Cultural Policy in


Prepared by Culturelink

© Copyright IRMO/Culturelink 1996



"Buddha-Kashetra" -- Buddhist agricultural culture -- is where Thai culture has flourished for almost 1,000 years. The Thais have currently developed over time and values within the culture which have undergone modification. For many centuries Thailand has been a meeting ground of two cultures -- i.e.,, the Thais accepted Buddhism and Brahminical tradition from India to their worldview and spiritual tenet while making close contact and friendly relations with China. In other words, the Thais are spiritually influenced by India and ethnically related to China.

The Thais faced serious encroachment from outside during the age of colonialism. Historically, it appeared that only two countries in Asia -- Thailand and Japan -- could survive and remain independent, due to the spirit of adaptable capacity and flexibility. Despite Western influence and its technological superiority, the Thais survived and succeeded in blending Western elements into their own way of life with some observable dualism instead of being totally Westernized.

Today, the cultural phenomena are rapidly changing as a result of modern technology. Things are oriented towards the booming "Information Age".

The Kingdom of Thailand lies in South-East Asia and has 52,654,000 (in 1988) inhabitants on the land area of 515,115 sq km.

General Directions of Cultural Policy

The Thai national cultural policy was formulated and proclaimed in 1981 in accordance with the spirit of Article LXIV of the Constitution of the Royal Thai Kingdom B.E. 2521 which reads "the State shall promote and preserve the national culture." The substance of the policy can be summarized as below.

  1. Support the preservation of the Thai culture in all aspects through education, research, animation and development in order that culture may serve as an important tool for solving problems encountered in the conduct of individual life, for the development of social, economic and political progress, and for the strengthening of the national sovereignty.

  2. Disseminate the Thai culture to the Thai people at large enabling them to understand and realize the values of their own culture and to translate these values into action. This knowledge and appreciation of Thai culture should lead to the national unity, security, and mutual understanding among the people in the nation as well as among those of the world.

  3. Promote traditional local and ethnic culture in order to inculcate the appreciation of traditional and regional culture and at the same time stimulate adoption and harmonization of this diversity into a peaceful unity.

  4. Support and promote cultural exchange at regional and international levels with the aim of creating international understanding and facilitating selective modification and absorption of exogenous cultures into the main stream of Thai culture and cultural solidarity.

  5. Support and promote coordination and cooperation among the government agencies and private sectors engaged in cultural activities. All measures and devices shall be undertaken to mobilize national resources for the preservation, promotion and development of culture.

Administrative and Institutional Structures

Public and Semi-public Bodies

Ministry of Education is the most important body responsible for cultural affairs. The Office of the National Culture Commission (ONCC) -- established in 1979 as a department of the Ministry of Education -- has been given the function to coordinate, promote and develop cultural activities of both private and public sectors at national and international levels. After the establishment of the ONCC a network of cultural centers was founded all over the country to increase the access to culture. The centers are responsible for cultural development at the provincial level.

At the provincial level, there are also provincial offices or branches of the central departments concerned. Some of these directly report to the central department. Others are more or less decentralized and directly under the charge of governors of the respective provinces. For example, the Fine Arts Regional Units report directly to the Directorate-General of the Fine Arts in Bangkok, while the sub-committees of the National Cultural Commission report to the governors of the respective provinces. The provincial and regional cultural centers, mostly located in the Teachers' Training Colleges, and the universities are directly under the supervision of the directors of the colleges, or the chairmen of the parent institutes. Co-ordination is handled by the Office of the National Culture Commission.

The Department of the Fine Arts of the Ministry of Education with the following units, is responsible for the preservation of the cultural heritage.

  1. The National Archives Division is responsible for the preservation and restoration of archival materials in different forms.
  2. The National Library Division is responsible for collecting, organizing and preserving printed materials and audio-visual productions. The Division regulates the implementation of the Printing Act B.E.2484 (A.D. 1941) regarding the deposit of printed materials issued by private sectors. There are four principal branches of the National Library.
  3. The National Museum Division is responsible for the collection, preservation and restoration of archaeological artifacts and artistic works. It also regulates the implementation of the act on preservation of national heritage, regarding the exportation of archaeological and artistic objects. Under this division there are 32 national museums all over the country.
  4. The Archaeology Division is responsible for the preservation and restoration of historical, archaeological monuments and sites. The Division operates 9 regional branches outside Bangkok.
  5. The Traditional Arts Division is responsible for the preservation of traditional arts and crafts style and techniques.
  6. The Architecture Division is responsible for the preservation of traditional architecture style and technique as far as practical. At the same time research and experiments have been undertaken to harmonize modern and traditional styles, utilizing new technology and new construction materials. This division is also responsible for the preservation and restoration of historical buildings in co-operation with the Archaeology Division.
  7. The Performing Arts Division is responsible for the preservation of traditional, classical and ethnic dance, music and dance drama. The Division maintains the National Theatre in Bangkok, and its regional branch in Chiangmai.

