While we tend to concentrate on foreign lands such as the Dubai and other up-and-coming areas of the world there is an interesting post on the Thailand Forum regarding the Thai Amity Treaty and the rights of the American public to purchase property in Thailand. This is a thread which is steeped in history, information, rumours, counter rumours although ultimately it does deliver on the promise of verifying the situation.
The close connection between the US and countries such as Thailand goes back many years and is in effect a payoff for the American assistance during various conflicts over decades. It is interesting to see that many of these so-called rights have been carved in stone and as part of large treaties between the two countries it looks as though they are very difficult to modify and erase.
Background to the thread
The background to this thread is a little complicated in that the Thai authorities have strict regulations in place which restrict and in many cases disallow outright the rights of foreign investors to own property and land in their own name. While there are ways and means around this, with the use of Thai corporate companies and Thai brides some of the more popular options, there are risks associated with these particular actions.
The thread was started by a lady called Synthia who has been doing her homework regarding the rights of Americans to own property in Thailand. She believes she has found a route which American investors can use to gain access to the Thai property market. This involves the Thai Amity Treaty of 1968 which at first glance gave American investors the opportunity to sidestep traditional foreign restrictions and own property and land in Thailand.
While there are many forceful and well thought out answers on the thread it is inevitable that anybody looking at this at first glance would be totally confused. On one hand it seemed as though the treaty between the American government and the Thai government back in 1968 has credence and did in fact offer American investors the chance to own property. However, things have moved on since 1968 and a number of political figures have now entered the mix and are not wholly in favour of lifting such restrictions, even for American counterparts who assisted their country years ago.
Clarification of the Amity Treaty
There is a very interesting post in the thread which brings to a head a number of misconceptions about the way in which American investors, as individuals and as companies, are allowed to operate within the country. It would appear that American investors are actually able to operate businesses in the region, sidestepping the restrictions for many overseas business owners, but there do still appear to be various restrictions regarding land and property.
The various restrictions highlighted in the post include:-
Engaging in the business of inland communication
Engaging in inland transportation and communication industries
Engaging in fiduciary functions
Engaging in banking involving depository functions
Engaging in domestic trading in indigenous agricultural products
Exploiting land or other natural resource
However, even though the above details seem to indicate there are no special conditions for individuals from the US looking to invest and acquire property in Thailand, later on in the thread there is a suggestion that those who actually served in the country had, and possibly still do have, a right to acquire property and land, as well as houses.
Foreign property ownership
Ultimately foreign ownership of property in Thailand is restricted to Thai nationals and corporate entities, which have both offered differing routes for overseas investors to land and home ownership. Many people believe they have beaten the system by taking Thai wives or setting up companies in Thailand and then acquiring the properties in which they live. However, the problem that many foreign investors have is that historically the Thai authorities have been very quick to change regulations and laws to suit their own requirements and the mood of their people.
So while the activities of many property investors from overseas may look lawful and “clever” at the moment, there are risks involved in this particular activity. On the surface the Thai authorities are happy for tourist and foreign investors to own homes, with condos mentioned as a particular area of flexibility, it would appear from the number of comments on the post that nothing is certain.
Political volatility in Thailand
Even though there will always be some form of sympathy to the US government and American investors, as a thank you for their part in assisting Thailand in the past, this is a country which has historically been politically unstable and one in which laws can literally change overnight. While it would be wrong to suggest that the authorities do not welcome foreign tourist and corporate investors on the whole, there are restrictions which have been in place for decades and are likely to remain so for some time to come.
With a number of posts in the thread suggesting that any property investment in Thailand should be done in moderation, there is a feeling of concern and trepidation among some potential property investors and property owners in the country. The Thai bride and Thai corporate entity routes to property ownership are so well known and so commonplace now that it would be surprising if the authorities were not to clamp down on this at some point in the future.
There appears to be significant confusion as to whether the Amity Treaty of 1968 refers to Americans as individuals or Americans as corporate entities with regards to property and land ownership in Thailand. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons it appears as though the Thai authorities and the Thai legal profession do not appear willing or able to clarify the situation once and for all. From a moral standpoint it seems very acceptable and very sensible for the Thai authorities to protect Thai nationals from potential abuses of the property ownership and home ownership system. However, this needs to be balanced against the need to attract overseas investment and overseas visitors on an ongoing basis to assist with the development and growth of the Thai economy.
In basic terms it seems as though US companies have the right to navigate round the vast majority of restrictions which apply to traditional overseas companies, but the situation regarding property and land ownership for American individuals is not so clear.