(AA) – A recent NGO report has revealed that more than 500 Thai politicians own properties amounting to a value of $770 million, which could explain the opposition to a proposed tax on land and buildings.
The Bangkok Post cited Saturday a study by Local Action Links, a group advocating farmers’ land rights, that found that 530 former parliamentarians own land covering a total area of 11,000 hectares, as well as 1,835 buildings.
The statesmen include members of both the conservative Democrat Party and its rival the Puea Thai, a party of political allies of ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, a highly divisive figure who has lived in exile since a 2008 abuse of power conviction.
The figures were obtained from public documents submitted by the politicians between 2011 and 2014 to the anti-corruption commission.
Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat Party MP who led massive anti-government demonstrations from November 2013 until the coup that overthrew the elected government of Thaksin’s sister Yingluck last May, is ranked number nine on the list with 287 hectares to his name.
In early March, Finance Minister Sommai Phasi had proposed to impose a tax on land and buildings based on a rate of 0.5-4.0 percent, in order to bring revenue to the government.
After strong opposition from big landowners, the military-run government decided to shelve the plan, saying it would hurt the already sluggish economy.
According to Bank of Thailand estimates, the GDP growth rate for 2015 should be 3.8 percent — after a historical weak of 0.7 percent last year.
Pongthep Samranchit, Local Action Links director, told the Post that a land and buildings tax would help gather funds to assist the poor and farmers with no lands. She said that if the government’s aim were to fairly distribute land, the tax would exempt those with small amounts of land and low-value plots.
The politicians’ landholdings nevertheless pale in comparison to those of prominent businessmen, according to the study.
The family of Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, CEO of the Thai Beverages liquor conglomerate, owns almost ten times the combined landholdings of the 530 politicians with 100,000 hectares. The family of Dhanin Chearavanont, CEO of the Charoen Pokphand food conglomerate, comes in second with 32,000 hectares.