this law may collapse during a Cabinet meeting if it makes everyone worried,” the interior minister said.
Anupong, who oversees the Land Department, said during a House meeting that the new ministerial regulation was aimed at attracting investment from overseas, as well as highly skilled foreigners, following the Covid-19 crisis.
He said the directive was revised from an existing ministerial regulation that was issued in 2002, with stricter requirements and a time limit of five years.
The interior minister also dismissed criticism that the government was “putting the country on sale” by allowing four groups of foreigners to buy land at no more than 1 rai (0.16 hectare) each in exchange for an investment of 40 million baht for at least three years in Thailand.
“We have no intention of selling the country. And nobody is doing so. I am confident that everyone in this Parliament, both in the government and the opposition, has no such intention,” he said.
He added that the regulation would be revised to allow no purchase of unusually large clusters of land.
Anupong was responding to a query from senior opposition MP Suthin Klungsang from the Pheu Thai Party, who pointed out that the ministerial regulation has led to widespread concern as about 80 per cent of the population is still landless.
“Whether your move is intentional or not, property capitalists will benefit. I believe you don’t really want [foreign] experts. You mean to favour real estate groups with a lot of land. It’s the people who stand to lose,” said the opposition MP, mincing no words.
The directive was approved by the Cabinet on October 25 and forwarded to the Council of State – the government’s legal advisory agency – for scrutiny before it is published in the Royal Gazette.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is in charge of the government’s legal matters, said the draft directive would be improved in response to concerns and proposals from critics.
The draft specifies that a foreigner must invest at least 40 million baht to be eligible to purchase land and a house. Critics want the government to increase the amount.
Foreigners are required to maintain their investment for at least three years, but critics are calling for a longer period.
They say foreigners should be prohibited from reselling the land they hold in bits and pieces. The draft allows them to sell the 1 rai of land in parts until the entire quota is used up.
Critics also say foreigners should be prohibited from buying plots next to each other because it would put a large cluster of land under foreign ownership. The draft does not prohibit this.