Since religion is considered as a part of culture in Thailand, the Religions Department is to promote religious activities of all denominations as well as to disseminate ethical and moral issues among the public.

Co-ordination of activities and programmes at the ministerial level is undertaken by the Minister's Cabinet.

In addition, there are also semi-public autonomous bodies concerned with specific aspects of the culture at the national level, i.e., the Mass Communication Organization of Thailand, the Sport Organization of Thailand, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Non-governmental institutions and organizations involved in cultural activities are numerous. These are mainly in the form of professional associations, recreation clubs, education or social welfare foundations. The ONCC is charged with the responsibility for coordination between non-governmental organizations and the government authorities.

Museums and Special Institutions

There are currently 32 national museums under the auspices of the Fine Arts Department all over Thailand. These museums serve as centers for art, archeology and history education for students and the general public.

Thailand Cultural Centre -- a modern and well-equipped multimedia centre conceived as a grant aid project from the government of Japan -- is established in 1987 to enable wide range of people to participate effectively in cultural life which includes performing arts, social education and recreation.

Voluntary organizations

Voluntary organizations are not part of the organization of the Office of the National Culture Commission. With a few exceptions, all voluntary organizations are required by law to be licensed and supervised by the Office of the National Culture Commission. There are two categories of voluntary organizations, i.e., association and foundation. In Thailand, term "association," applies to an assembly of not less than three real persons licensed and registered as a juridical entity for the purpose of promoting the cause of culture, education and social welfare of the public. The term "foundation" applies to an asset not less than 100,000 baht (approximately US$4,000) dully designated as an endowment fund and registered as a juridical entity.

There are currently more than 12,000 voluntary organizations (with rate of growth of 1,000 per year). Some of the better known voluntary organizations are:

Instruments of Cultural Policy

Planning of cultural activities

On behalf of the Ministry of Education, the Sub-committee on national cultural policy, of which ONCC is secretariat, has been entrusted to lay out the national culture plan 1992-1996. The national culture plan 1992-1996 shall play a vital role in the seventh national plan for social and economic development 1992-1996. The plan indicates an approach to balance the development of man, society and environment.

It is therefore recommended that a future implementation of cultural policy should be stressed on two great issues:

The framework and direction in implementation of the national culture plan 1992-1996 are composed of 14 issues. The issues are:

  1. instillation of the desirable values and characteristics of the people;
  2. emphasis on the importance of family;
  3. encouraging study of and research of folk wisdom;
  4. encouraging the state and the people to recognize and preserve value of cultural identity at national and local levels;
  5. broadening participation in cultural life;
  6. promotion of arts and cultural exchange at the national and international levels;
  7. installation of the desirable attitudes, knowledge, and understanding of nature;
  8. encouraging the awareness of cultural heritage as cherished property;
  9. coordination of tourist agencies and cultural agencies for the benefit of consistent goals and means as well as mutual support;
  10. provision of facilities for public to participate in cultural activities;
  11. improvement of education in harmonious blend with local culture;
  12. encouragement of Buddhism Institution;
  13. improvement of organizations and the efficiency of cultural administration;
  14. setting up cultural information network.

Financing of cultural activities

In line with the announcement in the Constitution that the State shall support and assist the preservation and the promotion of culture, the cultural plan and policy has been included in the five-year National Development Plan, and the budgetary appropriation for cultural programmes and activities has been approved by the Cabinet and the Parliament every fiscal year. The main portion of financial support for the training of cultural personnel has been allocated to the colleges and universities offering cultural courses. There is also budgetary provisions for in-service training allocated to the governmental agencies concerned, e.g., the Office of the National Culture Commission, the Department of Fine Arts, the Department of Religious Affairs, and the Department of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Education.

