Development Cooperation under TICA
Thailand’s role as donor of ODA to other countries started in 1955 as “third country training program”, where Thailand organized and partially funded trainings or study trips within Thailand for participants from developing countries who were sponsored by international organizations or other donor countries. In 1961, under the Colombo Cooperation Plan, Thailand started providing grants to member states for training and study trips in Thailand, which later extended to sending experts, machinery, medical machinery, teaching material, and other equipment.
Thailand’s experience over 40 years of development cooperation with donor countries, coupled with its economic, social and technology advancement, propelled Thailand to shift its role from recipient to donor country, especially to neighboring countries. The shift in the Government’s policy in 1989-1990 to “convert battle fields into commercial fields”, also made Thailand’s role as donor county more tangible.
The pivotal change occurred in 1991 when the government had a clear policy to foster good relations and cooperation with neighboring countries. The government set aside 200 million baht budget to cultivate relations and cooperation with neighboring countries through agriculture, education and public health, with emphasis on human resource and structural development. Thailand also increased triparty and inter organizations aid in forms of development projects during this period.
At present, development cooperation remains one of the pillars of Thailand’s foreign policy as stated in the government’s 20-year National Strategy (2018-2038), as well as in the 12th National Economic and Social Development strategy and the 20-year National Plan. The main goal of Thailand’s development cooperation is to reduce poverty gap within the Mekong sub-region and ASEAN as a whole, in parallel with SDGs, which would lead to further and deeper economic and political cooperation.
Development cooperation has always been at the core of Thailand’s foreign policy. The government has continuously increased its budget for this purpose, from 308 million baht in 2005 to 892 million baht in 2019.
Targeted recipients of Thailand’s ODA are neighboring and regional countries, reflecting Thailand’s policy to help recipient countries to attain “security, prosperity and sustainability.” Thailand’s ODA is designed to support the recipients on economic development, well-being of the general population and human resource development, which will be contribute to peace and security as well as the economy for all countries in the region. Next targeted recipients of Thailand’s ODA are countries in South Asia, Africa and Latin America, to contribute to international security and to open new frontiers for economic opportunity. For some countries such as Laos PDR, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bhutan and Timor-Leste, Thailand has already agreed with these countries on a 3-year development strategy for clearer direction in development cooperation.
3-year Strategy between Thailand and ODA recipients
Thailand also emphasizes development cooperation in its areas of that exhibit potential for further development such as agriculture, community-based tourism, labor capability-building, public health and education. In addition, Thailand’s development cooperation with neighboring countries also supports different dimensions of cross-border and regional security issues i.e. monitoring and prevention of cross-border diseases, pollution, and human trafficking. Thailand’s development cooperation also aims to promote economic development by setting standards and rules for commercial and logistical connection, by opening up new markets and by turning Thailand into a regional hub for education, tourism and medical services.
Thailand’s areas of expertise for ODA
Thailand supports Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) as alternative development approach for sustainable economic growth that takes into account the geo-social landscape of the recipient country. Thailand has set up SEP learning center to support SEP-based sustainable community, as well as training courses and post-graduate scholarships on SEP for ODA recipient in several regions, including Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
As Thailand’s role for ODA donor grows, the scope of ODA also increases from training courses and scholarship to project-based development cooperation i.e. technology transfer, equipment procurement, land development, and sending volunteers and experts into the recipient country. The modality of ODA from Thailand is also changing, from “donor-recipient” into a more regional and triangular cooperation approach by building partnerships with developed countries and international organizations. The wider scope of Thailand’s development cooperation will lead to (1) increased communication and more diverse cooperation with various countries and international organizations; (2) further exchange of best practices and; (3) increased efficiency in administering ODA.