The government has uncovered evidence suggesting foreigners could have obtained illegal ownership of about 10,000 rai (1,600 ha) of farmland in the central region and employed farmers to grow crops there, Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said on Wednesday.
The Foreign Business Act prohibits foreigners or foreign firms from buying or renting land to grow crops or raise livestock, but they can form joint ventures in which Thai partners have 51 per cent of the equity.
Officials from the Department of Business Development and the Department of Special Investigations investigated agriculural areas in the central provinces, and found that foreign investors could have breached the law, Mr Alongkorn said.
The Foreign Business Act provides for a maximum three years in prison and/or a fine of one million baht for violations.
He said the investigators were still determining whether the foreigners were using nominees to invest in agriculture. The finding should be available next week."The government is not trying to obstruct foreigners from doing business in Thailand, but their businesses must be legitimate," he said.