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In the Spotlight: National Municipal League of Thailand

In the Spotlight: National Municipal League of Thailand
09/03/2015

Thailand

In the sixth article of our series, where we are looking more closely at key DELGOSEA members who are holding the network together and work behind the scenes in each country, the focus this month is on the National Municipal League of Thailand (NMT).

NMT is clearly a force to be reckoned with in Thai politics, representing the level of municipalities in the country. The League was founded in 1960 and has grown enormously over the last 55 years – from the original 147 members to around 2800 now. Divided into five geographical sub-regions, each being responsible for between 9 and 20 provinces, NMT is representing its members in a wide range of topics, covering themes as diverse as foreign affairs, the environment, tourism, culture etc. in 15 committees. The NMT leadership changes every two years, with the current president being Mr Kriangkrai Poomlaojang, the mayor of Yangtalad municipality in Kalasin Province.

The political system in Thailand was until recently characterised by a high degree of centralisation, since the provincial and local administration were essentially appointed agents of the central government, through the Ministry of the Interior. Traditionally, the administrative power of local governments in the provinces was wielded under these central government agents, i.e. governors and district officers. Other than voting in these elections, people’s participation in any level of local government was minimal.

However, under the 1997 Constitution the need for people’s participation in local government was specially emphasized and more than 200 functions have been devolved down to the local level – not coincidentally, NMT’s membership has shot up from around 1000 members in 1999 to its current level in 18 years since the changes were introduced. All members of the legislative and executive branches of local government must now be elected and may be recalled by the people’s collective petitions.

The objectives of NMT are clear-cut: to promote cooperation and exchange between the members, to act as the representative organisation for municipalities all over the country and to promote quality standards in public administration and management. There is also a political element, with the League being keen on promoting the development of local political systems at the municipal level and to lobby for further decentralisation and more responsibility at the local level.

To achieve these objectives, the League commissions studies and research on technical and judicial matters and facilitates the exchange of ideas and experiences amongst its members. Capacity building measures are offered for municipal executives and officials, joint activities to strengthen local government are organised with international organisations.