Thailand’s ASEAN readiness hinges on key development challenges

Mar 31, 2014

UNDP's Mr Haoling Xu underscored the need for Thailand to confront challenges such as inequality in its preparation towards membership of the ASEAN. UNDP Photo.


31 March, Bangkok: Thailand’s entry into the ASEAN group of countries in 2015 may present increased economic potential, but may equally exacerbate challenges relating to the country’s inequalities, particularly in health and education, says the 2014 edition of the country’s human development report.

While the report highlights key human development achievements for Thailand, such as the universal health coverage, improved access to education, decentralization and a new impetus for growth, it also highlights the challenges in its preparedness and readiness to become part of the ASEAN Community.

Thailand’s National Human Development Report 2014 Human Development through the ASEAN Community, cast a spotlight on the implications of the country’s entry into the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations on December 31st, 2015. 

“ASEAN aims to improve well-being and reduce poverty in its broadest sense in line with the goals and targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Thailand’s challenge will be to contribute to this mission in such a way to advance human development for all citizens,” said Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and the Director for the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific at the UNDP Headquarters.

In his opening remarks at the launch of the report, Mr Xu said, “we have many reasons to celebrate our achievements in improving livelihoods, reducing poverty and promoting human development of the people in Thailand but we also have to be mindful that much work remains to be done to empower all people to realize their full potential.”

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) released the 2014 edition of the report in Bangkok on March 31, 2014.

According to the report, Thailand is confronted with a gamut of challenges despite it’s strong human development gains of the past decades. Among them are inequality in access to education, rapid transformation into an ageing society, environmental degradation, and the difficulty in accessing public services for low-skilled migrants in Thailand.

The report underscores that security and human rights, and the participation of the people at the community level will have to be buttressed in the changing context that the ASEAN will usher in.

The ASEAN community consists of nearly 600 million people or nine times the current population in Thailand. While many are optimistic about the economic prospects which the community will bring, others are skeptical, the report said.

Academics and think tanks in Thailand have expressed their concerns surrounding the ASEAN in terms of labour movement, trade and service sector liberalization.

In addition, much emphasis has been given to the ASEAN Economic Community and not enough focus on the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC), the report noted.

Thailand has successfully transformed itself to become an upper middle-income country and has risen steadily up the Human Development Index for the past 30 years.  However, the successes of economic development have not been shared equally. 

Inequality in income, and inequalities in access to public goods, have improved over recent years but still remain high compared to many other countries of similar income levels.

Most important of all, the report pointed out that the ASEAN Community is not a finished product but work-in-progress. The active engagement by all stakeholders will contribute to bringing about a Community with shared values and norms that is conducive for the promotion of human development.

Read the full report.

For more information

Ms. Tongta Khiewpaisal, Programme Specialist, UNDP Thailand, office: 02 304-9100 ext. 2142, email:

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