The civil society organizations in Thailand

Thailand's political system is still dominated by the military regime. Any criticism or opposition

1. The formation and development of civil society organizations in Thailand
 Before 1932, the country was an absolute monarchy. The coup in 1932 overthrew the monarchy brought the military into political forces prevailed in the country, dominates the legislative activities.
Until the early 1980s, Thailand's political system is still dominated by the military regime. Any criticism or opposition to the policy of the military government may be seen as a sign of "communist activities" and brutally persecuted or subject to severe legal measures. Basically, there is no favorable environment for the development of independent civil society in this period.
Non-governmental organization in the country's first officially registered with the Government of Thailand Rural Reconstruction Foundation of Thailand, was established in 1967 by Mr. Rector of Thammasat University (and later held the position of Director National Bank of Thailand). This organization is sponsored by the King of Thailand and therefore, it is growing very fast, have great influence in civil society sector and in the rural areas of Thailand.
After the student uprising in 1973, many young people joined the Thai Communist Party of Thailand (active and have bases in the northeastern province). However, since the early 1980s, when the Sino - Thai gradually improved, the Communist Party of Thailand weaken and disintegrate because no longer get the support of China. Since that time, the association has the patronage of the royal increasingly flourished and became the dominant force in the activities of civil society of this country.
By the late 1980s, many non-governmental organizations independent of imperial rise and increasingly dynamic activities for two main reasons: (i) an increase in social problems related to the development process economic, and (ii) the weakness of the government in solving economic problems - social. However, instead of limiting or repression, the Thai government has officially recognized the importance and encourages the activities of non-governmental organizations, particularly in promoting the development in rural areas .
In fact, the openness to civil society began to appear from 1981, when the Office for Economic and Social Development National Advisory Council set up with twelve institutions of civil society Thailand. In 1984, the Thai government launched the rural development policy is very broad, but to perform successfully, could not mobilize the participation of nongovernmental organizations. Many non-governmental organizations in collaboration with government agencies in the establishment of a joint committee on rural development. Additionally, within the non-governmental organization, was founded in 1985 Coordinating Committee Rural Development to promote cooperation among non-governmental organizations active in this field, as well like to propose the recommendations and proposals of the rural population with the government.
During the 5-year development plan for the sixth time (1987-1991), stated that the Thai government, the civil society organizations are encouraged to participate actively in rural development. In this document, the government also appreciated the activities of nongovernmental organizations. In the national development plan for the seventh time (1992-1996), the government called for the participation of economic organizations and charities in the social development as well as recognition of the role of the organization This function in the development of human resources, improve the quality of life, and in preserving the environment and natural resources of the country. In national plans eighth (1997-2001), the government further emphasized the role of the civil society sector in social development, and officially moved from the policy approach to the main control support of the activities of civil society organizations. This is the main reason why the civil society in Thailand developed rapidly in the past decade, and is regarded as one of the most developed countries in this field in Asia in general , ASEAN in particular.
The type, quantity and size
So far, the civil society organizations have become an indispensable component of Thai society. Thai civil society is diverse, exist in many different forms of organization, however, can generally be attributed to four main types that are recognized as having legitimacy, including associations, Confederation (usually the employee), foundations, and political parties (political).
According to an international organization, currently has more than 18,000 Thai civil society organizations operating in different fields, but all in the name of profits. Not only differ on how organizations and the civil society organizations in Thailand are very different in size, goals, assets, sectors and how it works ... There are organizations providing public services, to support government agencies in helping the poor and disadvantaged groups, while there are organizations only monitors the activities of state agencies, uphold justice, rights human, environmental and anti-corruption movement ... However, in terms of tradition, the civil society organizations in Thailand are usually set by the outstanding individual, highly respected, and often directed at targeted support for the poor, especially in difficult circumstances such as natural disasters. Therefore, this type of organization to attract the participation of many volunteers, including employees and workers. One of the features compared to many other countries are in Thailand has a large number of charity was founded under the patronage of the royal family. These organizations recognize the contribution of the people through the royal family to carry out relief activities.
