Govt tweaks land ownership plan for foreigners

The government is implementing tougher controls on its land ownership plan for foreigners following sovereignty concerns from the public, a government spokeswoman said.

The government has come under fire, accused of “selling off” the country after the cabinet approved the Interior Ministry’s draft regulation to allow four groups of wealthy foreigners to purchase and own up to one rai of land in return for investments.

On Thursday, opposition lawmakers said the government has failed to address economic problems and is now backed into a corner.

Tipanan Sirichana, a deputy government spokeswoman, responded on Friday by saying there have been several successful government projects to attract foreign investment including its flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme.

Despite the global economic slump during the pandemic, it drew investments worth up to 1.8 trillion baht, she said. “This shows the government is not backed into a corner,” she said.

Ms Tipanan said officials have improved the draft regulation to attract foreign investors by adding more controls and conditions.

Under the new draft, those eligible must meet certain criteria, including a 40-million-baht investment requirement for at least three years, she said. However, if they withdraw their investment before the designated period, their land ownership rights will be revoked, she said.

The land slated for purchase must be located in Bangkok, Pattaya City or other municipalities or zones specified as residential areas, she said.

Ms Tipanan said the new regulation is designed to prevent nominees from buying up large land plots.

“When the agreement is reached, it will still be subject to scrutiny by the director of the Land Department and the Interior Ministry,” she said. “The government does not find and offer land for sale — it only issues new regulations to control foreign land ownership.”

“Thailand still retains its sovereignty,” she said. “Foreigners who own land in the country are still required to obey Thai laws.”