The Land Code (1954) Governing Foreign Ownership of Land

“Foreigner” means either a natural or individual person having no Thai nationality or a juristic person (legal entity) which fall into Section 97. – of the Land Code.

A foreigner either individual or juristic person cannot have the ownership of land except in the following circumstances: –
1)     Inheritance

When a person dies, the estate including land and house will devolve on the heirs by inheritance.

Under Section 93.- of the Land Code, a foreigner is entitled to inheritance of land as a statutory heir. However, the registration for the ownership of land by aforesaid foreigner must be approved by the Minister of Interior. The area of land approved accordingly must not exceed the area specified by Section 87

Inheritance is the case whereby a foreigner is a statutory heir, e.g., a husband is a statutory heir of his wife. It is contrary to the case of the legatee by a last will and testament.

A Thai woman legally married a foreigner is still entitled to ownership of land under the condition imposed by the Land Department that aforesaid Thai woman and her foreign husband have to jointly declare with the Land Office that the land was bought by her money alone not from her husband and the land acquired accordingly will not become the matrimonial or common property. In case of separation or divorce, the foreign husband cannot claim for his 50% part as common property.

2)    Acquisition of land by virtue of Section 96 bis of the Land Code

A foreigner may acquire the land under the following conditions :-

2.1 Acquisition of land for residential purpose not more than 1 rai

2.2 Acquisition of land by investment of at least 40 million baht in accordance

with the conditions concerning the period of investment and the location of

land prescribed by the Ministerial Regulation

2.3 Acquisition must be approved by the Minister of Interior

3)    Acquisition of land by other laws

Laws entitling a foreigner to own land without limit under the approval of the Minister of Interior are: –

3.1    Foreign company under the investment privileges granted by the Board of Investment (BOI) in virtue of the Investment Promotion Act 1997, Section 27),

3.2    Industrial Estate Act 1999, Section 44) as it is deemed expedient by the Industrial Estate Board of Thailand

4) Acquisition of Land by International Treaty

Section 86.- A foreigner can acquire land only by virtue of a treaty providing an ownership in an immovable property and subject to the provisions in the Land Code.

Now Thailand has no treaty with any countries entitling foreigners to own land under Section 86 .

The Thai-US Treaty of Amity & Economic Relations grants no privilege to US nationals to own land in Thailand.

Section 84.- A foreigner can acquire land for residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, cemetery, religious purposes by complying with conditions and methods prescribed by the Ministerial Regulation with the approval of the Minister.

Section 87.– The area of land a foreigner  can own in accordance with the foregoing Section will be as follows :-

1)      Residential Purpose per family             – 1 rai
2)      Commercial Purpose                            – 1 rai
3)      Industrial Purpose                               – 10 rais
4)      Agricultural Purpose                             – 10 rais
5)      Religious Purpose                                –   1 rai
6)      Charitable Purpose                              –   1 rai
7)      Cemetery Purpose                               –   1/2 rai

If a foreigner desires to have ownership of land for industrial purpose more than an area prescribed in 3) and the cabinet deems expedient, the cabinet may grant permission to the said foreigner to own the land with the area more than the prescribed area by imposing conditions and Section 48. – shall be applied mutatis mutandis.

Section 89. – Foreigner permitted to own the land for any specific purpose must utilize the land for aforesaid purpose, except that foreigner is permitted to utilize the land for another new different purpose for the area not more than the area prescribed in Section 87. If the foreigner has no wish to utilize the land for the permitted purpose, the foreigner must notify in accordance with a form and method prescribed by the Ministerial Regulation within 30 days from the date of non-utilization of that land.

Any foreigners desiring to utilize a land for a new purpose must request for a new permission from the Minister in accordance with a form and method prescribed by the Ministerial Regulation. If the Minister deems it expedient, the permission thereof shall be granted.

Section 94.– Any land acquired by a foreigner  in violation of the law or without prior permission must be disposed of by that foreigner within a period prescribed by the Director General which must be at least 180 days but not more than one year. If the land cannot be disposed of within aforesaid period, the Director General shall be empowered to dispose of that land and the provisions concerning enforcement for disposal of land under Chapter III of the Land Code shall be applied mutatis mutandis.

Section 97.- The following juristic persons shall be deemed foreigners for possession of land :-

1)      Limited company or public limited company having shares, which are, registered capital held by foreigner for more than 49% of the registered capital, or more than half of the shareholders are foreigners as the case may be.

For the purpose of this Section, if any limited company issues bearer share certificates, it shall be deemed that aforesaid share certificates are held by foreigners.

2)  Limited company or registered ordinary partnership with more than 49% of

shares of the total capital held by foreigners or more than half the partners being foreigners as the case may be.

3)      Association or cooperative with half of the members being foreigners, or whose activity is exclusively or mainly for benefit of foreigners.

4)      Foundation with objectives exclusively or mainly for benefits of foreigners.

Section  98.- In case the juristic person in Section 97.- holds shares or invest as the case may be in other juristic person mentioned in Section 97.- in the manner in Section 97.-, the said other juristic person shall be deemed alien.
Section 112.–  Any juristic persons :-

1)      Acquiring the land in violation of the Land Code

2)      Utilizing the land for other purpose not permitted

3)      Utilizing the land for other conditions prescribed by the Cabinet in accordance with Section 99 and 87 paragraph two.

4)      Failing to notify the non utilization of the land under Section 99 and 89, or

5)      Trading the land in violation of Section 101, or failing to comply with the conditions in Section 102,
The fine not more than 50,000.- baht shall be imposed.

Section 113. – Anyone acquiring the land as an agent of any foreigner or juristic person under Section 97 or 98 shall be liable for fine not more than 20,000.- baht or imprisonment of not more than two years, or both.

Ownership of a Building

The restriction under the Land Code is only for the land which is the geographical part not the building house. The Supreme Court ruled out in the judgment no. 301/2538 (1995) that all foreigners can have ownership of a building erected on a land. It can be in case either a foreigner registered the 30-lease on the empty plot of land, or buy the empty plot of land under the name of his Thai spouse, that foreigner may apply for a construction permit under his name. Accordingly, he will have the House Registration Certificate (TABIEN BAN) under his name with the special “Yellow Book” (Thor.Ror.13). However, if the foreigner buys the complete land and house from a developer (MOO BAN), the situation will be different because most developers do not want to separate the ownership between the land and house.