The emergence of community-based organizations
If civil society was formed in the late 1960s, the community-based organization is an emerging phenomenon in recent decades about one in Thailand. The birth of this organization primarily as a result of the development activities of non-governmental organizations and government agencies in rural areas, in particular from the organization of local groups and mobilizing them in the performance of certain activities in the development projects in rural areas of Thailand.
The traditional view that the state should play a role in directing development activities have hampered local autonomy and participation in community activities in Thailand. Therefore, the emergence of community-based organizations are considered a good sign, is a disruption of this traditional conception. This new organizational forms of civil society allows tectonic and implementation of sustainable development activities, to actively and positively, with the participation of the people at the community level, to help them to overcome the barriers, take the initiative and organize themselves to improve their lives.
Since its inception, the community-based organizations in Thailand have gained a lot of success in operations. Some notable successes of savings groups in the area south and east of Thailand. These groups have mobilized the villagers to save money on a regular basis and use those savings as credit for community members borrowing and lending rates are returned to members is also Their interest rate savings or pensions. In areas where such savings groups, victims of usury almost defunct. In addition, transaction costs low allows rural credit system is well developed, beat the credit system of banks and financial institutions which face high management costs.
Funding activities
Funding activities are very important issues that non-governmental organizations elsewhere are also facing. In Thailand, after the student uprising in 1973, especially after the student activists joined the Communist Party of Thailand has approved an amnesty and re-integration into society, non-governmental movement took place with the strong support from foreign donors. The support of foreign donors in the first year may have inadvertently prevented nongovernmental organizations in Thailand in the search for donors in the country. However, when Thailand was declared with foreign donors that the country "is doing well", "growth" ... the foreign donors gradually withdraw support as before. Therefore, some non-governmental organizations were not viable, while others, after the initial wobble, has gradually find alternative sources of funding from local philanthropists. Some organizations have successfully maintained and even expanded its operations, while others have declared dissolved. There are some, though still exist but must Downsized or narrow the scope, level of activity.
Although no specific data on the type and scale of the revenues of civil society organizations in Thailand, however, may estimate that revenues are quite diverse and large. For example, for the Buddhist temples and organizations working for social welfare, have a large income and relatively stable from contributions made on the basis of merit and charity.
Financial support for organizations of civil society Thai can form of grants (grant), credit or loan. These supports can be transferred directly to non-governmental organizations, community based organizations or individuals involved.
 Public perception of Thailand for the activities of non-governmental organizations are quite different. While some support, many people are skeptical of non-governmental organizations, as these organizations as their representatives abroad to undermine social and Thai culture. That more or less made for the activities of some non-governmental organizations in trouble, especially for those organizations that receive funding from outside. Therefore, there are some non-governmental organizations in Thailand only raise funds from the public and businesses, organized by the Thai not receive funding from foreign organizations to avoid travelers. The grants from local civil society thus increased. According to the results of a study, at the time of 2002, there were 30 funds, of which 17 funds reached a sponsorship from one to 10 million baht (45 baht to the dollar). The average level of funding for large projects of domestic funds is 2.5 million baht, while for smaller projects was 9.740 baht.
While some non-governmental organizations operating effectively Thailand, affecting the public good, then there is another one to leave a bad reputation for many reasons, such as not financially transparent, objective no explicit action, violating the principle of non-profit or proved politically extreme, even the 'puppets' of an individual or group that local politics. However, in general, non-governmental organizations in this country now are aware and trying to work towards sustainable development, because they understand that it is the only way to survive in an environment increasingly competitive as civil society.
2. The legal framework governing the operation of civil society organizations in Thailand
An overview of the legal framework
The establishment and supervision of the activities of civil society organizations in Thailand is governed by the Civil Code and Commercial (enacted in 1925, amended in 1992). In addition, the National Culture Act (enacted in 1942) is also related to this problem, through the provisions established National Cultural Commission, the agency responsible for overseeing the activities of the association.
