Why is Thailand still a developing country

Up-and-coming emerging market in Southeast Asia

The Kingdom of Thailand is located in Southeast Asia and covers an area of ​​513.115 km². It borders Myanmar to the west, Cambodia and Laos to the east and Malaysia to the south. In the north and northeast the border is formed by the Mekong. In addition, the country has two seas: the Gulf of Thailand in the east and the Andaman Sea in the west. The climate is tropical-monsoonal, there is a rainy season from April to October and a dry season from November to April. With its extensive mountain ranges and beautiful coastlines, Thailand has so far attracted over 25 million tourists to the country every year.

Modern Thailand is in line with the earlier Buddhist kingdoms Sukhothai (circa 1240-1438) and Ayutthaya (1351-1767). After the destruction of Ayutthaya, a new kingdom was founded and in 1782 General Chakri founded the Chakri dynasty, which is still ruling today. A special feature of Thailand is that it is the only country in Southeast Asia that has never been colonized.

The emergence of modern Thailand goes back to the revolution of 1932, which brought the country's transition from absolute to constitutional monarchy. King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been the head of state since December 2016. Since the revolution of 1932, the country has seen many democratic approaches and military coups. The last time the military staged a coup against the elected government in 2014. After five years of military dictatorship, re-elections were held in March 2019 and the military chief Prayuth Chan-ocha was appointed prime minister and head of government.

Dynamic economy with a strong export focus

Thailand is considered to be a middle-income emerging market. The export-oriented industrialization of the 1980s and 1990s boom years led to high growth rates and fundamentally changed the economic and social structure of the country. Agriculture now only contributes just under 10 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), while industry (around 40 percent) and services (almost 50 percent) dominate.

However, the economic upswing also had its downsides. Many farmers and workers hardly benefited from economic growth. Women are structurally disadvantaged: They are significantly less likely to have a higher education than men. In addition to social and gender-specific inequalities, there are regional differences, such as those between the north / northeast and the south. After all, the country's economic growth is associated with high greenhouse gas emissions. There is therefore a need to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Half of the population lives in cities

The infrastructure of Thailand is very well developed with roads and electricity nationwide. There are also some international airports such as Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), which acts as a hub in the region.

Thailand had around 69 million inhabitants in 2018. Half of them lived in the cities. The largest city in the country is the capital Bangkok with over 10 million inhabitants. The official language is Thai, which also has its own writing system. There are also various regional languages. English is spoken mainly in the international business world and in the tourist centers.

Buddhism is the dominant religion in the country, around 95 percent of the population profess it. In addition, there are around 4 percent Muslims who mostly live in the south. The education system in Thailand is well developed and modern. The adult literacy rate in 2018 was around 93 percent. There are schools across the country and almost 800 universities with around 2 million students. In vocational training, attempts are being made to adapt to the demands of the economy.

Close relations with Germany

Thailand is a major player in the Southeast Asia region and plays a leading role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The country started negotiations with the European Union on a free trade agreement in 2013, but these have been suspended since the 2014 military coup. For Germany, Thailand is an important political partner in the region. The political relations between the two countries are based on the intensive economic relations. Over 600 German companies are already represented in Thailand.

By a successful economic policy, which was flanked by social programs, Thailand was able to do most before 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reach. The country was particularly successful in combating absolute poverty and in the health sector. Since 2015 Thailand has been pursuing the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country's biggest ecological problems are deforestation and air and water pollution. In addition, there are floods such as the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004 and the great Bangkok flood in 2011, the effects of which have been exacerbated by man-made environmental changes in previous years.

Germany and Thailand have been working together for sustainable development for almost 60 years. The focus of the German-Thai cooperation lies in the area of ​​the environment and climate. Thailand also acts as a hub for the Southeast Asian region and supports projects in countries such as Laos and Cambodia, for example on the subject of vocational training, through so-called "triangular cooperation" with Germany.

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The author works for the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and is involved in the EZ-Scout program, which GIZ implements on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.