Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US-Thai Amity Treaty’

21st August 2010

The New York Times website reported the following:

BANGKOK — Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman who is expected to face gun-running charges in the United States following his extradition from Thailand, expressed confidence on Friday that he would ultimately be exonerated.

Those who are unfamiliar with this case may remember an American film which is supposedly based upon Mr. Bout’s life. The aforementioned article went further to note that:

Mr. Bout, who inspired the movie “Lord of War,” starring Nicolas Cage, is suspected of running a large-scale trafficking organization that provided weapons to governments, rebels and insurgents across the globe.

As a general rule, international extraditions in cases which are covered heavily by the media can be exceptionally tense especially where two different countries wish to see differing outcomes. In this case, the extradition request could be viewed as highly complex, both from a legal as well as political standpoint, and this proceeding would seem to represent an important achievement for American officials as the article went on to observe:

The court decision on Friday… was a victory for the Obama administration, which summoned the Thai ambassador in Washington to the State Department this week to “emphasize that this is of the highest priority to the United States,” a spokesman said. “There have been a lot of conversations of senior administration officials with their Thai counterparts about this,” said one American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity after staying up until 2 a.m. awaiting the news from Bangkok. American officials had feared that Russian pressure would prevail and Mr. Bout might be flying home. “This really was a welcome surprise,” the official said of the court’s decision.  Russia, which had been seeking to prevent Mr. Bout from being placed in the American legal system, reacted angrily. “We regret what, in my view, is an illegal political decision taken by the appellate court in Thailand,” Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said Friday, according to the Interfax news agency. “Based on the information we have at our disposal, the decision was made under very strong outside pressure. This is lamentable.”

The United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand share a long and amicable relationship as the two countries have a history of friendly bilateral political and economic relations. One of the foremost examples of this relationship is the US-Thai Amity Treaty. That said, the recent decision would seem to have be made on legal grounds and not based upon political considerations. However, not everyone was happy to hear the Thai court’s decision:

After the ruling, Mr. Bout embraced his wife and daughter, who wept. He said nothing to reporters in the courtroom as he was led out in leg irons. The court ordered his extradition within three months… Mr. Bout’s lawyers had argued that the extradition request was part of a pattern of the United States’ reaching beyond its borders to punish its enemies. Chamroen Panompakakorn, Mr. Bout’s principal lawyer, alluded to the rendition of terrorist suspects by the American government and argued that the overall credibility of the United States government had been tarnished after the failed search for unconventional weapons in Iraq.

Regardless of one’s opinion about the decision itself, this case may represent a major milestone in international jurisprudence as the Kingdom of Thailand, the United States of America, and many other jurisdictions around the world continue to work together to bring international and multi-jurisdictional criminal suspects before lawful tribunals in both the USA and abroad. Extradition represents one area of international criminal law where cross border cooperation by authorities is leading to apprehension of suspected criminals all over the globe. In another posting on this blog, the issue of Royal Thai Immigration‘s decision to connect to American warrant databases was discussed. In an increasingly “globalized” world, it is becoming evermore difficult for international criminal suspects to evade government authorities. Meanwhile, American authorities’ efforts to apprehend those with an American criminal warrant, fugitive warrant, bench warrant, or arrest warrant continue unabated. Those who find that they have an outstanding American warrant are well advised to seek the assistance of competent counsel in the form of a licensed American attorney in order to deal with the matter in accordance with all applicable laws.

For further related information please see: Warrant For My Arrest.

more Comments: 04

17th January 2010

In recent weeks there has been some speculation about new regulations with regard to Thai work permits. In February of 2010, the Ministry of Labour regulations regarding work permits are to be updated. These updated rules will likely result in more stringent measures with regard to foreign labor in Thailand. Recently, there has been some talk about liberalizing certain sections of the Foreign Business Act (FBA). This Act restricts the type of activities that foreign nationals are allowed to engage in while present in the Kingdom of Thailand.

Under the provisions of the FBA, there are three lists of restricted activities. List 1 is the most restricted and is unlikely to be liberalized anytime in the near future. List 2 is also unlikely to be opened up to foreign participation anytime soon, but this is more likely to happen when compared to list 1. Finally, list 3 lists those activities that are the most likely to be opened up to foreign competition. There have been those in the current government floating the idea of liberalizing list 3, but the upshot of this would be more stringent enforcement of current work permit rules.

