Operating a Foreign Non-governmental Organization in Thailand

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), both domestic and foreign, play an important role in advancing civil society and economic development in Thailand. Foreign NGOs represent a potential source of technological transfer and material support, which is vital for a developing country. However, international organizations that may be interested in operating in Thailand must first contend with a complex bureaucratic system, which require foreign NGOs to apply for permission before they can establish a local office. In Thailand, the operation of foreign NGOs in the country is under the authority of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and is regulated through two primary laws:

  • Regulations of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare on the Entry of Foreign Private Organizations to Operate in Thailand B.E.2541 (1998)
  • Regulation of the Committee on Consideration of the Entry of Foreign Private Organization Governing principles for consideration and instructions on the entry of foreign private organizations to operate in Thailand and the establishment of regional offices in Thailand B.E. 2543 (2000)

The law establishes the Committee on Consideration of the Entry of Foreign Private Organizations which is charged with granting permission to foreign NGOs to operate in the country. Consideration of whether to grant permission to a foreign NGO will depend on the following factors:

  • The national policy regarding economic development, society, and national security
  • Maintaining good relations between Thailand and other countries
  • The purposes and manner of operations of the foreign NGO applying for permission to operate
  • The views and suggestions of the relevant government department
  • The benefits to Thailand for allowing the foreign NGO to operate in the country

Furthermore, it is important to note that the law defines the follow terms:

  • A foreign NGO is defined as an “institution, organization, society, foundation or group of foreign individuals who are in the private-sector or who are receiving support from a foreign government.”
  • The term “operation” as in the operation of a foreign NGO is defined as “an application to establish an office or to operate an activity in order to help or support regardless of whether the form of support is financial support, arranging seminars or exhibitions, donations, support in terms of materials or equipment or durable goods, offering knowledge and technological or other forms of support…”

Thai government regulations are often complex. Foreign NGOs interested in operating in Thailand should consult with competent legal counsel. In the following article, we will go into further detail regarding the regulations that foreign NGOs are required to follow.


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