Specifically, the authors examine the roles and influence of different stakeholder groups, i.e. government, private sector, civil society and smallholder farmers, and where they assert their power and influence to shape the Thai bioeconomy. The analysis of stakeholders, ranking and assessment of their roles, power and influence is interpreted through a review of available literature in Thai and English, on recent developments in Thailand’s bioeconomy, supplemented by 14 key informant interviews with stakeholders involved in research, policy decisions, and coordination of the bioeconomy conducted in July 2019.
The authors conclude that institutional arrangements within the Thai bioeconomy are characterized by a concentration of power and extensive collaboration in the highest offices of government to promote industrial growth. Within government, the Eastern Economic Corridor Office, under the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Office of Industrial Economics, under the MOI, have the greatest power and influence to set the agenda and to convene selected stakeholders in the bioeconomy. Other government stakeholders – in research, health, or environmental and social protections – play minor roles in the bioeconomy.
Large corporations, particularly PTT Global Chemical and Mitr Phol, have power and influence to shape the bioeconomy’s agenda through the official Public-Private Partnership scheme. They have used their position to steer the bioeconomy towards cassava and sugarcane commodities. Their power has been solidified through this bioeconomy Public-Private Partnership, and they now aim to win contracts for high-value infrastructure projects in national development.
Stakeholders with the least influence and decision-making authority in the bioeconomy are civil society, farmers and workers. Their organizations are not represented in this public-private partnership scheme and they also lack platforms to represent their interests.
One of the declared primary goals of the bioeconomy is to promote inclusive and green growth. However, its current reliance on existing power dynamics and established relationships – with stakeholders from industry and business shaping the agenda as researchers and farmers are deliberately excluded – casts doubt on its ability to achieve this goal.
There still is potential for the Thai bioeconomy to reorient its trajectory to one that can achieve its social and environmental goals, as well as economic ones. Fostering collaborations among the key policy-makers, the small-scale business interests of farmers and workers, and the knowledge producers should include academics and research institutes, NGOs and other civil society actors. Inclusive evidence-based decision-making – for meaningful inclusion of farmers and farm workers could be a key area of future research for directing Thailand’s bioeconomy towards a more sustainable and equitable track.