A couple of weeks ago we explained that the constitution protects individual property rights. But how are the rights to land bought, sold and evidenced in Thailand?
The Thai Land Code was first enacted in 1954 but has been amended several times since. Chapter 4 of the code provides that owners get documents of land rights. You may have heard people calling title a chanote, this means title deed. It's the most definitive right a private party can have regarding land in Thailand.
There are other kinds of documents of land rights, called utilisation certificates, the Nor Sor 3, the Nor Sor 3 Gor and the Nor Sor 3 Khor. We're going to explain the differences between the chanote and all of these in more depth in later columns, but right now we're going to call all of them, including the chanote, documents of land rights.
You may have seen documents of land rights. In fact, Section 57 of the Land Code gives certain items that must be included in all of these:
Name, last name and address of the land rights holder.
Location of the land.
A map showing the boundaries.
A seal of the office of a land officer.
An registration index number.
Documents of land rights are, as required by Section 57, made in duplicate. One copy is given to the land rights holder and the other held by the Land Office, the government authority in charge of registration and overseeing many aspects of land ownership.
The Land Office has many functions. For example, if an owner claims damage, defect or loss of a document of land rights, the Land Office may issue a new one. Fraud in connection with such a claim is a crime.
Many of the exact forms, rules and procedures are not in the Land Code, but in ministerial regulations. These are rules set by government officials that add details to general principles laid down by law. There are some guidelines, for example, in Ministerial Regulation No14, BE 2537 (1994) about what land can be the in documents of land rights and what can't.
In other words, some land can't be owned privately. Here is the list of requirements for land to be owned privately in documents of land rights.
Must be possessed and used by its owners, for example as a result of sale or inheritance.
Cannot be in public use, for example as waterways or public roads.
Cannot be land covered by the National Wilderness Preservation Act.
Cannot be preserved or restricted by the National Land Allocation Committee.
Cannot be preserved by the Council of Ministers for preservation of national resources or for other public purposes.
The Land Code makes many other provisions about how land is owned, for example how it is surveyed before a document of land rights is issued.
But what if there's some inaccuracy or illegality in a land rights document that has been issued? For example, what if the boundaries are wrong? Section 61 of the Land Code allows high officers from the Land Office to cancel or change a document of land rights.
What if there's a dispute, for example, when two adjacent owners of land rights documents have a dispute as to where the property line is? A land officer can intervene to settle it, and can give instructions to the parties to do so. Of course, if one of the parties isn't satisfied with this resolution, he or she can file a lawsuit within 60 days of the land officer's decision. If this happens, there is a stay, or delay of any decision by the land officer and the court will decide. If no lawsuit is filed, the land officer's decision stands.
More about the land office next time.
James Finch of Chavalit Finch and Partners (email@example.com)
and Nilobon Tangprasit of Siam City Law Offices Ltd (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Researchers: Arnon Rungthanakarn and Sitra Horsinchai.
For more information visit www.chavalitfinchlaw.com.
Questions? Contact us at the email addresses above.
About the author
Writer: James Finch & Nilobon Tangprasit