11 July 2024

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has defended the idea, to allow foreigners to lease land in Thailand for up to 99 years and to own up to 75% of a condominium project, as being intended to boost the Thai economy, rather than to benefit foreigners.

He said that the idea was conceived by the Finance Ministry and that he has assigned the Interior Ministry to study the possibility of amending the Land and Condominium acts accordingly.

Speaking today, he insisted that leasing land to foreigners for up to 99 years, instead of 50 years plus an extension of another 50 years, does not mean that foreigners have ownership rights over the land, noting that, in some countries, foreigners, including Thais, are permitted to lease land for up to 150 years.

They can purchase land outright in others.

While increasing foreign ownership of a condominium project from 49% to 75%, the prime minister said foreigners’ voting right would remain unchanged at 49%, with 51% remaining with Thai nationals.

He denied that a similar idea was floated before, and eventually dropped due to stiff resistance, saying that that plan was about allowing foreigners to buy land in the country, which a is more sensitive issue.

Prime Minister Srettha was a major real estate developer before entering politics.

Several Thai businessmen and real estate experts have reservations about the idea. Thai businessman, Isares Rattanadilok Na Phuket, said he agrees that the idea, if realised, would boost the property market and GDP, but it would also drive up land prices and make it more difficult for Thai nationals to own a condo unit or land.

He said the idea may hurt foreign investors in the hotel business, if they invest in serviced apartments which have lower operating costs than hotels. He also claimed that foreigners could gain majority voting rights in a condo through the use of Thai proxies.

Dr Sopon Pornchokchai, a real estate expert, suggests that the government comes up with measures to boost the sale of unsold condominium units, to resolve the current glut.

He also expressed concern that amendments of the two laws would open a loophole for “grey” businesses to scoop up condominium projects or to lease large plots of land to launder ill-gotten gains.

File photo : PM Srettha Thavisin