Regulating the Third Sector in Thailand: The Case of the Draft Legislation on Social Enterprise Promotion


อ.ดร.ประพิน นุชเปี่ยม


วารสารนิติศาสตร์ มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์


The historical roots of the Thai third sector – the sector that is not part of the state (public sector) or the market (private sector) – can be traced far into the past, especially to the philanthropic role of religious institutions and voluntary associations set up by the Chinese from at least the late 19th century. Such organizations represented Thailand’s traditional third sector and thereby provided a crucial social foundation for its present-day third sector, of which a social enterprise forms part. The Thai third sector has continuously adjusted itself to external as well as domestic challenges and opportunities, particularly by becoming more entrepreneurial in its orientation and less dependent on grants and donations.
This paper engages in a brief survey of the emergence of social enterprises in Thailand, which are considered part of the third sector, and then analyses the Social Enterprise Promotion Bill in the light of the burgeoning social enterprise sector. The initiation of the Bill clearly represents an attempt to promote social enterprises in Thailand. However, as the current debate has already raised some concern about possible practical effects, its thorough analysis is imperative. The analysis in this paper is nevertheless restricted in its focus to the problem of finding a definition of social enterprises that suits the purpose of promoting social enterprises in Thailand.
Relying on a document-based research method and empirical evidence, the paper has found that the attempt to define social enterprises has suffered from practical difficulties. Defining social enterprises is certainly not an easy task. In Thailand, the task has been complicated by the lack of an understanding of the emergence and nature of social enterprises, as well as the lack of a unified working system for a particular policy area. This is evident in the fact that different people and organizations have proposed different definitions. The paper raises doubt about the definition provided in the Bill, particularly in so far as its practical effects are concerned – it is a doubt whether the Bill, when it becomes law, would promote or restrict the growth of social enterprises in Thailand.

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