About a third of land in Thailand is owned by foreigners, many of whom have exploited loopholes in land ownership law, says the Ombudsman.
Ombudsman Siracha Charoenpanij revealed the information during a seminar on disguised legal transactions and foreigners’ land ownership in Thailand held by the Senate committee on economic, commercial and industrial affairs at parliament yesterday.
By law, a foreign entity is allowed to hold no more than 49% of any land. However, the Ombudsman said in many cases, more shares were held by the foreigners via nominees.
There are more than 20,000 business-holding properties in Thailand with less than 51% Thai ownership, a property source said.
Since 2002, a foreigner is allowed to purchase a maximum of one rai of land in Thailand for residential purposes if they bring at least US$1 million (30.7 million baht) into the country.
“Right now more than one third of land in Thailand, or about 100 million rai, is owned by foreigners,” said Mr Siracha, based on an academic study. (The total land area of Thailand is 319,855,437 rai)
According to the research, most of the land in foreigners’ hands is in coastal resort areas.
More than 90% of the land along Ban Phe beach in Rayong province has foreign owners. In Hua Hin and Pattaya, foreigners own about 30% of the land.
Other areas popular with foreign investors include Central Plains farmland.
Mr Siracha said the Ombudsman will propose a draft law to prevent nominee property holding in the next two weeks.
Piyanut Potawanit, the law lecturer at the National Institute of Development Administration and head of the research team, said the land ownership problem could become a critical problem in 2015, when the Asean Economic Community is formed.
“My question is how to strengthen the efficiency of agencies responsible for scrutinising land ownership in our country,” said Ms Piyanut.
But Wason Khongchantr, managing director of Modern Property Consultant, said it was impossible that a third of land in Thailand is owned by foreigners.
“I estimate less than 5% of total land is owned by foreigners,” he said.
Residential areas account for only 10% of the country’s total land areas, and only a handful of provinces typically attract foreign residents, Mr Wason said.