Preventing foreigners from owning land and property in Thailand does many things: it protects powerful Thai landlords and agricultural monopolies, forces overseas investors to consider setting up shop in other regional markets, drives Thai capital from the country and provides a pool of nationalist bile for tub-thumping politicians to draw on and whip up a frenzy of anti-foreigner sentiment at the drop of a hat.
There are understandable concerns that easing regulations would enable foreign multinationals to snap up agricultural land, drive up rents and force farmers from their land.
What it does not do, however, is support the development of a sustainable and competitive local economy.
The Land Act and the Foreign Business Act (FBA) are the two main laws restricting the foreign ownership of businesses and land, capping the maximum foreign share at 49% in most cases.
The FBA has its roots in the Revolutionary Party's Announcement of National Executive Council No. 281 issued in 1972 by the then military government. This was a time when waves of refugees and immigrants were flooding in from China and the legislation was passed to prevent newcomers from poaching jobs as hairdressers and tuk-tuk drivers from Thais.
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