The promotion of cooperatives is now included in Thailand’s national agenda to help boost social and economic development, in both urban and rural areas.
The inclusion of cooperatives in the national agenda is in line with the declaration of 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives by the United Nations General Assembly.
The Cabinet, during its meeting on 30 July 2012, gave the green light to the promotion of cooperatives as an item in the national agenda, following a proposal by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, which supervises the Cooperative and Promotion Department.
The International Year of Cooperatives 2012 is intended to raise public awareness of the invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The year also highlights the strengths of the cooperative business model as an alternative means of doing business and furthering socio-economic development. With the theme of “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World,” the year seeks to encourage the growth and establishment of cooperatives all over the world.
According to a report submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to the Cabinet, the Thai government began to introduce cooperatives to its social and economic development in 1916, and the cooperative system in Thailand will celebrate its centenary in 2016. The Government believes that the cooperative system will promote savings and help ease the problem of non-conventional debts among the people. The system serves as not only a major mechanism for macroeconomic development, but also an engine of democratization in the long run. Cooperatives have been cited as ways to empower their members and strengthen communities. They also promote food security and enhance opportunities for small agricultural producers.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has worked out five strategies for enhancing the operations of cooperatives. The first strategy seeks to develop learning and skills on cooperatives into the people’s way of life. In the second strategy, the Government will promote the grouping of people through the use of cooperatives in building a firm foundation for the country’s socio-economic development.
The third strategy seeks to increase the potential of cooperatives’ production, marketing, and financial networks. In the fourth strategy, the cooperative development plan will be used to strengthen the cooperative movement. The fifth strategy seeks to restructure state agencies and the cooperative movement and to improve related laws favorable to cooperative development.
There are currently 7,964 cooperatives in Thailand, with 10.8 million families as members. These cooperative enterprises have a combined value of two trillion baht, accounting for 18.95 percent of the country’s GDP.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives deems it necessary for various government agencies and civil society organizations to join forces in promoting and supporting various forms of cooperatives in the country.