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Further Reading:

Foreigners Residential Status

This month I will respond to a question posed by Mr. John Magee of Kamala. He writes as follows

"Over the past seven or eight years, many foreigners, particularly expatriate managers and other professionals in the region have been buying property in Phuket. Most have done so not only for the prospects of capital appreciation, but also with a view towards establishing businesses and working in what has generally been perceived as a friendly and promising environment for foreign investment. With the recent discouraging words (e.g. "Visa Application Rejected") from the Immigration and Labour departments, it would appear that Phuket has lost it’s lustre for this important buy-side segment of the property market..Faced with it’s strong potential for reversal from "Emerging International" to "Devolving Domestic", do you feel that the property market here, can weather the storm?

There seem to be two parts to this question, one involves buyer profile; the second, a foreigner’s status in Thailand.

Without in any way condoning the seemingly random and sometimes apparently unreasonable treatment of foreigners in Thailand by certain government agencies, I feel it is important to point out that Thailand is not just another ex-colony run for (or by) expatriates. This is Thailand, the country of the Thai’s, a fiercely independent peoples with (almost) no history of colonization, and a clear set of ideas about how their society and country should operate.

Foreigners (particularly those with money) are most welcome as guests, but however long they stay, they remain very much just that - guests. As such it remains necessary to respect and abide by the local customs and traditions in both business and lifestyle, however difficult this may on occasion be or however much it may run contrary to the lifestyle or business principles one may have developed in other countries of the world.

This is, to an extent the price that you pay for living and doing business in what is in most respects a remarkable and very easy and comfortable place to live. If you learn to know the local customs and ways of doing business you will soon learn that there can be an easy and a hard way of getting things done. By this I don’t necessarily mean making a donation to someone’s favorite charity (although this is often an option), I mean getting to know the people involved; always being social and polite; sharing a joke; and asking them if they can help suggest a solution to your problem, rather than insisting on some perceived right or belief that you have a superior or better way of running the country. In the end there is usually a solution to most problems if you take the time to find the local way of solving them. While much of this aggravates me as much as the next guy, I personally am glad to pay this price for the privilege of living here. It is however, (and understandably), a price that some people are not prepared to pay.

If you are on holiday here or even living here, but not working, you rarely run into these problems in a major way. So I don’t see the market for holiday houses and condominiums, the bulk of which are purchased by persons not working or resident in Thailand, will be much effected by the complexity of labour and/or immigration procedures. Semi retired professional expatriates of the type you describe, i.e. still want to work, still do not really have a big enough presence in Phuket to effect the market by all that much. What, however, I do see being lost, is some of the potential for significant growth and new investment that people of this type, could bring to Phuket, but won’t, if they see continuing labour or immigration problems.

There will always continue to be a small minority for whom the obstacles to life in Thailand seem to great. However, for those that persevere and learn how to live in this very different society, seeking the path of minimal resistance rather than confrontation, there are still great rewards to reap.