The private commercial and industrial sector also play a vital role at the national and international levels in the preservation and development of cultural life. The Bangkok Bank Ltd., the Boonraud Brewery Ltd., the Thai P.E.N. Club, the Shell Company Ltd., etc., organize activities to promote visual arts, performing arts, literature and ways of life. The SUPPORT Foundation is dedicated to the promotion of folk arts in order to review and preserve traditional handicrafts through training programmes for folk people. In addition, the products are on sale locally and overseas, which have helped to accumulate national incomes.

Most of the non-governmental organizations i.e., professional associations, recreation clubs, education or social welfare foundations receive subsidy from private donors, banks and business enterprises. Some are self-supported, through membership fees, and through the fund-raising campaigns.

Awards and scholarships are given to authors by local and international organizations. National Artistic Foundation has helped to promote the welfare of artists. External financial co-operation has been secured through regional and international organizations such as ASEAN, SPAFA and UNESCO.


Prior to the proclamation of the national cultural policy various governments, however, have already issued a number of acts, decrees and ordinances relating to the culture. Among these, the important ones which are still effective include:

  1. the Cultural Development Act of B.E. 2483 (A.D. 1940) and the Amendments B.E. 2485 (A.D. 1942);
  2. the National Culture Act (amended issue) B.E. 2486 (A.D. 1943);
  3. the Act for the Establishment of the Office of the National Culture Commission B.E. 2522 (A.D. 1979).

The National Culture Act of B.E. 2485 (A.D. 1942) defines culture as "that which characterizes progress, order, unity and moral of the citizens." Article XI, which later in the National Culture Act (amended issue) B.E. 2486 (A.D. 1943) became Article IV further elaborates that the work of the National Culture Council (later the Ministry of Culture) shall consist of:

  1. the Office of the Spiritual Aspect of Culture;
  2. the Office of the Behavioral Culture;
  3. the Office of the Visual and Performing Arts;
  4. the Office of the Literary Culture and
  5. the Office of the Women's Cultural Affairs.

There are separate legislations for the safeguarding of the cultural heritage, and the intellectual property.

Sectoral Policies

Literary arts teaching

Thai and foreign languages, classical, and contemporary literature, creative writings, translations, literary criticism, linguistics, regional and ethnic literary works: these courses are offered at degree levels in the faculties of humanities, liberal arts, and literary arts of all universities in Thailand, and in the Teachers' Training Colleges.

Performing arts teaching

Drama, music, and theatre teaching are offered at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, and at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, College of Technology. The Department of Fine Arts, Ministry of Education, is also responsible for the training of performing artists. The Department's College of Performing Arts at the beginning trained artists to fill the needs of the Department, but later on has expanded its facilities. At present the colleges have five regional branches and they are supplying manpower for artistic performances as well as for the teaching of arts in schools. Regional colleges specialize in research and study regional and ethnic drama, music and folklore with a view to preserving the regional culture.

Courses in contemporary and western drama and theatre are offered at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasart University, the Faculty of Literary Arts, Chulalonkorn University. Courses in children' theatre, as one of the instruction methods, are offered in the Faculty of Education, Silpakorn University, and Srinakharindrawirot University.

Visual arts teaching

Painting, sculpture, print, architecture, interior decoration, industrial design are offered at the Faculty of Architecture and the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chulalonkorn University, the Faculty of Architecture, the Faculty of Interior Decoration, and the Faculty of Painting, Sculptor and Prints, Silpakorn University.

The Department of Fine Arts, Ministry of Education, has also established the College of Fine Arts which offers courses in traditional arts and crafts as well as contemporary and western arts.

Visual arts courses are also offered by the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Technology College.

Teaching in preservation of cultural heritage

Archeology, cultural anthropology, history, traditions, museology are offered at the Faculty of Literary Arts, the Institute of Thai Study, Chulalonkorn University, the Faculty of Archaeology, the Faculty of Humanity, Silpakorn University, and the Institute of Thai Study, Thammasart University.

To ensure effective management of the National Museums, the National Archives, the National Libraries, the National Theatres, and the archaeological monuments and sites under supervision, the Department of Fine Arts each year organizes one or two 4-5 days training courses for the heads of the section and units. The courses include relevant subjects such as financial management, budgeting and the administration of budget, rules and regulation relating to personnel administration, museum building and its security, filing, procedures for requesting new positions, planning, co-ordination, directing and delegation of responsibilities. Lectures on relevant academic and technical subjects and field trips are also included.

