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Fresh questions are being asked about who owns Phuket

Phuket Ownership: Governor Admits to Concerns

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Phuketwan Opinion/Analysis

THE Governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-nob, said today there was often a subtle, unwritten agreement that enabled foreigners to control what was done with land on Phuket.

While the letter of the law was being obeyed, the effect of a marriage or a nominee arrangement in most cases meant foreign control of Thai real estate, he said.

The governor's comments were sought by a reporter today amid apparent growing concern about the actual levels of control foreigners have, especially along the island's prime coast.

A controversial academic report on ''alien ownership'' of property on Phuket seems to be a reflection of widespread uneasiness about foreign investment in land.

The report, loosely translated, is titled ''Summary Report: Real Estate Holdings of Aliens.'' It is likely to be dissected and discussed for weeks and months to come.

We could not find any figures in the document to support the Bangkok Post's page one lead article on Monday that carried the heading:''Foreigners 'Own 90 percent of Phuket beach land'.''

There are, however, many other elements that will be the talk of the island. One researcher told Phuketwan today that when it came to the issue of foreign ownership, ''Phuket is quite critical.''

The report was prepared by Siriporn Sajjanont and a team of researchers from the Economics Faculty at Sukhothai Thammnathirat Open University.

It was done with the support of the Thailand Research Fund. The summary stretches to 43 pages.

The team talked to focus groups, the Land Office, the Chamber of Commerce, Immigration, the Industrial Council, the Department of Business Development, the Board of Investment, and local mayors and officials.

Their research included aspects of ''alien'' ownership in Rayong province and Chiang Mai, but on Phuket the main focus was on the south of the island: Patong, Kata-Karon, Chalong and Rawai.

Our conclusion after reading the document is that much of the constant paranoia and uncertainty about foreign ownership has simply bubbled to the surface in this piece of research.

The report makes the point that foreign investment is a double-edged sword: Thailand needs the expertise and money to develop, but concerns remain about the medium-term and long-term outcomes.

What's plainest of all is that Thais and foreigners need to jointly deal with the doubts that have been raised by this document before more damage is done to the property sector.

The summary says that foreigners are circumventing the law through Thai wives, Thai lawyers and Thai nominees, creating ownership arrangements where the foreigners have real control.

Time share comes in for particular attention, with the report noting that investment in this sector helps the economy to grow but extremely difficult to regulate when it comes to taxes especially.

The report raises questions about the cost of disposing of future garbage, the continuing threat to the environment, and other aspects that generally come under the heading: who pays, and how?

The report also notes that in 10 years, Phuket expects to have 10 million tourists a year. The report questions the viability of the island under that kind of intense pressure.

According to the author, the Department of Special Investigations had noted five areas of special interest to foreign investors: Pattaya, Samui, Phang Nan, Hua Hin and Phuket.

One suggestion put forward is the concept of ''zoned investment'' for foreigners, where regulators could be certain of outcomes.

Concern is expressed about the way the prospect of large amounts of foreign money have become a driving force behind Thais encroaching on hillsides, mangroves and national parks, intent on cashing in.

The popularity of villas and condos is noted, and the suggestion is made that Singapore's Residential Property Act, which carefully limits foreign ownership, could be a role model.

On Phuket, the spirit of the law was clearly being breached more and more, the report says.

What should be noted is that this is an academic piece of research, with no official significance. But it has served the useful purpose of bringing doubts and uncertainties to the surface.

Paranoia is the problem everyone shares. Now all parties with a vested interest in the future of Phuket need to sit down and hold one very large, very frank group therapy session.

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Comments

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Oh my buddha all these nasty Aliens buying Phuket land (at inflated prices) and spending exorbitant amounts of money to have substandard buildings erected (by unqualified Thai/Burmese contractors/tradesmans) and then when they are finished what do they do?

Dig up the whole lot and send it back home to Europe?
No after they are fed up with being ripped off and paying bribes to have services connected to their dwellings they sell the development back to a Thai at a handsome loss and vow never to invest money in Thailand again.

Wake up Thailand.

Posted by Whispering Jack on August 25, 2009 22:12

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Why is it that the Thais want to have their cake, eat it and expect foreigners to pay for it? It's about time things changed ... one way or another. The Thais need to stand back and make a firm decision. Do they change the FBA and Property Laws to allow sensible ownership of what WE pay for or do they make it so that foreign ownership is forbidden under any circumstances. The trouble is, while the Thais do not like foreigners owning anything, it is a clear fact that without foreign investment the country could simply not survive. The draconian laws and discriminatory practices needs to stop if this country is to move forward as a democracy. I, and every other foreginer is tired of listening to the Thais moan about foreginers owning land and businesses ... who sold it to us? Who benefited from the sale? How many rich Thais are there who made their money from foreigners? ... the Thais have never had it so good and with the right passage forward they can have so much more.

Posted by noddy on August 26, 2009 14:28

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Another example of Thai xenophobia.They will gladly take our money but do not want us here.

Editor: Why do you assume you are talking to others of your kind (''our/us'') when there's a fair chance none of the readers on this site, whatever their background, want to be a part of your version of ''us?'' Have you ever talked to a Thai, or are you just imagining what it might be like?

Posted by alby on August 27, 2009 17:38


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