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Thai ombudsman challenges Thai nominee companies “owning” land in Phuket

NB: This photo is of a legal development in Patong, Phuket

Ombudsman Songsak Saicheua visited the Southern provinces recently to address the endemic problem of foreigners acquiring land illegally, often through suspect Thai nominee companies.

He is calling for urgent action to address the issue of foreigners possessing land “control” through Thai nominees. Apart from longterm leases, Thai nominee companies have been promoted by dodgy property agents and consultants in Thailand for decades, flying under the radar of scrutiny and challenge.

“This widespread practice poses a significant threat to Thailand’s national economy and stability.”

Speaking via teleconference from Surat Thani Provincial Hall, Mr. Songsak maintained the severity of the situation to officials from Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi, Phang Nga and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces.

The meeting also included officers from the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4, with Phuket Vice Governor Norsak Suksomboon and other relevant officials participating.

Foreign ownership of land through “disguised” agents is particularly prevalent in tourist and agricultural areas, with significant involvement from investors in China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and recently, Myanmar.

The methodology to get ‘control’ of Thai land includes using Thai nationals through family relationships, setting up Thai companies, and purchasing land at inflated prices. The latter certainly challenges “Thailand’s security, economy, and society” by artificially pushing up prices in areas where illegal nominee companies flourish.

“The Office of the Ombudsman is thoroughly investigating this issue. They are considering related laws, research, media reports, field visits and expert consultations.”

He requested information from provincial branches of the Lands Department, the Ministry of Commerce, the Revenue Department, and other relevant agencies on actions taken against fake agents. The property businesses also use Thai lawyers who are complicit with the setting up of these illegal companies.

This directive follows recent raids where 98 foreigners, mainly Russians, were arrested, and assets valued over 1.5 billion baht were seized. Mr. Songsak reiterated similar instructions during a recent visit to Koh Samui, where he was accompanied by army and local civic representatives.

Significant changes have been reported in many hillside and elevated areas on Koh Samui, now occupied by luxury villas owned by foreigners through Thai nominee companies. Again, many of these residences are occupied and ‘owned’ by Russian citizens.

The Ombudsman noted that the transformation to Koh Samui’s hillside landscape is damaging the island’s natural environment and forcing local authorities to challenge the questionable issuance of land title documents.

Mr. Songsak called for urgent amendments to outdated laws and proposed drafting a central law to specifically address the use of nominees.

“While private investment is crucial, it must adhere to legal regulations to protect the nation’s interests and security.”

Phuket-GO recommends that any foreigner wishing to buy property in Thailand consult a qualified Thai lawyer and DO NOT believe property agents that tell you that you can ‘own’ land in Thailand with a Thai nominee company.


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