Chiang Mai: The OTOP Center and a Creative Industrial Hub in Northern Thailand (27/02/2011)
Famous for numerous handicrafts, agricultural products, and tourist attractions, Chiang Mai province is recognized as the OTOP center in northern Thailand.It has also been proposed as a creative city.

The province is a suitable choice for the OTOP trading center, since it has become an economic, educational, and tourism hub. Many foreign importers travel to Chiang Mai to order unique products.

OTOP, which stands for the “One Tambon, One Product” program, began 10 years ago as a self-help mechanism for each and every community, with emphasis on rural areas, to draw upon local knowledge and ingenuity. It is based on three major principles.

The first principle, called “Local Yet Global,” seeks to develop local products to international standards on a continual basis in line with local culture. The second principle, known as “Self-Reliance and Creativity,” seeks to develop local products, taking into consideration the revival of local culture and traditions to bring out the uniqueness of each village. The third principle, called “Human Resource Development,” involves a move to build up members of the community who are knowledgeable and capable and have broad vision.

In order to stimulate the manufacture of local products using home-grown expertise and skills, the Government provides villagers with technical assistance and advice to enable them to produce their goods efficiently and at high standards. As a key incentive, the Government assists in the marketing of these goods, in cooperation with the private business sector.

Chiang Mai is among four “OTOP Select” centers; the three others are Khon Kaen in the Northeast, Songkhla in the South, and Bangkok in the central region. The OTOP Select project has led to the introduction of a new brand “TOPOTOP,” made by the Department of Industrial Promotion to promote OTOP products in the international market. The Government has a policy to make OTOP products better known in the world at large.

OTOP products have good potential for expansion in the ASEAN market, which will become a community of 10 nations by 2015. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva hopes that OTOP goods will be in the homes of 570 million people in ASEAN, instead of about 63 million in Thailand. For the OTOP program to become sustainable, he said, OTOP producers should pay great attention to improving the quality of products on a continual basis.

The Government has a clear direction for including the creative economy in the 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan, 2012-2016, with an evolving concept based on the potential of “creative assets.” The concept is in line with the development policy for OTOP products, which are related to the arts, culture, and use of intellectual capital as their primary input. However, not all OTOP products are classified as creative items.

In addition, the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion, under the Ministry of Industry, is assisting successful OTOP producers to develop themselves into SME operators. The assistance is expected to help strengthen the grassroots sector and empower the community.

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