foreign ownership restrictions
The restrictions of private foreign land ownership in Thailand is not absolute and can exist, pursuant section 86 of the Land Code Act, under a treaty (no treaty available) and foreigners can since 1999 qualify for land ownership under section 96 bis of the Land Code Act. In practice the exception in section 96 bis is so restrictive that this is not a viable option for foreigners. In general foreign land ownership in Thailand is prohibited and a foreigner who personally or through an agent (nominee) violates foreign land ownership restrictions is liable for fines and imprisonment (section 111 Land Code Act).
Laws and regulations governing foreign land ownership in Thailand
Section 96 bis The provisions prescribing the acquisition of land by foreigners by virtue of the provisions of a treaty under first paragraph of Section 86 shall not apply to the foreigners who bring in the capital for investment more than forty million Baht as prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations whereas the acquisition of land for purpose of residence shall not exceed one rai and shall be approved by the Minister.
The acquisition of land by foreigners under paragraph one shall be in accordance with the rules, procedures, and conditions prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations.
The essential issues shall be included in the Ministerial Regulations as follows.
(1) The type of business in which the foreigners invest that economically and socially benefits the country or which is declared by the Board of Investment as eligible for the application of the investment promotion under the law thereon.
(2) The period of maintaining the investment shall not be less than three years.
(3) The land that the foreigners may acquire shall be within the locality of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the City of Pattaya, Municipality, or the zone designated to be the residential area under the law on city planning.
Section 96 ter Any foreigner who is granted to acquired land under Section 96 bis shall, if fails to comply with the rules or conditions prescribed in paragraph two of Section 96 bis in the Ministerial Regulations, dispose of the land being under his/her right within the time period prescribed by the Director-General which is not later than a hundred and eighty days but not longer than one year. If such time period elapses, the Director-General shall have power to dispose of such land.
If the land granted to be acquired by the foreigner under Section 96 bis is not used for purpose of residence within two years from the registration date of acquisition, the Minister shall have power to dispose of such land.
Thai land laws prohibit foreign land ownership in the land code act. The following sections in the land code act are the most relevant sections for foreign land ownership:
Section 86: 'Aliens may only acquire land by virtue of the provisions of a treaty giving the right to own immovable properties and subject to the provisions of this Code.'
Section 94: 'All the land which as alien has acquired unlawfully or without permission shall be disposed of by such alien within the time limit prescribed by the Director-General which shall not be less than one hundred eighty days nor more than one year. If the land is not disposed of within the time prescribed the Director-General shall have the power to dispose of it. The provisions on the forced sale of land in CHAPTER 3 shall apply mutatis mutandis'.
Section 96: 'When it appears that any person (including a juristic person) has acquired land as the owner in place of an alien or juristic person under the provisions of Section 97 and 98, the Director-General shall have the authority to dispose of such land and the provisions of Section 94 shall apply mutatis mutandis'.
Section 113: 'Any person who acquires land as an agent of an alien or juristic person under the provisions of Section 97 or 98 shall be punished with a fine not exceeding twenty thousand baht or an imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both'.
To prevent violations of the law by foreigners using Thai nationals to acquire land on their behalf the land department issued the following notice to the land offices:
(originally published by the Thailand Land Deparment)
If it appears the fact last that there is the threat of land holding as an agent for a foreigner, the measures to the land disposal and the offender punishment shall be enforced as follows (source land department);
1 - Measures on land by enforcement to dispose of the land in accordance with legal procedures.
Under Section 94 and 96 of the Land Code, stipulate the regulation when it appears that person who obtained the land as an agent for a foreigner or foreign entity or foreigner who obtained the land illegitimately, he/she shall dispose of such land in the portion of his/her possession within the period of time specified by the Director-General of the Department of Lands which shall be not less than one hundred eighty days and not more than one year. The Director-General shall have the power to dispose of such land if time limit elapses.
2- Measures on individuals with criminal offense and to be punished in accordance with laws.
In the case of applying for land registration as an agent for a foreigner, there will be a criminal offense as follows;
2.1 Offenses against the criminal code section 267 due to information the competent official to recode false statement in the official documents shall be subject to punishment with an imprisonment of not exceeding three years or a fine of not exceeding 6,000 baht or both.
2.2 Offenses against the land code act. The alien who commits the offenses under the land code section 111, due to the acquisition of land illegitimately; shall be subject to punishment with a fine of not exceeding 20,000 baht or an imprisonment of not exceeding two years or both. Juristic person who commits the offense under the land code act section 112, or section 113 in case of Thai people; due to the acquisition of land as the agent for a foreigner or foreign entity shall be subject to punishment with a fine of not exceeding 20,000 baht or imprisonment of not exceeding two years or both.
Source: Thailand Land Department
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