Teaching in documentation and dissemination of information

Librarianship, information techniques, printing, publishing are offered in the schools of library and information science at 8 universities and many Teachers' Training Colleges. Printing and periodical publishing courses are offered at the Faculty of Science, and the Faculty of Mass Communication, Chulalongkorn University, and the Department of Mass Communication, Thammasart University. Technology Colleges and a few Teachers' Training Colleges also offer courses in printing, book binding and photography.

Teaching in domestic arts and crafts

Private schools are few and most of them conduct courses in drama and music, both Thai and Western. These are either diploma courses for children with artistic inclination, or for recreation purposes.

Cultural Industries

Cultural information is disseminated through printed media as well as audio-visual materials, and through mass communication media such as radio and television broadcasting.

Books, pamphlets, periodicals on arts and cultural subjects have been published by the governmental agencies concerned, institutions, associations as well as by private publishers. Journals and magazines have been on the increase in Thailand. They are weekly, fortnightly (15 days) and monthly. Magazines concerned directly with culture are Arts and Culture Magazine, Thai Culture Magazine, Silapakorn and others. Newspapers are a means of mass media which exerts particular influence in the metropolis. Phonograph records and cassette tapes on traditional and contemporary songs and music have also been produced.

The History and Literature Division, the National Museum Division and the Public Relation Unit, of the Department of Fine Arts, Ministry of Education, publish literary works and books on cultural subjects. They also organize exhibitions, arrange for the showing of cultural films, lectures, seminars, etc.

Radio Thailand has approximately 300 broadcasting stations throughout the country. Radio is incomparably the most efficient means of public communication all over the country. Television is another type of mass media that is also popular in Thailand. In Bangkok there are 4 TV stations and there are 5 subsidiary TV stations scattered throughout the other regions, providing for the villagers' demands. Video-tapes play a significant role as mass-media in Thailand. They are distributed in the form of Western films. On the other side, film is now less important because more people watch video.

The Teachers' Training Colleges all over the country participate actively in the national programme for dissemination of information on culture. The cultural centers established in the colleges as regional branches of the Office of the National Culture Commission organize exhibition lectures and seminars for the college students as well as for the public. Some colleges also cooperate in the execution of cultural activities at national and sub-regional levels.

The government agencies responsible for the dissemination of cultural information are: the Department of Public Information, the Secretariat of the National Identity Board; the Public Relation Division of the Office of the National Culture Commission; the National Library and its regional branches; the Public Libraries, the University and School Libraries.

Cultural Development

Arts and culture subjects have been included in the school curriculum at all levels. Emphasis is laid on Thai language learning, civics, appreciation of Thai arts and culture, development of artistic traits, skill in artistic expression, development of good working habits. Besides basic subjects such as drawing, music, painting, sculpture, there are numerous elective subjects.

Arts and culture subjects are therefore taught in all schools, including those classes for adults organized by the Department of Non-formal Education. Education in arts and culture for the public is also offered by the Office of the National Culture Commission which operates the cultural mobile units. Radio and television broadcasting has been utilized for culture education by a number of governmental agencies and private sectors, e.g. the National Identity Board, the Mass Communication Organization of Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

It is to be noted here that at almost all universities one or two courses on the general concept on culture and Thai culture are offered to undergraduate students, either as required courses, or elective courses.

There is no systematic training or special training of the cultural administrators in the training institutions. However, there are governmental institutions which are responsible for the development of the civil servants and they have organized courses for the administrators and decision makers at different levels.

The National Institute for Development Administration offers 4-6 weeks courses for the administrators at director-general and director levels. Subjects included are public administration, decision-making procedures, planning, formulation of policy. The seminar also includes field visits and on-the-spot observation. The Academy for Education Administrators, the Ministry of Education provides training for middle level administrators working in the Ministry of Education. Courses on the management and administration in specific areas such as management of library and the management of museums, are included in the training of specialists and technicians in related fields.

On-the-job training, workshops, fresh-up and up-grading courses have been organized by the government agencies responsible for culture activities for the in-service training of government employes. Colleges and universities also offer extensions or special courses for non-residents during summer vacation or in the evening.

Non-governmental organizations such as the Women's Associations, the Association for the Promotion of Orchids and the Centre of the Artificial Flowers Production organize workshops, seminars and short courses for their members, or for the public.

