Here's a real story of a Farang (myself) getting screwed Thai-style…
I was unfortunate enough to allow myself to become a victim of the local OrBorTor scam regarding Tor Bor Tor 5 property. Tor Bor Tor 5 property is evidence that the occupier of a piece of land has been issued a tax number and has paid tax for using the benefit of the land. This technically confers no rights at all and is merely a piece of evidence towards proving actual possession and the land must be used for agriculture. Ok, that's the law and as many people who live in Thailand know, the letter of the law and what particular laws are actually imposed or interpreted and / or administered are two different realities.
My Thai girlfriend purchased two contiguous properties, on both of which existed a house. One of the properties even included a Tabian Bahn (house registration) and we later arranged for telephone and electrical service to be connected.
The quality of the house construction of both houses was appalling and the plumbing and electrical systems were so lacking that they posed a health threat. In any event, I decided that if possible, I would remodel and / or rebuild the houses.
Along comes a friendly official from the local OrBorTor (Tambon Administration Organization) who claims that he can apply for permission on my behalf to remodel or rebuild the houses. He would also provide us with a Tabian Bahn for the house which did not have one. The official charged 90,000 baht for his "services". The money was given to him at my home in the presence of two witnesses. He guaranteed that the OrBorTor "would not bother us" and we were free to build "as we like".
I should mention that the property is located in an area that is exclusively Tor Bor Tor 5 property developed with houses, shrimp farms and housing estates, most of which are owned by wealthy Thais. Other less wealthy Thais have built more modest houses, many which are rented by foreigners. There are several houses under construction within 200 meters of our property, several of which the owners are "local" people who stated that they are local and can do as they like…
Soon thereafter, we began construction. After approximately 3 months, 1 million baht and a house which was 70 – 80% complete, an official from the OrBorTor posted several notices which ordered us to immediately cease construction and prohibited us to even enter the house which we were in the process of building. The notices stated severe monetary penalties and possible jail sentences for failure to comply. I contacted the OrBorTor official (my "good" friend who received our "application fee") and he said to "throw the notices away and continue building" as if nothing happened, which we did.
The OrBorTor also stated that "someone" has issued a complaint and noted that they were merely following required procedure by posting notices, etc. A local house owner went to the OrBorTor and saw the complaint document but the "complainant" space was reportedly blank, as if the whole affair was nothing but a ruse. More lies and deceit…
Several weeks later, we received yet another even more threatening notice to demolish the house within 30-days. Failure to comply was a criminal offence and carried a possible 6-month jail sentence and a 100,000 baht fine. A foreigner who's convicted of a criminal offence can be deported and blacklisted, unable to ever return to Thailand. The OrBorTor official again directed us to "throw the notice away and continue building". Although other projects in the same area receiving similar notices, the official stated that we have nothing to worry because "we" had paid money already. The word from other Thai builders & owners in the area on Tor BorTor 5 property was that you receive the notices, pay "a little" or no money, and continue building. Knowing how the laws in Thailand are administered very differently for foreigners, I realized that I was currently in a situation where the OrBorTor could now extort money from me, at their whim, and threaten to prosecute me with criminal charges if I refused to "pay up". We immediately ceased construction.
I consulted with four different attorneys and they all said basically the same thing, the OrBorTor could, at any time, present or future, serve notices, extort money and / or force me to demolish the house and prosecute me on criminal charges for failure to comply with their notices. Any payments to the OrBorTor would be "under the table" and there would be no guarantee whatsoever that the OrBorTor would not continue to extort me for more money in the future. In other words, anyone who builds a house (especially a "farang or partner of a farang) on Tor Bor Tor 5 property is a potential extortion victim of the OrBorTor".
At this point, I then spoke to another OrBorTor official who informed me that the first official (my "good" friend) kept all the money and that I paid the wrong man and the that he had acted on his own (a renegade), but indicated that "it could be worked out". He then proceeded to ask if I had a receipt for the money paid and that I should ask for the return of my money. The "Nai Yok", chief of the OrBorTor, mentioned to someone researching the matter for me that the "farang" paid the wrong person and it "serves him right". This is the classic scam that the OrBorTor plays, regardless of who receives the money, you've always paid the wrong person and there's always someone else demanding payment.
The official who received my money (my "good" friend) and stated that the OrBorTor "would not bother me" now recommended that we meet with yet another official and that I would be required to pay even more money, reportedly in the vicinity of 150,000 baht. (I thought he said that the "OrBorTor would not bother me" and we could do "as we like"…) Anyways, the official went on to say that I must also pay my contractor (who had stopped working one month prior) an additional 50,000 baht (even though the contractor had been paid more than our contract specified) before I could continue (continue to be fleeced out of additional funds). This indicated that the OrBorTor official was to receive a kick-back from the contractor for collecting / extorting these funds.
To make matters even worse, the local OrBorTor was having elections in several months and any "arrangements" with current officials would most likely be null & void upon their departure and the new "team" would have its own "requirements".
That was it. I realized that I must remove myself from the grip of these parasites once and for all or it might never end. I demolished the house & garage at the cost of 130,000 baht. During the demolition, the police and building contractor showed up and extorted 20,000 baht from the demolition crew. The police were on a monthly "retainer" from the contractor, who employed approximately 30 Burmese workers without proper paperwork. The police intimidated the owner of the "Macro" / earthmover with questions such as "where's your demolition permit etc. even though he was operating in compliance of a legal order to demolish issued by the OrBorTor / Yotah. Thai corruption never ceases…
There are foreigners who advocate the "purchase" of Tor Bor Tor 5 property. Some of them cannot even differentiate between Chanot title or a Tor Bor Tor 5 interest, Many believe that you can execute a long term lease on Tor Bor Tor 5 property. Based on my research, a lease cannot be properly registered on Tor Bor Tor property and consequently the longest enforceable contract is 3-years, and that's a best-case scenario based on the leasor's tentative possessory rights.
The OrBorTor appears to operate with autonomy and, at times, with little regards to the law. The OrBorTor is a classic example of power, greed and corruption from the top to the bottom of its ranks. The Thai government, if was really serious in its fight against corruption, could pursue the matter simply by investigating the source of funds of the officials who maintain a class of lifestyle without the apparent financial means to do so. It doesn't require a lot of brainpower to deduce that an official with a 5,000 – 6,000 baht per month salary and no other visible means of income cannot afford to open multiple businesses, frequent expensive restaurants, drive an expensive automobile and clad themselves in garish gold jewellery is potentially deriving money from illicit activities.
I offer this information in hope that others can avoid making the same mistake and that the OrBorTor might have more difficulty in cheating people in this manner. It's obvious that Thailand (even with such lip service such as the "ORGANIC ACT ON COUNTER CORRUPTION, B.E. 2542") has little intention to "clean up its act", but instead has chosen to continue on a path of fraud & deception.
In Thailand, always follow the ancient Latin axiom "caveat emptor" (buyer beware) and good luck in the "land of smiles", you'll need it!
A very sad tale indeed. So you lost a good chunk of time and about 1.2 million baht+ and at the end of the day had nothing to how for it, with perhaps the exception of some more grey hair.
People wonder why I always recommend renting over buying in Thailand – this story is a classic representation of why.