Experienced Swedes share their experiences
The Swedish couple Mrs. Gunilla and Mr. Håkan Kolmodin who has worked and lived in Thailand for many years wanted to settle down in Thailand and build a house in the countryside. After a conflict with a local politician they were forced to take apart their beautiful home and rebuild it piece by piece in a new location. Now, having settled in Soi Dao, the couple find themselves yet again in the midst of a whole new land conflict.
ScandAsia visited Soi Dao, about four hours drive east of Bangkok – near the Cambodian border. It was in this beautiful province that Mrs. Gunilla and Mr. Håkan Kolmodin, along with 22 other Swedish house buyers, wanted to build a new future.
“We would now like to share our experiences so that no more Scandinavians end up in our situation”, says Mr. Håkan Kolmodin.
It all started more than ten years ago when their house was built the first time. At that time Mrs. Gunilla and Mr. Håkan met ScandAsia for an article about homestaying. They wanted to share their beautiful traditional Thai home and life in the countryside with other Scandinavians. But it all went terribly wrong.
“The problem came from a Thai national who at that time worked for us as our driver and later become a local politician. He helped us with all the practical arrangements with building our Thai wooden houses, but we should never have trusted him”, says Mrs. Gunilla.
Many years of their life were affected with worries over the conflict and they don’t even want to think about the money they lost. The driver eventually ended up in prison, 3.5 years, for the crimes he committed against Mrs. Gunilla and Mr. Håkan. The couple was forced to take the drastic measure of dismantling their houses and rebuilding them at a new location. They chose Soi Dao:
“We decided to move here for a new start”, says Mrs. Gunilla.
“We had hoped that it would be quiet and peaceful here and we looked forward to seeing other Swedes in this little village after the hardship we had gone through.”
This time around the couple checked all the paperwork carefully, but despite this – they now find themselves in a new conflict which has also affected 22 other Swedish house owners in the small Swedish village in Soi Dao.
One of them is Mr. Peter Dahlström, from Lund, southern Sweden.
“This has been one of the most horrible experiences of my life. We have been forced to hire security guards to patrol the area to protect us,” he says.
ScandAsia have interviewed several of the Swedish homeowners and they bear witness to how men armed with machetes have entered their compound. Water and electricity has been turned off for long periods. In their quest for justice the Swedes are assisted by Mrs. Sakorn Andersson, a loyal Thai majority shareholder. Right now six separate lawsuits against a local co-owner are in progress:
“The problem is that one of the minority owners is trying to take control over the land and the houses through intimidation and harassment,” explains Mrs. Sakorn.
Mrs. Sakorn Andersson lives in Soi Dao with her Swedish husband Mr. Kjell Andersson.
“Nobody wants to buy the houses as it stands now. The local minority owner is trying to get us all to give up which would mean the loss of tens of millions of Thai baht,” says Mr. Kjell. The house owners have now written to the Swedish embassy in a cry for help.
The Swedish house buyers have now also got help from a Thai lawyer who tells ScandAsia that the co-owner can face up to 3 years prison, if they win. The Swedes are still waiting for the local police to take action against the minority owner, who one night entered the compound armed with a loaded gun. A crime that the local co-owner acknowledges in a taped interview with ScandAsia:
“Yes, I was in their compound with a gun, but it was only because I had cleaned the gun for my father that I happened to have the gun in the waistband. Everything else that the Swedes say is, in my opinion, just lies”, says the accused co-owner who has also mounted discouraging signs in the area, written in Thai, where the Swedes are accused of having links to the Mafia. An absurd assertion given that some of the Swedish homeowners are retirees and law abiding citizens.
Mrs. Gunilla, Mr. Håkan and the other Swedes are still hopeful that they will win in court. They say they got all their paperwork in order and so far they have received fair treatment in the local court where they have already won one case against the local co-owner.
“What to keep in mind is to have a good land lease contract, which clearly specifies that you are the house owner and that your lease contract is registered at the Land Office with the right to stay on the ground for 30 years. It is extremely important”, says Mrs. Gunilla, who despite all the problems they have gone through never has considered to leave Thailand.
“No, oddly enough, Håkan and I feel that this is our home and we enjoy living in Thailand. We take it day by day and I think it is the Thai attitude that has helped us to take it easy and to not get too much emotionally involved.”
5 tips for buying a house in Thailand:
About 10 000 Swedes have houses in Thailand today and there are thousands more Scandinavians living here. Here is the Swedish embassy in Bangkok’s advice to those who want to buy property in Thailand:
1) Check with the Thai “land office” who owns the land and that there are no hidden conflicts.
2) Always take the assistance of independent legal experts.
3) Translate all documents.
4) As a foreigner, you can only rent land, or own as a partner. 51 percent of the shares must be owned by Thais.
5) Make sure you got a lease on the land on which the house rests, you register the lease for 30 years term at the land office.