Thailand Weekly Vol. 21

Thailand news and stories delivered free every Sunday 🇹🇭

Hey there everyone. Coming at you from a very wet Bangkok with more rain expected over the next few hours. I will say, these downpours are sort of nice as they’re a great way for the city to get a deep clean, but my hope is that they don’t cause the same type of flooding that we saw earlier this week. I have a few meetings I need to get to tommorow, and flooded side Soi’s would make it a real pain to get to my final destination!

Thailand To Attract Wealthy Foreigners With Land Ownership Proposal - What Does It Mean?

The Government’s recent bid in attracting wealthy foreigners has picked up steam over the past week, and would ultimately allow for non-Thais to legally own real estate in their own name here in Thailand. Below is a list of some common questions that have been asked as it pertains to this topic, as well as the corresponding answers:

What does the proposal regarding foreign land ownership actually look like?

  • The Land Department is currently drafting up legislation that would allow for full land ownership of up to one Rai (0.39 acres or 1600 sqm) for foreigners for residential use.

  • The proposal would also offer attractive tax benefits and a 10-year resident visa

  • Under the current proposal, foreigners must invest a minimum of 40 million baht (USD $1.09 million) in Thai property, securities, or funds to participate in the program. This investment must be locked-in for a minimum of three years.

Why is the government proposing this?

  • Earlier this July, Deputy Minister of the Interior Niphon Bunyamanee said that Thailand’s real estate sector needs a boost. Bunyamanee feels that wealthy, or highly-skilled foreigners can help provide a lifeline to this key sector.

  • He judged the land ownership proposal based on the current stats for foreign condo ownership in Thailand. He said that “there is a rule limiting foreign ownership of condos to 49%. We have roughly 1.5 million condo units in Thailand and foreigners only own about 90,000 units, or 6%, which is nowhere near 49%.” He then went on to say that “the Thai government wants to attract foreigners”, and cited the cabinet’s recent approval of the new rules that offered long-term resident visas to qualified individuals.

What do people think?

  • Pro – Rathawat Kuvijitrsuwan, the head of research and consulting at CBRE Thailand, said that the overall goals for this change in policy are positive. He also mentioned that a key requirement for this to be a success is to provide more clarity regarding the application process, as well as commentary into how the government will ensure that the use of land is strictly for residential purposes. He mentioned that there would also need to be full transparency on the reselling process, and what sort of restrictions would be in place there.

  • Neutral – Somphop Manarangsan, president of Panyapiwat Institute of Technology, mentioned that the government must ensure that these property ownership privileges extended to foreigners would actually bring long-term benefits to the Kingdom, such as technological development and innovation. He mentioned that the scheme should not result in increased land prices for Thai people.

  • Against – Nipon Puapongsakorn of the Thailand Development Research Institute said that Thailand needs something more concrete to attract foreign investment. He feels that it would be more beneficial to increase investor confidence in the form of new free-trade agreements, law improvements, etc. rather trying to lure wealthy foreigners with a real estate program. He cited Vietnam as an example of a country doing this, specifically on the free-trade agreement front.

Our Take

There’s a lot of meat on this bone, and I’m happy that I’m not the one needing to navigate these waters and come up with a solution that works for everyone. On one side, part of me feels that it’d be amazing if all of this was simplified and there was a clear path for foreigners to purchase real estate in their own name, while feeling 100% bullet-proof doing so… the same way it works in places like Canada, the US, and a good chunk of Europe. There’s some significant cons to this though. Locals getting priced out is pretty much a given in this scenario and on top of that, it’s entirely possible that foreigners would come in and buy up the entire country. I don’t mean that in a literal sense, but more in a metaphorical sense. I think you get the point.

So based on this, fully opening up the floodgates probably isn’t the best play, but on the other side, Thailand is definitely missing out on significant foreign investment because of the restrictive rules that are currently in place. Yes, there’s all sorts of ways you can purchase real estate here that involve Thai partners, setting up Thai businesses, establishing long-term land lease agreements, etc., but this isn’t a world that most people feel comfortable putting a big portion of their money in. So what’s the answer? Well, I think that the current framework being drafted is a good starting point. There’ll certainly be room for the program to expand if it proves to be a success in attracting the types of foreigners that Thailand is looking to attract, but all in all, I’m a fan of what’s currently on the table.

