Interior Ministry Anupong Paojinda has defended the foreign land ownership proposal, arguing that the move would encourage foreigners to invest in Thailand to stimulate the economy.
The cabinet has approved the Interior Ministry’s draft regulation to allow four groups of high-income foreigners to buy and own up to one rai of land as long as they invest a specified sum in the country.
However, the plan has been widely criticized by the public, with many accusing the government of “selling” the country to foreigners.
On Thursday, while answering opposition MPs’ questions about the land policy, Gen Anupong said a draft regulation had been submitted for input from the public.
The proposal can still be revised to introduce additional restrictions, such as limiting the regulation’s duration or increasing the investment sum required from foreigners, Gen Anupong stated.
Under the draft regulation, four groups of foreigners can apply for, buy and own up to one rai of land for residential purposes. It targets wealthy individuals, professionals working remotely from Thailand, retirees, and specialists on long-term resident visas.
To be eligible, applicants must meet some criteria besides investing 40 million baht. For example, the land they buy must be in areas demarcated as residential zones, including Bangkok or Pattaya.
Gen Anupong insisted that the draft regulation’s goal is not to sell the country or not serve investors but to attract foreign investment to benefit the local economy.
In addition, the government hopes to add more regulations to prevent land grabs, such as prohibiting foreigners from buying connected plots. The minister also stated that the government has started to work to address the inequality in land ownership issues.
“We can improve the regulation, such as by increasing the [required] investment to 100 million baht or raising the investment period to 10 years. [The plan] can be scrapped if people have serious concerns. We won’t see it as a loss of face,” he added.
Gen Anupong also addressed comments that the government was resorting to the measure to prop up investments because it was at a loss with the economy. He said that no government uses only one measure to address economic problems and that Thailand will use incentives to attract tourists and investors.
Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow also defended the move, saying the government would implement mechanisms to prevent money launderers from abusing the land policy.
The policy was formulated based on input from companies and potential investors, he added.