Yes! The very first member of the United States Congress born in Thailand!
I was in Washington, D.C., from May 15 to 22nd by special invitation to the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo as a delegate member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the world’s largest professional trade organization, with almost 1.3 million members throughout the United States and worldwide.
The NAR was holding its annual Mid-Year Legislative Conference attended by almost ten thousand American and international partners, and I was recently appointed as a member of the NAR Board of Directors.
On the final day of the week-long event, all directors met to vote at the annual board meeting.
The NAR has been supporting the business of real estate by strengthening the economic and legal conditions necessary to protect and promote property ownership throughout the United States and it is now reaching out to support the growing interest in property ownership throughout the world as property markets are rapidly expanding with globalization.
At this year’s Legislative Conference, members once again played an active role to advance the real estate industry, public policy and the association itself. Realtors from all over the world came to Washington, DC, for special issue forums, committee meetings, legislative activities and the NAR real estate industry trade show.
During the week we attended many interesting agency visits in the Capital.
Thailand’s Real Estate Sales and Marketing Association (RESAM), as special NAR bilateral partners, had been invited to join on these agency visits. The incredible learning allowed each of us to engage in direct discussions with U.S. government officials.
It was during our previous visit to the U.S. House of Representatives Department of Veterans Affairs that we all got to meet and sit down with Ladda ‘Tammy’ Duckworth–an American politician who has been the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district since 2013. A Democrat, she is the first Asian American woman elected to Congress in Illinois, the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first member of Congress born in Thailand!
Duckworth previously served as Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Veterans Affairs from 2009 to 2011, and as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006 to 2009.
An Iraq War veteran, Thai-born Tammy Duckworth served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot and suffered severe combat wounds, losing both of her legs and damaging her right arm. She was the first female double amputee of the war in Iraq. Having received a medical waiver, she continued to serve as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard along with her husband, Major Bryan W. Bowlsbey, a signal officer and fellow Iraq War veteran. Duckworth retired from the army in October 2014, and was reelected to Congress in November of that same year.
In the November 8, 2016, election, Duckworth defeated incumbent Republican Senator Mark Kirk for the seat in the United States Senate.
Speaking of the US political scene, many may be surprised to learn that the National Association of Realtors has its own, well-organized and well-staffed political party known simply as the REALTORS® Party. At the Party Convention & Trade Expo, Realtors and association leaders come together to speak in unison on issues that pertain to real estate. And it’s an opportunity for all members to respond to and initiate change at all levels of government –- federal, state and local.
One of the primary reasons I was invited to this event and made an NAR Board of Directors member was to share all of these lobbying procedures and protocols so that we international members can return to our home countries and exercise these same procedures in presenting changes in real estate laws and regulations necessary to advance our own real estate industries and move us forward towards better and more secure real estate transactions and better and more secure home ownership for our clients.
Speaking of which, our RESAM organization represented by President Somsak Chutisilp, myself, Vice-President Clayton Wade, Presidents Liaison Paul Xumsai and the NAR’s regional coordinator for Asia/Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, UAE, Lebanon Nancy Suvarnamani went before the Raume Foundation board of directors at this year’s NAR legislative event appealing for a $25,000 grant towards drafting a proposal to present to the Thai government to establish licensing of real estate brokers and to provide free seminars on a code of ethics for the industry.
A particular goal of my own is to see what can be done to establish clear, concrete and fair policies for the thousands of foreign buyers of homes and land in Thailand. For too many years foreigners have been subjected to periodic ‘political terrorism,’ usually perpetrated against Thai nominee companies.
It is time to openly face the issue of nominee companies and give it legitimate and respectable standing, thereby eliminating the continued threat of the government confiscating property from foreigners when one or another zealous Thai political figure grabs some cheap publicity attacking foreign home owners.
We all know very well that land and house purchases by foreigners through nominee companies are facilitated at the various government land offices by government-licensed Thai lawyers and government-licensed accountants. It is a huge cottage industry run and operated by Thai professionals; there is absolutely no good reason that foreign buyers should be subjected to the fear produced by these frivolous attacks that have never in my 26 years of living in Thailand gone anywhere past some chest pounding and an article or two.
It is time to start lobbying the Thai government and seek their understanding and support with clear and proper regulations so that foreigners can live peacefully in their Thai homes without the uncertainty imposed by existing Thai laws.
I think that the time has come to enable all foreign house owners to live with the confidence that their ‘Home is their Castle’ even here in Thailand!