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Thailand Program commenced:   1976

Total number of placements: 313 (as of 17 August, 2011)

Number of current placements: 7 (as of 17 August, 2011)

AVI Programs (Thailand): Volunteer Program, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Studies Exchange Program, ACIAR Thai Animal Health Project, Australian Teachers In Asia, AVI-VSO Partnership, Thai-Australia Youth Ambassadors Program, Thailand Refugee Project, United nations Volunteer Program, Volunteer Graduate Program

Thai-Myanmar Program commenced:   1993

Total number of placements: 85 (as of 3 August, 2011)

Number of current placements: 6 (as of 3 August, 2011)

AVI Programs (Thai-Myanmar): Volunteer Program, Burma Distance Education Project, The Other Burma Initiative, Volunteer Graduate Program

The Kingdom of Thailand shares land borders with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. The only country in Southeast Asia never to have been taken over by a western power, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy  dating from around the 14th century.

Natural resource rich with a large population and strong tourism trade, Thailand is well developed in comparison with it's neighbours, though 10% of the population still lives below the poverty line and HIV/AIDS is a major issue, arising from the illicit drug and sex trades.

Thailand shares a large border with Myanmar, one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia and a country plagued by conflict. Much of AVI's work in Thailand currently focuses on the Burmese refugee communities.

Contact our Cambodia & Thailand program office

Development Issues

Socio-economic issues
Health issues
Environmental issues

Socio-economic issues

Despite being one of the leading countries in the region in terms of human development (as measured by Human Development Index) there are a number of socio-economic issues confronting Thailand.

Foremost among these issues is the large disparities in economic growth. Economic development has been concentrated in urban areas and mainly in greater Bangkok. There remain large segments of the rural population who still lived in acute poverty. Provinces remote from Bangkok have substantially lower incomes, and even within each province incomes and social disparities exist from one region to another.

Substantial inequality also exists among ethnic and religious minorities. These minorities tend to have reduced access to government services, and face particular income and health problems. Such disparities are most obvious in relation to Thailand's hill-tribe people. Hill-tribe people are not officially recognised as Thai citizens and therefore cannot obtain a Thai identity card and move freely around Thailand.

Socio-economic issues also arise in relation to the Burmese refugees flowing into Thailand. In 1984 the Ministry of Interior (MOI) invited NGOs to provide emergency assistance to around 9,000 Karen refugees who sought refuge in the northern province of Tak. Since then the number of refugees has continued to grow. According to a 1999 MOI/UNHCR registration of refugees, the official refugee population was approx. 116,000.

For up-to-date information and statistics on socio-economic development issues in Thailand, please refer to the following sources: 
AusAID, Thailand Australia, Development Co-operation Program, Strategy paper, "Supporting crisis recovery for the Thai people", Draft 30 April 1999. 
UNDP Thailand
UNDP Human Development Report

Health issues

The last few decades of sustained growth and development in Thailand have greatly improved the life of the majority of the Thai people. National health and nutrition indicators have improved markedly. For instance infant mortality has declined sharply, and life expectancy has steadily increased.

Nevertheless, there are a number of indicators that still require improvements. For instance, there is still a shortage in trained medical personnel with only 3.7 doctors and 28 nurses for every 10,000 people in the country (2000).

The relatively high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Thailand is an additional challenge to the current human development situation. The estimated national adult (aged 15-49) HIV prevalence rate stands at 1.4 per cent - corresponding to around 560,000 people living with HIV/AIDS.

A further health issue affecting Thailand's development has been the outbreak of avian influenza (or bird flu). In September 2006, Thailand confirmed the country's 25th case of human infection of the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The costs involved in combating avian influenza and also preventing further outbreaks is a significant drain on the Thai economy.

For up-to-date information and statistics on health and HIV/AIDS in Thailand and in general, please refer to the following sites: 
WHO Thailand country profile
UNAIDS page on Thailand

Environmental issues

Strong economic growth has also brought some environmental problems to Thailand. Over the last decade, Thailand has been increasingly threatened by the problems of industrial wastewater, hazardous wastes, natural resources degradation, worsening air and water pollution and a decline in biodiversity level.

Air pollution is a significant problem, particularly in Bangkok. Cars and other transport vehicles (the major polluters), manufacturing factories, agricultural productions and open cooking are all causes for such pollution. Water pollution is also a concern with water contamination occurring, particularly in major cities, as a result of inadequate water treatment systems and polluted run-off and discharges.

Solid and hazardous waste has also been one of the major problems in industrial areas of Thailand. Similarly, infectious and community generated hazardous waste are also problems. Thailand has yet to establish safe waste management systems.

Land degradation and biodiversity loss are further problems. Land degradation is being caused primarily by deforestation and soil erosion. Biodiversity loss has manifested itself in many ways throughout Thailand. For instance, large areas of wetlands have been converted to rice fields or destroyed by urban sprawl, while other areas suffer from pollution and other problems. Thailand's abundant and diverse marine biodiversity has also suffered from destructive fishing gears in the open sea and coastal areas.

For further information, please refer to the following resources:

Thailand Environment Monitor (pdf)
Japanese Ministry of the Environment, "Overview of Environmental Issues and Environmental Conservation Practices in Thailand" in Overseas Environmental Measures of Japanese Companies (Thailand) (pdf)