Phuket Gazette

BANGKOK (The Nation): Expatriates will be charged two million baht next year for a Thailand Elite privilege card – double the current price – because they can use member services and facilities more often than foreign tourists or visiting businessmen. “We originally intended to set the price for expatriates at two million baht because of the many advantages they have, but in the beginning we reduced it to one million baht to build customer interest,” Paisit Kaenchan, Director of Thailand Privilege Card Co, said yesterday. Applications from expatriates will not be accepted after the end of next year to bring the proportion of expatriate members down to 5% of total membership from the present 20%. The price for foreign-based cardholders would also be raised by 20%-25% from the current one million baht within two years as facilities and services would be improved and added, K. Paisit said. The Thailand Elite card, the brainchild of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, targets 1 million members in five years. However, since its launch on November 19 only some 200 cards have been sold, at US$25,000 or one million baht for individuals and $50,000 for juristic persons. This has forced a drastic cut in the 1,000-card year-end goal for 2003. To achieve next year’s sales objective of 100,000 cards, the company has put together a marketing plan that includes roadshows at least once a month in Japan, China, Korea and other countries in Asia, and expanding its sales network from 20 to 30 or 40 agents. “After reaching the 100,000-card level, the company will suspend recruitment of new members for six months to evaluate all services and every golf course, hotel, spa, restaurant and shopping mall participating in the program,” K. Paisit said. Proceeds from card sales are now placed in bank deposits, but in the future an asset management company will be retained to invest in the same manner as the Government Pension Fund. These idle funds represent 90%-95% of total reserves and the fund manager must make an annual return on investment of at least 6%-7%. The remaining 5%-10% of reserves will be used to build or take over at least two golf clubs, a boutique hotel and a city club within two years, which will be linked to the future increase in membership fees. K. Paisit explained the cardholder privileges in property investment as a form of “usufruct” – the right to use and enjoy the profits and advantages of something belonging to another as long as the property is not damaged or altered in any way. Thailand Privilege Card Co, as a Thai-owned entity, retains ownership of properties that cardholders buy, but the cardholders can enjoy lifetime use of their land and properties, including renting their units out when they are not in the country. However, cardholders do not receive full commercial rights, such as to develop homes or condominium projects. “The first approval of property purchases is expected in January,” K. Paisit said. Thailand Privilege Card Co would be around for a long time - not only during this government’s term - because it is a private company and has members around the world who benefit the country greatly over the long term, he said. “I’m confident that no government would dare to close us. If anyone tries that, he’ll get sued by cardholders all over the world.”

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