It is a general legal concept in the member states of Southeast Asia, that foreigners are banned to acquire real estate. Laos and Vietnam do not have the legal concept for private land ownership. In Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, The Philippines, and Thailand, generally, no foreign land ownership is allowed. Myanmar might be between these two groups. In Malaysia and Singapore foreign land ownership might be allowed in theory, but not in practice.
In 2019, Thailand stepped out of line and moved away from this tradition of several decades. Not by a change in the law with respect to the Thailand Land Code, but by a workaround, the creation of a land right which overshadows legal ownership rights for up to 30 years. The Sap-Ing-Sith Act creates an independent and transferrable property right. Same same as legal title, but different.
On first sight, the Sap-Ing-Sith is a better leasehold right. However, appearances are deceptive. The Sap-Ing-Sith does not imitate or upgrade the lease, it replicates the legal ownership in a different ball-game, where the traditional limitations of Thailand’s regulatory framework do not apply. Under the new regulatory framework, foreigners can quasi-own real estate, can get rid of Thai partners, Thai companies, any nominee structure, and the influence of the Thai holder of the legal title. Thailand developed overnight to a foreign property investor’s paradise.
The legal details are described under the following link. The ethical and social implications to Thai society remain to be seen in the near future. From the viewpoint of the new foreign property investor, the Sap-Ing-Sith legislation is highly welcome. For an old investor, his previously favored property structure might look old and shabby now.
Justinian Lawyers Thailand Delegation offers legal advice and professional services to establish or restructure foreign property investments in consideration of the new Thailand Land Code 2.0 legal framework.