PM supports ban on foreigners

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Bangkok Post | 13 August 2009

Writer: Post reporters

The government has reiterated it will do everything in its power to keep the country's rice farming land out of the hands of foreign investors.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday insisted the law prohibited foreign investors from buying farmland and the government had no intention of changing the law to permit such land holding.

The Foreign Business Act prohibits foreigners or foreign companies from renting or buying land to grow rice or any kind of food, including raising livestock.

However, the law does allow foreigners to operate farm businesses in the form of joint ventures in which Thai partners hold at least 51% of equity.

Rumours have spread that foreign businessmen are snapping up rice-growing land, particularly in the Central Region, through their proxy firms to produce rice and other crops to ensure their own countries' future food supplies.

Transnational business consortiums are said to be holding land through Thai nominees.

Some Thai farmers are reportedly renting land that they previously owned. The land was sold to the foreign proxy firms, observers said.

The prime minister said the investors were from countries which had food security concerns and wanted to seek new sources of food in many countries in the region, including Thailand.

What the Thai government can do is to allow them to co-invest in some businesses allowed by the law, such as food processing or invest in ventures where Thai partners hold the majority stake.

Suphan Buri governor Somsak Pureesrisak yesterday said he had sent an investigating team to look into claims foreign investors were illegally acquiring paddy fields in the rice-growing province through Thai nominees.

He said checks had found hundreds of land plots were bought at Ban Thung Faek in tambon Wang Luk in Sam Chuk district to build a Buddhist monastery. Construction had now begun.

The governor said he had received information that when the monastery was completed, only one monk would stay there, which was suspicious.
Original source: Bangkok Post
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