According to the Civil Code and Trade, Office of the National Police Department is responsible for overseeing the activities of the association, while the Ministry of Interior is responsible for issuing operating licenses. This mechanism is basically the same as in Taiwan and China, however, the difference was in Thailand with another agency - the National Culture Commission - monitoring and approving the content of activities relating to the culture of non-government organizations.
The legal basis for the most important activities of civil society organizations in Thailand's Constitution in 1997, the 45-47 has explicitly recognized the right of citizens to set up and participate in inter-group Links and nongovernmental associations. The Constitution also provides for the composition of committees, state agencies related to education, health and welfare must be approved by the non-governmental organizations as members. Specifically, in the composition of the Committee on Social Policy was established in 1998 - the agency empowered to oversee all matters of social policy - with a committee of non-governmental organization.
Thai law exemptions for the civil society organizations, however, to qualify for the exemption, a non-governmental organization must register with the state authorities in at least three years, have revenue and expenditure records are verified by accountants, and must apply for a tax exemption. Additionally, in order to be exempted from taxes (eg value added tax, land tax, customs duties ...), non-governmental organizations must demonstrate that organizations that spend no more than 25% of budget costs for management activities. So, in fact only 300 non-governmental organizations of Thai exempt altogether.
In addition to non-governmental organizations, businesses sponsoring organizations of civil society activities and social protection will be exempted from tax up to 2% of profit before tax. If the donor is an individual, the proportion deductible up to 10% of taxable income.
Register for establishment and operation
Civil Code and Trade 1925 (amended 1992) includes provisions on associations. The regulations detailing the procedures for registration, operation and dissolution of the association. Each organization will be issued upon registration code to monitor the activities.
In fact, the provisions on registration of the non-profit organization was launched immediately in the reign of King Rama VI (1910-1925). As stated above, the 1942 National Culture Act was passed, in which the right to inspect and supervise the nongovernmental organization Committee of National Cultural and Educational Ministry. In 1966, the Law on Trade Associations and Chambers of Commerce adopted, which encourages the government and allocated to the management of non-profit associations, and requires such associations must register operation with the government. In 1975, the Labour Relations Act - the labor laws of Thailand's first - was adopted. The law requires all labor unions and employers associations are organized around. Labor Law then also provides for the establishment of associations, federations of employers and of workers.
Under Thai law, a trade union organization or organizations of employers to register with the Department of Labor. Certificate of registration shall be granted only if the charter of the association or union does not have it against the law and can harm public order. The law prescribes that state authorities may reject an application for the establishment of civil society organizations if: (i) there is any organization's goal appears to be contrary to law or public morality or is likely to endanger the peace, public or national security; and (ii) if such organizations do not comply with registration procedures (Section 102 of the Civil Code). In this case, the court can force an organization is operating to dissolve (section 131 of the Civil Code).
Since 1980, the Thai government expressed an openness to civil society. However, to register the establishment of a civil society, advocacy groups are required to prove a source of finance and a social platform includes a large number of members. Therefore, in Thailand currently has about 18,000 legally registered organization, besides there are many civil society organizations not registered because it does not meet the two requirements stated.
As stated above, there are three different government agencies competent in the registration activities of civil society organizations, including the National Culture Commission, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Public Welfare . In addition, political parties must be registered with the local Administration. Registration process can take up to several months, some cases take up to a year. Under current regulations, the civil society organizations should have a start-up financing at least 500,000 baht (in cash or in kind). However, the organization aims to operate as public benefits, such as promoting social education, welfare and development of sports, religious activities, disaster relief, or support research ... just 200,000 baht.
Thai law allows all types can be registered establishment of civil society organizations. Therefore, there are organizations established by individuals or families with high social prestige, by the business owner, by non-governmental organizations (such as branches) or even by State agencies. Currently, the highest proportion of civil society organizations was established by the NGOs, followed by the individual, family and reputable business owners. Only a handful of organizations established by the state agency. This clearly reflects the change in the structure of Thai civil society than before, as in the decade from 60 to 80, most components of civil society are cooperatives and associations Assembly by royal or government patronage founded or established in the rural areas.
