The director of the Phuket Land Office in Thailand has implored local people not to sell their land to non-islanders.
According to local media reports, director Paitoon Lertkrai made his comments outside a Ministry of the Interior seminar at the Royal Phuket City Hotel at the end of December.
”I would like to tell Phuket people, don’t sell your land to foreigners. Keep it for sale to Phuket people,” he said.
Mr Lertkrai later told Thai newspaper The Phuket Gazette that he was concerned not only by the growing number of foreign buyers taking interest in the island, but the number of Thais and Thai companies from other regions.
“I do not mean just people from other countries, I mean anyone not from Phuket,” he said.
“I want Phuket people to keep their land for their children… and their children’s children. If they sell it all, where will their children live?”
Over the past few decades, the idyllic island off Thailand’s south-west coast has become increasingly popular with foreign buyers, making Phuket one of the country’s most valuable property markets.
Though real estate sales to foreigners dropped drastically during the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, many agencies have reported increased interest from foreign buyers during the last year. Property development firm Seacon has estimated that sales to foreign buyers could increase by up to 25 per cent by the end of 2011.
Richard Lusted of real estate agency Siam Real Estate said however that it was too soon to tell what would happen to the Phuket market in 2011. “In our opinion in Phuket the market has been flat for residential sales for 2009-2010. We are now seeing an upturn in 2011, however too early to give any indicators of percentage rise over the previous two years.”
Nick Thatcher, a British expat who runs the property agency Thai-Real, said Phuket’s popularity with foreigners was due to its combination of relatively low prices with high-quality properties. “Development is far ahead of other areas. If you are used to living in a very expensive apartment in central London and for a fraction of the price you can get a better property with sunset ocean views and a beach down the road it’s quite an easy decision for some.”
He added that Mr Lertkrai’s comments were only the latest in a series of attempts by authorities to convince locals to not sell to foreigners. “It’s always been the way the government would would like it to stay. But with so much money arriving from overseas it’s hard to convince a land owner to sell at a lower price to a local.”