This leads us to the point of this post: what will happen to those certified under the US-Thai Amity Treaty? Under the provisions of this Treaty, American Citizens are accorded certain privileges when it comes to operating a business in the Kingdom of Thailand. In most cases, changes to the Foreign Business Act have little impact upon those operating under the Treaty as Treaty companies are accorded “national treatment.” This means that once a company has an Amity Treaty Certificate they are viewed, in the eyes of Thai law, as a Thai company. However, work permit regulations are applied to Thai companies in the same way that they would be applied to foreign companies. Therefore, those operating under a Treaty Certificate must still adhere to relevant Ministry of Labour regulations. Consequently, although the work permit regulations will not effect an Amity Treaty Company per se, they have a collateral impact upon any foreigners working in said company as the provisions of the Treaty only apply to the juristic entity and not to any of the foreign nationals working for that entity.

At this time, the US-Thai Treaty of Amity is still the law of the land in both the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States of America. There are certain benefits enjoyed by nationals of both countries as Americans are entitled to Treaty of Amity protection when conducting most types of business in Thailand while Thais are granted Treaty Trader visas should they meet the requisite qualifications pursuant to the relevant provisions of the Treaty.

more Comments: 04

24th December 2009

Many people in Thailand, both foreign and Thai, choose to incorporate Thai businesses. Thailand is one of Southeast Asia’s major trading locales and as a result many individuals and business concerns need a corporate presence in the Kingdom of Thailand. In many cases, companies are incorporated with substantially similar articles of incorporation. That being said, some companies opt to incorporate with unique provisions regarding different types of shareholder rights in the corporate charter. These different types of rights can have a major impact upon the running of the business because these rights can have a collateral impact upon employee compensation, shareholder vote tabulation, and banking issues. Therefore, an understanding of share classification can be helpful to those who are thinking of incorporating a Thai company.

In the articles of association (also known as articles of incorporation) of a Thai limited company, one could denote the rights associated with different share classifications. Therefore, some shares could simply hold an equity interest in the company while not having any voting rights at shareholder meetings. Other types of shares could hold little or no equity in the company, but maintain voting rights regarding the Directors of the company. If a company owns Thai property, there could be specific shares that have certain rights in relation to the Thai property concerned. For example, a Thai company that owns Thai real estate could place special rights in the hands of certain shareholders with regard to said real estate. If a Thai company owns a Thai Condo, then share classification could be used to delineate the rights of individuals with regard to the Condo premises.

For those who are interested in Thai limited companies certified under the US-Thai Amity Treaty, these same principals could apply to an Amity Company. One shareholder could retain a sizable equity holding while another holds certain voting rights. The same could be said about a Thai limited company that has obtained a Foreign Business License. A company such as this could incorporate special shareholder rights in the provisions of the articles of association or incorporation.

These issues bleed into the realm of Thai Immigration because the shareholder in a Thai company could apply for a Thai business visa. The basis for such an application could be an impending shareholder’s meeting that the foreign national must attend. The approval of such an application would depend upon the Thai Embassy or Consulate concerned. If present in the Kingdom on another type of visa, an O visa, for example, it may be possible for the shareholder to attend a meeting in order to vote his or her shares.

more Comments: 04

14th December 2009

Thailand has become a major epicenter of trade in Southeast Asia. The Kingdom also remains one of the most important trading partners of the United States of America, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. Many businesspeople who do business in Thailand must deal with restrictions imposed upon foreigners under the Thai Foreign Business Act. American Citizens enjoy some benefits under the provisions of the US-Thai Amity Treaty. This Treaty was promulgated in the mid-60′s. In Thailand, Treaties are considered the “law of the land,” and are considered superior to locally drafted legislation (this notion is similar to many of the ideas codified in the American Constitution, specifically the Supremacy Clause).  As the Amity Treaty is the “law of the land,” it supersedes the Foreign Business Act.