3. Capacity and development prospects of the civil society organizations in Thailand
There have been many scholars analyze the capacity of civil society organizations in Thailand. Overall, the evaluation agreed that the civil society organizations are a powerful force in Thai society, demonstrated by their participation in the activities powerful political, social, cohesive high and have close ties with the masses, especially in rural areas. Demonstrations of the red shirts, yellow shirts in recent years clearly shows that. However, notably in the past, the civil society organizations in Thailand does not form a stable coalition. Generally speaking, Thais just joined the movement 'in case', these movements rarely be sustained as an organized group. That's because in the first period, the component of Thai civil society associations mostly rural cooperatives organized by the government to create conditions for people in rural areas access to markets and enjoy help. However, the situation seems to be different after the coup overthrew Prime Pg-sin 2006. The red shirts and yellow shirts, contrary to tradition, it seems increasingly formed an alliance long, stable the core of the political parties. Another feature is that there are some non-governmental organizations exist and operate largely depends on external funding and are maintained by a handful of leaders, not based on the will to commit and the involvement of community members in the same or a common goal.
The issue of human resources
Human resources is a very important factor for the activities of civil society organizations. Although most of the civil society organizations in Thailand have the stability and continuity of leadership, they often face difficulties in recruiting and retaining qualified young staff. The younger workers often switch jobs, other jobs after a short time working for non-governmental organizations, or simply do not want to work for civil society sector. The main reason is because they feel the work and career development possibilities in other areas more clearly expressed. In addition, a more important reason is the income while working in the civil society organizations are usually low, due to the prevailing view that this is the non-profit sector should be a team of volunteers, staff usually only be paid at the lowest level. For these reasons, the civil society organizations Thai frequently recruit and train new employees.
Lack of qualified human resources management, particularly financial management also made to organizations of civil society hardly effective as desired. Some civil society organizations are trying to solve this problem by combining various measures, including the recruitment of volunteers from the areas concerned, particularly the business sector.
Development prospects
Most authors studied Thai civil society have said that non-governmental organizations will continue to be a powerful force in Thai society in the future. With energy, enthusiasm and their knowledge of providing services to the people and their strong commitment to social justice, poverty reduction and inequality, the civil society organizations have can assume an important role in the activities of social development as well as in other fields, and can have a very positive impact on Thai society.
However, to achieve this goal, there are many challenges that civil society organizations face Thai. One is the sustainability of financing. As stated, the financial resources of the civil society organizations depend largely on funding (domestic or foreign), and that funding is not stable. To overcome this problem, some organizations have been trying to develop business operations to support activities with efforts to seek funding from various sources, including from the government. Local fundraising is also a measure being tested by a number of organizations. Overall, diversifying financial sources is a requirement, a trend of non-governmental organizations present and Thailand in the future. An organization too dependent on one or several sources of financial support will not be able to survive and sustainable development.
On the political front, we can see clearly that the civil society movement in Thailand has much stronger since the 1990s, when demand political reforms and society become urgent. In the past two decades, the civil society organizations have played an active role in the political events in this country and can see that role will be maintained and strengthened in the coming decades thick.
 4. Compare and some lessons learned
Comparison overview
There are some similarities and differences among civil society in Thailand. Can be generalized as follows:
- The civil society organizations in both countries in the first period by the state-sponsored or established political organizations, socio until cooperatives ... previously established by the state, however, the long domination of state and thinner.
- Although the nature and scope of activities more diversified, but a general, the civil society organizations in both countries are concentrated in rural areas and focus on rural development (though in real common economic term with a broader sense of community development). This reason is that both countries are agricultural countries
- The civil society organizations in both countries are the characteristics of the organization, operations and faced with similar difficulties as the financial and human resources. The role of civil society in political life and society of both countries is increasingly recognized and enhanced.