Thailand

Thailand has made remarkable development progress, and recently attained upper-middle-income status. The country has dramatically reduced poverty and greatly improved its social services. Despite an economic slowdown in recent years, Thailand remains the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia. The country actively promotes GMS cooperation and integration, and is a crucial partner for the less-developed GMS countries. It recently embarked on widespread economic and policy reforms under “Thailand 4.0” and guided by the 20-Year National Strategy, 2017–2036. The national strategy will help address inequalities and achieve sustainable development by seeking to (i) enhance and develop the potential of human capital, (ii) ensure justice and reduce social disparities, (iii) strengthen the economy and enhance competitiveness on a sustainable basis, (iv) promote green growth for sustainable development, (v) bring about national stability for national development toward prosperity and sustainability, and (vi) enhance the efficiency of public sector management and promote good governance.


Quick Facts

Population 69.96 million (2022)
Average Annual Population Growth Rate 0.3% (2017-2022)
GDP at PPP (current international dollars) 1.48 trillion (2022)
Annual Growth Rate of GDP (%) 2.6 (2022)
GDP per capita at PPP (current international dollars) 20,672 (2022)

Sources: ADB Basic Statistics 2023, World Development Indicators (accessed July 2023)


Agriculture

Thailand’s fertile lands and advanced farming systems have made it the biggest agricultural producer and exporter in the GMS. The country is renowned worldwide for the quality of its rice, pineapples, dried fruits, and aquatic products; and it is a leading global supplier of rubber. The government is making strides to improve food safety and promote organic farming. Thailand actively shares its agriculture expertise with its GMS partners; and its agribusiness companies are major investors in the subregion as well.

Energy

Thailand has extensive energy resources such as oil, coal, and natural gas. However, due to a high domestic demand, it relies heavily on energy imports, such as hydroelectricity from neighboring Lao PDR. Domestic energy demand is forecast to increase dramatically in the coming decades, so Thailand is looking to secure its energy future by diversifying its power mix away from fossil fuel sources. The country is already a GMS leader in renewables, and is aiming to scale up its energye‹ciency programs. Another priority is lessening the environmental footprint of its energy sector

Environment

Although Thailand has extensively tapped into its natural resource base to spur economic development, the country still has abundant water, forest, fish, and wildlife resources. Following devastating floods in 2011, the government responded by prioritizing water management and flood prevention. Thailand is also exploring low-carbon development pathways such as “green freight” transport and environmentally friendly energy sources, including solar power. Cambodia and Thailand have recently initiated efforts to jointly protect important natural forests along their common borders.

Human Resource Development and Health

Human resource development will play a key role in Thailand’s achieving its goal of higher-income status by 2032. In recognition of this, enhancing human capital is at the center of the country’s 20-Year National Strategy, 2017–2036. Thailand is actively working with its GMS partners to improve education and address human tracking issues. The country is also leading subregional cooperation on cross-border migrant health issues, including disease control. Addressing antimicrobial resistance and improving road safety are two other national health priorities.

Information and Communication Technology

Thailand is a GMS leader in ICT, with an extensive telecommunications network and widespread penetration of internet and phone services. The country is actively pursuing its vision of a “digital economy” that will spur productivity and competitiveness. Steps toward this goal include rolling out 4G wireless broadband infrastructure and promoting the use of ICT by businesses, both large and small. The country hopes to provide 40 million citizens with internet access by 2018.

Tourism

Thailand has long been a major tourist destination, and these days it is one of the most visited countries in the world. With its shopping, cuisine, and vibrant urban setting, Bangkok is hugely popular. Many visitors also enjoy other destinations, including the ancient capital Ayutthaya, Khao Yai National Park, the northern city of Chiang Mai, and the pristine beaches of islands such as Phuket and Samui. Thailand’s tourism priorities include developing quality services that appeal to higher-spending markets, promoting their culture, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Transport

Thailand has well-developed basic infrastructure for air, land, and water transport. Its paved road network is extensive—over 200,000 kilometers—while railway connectivity will soon be upgraded with dual tracks throughout the country. In Bangkok, the “Skytrain” and underground metro system are being upgraded to address urban transport challenges. Thailand is looking to further modernize and expand its transport infrastructure. One major focus is rail, especially high-speed trains, with the intention of making Thailand into a trade hub for the GMS and countries beyond. Another priority is upgrading more roads to four-lane highways.

