Author Topic: Open Letter to PM Yingluck Re: Updating Laws Affecting Foreigners fr. Drew Noyes  (Read 1003 times)

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Offline Johnnie F.

Open Letter to PM Yingluck Re: Updating Laws Affecting Foreigners from Drew Noyes

Drew Noyes asks Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for increased leniency for expats in Thailand.

Dear Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Happy New Year 2555 (2012). Since in 2012 there are many outdated regulations affecting foreigners in Thailand, and, by extension, the Thai citizens in their families, I would like to ask you to consider having your Ministry of the Interior to start the New Year looking into four major issues. We understand dealing with the flood crisis is the top priority of your administration. When there is time, please consider these reasons outlined herein for your administration to update Thai laws regarding condominium purchases, the inequality of the law not granting Thai citizenship to foreign men married to Thai women, but allowing foreign women married to Thai men to be citizens, and most urgently reducing financial requirements down from 800,000 baht per year for long stay retirees who own their homes in Thailand and also reducing the investment visa requirements so foreigners under 50-years-old can live here year-by-year instead of month-by-month.

Please accept this letter as a request on behalf of many foreigners living in Thailand like myself. We met at the American Independence Day Celebration you attended as US Ambassador H.E. Kristie A. Kenney’s most honored guest immediately following your election and we spoke for a few minutes.

Your kindness and the sincerity you expressed towards foreigners living in Thailand were refreshing. We feel that we now have the best opportunity to update laws that affect the lives of millions of people living in Thailand, with your help.

Four areas of Thai law that need to be updated in 2012 for fairness relate to:

1) Foreign ownership of condominiums;

2) Foreign men married to Thai women;

3) Foreigners who own their home, but cannot meet the annual financial requirements set by Immigration to stay legally in Thailand;

4) Foreigners under 50 years of age who are still working outside of Thailand, but want to be based in Thailand and qualified for a stable visa by investing 3 million baht or more buying property, or investing in Thai stocks or depositing into Thai bank savings accounts formerly received a yearly, renewable non-immigrant visa, but now they no longer qualify for an investor's visa under current visa regulations.

Please look into the possibility of repealing certain provisions of the Condominium Act of 2542 (1999) relating to percentage of foreign ownership. From my understanding of the Act, the intention was two-fold:

Firstly, to make sure foreigners who had a financial advantage over Thais following the 1997/98 Asian Financial Crisis would not hold an unfair advantage over Thais causing the prices of condominiums to go up in a free, unrestricted market to the point Thais could not afford ownership.

Secondly, to assure foreigners could not violate the restriction of owning land by having a majority interest in the Condominium Association allowing for the possibility of controlling the use of the land.

At PAPPA Co., Ltd. Law Office which I manage we deal with this issue regularly. The first intent of the Act no longer is relevant now that Thais are financially solvent and western currencies are substantially discounted against the Thai Baht from the highs of the 1998 Thai Baht devaluation.  Now the Condominium Act is unfair to Thai people.

Why? If I buy a penthouse in a new condo by the beach in Naklua and you buy the penthouse opposite mine on the same floor we both pay the same amount. I get the chanote in my name as an American and you get yours in your name as a Thai.

Two years later we both want to sell. Assuming the condos are identical, are they worth the same upon sale? The short answer is “no.” If the foreign allotment of 49% of the saleable area is taken, as it would be, then you can only sell your condo to a Thai or a Thai company limited.

I, on the other hand, can sell my condo to anyone: To another foreign buyer, to a Thai or to a Thai company. In Pattaya the difference in value is 10-20% higher for like units in a foreigner’s name versus in Thai ownership. This is unfair to you. You paid the same price I did but you are restricted as to who your buyer can be. This was NOT the intent of the Act. Now I have the financial advantage over you, but the Act was meant to benefit Thais.

As to the second intent of the Act, it is easily remedied. Foreign buyers of the first 49% of ownership could get voting rights, but all other foreign buyers after the 49% was reached would not have voting rights and their votes would by proxy be issued to the majority of the Thai vote on all issues before the Condominium Association at the Annual General Meeting (AGM). In this way, the foreigners could never control the use of the land. This solution still protects the intent of the Act.

