60% Of Phuket Land Owned By Foreigners?
Certainly this caught my eye as it has yours when I was reading the Phuket Gazette's Daily News last week the story on DASTA (Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration) who attended public hearings on the Ao Phuket mega project near Saphan Hin. Comments attributed to the local president of the Thalang Cultural Vilage who stated " 60% of the land on the island is currently owned by foreigners." And furthermore "before long we might see landless local people having to rent out places to live in from foreigners."
While clearly given the scale of the total land in Phuket which is roughly equal to the size of Singapore covering a reported 570 square kilometers it's virtually impossible for foreigners to own this amount of land. What is underscored is the growing divide between the 'haves' and the 'have not's" in a struggling economic debacle. Legally speaking foreigners are only allowed to either own investment properties such as hotels which qualify under the Board of Investments (BOI) scheme or else 49% of the gross floor area of a condominium project. While the use of nominee's and Thai companies does exist, it's simply does not cover the scale this massive.
What is evident is that for the native Phuket islander a land grab is in play. Just drive around and see all of those gated estates, large pool villas, restaurants, shops, hotels, spas and a growing population of well heeled Fortuner driving farangs. True for the astute they understand most of these businesses lease their shops or properties from Thai's, provide jobs which plow money back into the economy and contribute a significant amount of VAT and local taxes back into Phuket.
The bottom line remains that for the gentleman who made these comments, from where he stands, this is how he understands what for many consider an unwelcome intrusion into sovereign land rights. While many in the property business proclaim an imminent change in foreign land ownership; it remains highly doubtful in the foreseeable future for exactly this reason. What's more important is to view these generalizations for what they are, not rail against locals and blast anti-foreign sentiment but to clearly continue to open the door to dialogue and understanding that indeed no one alone is an island. Diversity is good and healthy debate keeps the pulse going, letting us know we are still alive.