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Pattaya has a rosy future
Pattaya Today, Tuesday February 20, 2007

But property laws need amendment A Pattaya real estate conference heard that the demand for land and property of most types in the area remains strong, yet the government needs to play its part in reassuring investors. Held at the Jomtien Palm Beach seafront hotel on February 9, the afternoon seminar was attended by 700 people and led by experts in their field. Introductory speakers traced the history of Pattaya from its origins as a racy vacation spot in the 1970s to the cosmopolitan city it is today. The provincial governor, Pracha Taerat, said that many new markets had opened up in recent years to diversify Pattaya and to lessen the dependence on sex tourism. In 2006, almost 6 million tourists had visited the resort.

Several experts pointed to the continuing boom in property related purchases. Nigel Cornick, chief executive officer at Raimon Land, cited surveys to show that last year 16.6 billion baht were spent on Thai condo purchases, of which almost half were in the Pattaya area. "Pattaya remains the premier destination for property interest, particularly high-end and luxury units," he noted. Over 80% of condos are being bought by Thais or by foreigners already living in Thailand. He added that, as of January 2007, there were 315 building projects started along the eastern seaboard and 110 in Pattaya and Banglamung alone, explaining that 56% of sold units were now condominiums, a big change from five years ago. The boom in high end, luxury condominium construction had not abated. Other speakers referred to the industrial hinterland of the eastern seaboard, particularly the petroleum refineries and automobile factories, which meant that the whole region was now far from being just a tourist retreat. Land prices in districts such as Mabprachan and, in particular Bang Saray which is popular for new estates, were still accelerating on a year on year basis. This was good news for investors of all kinds and reflected continuing confidence in the area. On the other hand, it was pointed out that mortgages had declined in the last year and that Thai interest rates were still too high to attract would-be buyers of moderate means. Sky rocketing oil prices in 2006 and a hike in the cost of construction materials had also been a disincentive, several speakers believed. Some kinds of units were becoming much less popular, for example shophouses with several upper floors which were not really needed in this day and age. Once the seminar was opened to public discussion, farangs in the audience felt strongly that the Thai government needed to apply itself to legal clarification. The crackdown on nominee companies many of which were set up years ago, the revisions to the alien business law and the 30% withholding tax on some foreign currency transactions were all subjects which had created confusion and had made some farang buyers put off a decision to buy or lease. This was particularly a sensitive issue in Pattaya because of the large foreigner resident population. The seminar was extended for half an hour after one delegate complained that too little time had been devoted to grass roots concerns. He was cheered by the audience when he said he was a foreign investor in Thailand who sometimes felt he was being treated badly because of restrictive governmental policies. Other speakers wanted lobby pressure to allow foreigners to buy one rai of land for domestic housing, to extend full leases for up to 90 years and to simplify the bureaucratic work permit regulations issued by the department of employment.

Immigration chief defends visa changes

Frauds and pedophiles unwelcome The national head of the immigration police has said he is well satisfied with the visa rule changes introduced on October 1 last year. Police lieutenant general Suwat Tumrongsiskul was asked by reporters about the measure to limit to 90 days, in any 6 months’ block, the stay of foreigners relying on successive 30 day stamps on arrival.

The regulation has been particularly significant in Pattaya which traditionally has had large cohorts of modest income farangs journeying every month of the year to the Cambodian border in minibuses to renew their 30 days stamp. Since October 1, it’s said that the number of land crossing visa runs has shrunk by 50% with some businesses restricting the service or even going out of business altogether. When asked if the new regulation had caused confusion at border crossings and airports, general Suwat said the counting process was “no problem” and that immigration computers were helping officers count up the days, if necessary. He added that his primary aim was to weed out foreigners who were misusing the 30 day on arrival stamps to obtain ongoing residence. He defended the new measure by saying it had little impact on legitimate long stay tourists but was an effective deterrent against foreigners who were working illegally or otherwise abusing Thai hospitality. “The 30 day tourist visa allows enough time for a tourist to travel around the country. If people want to work here, they should apply for a non immigrant “B” visa from the Thai embassy in their own country before coming.” The immigration head also stated that the background of foreign teachers would continue to be checked in conjunction with the Thai education ministry. He said the crackdown was necessary to prevent crime, including the use of forged qualification certificates, and to protect children from sexual predators. “We do need to be more strict in checking teachers’ qualifications as we don’t want unqualified personnel or sex deviants teaching Thai children. This crackdown will help us better to screen the backgrounds of people coming here to teach,” he said. The general agreed that it is difficult to ascertain a person’s sexual proclivities through inquiry, but said the police would check about criminal records in the teachers’ home countries. General Suwat agreed that the deportation last year of American John Mark Kerr, a former suspect in the murder of an American child, had reminded the immigration bureau about the possible danger posed by pedophiles. He also pointed out that, in a recent investigation, 7% of academic credentials had been forged. “Such people need to be prosecuted and deported,” the commissioner confirmed.

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