Opinion: Foreign land ownership deserves public debate rather than outdated beliefs

Throughout last week, pro-democracy protesters, who are mostly liberals, have been calling out coup supporters and royalists, who are mostly conservatives, about Prayut government’s decision to allow foreigners to buy land in Thailand.

At first, I thought it was just mockery.

“Where are the salims? The cabinet is allowing foreigners to buy houses in Thailand,” one of the signs said.

However, for long time observers of Thai politics, this debate started way before the current political was ignited.

It is a deep-rooted propaganda that conservatives and royalists have believed in for decades. The same archaic argument was also used to deter any development of the Kra Canal.

It is an idea that Thailand can only belong to Thai people and no one else. If you want to sell it, you immediately become a nation seller.

You can also expect anti-Chinese, anti-Arab, anti-Russian, anti-European and anti-American sentiment or basically an anti-campaign against any prospective buyers to come next.  

But the modern era has been knocking on the door for quite some time and this outdated belief and racism is now being challenged by a military government.

Prayut and his clan for their progressive policies must worry about being mocked by the protesters for saying that they would allow foreigners to buy land.

Not to mention that the government’s target is unrealistic because they hope that one million rich foreigners will come to invest and help revive the economy over the next five years.

But despite the government’s misconceptions, the idea of foreign ownership deserves real debate instead of trash throwing.  

Thailand is not alone in barring foreigners from buying land as there are many countries that are doing the same thing, especially here in Southeast Asia.

At the same time, there are countries such as Malaysia that are allowing foreigners to buy land with certain conditions.

If Thailand wants to move away from agriculture producing and labor-intensive industries to modern manufacturing and services, they have to deregulate and provide more incentives for foreign investors.

If Thailand wants more foreign experts then it needs to court them properly.

There is no other way around this.

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