The year 2019 saw a semi-democratic rule restored in Thailand. The immediate impact of the return of an elected lower house is more women in the legislative branch: the current Parliament has 76 women out of 500 MPs or around 14 percent.
That number is an improvement from the five years of junta rule, when only 5.4 percent of the junta-appointed lawmakers were women, placing Thailand in the rank of 182 out of 193 countries for female parliament representation according to UN data.
Thailand also currently has the highest global percentage of female chief financial officers at 42 percent, the second highest percentage globally for women in senior management at 28 percent, and the third-highest percentage of female CEOs at 9 percent, according to the Credit Suisse Research Institute in their 2019 gender report.
Yet, only about 10 percent of board members are women, compared to the global average of around 20 percent, said the study, which analyzed 3,000 companies in 56 countries.
And beyond those numbers, experts and advocates say women in Thailand continue to face an uphill battle in issues of equality and welfare.
As the year 2019 comes to a close, Khaosod asks prominent members of the political, business, and NGO fields to discuss the challenges women face, and what is to be done in 2020. Note: all interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Human rights activist and 2019 Magsaysay Award Winner
Women in Thailand are still lacking opportunities enter into policy-making or leadership positions in government; those who do enter politics have their gender used to discredit them, or end up as victims of cyberbullying. Thai women who have experienced sexual violence are still unlikely to see their assailants charged, much less behind bars.
I hope to see more women stepping up in 2020 to solve or highlight collective problems like the environment, economy, sexual discrimination, and reproductive rights.
Although women are becoming more outspoken against injustices, sexual and domestic violence is still rampant, while the law enforcement and regulations are in dire need of a reform.
Women in the 2020s should believe that they are independent, with their education and work, and don’t need anyone. If you get a boyfriend, I believe you will check first if he will be a problem in your life or not. If he likes to exercise power over you, don’t get involved with him, because he will try to subjugate you.
Phalang Pracharath MP for Bangkok
I am glad to see more women in Parliament, and I hope to see a larger male role in households. I believe the housewife’s duties are still necessary, but we must also support men’s participation to share the load.
Due to women’s physical forms, we are more likely to be assaulted than men. The state should make ‘safety zones’ for women, such as public parking spaces with better security, and more public lighting and CCTVs.
Pheu Thai MP for Roi Et
I admire German Chancellor Angela Merkel, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, our former PM Yingluck Shinawatra as role models of political leaders on the world stage over the past decade.
Gender is not a limitation to work, whether women, men, or LGBT. Everyone has the same capacity to do good work. I would like to see more women in managerial positions and for people to accept women’s capabilities, rather than giving special privileges that use gender as a determining factor.
Future Forward Party List MP
As a member of the Hmong ethnic group, I have seen the well-being of Hmong women improve exponentially throughout the past decade. But when it comes to traditional social structures, patriarchal norms still apply.
The mother, as the general and caretaker of the household, should receive many rights. However, everything is still circumscribed with religion and culture, so I hope that society is more open in the future. I would also like to see a female Lower House Speaker, or another female Prime Minister.
Muang Thai Life Assurance CEO, Port Football Club Chairwoman
Throughout my business career, I have had to compete with men. No one went easy on me. Women who want to be in the business world must forget the word gender. At confrontations in the meeting room, we must be strong.
I’d also like to see more women in sports. We have to admit there is a lot of inequality in sports, with such a large gap between women’s and men’s football. Developing women’s sports needs not only the support of the private sector, but also from the public.
Siam Piwat CEO
The year 2020 will be full of changes, whether due to the fluctuating global economy, tumultuous politics, trade wars, and rapid changes in the digital world. Business must quickly adapt,and it will be a year of challenges.
Women in 2020 should be open to learning new things and starting new beginnings, as well as being quick to adapt their way of thinking and working to keep up with the changing world. Both men and women should be quick to think, quick to act all the while calculating risk factors.