Poor air quality is a pressing concern in Thailand, not only in urban areas but across whole swathes of the country and particularly during what is becoming known as “burning season”, when crop fields are burned to harvest sugarcane or remove remnant biomass. At the same time, industrial and vehicular pollution are year-round problems.

In 2019, an estimated 32 200 premature deaths in Thailand were attributed to PM2.5. While the government makes pronouncements every year about the measures being taken to improve air quality, from burning bans to the removal of polluting vehicles from the road, there remain major gaps in enforcement. Why then, when Thailand has a number of Plans and Acts relating to the control of air quality and emissions from the national to the local level, does enforcement remain challenging, and what other factors hamper improvements in air quality?

In this working paper we present the initial findings of a comprehensive desk review of Thailand’s existing institutional mechanisms related to air quality, mapping out their interlinkages and the remaining gaps. We also identify barriers to the implementation of existing policies and plans, as well as opportunities and examples of successes. We have supplemented the desk review with interviews with some key actors in this sector, as well as with academic and civil society actors, to come up with action points for cleaner air in Thailand.

With the limited effectiveness of control measures in the past decade, government agencies in Thailand need to consider the effectiveness of current mitigation policies alongside the findings of relevant research projects, to find solutions appropriate to Thailand’s current economic and social conditions.