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


Dear Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra,

There are many outdated regulations affecting foreigners in Thailand, and, by extension, the Thai citizens in their families.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 improving requirements relating to seven major issues which if enacted would greatly benefit Thai citizens and foreigners living in Thailand.
We met at the American Independence Day Celebration on the Fourth of July. 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 about the wonderful possibilities now available to make changes to improve the lives of the citizens and foreigners in Thailand. 
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.
Please accept this letter as a request on behalf of many foreigners living in Thailand like myself. I have asked many foreigners on popular web forums and in civic clubs to help me write this letter and their input has been valuable. 

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 When there is time, please consider these reasons outlined herein for your administration to update outdated Thai laws.

Seven areas of Thai law that could be updated in 2012 to improve many lives are:

Not limiting foreign ownership of condominiums - 
Please look into the possibility of repealing certain provisions of the Condominium Act of 2542 (1999) relating to percentage of foreign ownership. There is no need to restrict a free market determining what nationality the buyers hold. The Condominium Act is unfair to Thai people if they can not resell to foreigners.

Why? If a foreigner buys a penthouse in a new condo and a Thai citizen buys the penthouse on the same floor, both buyers pay the same amount. The foreigner gets the title deed (chanote) in his name and the Thai get his in his Thai name.

Two years later both owners 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 the Thai citizen can only sell his condo to a Thai or a Thai company limited.
The foreign buyer, on the other hand, can sell his condo to anyone: To another foreign buyer, to a Thai or to a Thai company.
The difference in value is generally 10-20% higher for like units in a foreigner’s name versus in Thai ownership. This is unfair to Thais who paid the same price but are restricted to whom they can sell.
This was NOT the intent of the Act. Now the foreign buyer has the financial advantage over the Thai buyer, but the Act was meant to benefit Thais.
If there is a concern about foreigner’s controlling the underlying land, then a revision whereby 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.
Equalizing citizenship for foreign men married to Thai women -
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 find it nearly impossible to become Thai citizens. They must qualify every year for a one-year visa to stay in Thailand causing undue stress and uncertainty in the relationship because the man is not accepted into Thai society like a woman from his country married to a Thai would be. This should be equalized.
Protect foreigners who own their home, but cannot meet the annual financial requirements set by Immigration to stay legally in Thailand -
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, Immigration requirements increasing from 400,000 baht up to 500,000 baht and now 800,000 baht annual income for a retirement visa over the last 10 years coupled with the appreciation of the Thai Baht has many foreigners no longer able to 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. 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 year (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 30% from 800,000 baht to 560,000 baht yearly or from 65,000 baht to 47,000 baht per month for retirees. Or better yet, lower the requirement to 450,000 baht per year which is the same requirement for "Married to a Thai" visas now.
Reinstate the lower requirement for an investor's visa so foreigners under 50 years of age who are still working outside of Thailand can be based in Thailand if they invest money here -
More Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) would pour into Thailand if the requirement for a one-year, renewable, investment visa was reduced from 10 million baht back to 3 million baht as it was. 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.

If possible, allow all foreigners to buy up to one rai (1,600 square meters) of land for their Thailand residential home -
Please help us own our own house we pay for and let us own the land our house is built on. Originally under the "Thailand Elite" program sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) foreigners were told in the written literature they could purchase up to one rai of land for their home if they paid one million baht for the Thailand Elite card. Later that offer was withdrawn. 

We can't take the land away from Thailand and if the land is our residence we can feel more like we belong here. Thais can buy land in America and many other countries. Please let us buy our home here. This may help boost the Thailand property market and increase needed foreign currency. It will certainly significantly reduce the conflicts and problems caused by foreigners having to put their land in the name of a Thai or form a Thai company.
Extending the amount of time visitors can stay in Thailand up to 90 days with a Visa On Arrival (VOA) would improve tourism -
Now tourists get 15 to 30 days upon arrival at the airport depending on their citizenship. We all want the world to love Thailand. There is so much to see and do. Many Europeans, Australians and other foreign nationals spend three months here as tourists during their holidays. 

Let them stay here without having to make visa runs or hassle with visa extensions that are only 7 to 15 days long. It would be good for tourism if visas were issued for 90 days at the airports and 30 days, instead of 15 days, at border crossings.

Allow foreigners who can pass a test to teach English as a Second Language to work without a college degree -
There are many foreigners who were teaching English to Thais and really doing an excellent job. Students were learning and the teachers were earning incomes. Recently, many good teachers were denied the ability to teach English to Thais without a Bachelor's degree. 

In 2015, when the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) Community forms Thailand will NOT be in a strong position to compete with Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines without these experienced foreign teachers. The official language of ASEAN is and will be English. Thailand needs these teachers desperately. Please reinstate their ability to teach Thais. 

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

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