Thailand Special Privileges For Foreigners
Those who follow the Thai news and Stick’s weekly column will be aware that PM Thaksin has another brainchild, the Elite Card, a snobby card targeting “high-end tourists” and foreign investors residing or interested in starting a business in Thailand.
As many readers are indeed “high-end tourists” it may be worth reviewing this piece of plastic.
The Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited, which issues the card, has a relationship with the Government, the TAT and the PM. TPC have reportedly “sold” under 500 cards so far and the PM is somewhat incensed as he wants them to sell nearer 500 THOUSAND cards.
The reason may be because the membership fee is a bit steep at USD 25,000 for an individual and for an expatriate who works in Thailand they may increase this in 2004 to USD 50,000. Wow, a substantial investment for a working stiff.
TPC claims the Elite Card provides numerous privileges, valid for life. You would no longer require an entry visa, get special prices on Thai Airways, be able to use the privilege lane to clear immigration and customs, free transportation from the airport to the hotel and special rates for transportation, dining, entertainment etc.
Most readers will already get discounted tickets on Thai, the bus from the airport is very cheap and how much discount on a 10 Baht bowl of noodles do you need? So what could be the attraction?
Apparently the Elite Card will allow the farang to acquire and use land up to 10 rai (16,000 square meters) for residential purposes. More than enough!!!!!!
Sensible farang who read Stickman are wary of buying land, which they cannot legally own, and putting it in the teeruk’s name etc. In other words, we want to own what we buy. I could wax lyrical about the benefits of leases in such a situation but this has been covered before.
The government plans to issue a relevant regulation to facilitate this privilege in the near future so don’t part with your cash immediately. I suspect the regulation will have a few caveats such as bringing all the money into Thailand to buy the land much as the Condominium Act requires for most farangs who buy apartments.
I am also somewhat wary of the idea of a “fund” and the involvement of a limited company. I spoke to the marketing department who suggested you could buy now and the company will hold the title for you until the laws change or you wished to sell. Sounds less than ideal as the land would merge with the company’s other assets and its legality is questionable as it amounts to evasion of the land ownership laws.
The TPC also guarantees that privileges for members are being added all the time. The cost of providing these privileges is apparently on average about 40,000 Baht per annum. The administration and marketing costs would be in addition to this and must be eating up the fund very quickly so it is not clear how long the company will last without a massive sales drive. It was also not clear how many of the cards were gifts to prominent people but I suspect a few were given away at APEC a few months ago.
There is some hope that the laws will be changed to benefit the Cardholder and there may be a special sale when the company is near collapse. Keep reading this site and you will doubtless find out more.
On the surface of it, the ability to buy and sell, or rent, property is a great thing. Property investment is one way to make real money but even with this card, one could not rent out a property and if one was buying and selling for the purpose of making money, there is little doubt that you would be contravening one or other regulation.
While on the surface this card might offer some benefits, I believe that it doesn’t offer enough to warrant purchase and further, there is little guarantee that these “rights” will not be revoked in the future.