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Hell and Damnation Hit Asia's Leading Resort Property Market

Author: Bill Barnett. Category: News Column - Property Report SEA. Posted: 1st Oct 2012

Over the past decade Phuket in Thailand has set the gold standard for South East Asia's booming luxury real estate sector. The island's vaunted west coast contains the highest number of multi-million dollar ultra villas in the region and has consistently attracted a growing number of high-net-worth-individuals.

In what looks set to stress the industry, a series of government-sponsored investigations over encroachment onto public land and allegations of corruption and illegal titles has become a national issue. Leading Thai and international firms such as TCC, Minor Hotel Group, Kajima Overseas and award winning projects such as Trisara and Malaiwana have seen their named brandished about in the media.

Spearheading the charge was the head of Department of National Parks and Wildlife and Plant Conservation. The DNP's Director General Damron Pidech who retired on September 25th was tagged as "The Demolisher" by the press when he ordered a number of resorts demolished adjacent to Khao Yai National Park earlier this year. Damrong, who has alleged wide-scale encroachment by a number of upscale resort and property developments into Sirinath National Park personally, led a paparazzi inspired SWAT team of public officials, media and large motorcades.

Newslines jumped onto the bandwagon as Damrong was quoted saying possible government action resulting in destruction of resorts and villas and revocation of land titles could take place if illegal activities were proven. For the business owners affected the situation has resulted in a continued onslaught of allegations disclosed to the media by government officials with little chance to publicly respond or state their side of the issue.

As of now, 12 properties have been listed in the investigation and the latest news has a Government team of 366 investigators targeting nearly 600 hectares of island land. The original scope is now extending to other areas of Phuket reportedly now including Patong, Kalim, Kamala and Kathu. What is causing investors, property owners and the real estate sector concern is a wide-ranging threat of land title revocations. In this new trip into unknown territory, Phuket's property sector is facing both reputation and financial loss in what to date adds up to "trial by media".

While Thailand's political rocky road trip of the past five years has been punctuated by a fractionalized teeter totter of political power, the government has yet to instill any wide-ranging reforms into the country's real estate sector and more importantly has turned a blind eye to overseas property investors.

While Phuket's luxury properties have helped reinforce the island's image across the globe and created much vaunted objects of desire, the present state of uncertainty could drive property buyers to other locations, which at face value could pose less risk.

For now the lack of clarity and lack of care by the government over protecting seemingly valid land titles could best be summed up in Biblical terms:

"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:13-15

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