Land purchase programme under the new long-term visa is now being backpedalled by the government with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, on Tuesday, saying it had yet to go before the Council of State and that it could be made more conditional. He said the government was listening and weighing the concerns being raised very carefully.
The deputy leader of the new Thai Future Party and a former Democrat Party MP from Phatthalung has warned that Thais will soon be excluded from upmarket residential areas dominated by Chinese and foreign homeowners except for small stallholders on the side of the road selling snacks and drug addicts dallying in alleyways. It came in a scathing criticism of the government’s flagship policy targeting one million foreigners to come and live in Thailand while offering them the right to buy land for homes. It comes as, on Monday, the leader of the Thai Civilised Party, Mr Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, led a delegation to the Office of the Ombudsman seeking a constitutional review of the current measure agreed upon last Tuesday. The government’s legal advisor Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, this Tuesday, indicated that the government may be bowing to rising public anger and pressure over the controversial proposal.
There are already strong indicators that the government may be backing down on the decision by the cabinet on October 25th last which agreed to a Ministry of Interior measure to sell residential land to foreigners in plots of up to 1 rai in connection with inward investment into the country and an ambitious new long term visa programme linked with investment.
The government’s legal eagle Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam was trotted out on Tuesday to offer assurances that the measure can be further restricted and ring-fenced to allay public concern.
New measures agreed by the cabinet for the long-term visa programme give foreigners an entitlement with up to 1 million wealthy visa holders targeted
Under the provision agreed on Tuesday last, the cabinet adjusted the conditions of an earlier 2002 regulation for those with the special 10-year long-term visa and making an investment of ฿40 million into the kingdom, by reducing the term that the investment had to be held from five years to three years.
The significant difference between the new provision and the 2002 regulation introduced by the Thaksin government, in discussions with the International Monetary Fund, is that this proposal comes as an entitlement attached to new 10-year visas for elite foreigners.
The government is openly targeting 1 million of these investors to come and live in Thailand by 2025.
The 2002 regulation required permission directly from the Minister of the Interior and only 8 such dispensations were ever granted.
Negative reaction to the measure has been spiralling with one brewing constitutional challenge already underway and politicians labelling the move as ‘treasonous’ along with other withering rebukes to the government describing the measure as a desperate attempt to shore up an ailing economy.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam did not deny that the government may back down saying only it was still being examined by the Council of State
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu was clearly trying to tamp down this sentiment and acknowledged that the sale of land in Thailand to foreigners had always been a controversial and emotive issue.
He suggested further restrictions to the measure such as limiting the resale options of such property, curbing any right to purchase adjacent plots and amending the law so that any potential loopholes for abuse are blocked off.
‘Whenever the issue comes up, it stirs a debate. When it was raised during the Chatichai administration, it failed. The regulation was successfully pushed during the Thaksin administration, but there were few buyers.’ Mr Wissanu said. ‘So we want to reduce the number of conditions to attract investors. However, it is yet to take effect and is still being examined by the Council of State.’
When the minister asked if there was any prospect of the government caving in on the issue as in the past, Wissanu would say only that the government was listening to the public and would weigh the matter carefully.
Thai Civilised Party leader leads a delegation to the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday seeking a Constitutional Court review of the new regulation
The damage limitation action by the government came after Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, the party list MP of the Thai Civilised Party, led a delegation to file a complaint on Monday with the Office of the Ombudsman in the Lak Si district of Bangkok.
The delegation met Mr Watunyu Thiphayamonta, the Deputy Secretary-general of the agency.
They asked that the cabinet resolution, dated October 25th regarding the sale of land to wealthy foreigners with long-term visas and who invest ฿40 million, be referred to the Constitutional Court for review.
Mr Mongkolkit described himself as a Thai citizen who loved the land and acclaimed Thailand’s independence over centuries.
He said that the country’s ancestors had sacrificed their blood and lives for it referring to Section One of the 2017 Constitution which described the kingdom as a single and indivisible kingdom.
Scathing criticism from former MP and Thai Future Party deputy leader Niphit Inthasombat, Thais will be limited to selling snacks in exclusive areas
An even more scathing critique came from the deputy leader of the new Thai Future Party, Mr Niphit Inthasombat, a former MP from Phatthalung.
He warned of a Thailand in the future where there will be areas with notices declaring ‘Thai people are not allowed to enter’ in exclusive neighbourhoods in cities and municipalities with luxury mansions, grandeur with foreigners including many Chinese people, driving big luxury cars.’
He warned that Thais would be reduced to selling snacks at the roadside as, nearby, younger people would lurk near alleyways dabbling in drugs in this new Thailand.
He said that was the sort of economic stimulation and consumption that was being promoted by the current government.
Mr Niphit says he has spoken with someone who knows what should be done about the country’s current ailing economy.
He said he understood the economics and politics of what was happening in the country but insisted this proposal was ill-advised.
‘The current situation should not be addressed like this,’ he said.
About the Author
Carla Boonkong is a magazine writer who writes extensively about woman’s issues in Thailand. One of her key subjects is the story of Thailand’s growing influence in the world and the role played by Thai women in the process. She is now a staff writer with Thai Examiner.com in Bangkok. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.