Thailand

Note: This column mainly includes countries along the Belt and Road and countries that have signed cooperation agreements with China on Belt and Road Initiative.

Thai Government and Politics

After the country went through a peaceful transformation in 1932, sovereign power came to belong to the Thai people, with the King as the Head of State who is above partisan politics and discharges his role in accordance with the country’s Constitution. Despite periods of political turbulence, Thailand’s political history reflects the country’s unwavering commitment towards becoming a full-fledged, multi-party democracy, with accountability, transparency, good governance, as well as respect for human rights and the rule of law being among the main guiding principles.

With the resiliency and fundamental strengths of the Thai society, the country has been able to continue its stride along the path of development, guided by the traditional Thai traits of tolerance, common sense and preference for peaceful solutions to problems. Over the past decades, there has been a remarkable continuity in policy direction, providing a predictable framework for investors and businessmen.

Successive Thai governments have always been committed to certain fundamental policy principles: friendly relations with all its neighbours and a responsible and constructive foreign policy, an open-market economy, hospitality toward foreign investors and tourists, sound macro-economic policies with fiscal and monetary prudence and the improvement of the country’s infrastructure to increase competitiveness and achieve sustainable development. These policies are underpinned, among others, by the vibrant private sector and the strength and continuity of the civil service of the nation, which oversees the implementation of policies and execution of laws throughout the country.

Prime Minister and Cabinet

Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, Head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, has been officially appointed as the 29th Prime Minister of Thailand after he was unanimously selected by members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on 21 August 2014.

In his speech after the ceremony to receive the royal command on 25 August 2014, General Prayut pledged to perform his duties with integrity in the interests of the country and people. He emphasised the need to strengthen the national administration system in all dimensions; expeditiously resolve immediate and persisting problems; amend archaic laws; and move forward the reform and reconciliation process.

Economy

Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second largest economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of around USD 385 billion in 2013. With a free-market economy, the Kingdom has a strong domestic market and a growing middle class, with the private sector being the main engine of growth. The Thai economy is well integrated into the global marketplace, with exports accounting for over 70 per cent of the Kingdom’s GDP. Thailand also has a strong industrial sector (38.1 per cent of GDP) and a robust and growing services sector (25.7 per cent of GDP) centred on the tourism and financial services industries. Though traditionally an agrarian society and historically one of the world’s few net food exporters, the agricultural sector today accounts for approximately 8.3 per cent of the country’s GDP. Thailand continues to invest in new projects to maintain its growth. For a list of recently approved projects by the Board of Invesments.

Given the importance of exports to Thailand, it has been a leader in the region in terms of trade liberalisation and facilitation with the rest of the world, starting with its Asian neighbours. Thailand is a key player in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), enjoying a strategic location that provides easy access to a larger market of nearly 600 million people, which is expected to gain even more strength when the ASEAN vision of One Community materialises in 2015, making it a community of connectivity, a single market and production base. Furthermore, Thailand’s convenient access to China and India, as well as to other East Asian countries such as Japan and the Republic of Korea, takes this huge consumer market to even bigger proportions.

In addition, Thailand’s friendly relations and expanding networks of free trade agreements with other countries have further opened up trade access to markets both within and outside the region. These, coupled with the Kingdom’s strategic positioning, have made the country a regional centre for international travel and trade, as well as a hub for various industries, of which the most notable are the automotive industry and agro-industries. With a favourable investment climate, an entrepreneurial spirit and an open society, Thailand has been chosen by many businesses, media firms, as well as international organisations and non-governmental organisations as the base for their regional offices. Thailand has long been known for its open, free, and business-friendly market economy and sound macro-economic policies with fiscal and monetary prudence. To enhance the country’s competitiveness, the country has been streamlining its laws and regulations, improving its infrastructure, enlarging the pool of quality workforce and promoting research and development to promote a creative economy. Thailand therefore remains a favourite investment destination of choice for foreign investors looking for business opportunities both within Thailand and throughout Asia, attracting on average around USD 10 billion in net foreign direct investment every year.

Culture and Society

A nation with a long and rich history, Thailand has preserved its unique identity and traditions over the centuries, while also welcoming diverse cultures reaching its shores as the Kingdom increased its contacts with the outside world. Thai people are well-known for their friendliness, generosity and tolerance, regardless of gender, race and faith.

Thailand has a population of around 65 million, consisting of around 80 per cent Thais, 10 per cent Chinese and 3 per cent Malays. The rest are minorities, including the Mons, Khmers and various hill tribes people. There are five major religions currently observed. Around 89 per cent of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims are the second largest religious group in Thailand at around 10 per cent. Christians, mainly Catholics, represent 0.7 per cent of the population. There is also a small but influential community of Sikhs in Thailand and some Hindus living in the country’s cities who are mostly engaged in retail commerce, in addition to a small Jewish community dating back to the 17th century. All these groups live in harmony and enjoy freedom to practice their respective beliefs, as guaranteed by the country’s constitution. His Majesty the King, while a Buddhist, is a patron of all religions.

Underpinned by eight centuries of chronicled history that is rich in tradition going back beyond that, Thai cultural heritage is a blend of customs, from the Siamese royal court and historical tributary principalities to distinctive regional folklore. Thai culture has also been influenced by religious tenets, largely inspired by Theravada Buddhism, but also incorporating a great deal of Indian, Chinese, Khmer and other traditions from the rest of Southeast Asia and beyond. Culture, arts and religions have been upheld on the basis of freedom and integration. This has allowed the country to remain open to the outside world, ready to adopt innovations that benefit society. Culture is recognised as an important element of the Kingdom’s social fabric and its dynamic economy, enabling all citizens to uphold their virtues, to live together peacefully and to continually adapt to change.

Editor: lishen