Bridge Connecting Koh Samui To Mainland To Be Discussed

Saksayam Chidchop, Thailand’s Minister of Transport recently gave the green light on five mega-projects, one of which includes the building of a 18km bridge between Koh Samui’s Phangka Beach and the Khanom district in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

The Transport Ministry, Highways Department, Rural Roads Department, and Expressway Authority of Thailand will work in partnership to study, plan, and design the bridge. The budget for the project has been set at 25 billion baht. It was reported that both locals and officials feel that the proposed bridge would benefit the Island and make transportation easier and faster between the mainland.

Our Take

This is one of those things that I’ll believe when I see it. To give credit where credit’s due, Thailand tends to do a much better job of pulling off these types of mega-projects than my home country of Canada, but given that the study, planning, and design process still isn’t complete, I’m not holding my breath that this will happen anytime soon. It makes me wonder how they came up with the 25 billion baht budget? Perhaps they’re further along than I think and simply haven’t reported on these details? Either way, I don’t think Samui residents will be enjoying a drive to and from the mainland at any point in the near future, but let’s see.

Thailand Travel Tip

One of my favourite things about living in Bangkok is the fact that it has a world-class food scene on all fronts. Most people think of this city as somewhere with crazy nightlife and cheap street food. Often forgotten is the fact that it also has some of highest quality, premium restaurant experiences that you can imagine. In this week’s edition of Thailand Weekly, I wanted to shine some light on the higher-end side of Bangkok’s vibrant food scene, so I got in touch with Khun Tor, the owner of Restaurant POTONG, one of the city’s best new fine dining restaurants. Led by Chef Pam (Pichaya Soontornyanakij), they specialize in progressive Thai-Chinese cuisine and provide a 20+ course chef’s tasting menu that is hard to match. In fact, it was recently recognized as one of the Best New Restaurants in the World as per Condé Nast’s “2022 Hot List”. It was the only restaurant in Asia included amongst the 13 other winners located in Los Angeles, Sydney, London, Buenos Aires, Paris, and Minneapolis. Restaurant POTONG was also nominated as Asia’s Best New Restaurant in 2022 by World Culinary Awards. The building itself is a 120-year old, 5-story structure with a distinct Sino-Portuguese architecture that has been fully restored to create a really cool atmosphere. It’s also worth noting that on the upper levels of the POTONG building, you can enjoy the hidden OPIUM Bar which combines the atmosphere of a high-end New York hangout space with the lust of Bangkok’s Chinatown. All in all, if you’re looking for a special dining experience here in Bangkok, then check out Restaurant POTONG’s website here, or contact them directly through the Line App. You can find them by adding @potong. I’ve also gone ahead and linked a Google Map pin for ya here.

Bangkok Experiences Heavy Flooding This Past Week

After a a bit of a break over the past few weeks, Bangkok has once again felt the effects of rainy season. The city reported heavy flooding in 26 different locations, with Sukhumvit 39, Sukhumvit 26, and Sukhumvit 71 being hit extra hard. The Department of Drainage and Sewerage stated that the highest flood level was at 27cm (10.6 inches).

Newly elected Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt voiced his thanks to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha after authorizing City Hall to use military trucks to transport people to safety in flooded areas. Sittipunt also took on all responsibility for the flooding and said that “since I’m the governor now, this problem is my responsibility. If you want to blame someone, then blame me. I will give my 100 per cent to solve this problem both in the short and long-term.”

Our Take

Rainy season and flooding is a fact of life here in Bangkok. It’s a tropical city in a tropical country. That’s just the reality of being situated in this part of the world, especially in a city that isn’t exactly known for its urban planning, zoning, and flood management infrastructure. The reason I included this story in this week’s edition of Thailand Weekly is because of the response from Bangkok’s new Governor. It’s super cool that he didn’t blame any of the previous leaders, and took complete ownership of the issue. It’s rare that you see politicians anywhere in the world with this type of attitude, and it gave me a bit of a glimpse into why he overwhelmingly won the recent election that was held here. Kudos to you Mr. Sittipunt. It’s this type of leadership that will push things forward.

Only In Thailand 🇹🇭

Sexy models and exotic fish? That’s a strange combination I never thought I’d write about. An aquarium located in the famous Chatuchak Market has been criticized after the shop’s manager hired 20 models to swim in the tanks with the exotic fish that they were showcasing. The aqaurium wanted to post the photos and videos on social media to promote a 30-year old Asian Arowana fish that cost over one million baht (USD $27K). What better way to promote an exotic fish than hiring mermaid models? Only in Thailand! 🇹🇭

Press Worthy 🔥