Environmental Governance:
The Role of NGOs in Thailand

Paper presented at "The Fourth Asia-Pacific Environmental NGOs Conference", November 26-27, 1998, National University of Singapore, Singapore.

by Tongroj Onchan
Persident, Mekong Environment and resource Institute

Summary

With the exception of the current financial crisis, Thailand's phenomenal growth over the past three decades has been at the expense of natural resources and the environment. Environmental degradation has occurred despite the fact that the Thai government has implemented many initiatives to tackle environmental challenges. Since the early 1960's, several conservation acts have been enacted. notably, the National Park Act (1961), the Wildlife Sanctuary Act (1964) and the most comprehensive initiative, the National Environmental Quality Promotion Act of 1992. Furthermore, environmental protection and improvement have also been major objectives of national social and economic planning since the inception of the Fourth Plan (1977-1981). A significant amount of financial resources have been allocated to natural resources and environmental projects. In addition, Other types of institutional arrangements have also been undertaken including the establishment of Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. Regardless of these efforts, environmental challenges continue to worsen. For example, natural resources such as forests have been greatly depleted3/ and air pollution in the greater Bangkok region and other large urban centers pose a serious problem to both health and the quality of urban life. Recently, in attempting to address environmental problems, a new approach to effective environmental and natural resources management has been introduced and widely debated. Both the national Environment Law (1992) and the new constitution (1997) emphasize the important role of NGOs. The 1992 National Environmental Law also calls for the preparation of the National Policy and Prospective Plan for the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality. This 20 year Policy and Plan (1997-2016) clearly emphasizes the significant role that NGOs can play. It states, "Roles for NGOs to participate in concerning environmental matters with organizations at different levels, especially monitoring programs and increasing public awareness, as well mobilizing environmental volunteers" (OEPP, 1997, p.2.). Certainly, this new approach calls for participation from all concerned sectors of stakeholders. Among the key stakeholders, NGOs have actively participated in environmental management at all levels, from policy making to project implementation.