Transport and Trade Facilitation

Thailand conducts a lot of trade within the GMS. Its products such as rice, rubber, electrical appliances, and vehicles are exported throughout the subregion—and all over the world. Sea transport plays a major role in connecting Thailand with global markets, while road, rail, and air move goods and people within the subregion. As a quarter of its trade is intra-GMS, Thailand is a vitally important trading partner for the other countries in the subregion. Cooperating with its GMS partners, Thailand has simplified its procedures for cross-border trade and transport. It is also working to enhance its position as a logistics hub for the subregion.

Urban Development

Thailand is the most urbanized country in the GMS, with just over half of the population living in towns and cities. Bangkok is the country’s largest city, and an international hub for trade and travel. With most of Thailand’s urban centers boasting high-quality roads and other infrastructure, the focus in recent years has been on improving environmental sustainability and enhancing economic opportunities. The country’s 10 special economic zones and 100+ industrial zones have helped drive employment and trade in many secondary towns and cities, including those in border areas near Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Malaysia, and Myanmar.


GMS Program Officials and Contacts in Thailand

  • Danucha PICHAYANAN (Mr)
    National Coordinator Secretary General Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council
  • Vudhidej CHAMNIKIJ (Mr)
    Plan and Policy Analyst International Coordination Office National Economic and Social Development Council

Read More

Greater Mekong Subregion: 25 Years of Partnership

ADB and Thailand: Fact Sheet

Photo via Vientiane Times

5th Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge Construction Reaches 72% Completion

Construction work on the 5th Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge has surpassed 72% completion, and is expected to be completely finished by the end of 2024. The bridge will connect Paksan, Bolikhamsai Province (Lao PDR) to Bueng Kan Province (Thailand) across the Mekong River. The bridge is set to further boost connectivity in the GMS.


Power lines from the 1070 MW Nam Theun 2 hydropower plant in Lao PDR. 95% of the power produced by the plant is exported to Thailand, and the rest are consumed locally. Photo by Ariel Javellana/ADB.

Lao PDR Ramps Up Electricity Exports to Viet Nam

The Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is increasing its electricity exports generated from its hydropower projects to its neighbors in the Greater Mekong Subregion, including Viet Nam. Lao PDR and Viet Nam have signed MoUs targeting to export 8,148 MW from Lao PDR to Viet Nam by 2030. Lao PDR also signed contracts with Viet Nam Electricity (EVN) to implement 25 projects with a combined capacity of 2,180 megawatts.  


Migrant worker operates an electric loom in a textile mill. ©ILO/Areeluck Phankhian via Flickr

Improved Labor Management Initiatives Aim to Attract More Migrant Workers to Thailand

Mr. Pairoj Chotikasathien, head of the Thai Labour Ministry’s employment department, shared that the Thai Cabinet has approved improved labor management measures to address the gap in migrant worker employment. These measures include (i) allowing documented workers to stay until February 2025; and (ii) allowing undocumented workers to register and work until the same date. 


Site visit of Japanese investors to U-Tapao International Airport in September 2017. Photo via Flickr.

New Smart City Planned for Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor

Thailand will develop a new smart city in Bang Lamung district, Chon Buri, Thailand. The development is part of the country’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and will be located 15 kilometers from U-Tapao Airport. 

Mr. Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, estimates that the new smart city will draw 1.34 trillion baht's worth of investment over 10 years and create 200,000 new jobs. 



49th Meeting of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Tourism Working Group (TWG-49)

The Government of Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) with assistance of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) virtually convened the 49th Meeting of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Tourism Working Group (TWG-49) on 12 May 2022. The meeting was attended by representatives of the National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) of the six GMS countries, MTCO, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).





The Friendship bridge built with Australian funding and completed and opened in 1994, crossing the Mekong River and connecting Thailand to Laos. Photo by Jim Holmes / AusAID via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Fifth Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge to Provide Shortest Route between Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam

The fifth friendship bridge between the Lao People‘s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and Thailand is set to further enhance Lao PDR’s connectivity with its neighbors in the Greater Mekong Subregion. It will link Borikhamxay province (Lao PDR) to Bueng Kan province (Thailand), becoming a vital road link between Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Spanning over 150km, it promises to be the shortest connecting link between the three countries and opens another regional trade and transit route. 


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