The next issue is sensitive in that it really is sexual discrimination against Thai women. Foreign women married to Thai men can apply for Thai citizenship based on their marriage to a Thai man, however, foreign men married to Thai women cannot become Thai citizens and must re-qualify every year for a one-year visa to stay in Thailand, thus causing undue stress and uncertainty in the relationship because the man is not accepted into Thai society like a women from his country married to a Thai would be.  This should be equalized. Either both or neither should have the same advantage or disadvantage. Preferably both men and women should be allowed to qualify for Thai citizenship if married to a Thai national.

The final issue would greatly reduce visa overstays and increase the number of foreign retirees in Thailand and increase sales of condominiums and houses in Thailand. Up until five years ago, a foreigner could transfer three million baht into Thailand and get an investor’s visa. If he or she bought a home and did not sell it and did not repatriate the inbound funds, then he or she could renew the visa indefinitely. But now at least 30 million baht inbound funds is required for an investor’s visa.

Many foreigners over 50-years-old hold non-immigrant “A” long stay or retirement one-year renewable visas, own their own Thai home, have health insurance and get enough of a pension or other income from their home country sent to Thailand each year to live comfortably here based on the exchange rate when they moved to Thailand.

However, with the appreciation of the Thai Baht over the years many foreigners no longer qualify to stay in Thailand because they don’t have the Thai Baht equivalent of 65,000 baht a month or 800,000 baht a year since their fixed income is paid in foreign exchange and converted to the continuously appreciating Thai baht versus their pension’s currency.

For example, a man from England who decided to retire in Thailand at anytime from 2002 to mid-2008 would have calculated the value he would receive monthly from his British pension of his pounds sterling amount into Thai baht at an exchange rate of 60 – 70 baht to each pound. At 60 baht to the pound if his monthly pension is 13,500 pounds per month (1,112 pounds per month) he qualified easily for a one year visa for 6 straight years.

He would see that he could live well in this beautiful country that welcomes foreigners, so he would change his future and move to Thailand to enjoy his Golden Years in peace.

However, today, unfortunately, his pounds are worth less than 50 baht. At 60 baht to the pound he qualified for a one year visa for 6 years, but now at current exchange rates he can no longer live in Thailand (which he now calls home) even though he may own his own home here he bought with his life savings or from the sale of his home in his country.

Assuming he sold his home and only owns a home in Thailand, where will he live? His friends are now Thais and expats in Thailand. His life is in Thailand. But he is forced out of Thailand just because of the foreign currency exchange rates over which he has no control. His life has been adversely affected in an extreme way and so have the lives of all of the Thais who have come to care about him and may even depend on him for advice, comfort and support.

So if the fine Prime Minister could see your way to ask your capable Minister of the Interior to adjust the Immigration Bureau’s financial requirement to qualify for a one-year non-immigrant “A” visa by taking home ownership into consideration. If the qualification was adjusted so foreigners who invested in Thailand property market and bought their Thai residence could have the amount needed to stay in Thailand reduced because they do not pay rent so they need less than a foreigner who pays rent, then this would help tens of thousands of foreigners and their Thai families and friends.

Since rent is usually 30% of expenses then the requirement of cash in the bank and monthly income for retired foreign home owners could be adjusted downwardly accordingly from 800,000 baht to 560,000 baht yearly or from 65,000 baht to 47,000 baht per month for retirees.

Even more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) would pour into Thailand if the requirement for a one-year, renewable, investment visa was reduced from 30 million baht back to 3 million baht. This way foreigners under 50-years-old could qualify to live in Thailand year-to-year, also, as long as they kept the money invested in Thailand by buying condominiums, houses, or investing in Thai stocks or depositing money into Thai bank savings accounts or interest-paying funds like Property Management and Development Co., Ltd.

Thank you for all you do for Thailand, for our Thai families and for us foreigners in Thailand. You know how it is to be a foreigner in a country you love and want to stay in because you were educated and lived in America.

Please let us know your thoughts on these issues and what can be done to update these laws and regulations affecting foreigners living peacefully in Thailand and, by association, the Thai citizens who are their friends and families.

With respect,

Drew Noyes
Managing Director, PAPPA Co., Ltd. Law Office
Managing Director, Pattaya Times Media Corporation Co., Ltd.
AMCHAM member
Siam Society member
Fun is the one thing that money can't buy


  • Guest
Dream on, considering it was her brother's government that instigated the crackdown on foreigners during his first term as PM that we still have to suck up the consequences of today.