Thailand nixes plan to allow foreigners to buy land after backlash

Thailand PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said the plan “isn’t scrapped” altogether as it’s going to be reviewed afresh to address concerns. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BANGKOK – Thailand junked a new proposal to allow foreigners to buy land for housing after the plan triggered a public backlash, with opposition parties saying the move was akin to “selling out” the country.

The Cabinet approved an Interior Ministry proposal to pull the plan for further reviews, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri told a briefing after a meeting in Bangkok on Tuesday. The government will analyse public opinion and feedback to evaluate the overall impact, he said.

The plan “isn’t scrapped” altogether as it is going to be reviewed afresh to address concerns, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told reporters.

The regulation, endorsed by Mr Prayut’s Cabinet in October, sought to allow foreigners with long-term resident visas the right to buy land for housing as part of measures to draw more foreign investment to rebuild the nation’s economy in the post-pandemic era. 

Under the proposal, professionals, high-net-worth individuals and retirees were to be allowed to purchase up to 1 rai (0.16ha) of land if they invested at least 40 million baht (S$1.52 million), including the price of the land, for a minimum period of three years.

But the opposition flayed the plan, saying the move may further dim the prospect of landless Thais ever owning homes, and the minimum investment requirement will not reinvigorate the economy.

The investment options offered to foreigners included bonds issued by the government, Bank of Thailand and state-owned enterprises, as well as certain real estate mutual funds and property trust funds.

Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda called the issue “a delicate matter” and said that a study was needed to weigh the advantages and disadvantages.

Thailand has been on a drive to lure foreign investment to boost the economy, including long-term visa schemes and income tax breaks for “high potential” foreigners, wealthy retirees and skilled professionals.

South-east Asia’s second-largest economy is expected to grow 3.3 per cent in 2022 and has for decades been one of Asia’s most popular destinations for Western expatriates, businesses and retirees.

Thai property ownership by foreign individuals is currently limited mainly to condominium units or through complicated long-term lease agreements.

Foreigners still can purchase land under a ministerial regulation, effective since 2002, Mr Anucha said. But fewer than a dozen deals have been struck in about two decades, according to local media. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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