Disposal of Land Owned by a Foreigner
According to the Land Code of Thailand, it is unlawful for a Thai national to own land as the agent of a foreigner. The act of doing so entails criminal penalties for both the Thai national and the foreigner involved. Furthermore, one consequence of “nominee landownership” as it is called, is that the land that is nominally being held by the Thai national must be disposed of. The legal ramifications that follow after a Thai national is discovered to be owning land as a nominee is detailed in the Land Department Advisory Opinion.
The Thai Supreme Court ordered a Thai national, who was owning land as the agent of her foreign husband, who was the plaintiff during those proceedings, to dispose of the land with the time specified by the Director-General of the Land Department.
The Land Department considered the matter as follows:
- The foreign spouse acquired land in violation of Section 86 of the Land Code, which is punishable according to Section 111 of the Land Code. As for the Thai spouse, she owned the land as a nominee according to Section 96 of the Land Code and must dispose of the land according to Section 94 of the Land Code. She has also committed a violation punishable according to Section 111 of the Land Code. Furthermore, the Thai spouse made a false statement to a government officer and caused a government officer to enter false information into an official document, in violation of Sections 137 and 267 of the Criminal Code.
- The Land Department filed charges against the Thai and foreign spouse.
- The foreign spouse is ordered to sell the land within 1 year. If the foreign spouse fails to comply, then the Director-General of the Land Department may dispose of the land and may charge a 5% fee from the sale in addition to any other fees and taxes.
The Land Official shall record the following statement from the foreign spouse and Thai spouse:
- The person who shall receive the land from the disposal, aside from being a person who is capable and has the legal right to own the land, must be someone who the foreign spouse consents to receive ownership of the land.
- The price for the sale of the land must have been fixed by the foreign spouse and the proceeds of the sales must have been received by the foreign spouse.
- The only duty of the Thai spouse is to arrange for the disposal of the land in her capacity as someone whose name is on the title deed. Aside from that, she has no right to choose the person who will receive the land.
Foreign investment in land is a complex legal subject in Thailand. Foreigners interested in investing in land should consult with competent Thai legal counsel before proceeding.
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