• 0.72%

    Unemployment rate

  • 16%

    Percentage of women in Thai Parliament

  • 2.2%

    Inflation rate

  • 12.6%

    Proportion of population below the poverty line

  • 37.1%

    Proportion of land area covered by forest

Introduction



Thailand has enjoyed a long period of robust economic growth. In its advancement as a middle-income country, Thailand has made a great deal of progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and has developed its own MDG-Plus targets.


Poverty has been reduced from 21 percent in 2000 to about 12.6 percent in 2012 . With its firm commitment to the MDGs and South-South Cooperation, Thailand has become an increasingly active global development partner.

But despite remarkable progress made, persistent and critical development challenges remain, too, a challenge in policy and in practice - from formulating national strategies to implementing legislation.

History


Thailand's constitutional monarchy, in place since 1932, and other institutions, have provided an underlying stability that has allowed for rapid development until the 1990s. Modern political history has been turbulent. In September 2006, the military carried out a coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and soon transitioned the country back to civilian rule. Recent disputes between pro-government supporters and opposition members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in September 2008 resulted in several deaths and scores of injured.


Large-scale protests by “Red Shirts” in March 2010 took to the streets of Bangkok demanding the dissolution of Parliament. The 2-month stand-off left 90 people dead and around 2,000 injured, marking one of the bloodiest events in Thai modern political history.

The July 2011 elections saw the Pheu Thai party winning a majority of seats in Parliament. Thailand’s new 35-member cabinet was sworn in during August 2011. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the country’s first female leader and the sister of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Twenty-nine members (nearly 80 percent) of the cabinet are members of PM Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party.


On 9 December 2013, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved Parliament and called for a new election after sustained protests in Bangkok. In  May 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck had acted with a hidden agenda when she transferred a senior civil servant to another position, shortly after taking office in 2011.  The Constitutional Court also ruled that the caretaker premiership status be therefore terminated. Mr. Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, Minister of Commerce and a Deputy Prime Minister, became acting Prime Minister following the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck.


On 22 December 2013, mass public demonstrations were staged in five major intersections in Bangkok. On 22 May 2014,  the Royal Thai Armed Forces, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, launched a coup d’état  against the caretaker government, following six months of public demonstrations in Bangkok. Two months after the coup, Thailand adopted a new interim constitution. The new constitution allows the junta to rule the country formally.


On 22 August 2014, General Prayuth received a royal command appointing him as the 29th Prime Minister of Thailand. On 31 August 2014, General Prayuth named an interim cabinet consisting mainly of members of the security forces to govern Thailand through at least a year of political reforms before an election is called.  

Challenges

Challenges

Poverty in Thailand is primarily a rural phenomenon, with 88% of the country's 5.4 million poor living in rural areas. Some regions—particularly the North and Northeast—and some ethnic groups lag greatly behind others, and the benefits of economic success have not been shared equally, especially between Bangkok, Thailand’s largest urban area, and the rest of the country. Income inequality and lack of equal opportunities have persisted. Income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, has fallen in recent years, but stays consistently high above 0.45.


Persistent development challenges remain an institutional challenge in policy and in practice, from formulating national strategies to implementing social legislations. While Thailand has eliminated gender disparity in primary and secondary education, gender equality continues to be a challenge. Women still have limited representation in electoral politics. In 2013, only 16 per cent of seats in the national parliament were held by women. Corruption also remains a key challenge, and access to justice is much limited for the poor and vulnerable. Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Thailand 102 among 177 countries with a score of 37. Thailand's CPI ranking has deteriorated since 2010, when the ranking was 78 with a score of 35.


Inequality is also a challenge. Vulnerable groups, such as migrants, informal workers, and displaced persons, are not equally benefiting from Thailand’s economic successes. Women and children are still at risk of sexual and domestic violence. New human security threats are emerging as a result of changes both within Thailand and in the world as a whole.


Climate change remains a threat. Thailand emitted 4.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per person per year in 2010. The effects of climate change have elevated risk of natural and man-made disasters, droughts, extreme weather patterns and sea level rise, threatening economic development and community livelihoods. At the same time, there are concerns about environmental sustainability. 

Successes

Anti-Corruption Initiative

Thailand has shown remarkable economic growth during the past 20 years, reducing poverty from from 21 percent in 2000 to around 12.6 percent in 2012. It has also been extending the coverage of its social services, including education and health care, to nearly all of its population.

Thailand become an upper-middle income economy in 2011. Notwithstanding political uncertainty and volatility, Thailand has made great progress in social and economic issues. As such, Thailand has been one of the great development success stories, with sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction.

Poverty in Thailand has fallen steadily since the late 1980s. Over the last decade, poverty has been reduced from its recent peak of 42.6% (2000) to about 12.6% (2012). In the poorest rural northeast region of Thailand, the number of impoverished households dropped from 3.4% (1996) to less than 1.3% (2006-2009).

Thailand's high economic growht at 8-9% per year during the late 1980s and early 1990s was interrupted by the "Asian Crisis" of 1997-1998; robust growth at around 5% from 2002 to 2007 was again slowed down by the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.

Thailand's economic growth was further affected in 2009 because of global economic conditions and political uncertainty and again, in 2011, because of the devastating floods. Now Thailand's economic activity is gradually returning to normal. Growth is projected to be around 4.0% in 2014.

Thailand continues to make progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is likely to meet most of the MDGs on an aggregate basis. The maternal mortality and under-five mortality rates have been greatly reduced and more than 97% of the population, both in the urban and rural areas, now have access to clean water and sanitation. 

Among the Southeast Asian countries, Thailand has implemented renewable energy tariffs, strengthening the renewable energy market and allowing wind and solar investments to well exceed original targets. Thailand has also been making efforts to promote renewable energy in the heating, power, and transport sectors to diversify its fuel sources and enhance energy security. To identify opportunities for energy efficiency improvement, legislation in Thailand goes further than in neighboring countries in requiring large energy users to undertake energy audits and to submit energy efficiency action plans. 


Country flag
Country map
Statistics
Capital
Bangkok
Population
67,010,502 (World Bank 2013)
Area (in sq. km)
513,120
Area (in sq. mi)
198,115
Language(s)
Thai
Poverty rate
12.6 (2012)
Per capita income
$5,210 (2012)
Human Development Index
0.722 (2013)