In Thailand, there is no system of registering animators. Most animators are from provincial cultural centers. Animation, socio-cultural and socio-educative action or community development have been done through active lecturers from teachers college or universities during their field research, monks, village elders and folk artists.

International Cultural Cooperation

The Office of the National Culture Commission has arranged cultural exchange on a bilateral basis with 15 countries who signed the cultural agreement. Thailand has made cultural exchanges with Japan, Portugal, and Spain and other countries, such as the People's Republic of China, though this is not a party in the cultural agreement. These activities include exchanges of cultural persons between Thailand and the People's Republic of China, Republic of Korea, and Japan. Cultural exchange in various forms of art as paintings, sculptures, handicrafts and dances has also been carried out.

Cultural cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is established on the multilateral basis among six member countries. The role of the Asean Cultural Fund is also very important for the development of cultural activities in the visual and performing arts, literary and Asean studies, mass media, motion pictures, radio and television.

Thailand has also participated in and contributed to the regional programmes organized under bilateral, multilateral agreements or through the regional and international organizations such as Seameo Project in Archeology and Fine Arts (SPAFA), Asian Cultural Forum on Development (ACFOD), Asian Cultural Centre for Unesco (ACCU) and UNESCO.


Asian Cultural Forum on Development (ACFOD)
POB 26
Bungthonglang P.O.
Bangkok 10242

Buddhist Research Centre
Wat Benchamabopitr

Ministry of Education
Chandra Kasem Palace
Ratchadamnoen Nok Ave
Bangkok 10300
Tel. (02)281-7644

National Archives Division
Fine Arts Department
Samsen Rd
Bangkok 10300

National Library
Samsen Rd
Bangkok 10300
Tel. 2815212; telex 84189

National Museum
Na Phra-dhart Rd
Tel. 2217815

Office of the National Culture Commission
Ratchadapisek Road
Huay Khwang
Bangkok 10310

Siam Society
POB 65
131 Soi Asoke
Sukhumvit 21
Tel. 2583491

5th Floor, Darakarn Building
920 Sukhumvit Road
Bangkok 10110
Tel. 381-1310; fax (66-2)381-2546

Thai-Bhara Cultural Lodge
and Swami Satyananada Puri Foundation Library
136/1 Siriphongs Rd

Thai Library Association
c/o National Library
Bangkok 3

Thai Tribal Crafts
208 Bumrung Road
Chaingmai 50000
Tel. 053-243493

Thailand National Commission for UNESCO
External Relations Division
Ministry of Education
Rajdamern Avenue
Bangkok 10300
Tel. 281-6370; fax (622)2810953

Unesco Regional Office
for Education in Asia and Oceania
GPOB 1425


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Organizational Structure: Office of the National Culture Commission, National Stadium. Bangkok, Ministry of Education 1981, 33 pp.

Preededilok, Arun. Tenth Meeting of Experts on Regional Co-operation in Unesco Cultural Activities in Asia and the Pacific: Report, Tokyo, 15-19 March 1991. Asian Cultural Centre for Unesco, pp. 108-110.

Situation and Trends in Cultural Policy in Member States of Asia and the Pacific: Thailand, World Conference on Cultural Policies, Mexico-City, 26 July - 6 August 1982. Paris, Unesco, 1982, pp. 87-93.

Thai Cultural Newsletter, Vol. 7, No. 4, January 1990.

Thai Culture: The Land and the People, Cultural Kit No. 1, Guide Book. Bangkok, Ministry of Education, Office of The National Culture Commission, 1987, 28 pp.

Thailand National Commission for Unesco. Questionnaire on the State and Trends in Cultural Policies in Member Countries. Bangkok, Ministry of Education, Secretariat of the Thailand National Commission for Unesco, 1988, 23 pp.

Towards New Dimension of Culture and Development. Bangkok, Ministry of Education, Office of The National Culture Commission, 1989, 178 pp.

Training Workshop in Cultural Affairs Administration in Asia and the Pacific: Report, New Delhi, 26-30 November, 1984. New Delhi, Centre for Cultural Resources and Training, 1985, pp. 217-235.

How This Document Was Prepared
This monograph is based on data from the Culturelink Cultural Policies Data Bank, and on documents collected by the Documentation Centre for Cultural Development and Cooperation, Culturelink, in Zagreb, Croatia.

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