A Thai Limited Company certified under the provisions of the Treaty of Amity is a good vehicle for conducting business in Thailand, but the Treaty does have caveats and Companies conducting certain types of business cannot obtain Treaty Certification. Most importantly for some, Amity Treaty Companies cannot own land. Even though an Amity Company is accorded “National Treatment,” the company is barred from holding property in the form of Thai Real Estate. Although, technically it may be possible for an Amity company to purchase a Condo in Thailand.

Aside from ownership of Thai property, there are other activities which an Amity Company cannot engage in, such as: Inland Transportation, Communications, Fiduciary Functions, and the Practice of Professions. Each of these types of activity are reserved to Thai nationals and/or Thai Companies. Even still, the Amity Treaty provides American Citizens with the opportunity to own virtually 100% of a Thai company. For many types of businesses the Amity Treaty is a perfect solution to the problems imposed upon foreigners by the Foreign Business Act.

Some have postulated regarding the possibility of using American Citizens as nominees in order to obtain Amity Treaty benefits. This is basically impossible as nominee shareholders are illegal under current Thai law. That being said, delineating whether or not an American Company is “American,” could be difficult. The relevant agencies of the Thai Ministry of Commerce adjudicate Amity Treaty Certification applications on a case by case basis and come to a decision based upon the makeup of the corporate shareholders in question.

An Amity Treaty Certificate is somewhat similar to a Foreign Business License. However, the two documents are issued based upon different legal foundations. There are some US Immigration benefits accorded to Thai nationals under the US-Thai Treaty of Amity in the form of E visas, but there is not a direct counterpart found under Thai Immigration law.

more Comments: 04

24th November 2009

Thailand is one of the major trading centers in Southeast Asia. As a result, many foreign nationals wish to conduct business in the Kingdom of Thailand. However, the Thailand Foreign Business Act precludes foreign ownership of Thai companies. Strictly speaking, foreign ownership is not technically illegal, but operating such a company for profit is against the law.

When we say, “foreign ownership,” we mean foreign majority ownership as foreign nationals are allowed to own a minority stake in a Thai company, up to forty-nine percent. If a Thai owns fifty-one percent of a company in Thailand, then that company is considered to be a “Thai Company.”

There are some who incorporate “Thai companies” that utilize so-called “nominee shareholders.” A nominee is one who owns shares in a Thai company on behalf of another. A nominee is not an “active shareholder,” in a company. Under current Thai corporate law nominee shareholders are illegal. However, defining what constitutes a “nominee shareholder,” can be difficult.

Thai law does provide for a way around the restrictions imposed by the Foreign Business Act. There are ways to license a Thai Company, with majority foreign ownership, to conduct business in Thailand.

On method of facilitating a foreign company to conduct business in Thailand is through a Foreign Business License. These documents can be difficult to obtain and the process for obtaining a Thai foreign business license can be very time consuming. Once granted the license will specify the exact nature of the business and the company will be precluded from conducting any other type of activity, unless another license is obtained.

Another method of facilitating foreign ownership of a Thai company is through the US-Thai Amity Treaty. As the name suggests, the US-Thai Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations is a bilateral agreement between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States of America. A company certified under the terms of the Treaty is given “national treatment,” allowing it to operate in the same way as a “Thai Company.” The major exception being that an Amity Treaty Company is precluded from owning real estate in Thailand. Other types of Thai property could be owned by an Amity Company, such as a Thai Condo. Also, the provisions of the Treaty grant the aforementioned benefits exclusively to United States Citizens. Therefore, this method of certification is not for everyone.

The Australia-Thai free trade agreement provides some special benefits to Australians in Thailand as Australian Citizen may be allowed to own a majority stake in certain types of Thai companies.

A final method of licensing a foreign company in Thailand is through the Board of Investment or BOI. A BOI company can receive special benefits in the form of rights to operate and some BOI companies can own land. That being said, BOI companies are very difficult to incorporate and require a great deal of legal expertise to set up. BOI Companies are generally not advisable for those thinking of establishing a small Thai business. For large enterprises, such a setup may be advisable due to the fact that a Thailand visa and/or work permit is generally easier to obtain for a BOI company.

more Comments: 04

The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisement. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience. The information presented on this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.