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January 25, 2009

Thai PM vows to push land, inheritance tax bill
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pledged Saturday that his government would move forward with determination in pushing controversial land and inheritance tax legislation for passage by members of parliament in the House of Representatives.

Thai News Agency quoted Abhisit as telling journalists that his government would move ahead on both tax bills simultaneously because both are part of the tax reforms being undertaken by his administration.

However, details remain to be considered, Abhisit said, and Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij is making such a study.

Armed with the confidence that his government can explain to those losing benefits from those laws after their approval, Abhisit said the land tax bill may not be overly complex because the idea was proposed long ago, but it must be polished to make it fairer to landholders.

The land tax might be exempted for those in need of basic housing but not for those owning multiple and large plots of land, but not putting them to use, Abhisit said, saying that taxes should be collected at progressive rates, with more tax liability for more valuable parcels of land.

This is to create a more level playing field society, the prime minister suggested, so that there is economic encouragement for making unused land available to people who want to use it.

"Such a (land tax) law may be obstructed by wealthy people," Abhisit said, adding that he believed those affected would understand the land tax must be collected because land distribution is not fair as many wealthy just retain land for financially speculative purposes, but the government must solve land problem for the poor.

As many major landowners in Thailand are politicians and capitalists, Abhisit said this shows that his government is not doing things for its own purpose but for the benefit of the society.

He said his government is determined to quickly push both bills through the House in his administration and if he is not successful, he would "show political responsibility" which, he said, "offers several ways under the constitution."

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