Thailand’s Foreign Business Act law has been in existence, in its present form, since 1999. The law is intended to protect certain business activities for Thai nationals when those business activities are considered to be important to the national interests of Thailand. To implement this policy the Foreign Business Law prohibits or restricts non-Thai nationals and Thai limited companies with majority non-Thai shareholding from engaging in the restricted business activities.
The law specifies three lists of restricted business activities, with List One being the most protected Thai business activities and thereby the most restrictive to non-Thais, to List Three which is the least restrictive category of business activities for non-Thais. The business activities listed under List Three are activities for which a foreign business license is still required, but may be easier to obtain than for those business activities on List One and List Two.
For many years, the category of “service businesses” on List Three has been too broad and general. Up until the recent amendments to List Three, foreign majority owned companies needed a special license to operate service businesses of any type.
However, the Foreign Business Law Amendments issued March 11, 2013 to List Three’s service businesses category provided much needed clarity to the overly broad definition of service businesses. These amendments listed specific service business business activities that are exempt from List Three of the Foreign Business Act, thereby allowing non-Thai nationals and foreign majority limited companies to provide the business services listed without needing to obtain a foreign business license.
It is hoped that these exempted categories of service businesses should provide non-Thai majority companies the ability to operate more freely to some extent within Thailand. Nevertheless, it is recommended that interested parties obtain independent legal advice before engaging in business activities in Thailand.