SUMMARY OF REGULATORY SYSTEM FOR NGOS IN THAILAND
1. CREATING NGOS
Estimates on the size and economic value of the NGO sector:
At July 2006, there were 9,733 foundations and 10,780 associations registered with the Ministry of
Different types of NGOs that exist:
Section 115 of the Civil and Commercial Code allows Thai nationals to establish foundations and
associations. NGOs are those foundations or associations established for non-governmental, non-profit,
public benefit purposes.
Within that, the Social Welfare Act 2003 creates Public Benefit Organisations (PBOs). These are under
the supervision of the office of the National Commission on Social Welfare, under the Ministry of Social
Development and Human Security.
The Ministry of Finance can designate certain NGOs Public Charitable Institutions (PCIs).
Legal definition(s) of the different types of NGOs that exist:
An association is a group of persons from the private sector who share the same interest to conduct
non-profit activities. They are members' organisations which are not required to hold capital,
A foundation is a not-for-profit asset set up for public benefit. Public benefit purposes include charity,
religion, art, science, literature, education and other activities in the public interest. It excludes activities
harmful to Thai culture, morals, and national stability and political activities. NGOs that provide benefits
exclusively to non-Thai nationals may not be registered.
Both association and foundation status confer legal personality.
A public benefit organisation is a foundation or association which has the objectives of social welfare
provision or a private organization which has works relating to the provision of social welfare.
A Foreign NGO is an organization that intends to do charity work for Thai people or a Thai private
organization in Thailand or to set up a regional office in Thailand.
Requirements for creating an NGO:
NGOs must have a governing document that includes name, objectives, location and procedures
relating to membership applications, member's fees, qualification of committee and requirements for
asset and accounting management.
There are some additional requirements. Associations must have AGM procedures and rules that:
1. The founding members must consist of at least 3 persons
2. The committee should consist of at least 10 but not more than 15 persons
3. The terms of the committee should be 2 years but not more than 4 years
4. There should be a specified time for committee meetings and an annual assembly
Foundations must have a capital (a permanent endowment, of which the income can be spent but not
the principle) of 500,000 Baht (c. £7,500), or 200,000 Baht for 'government foundations' or those that
pursue activities in the fields of social welfare, education, sport, religion, health or to relive public
disaster. Some foundations predate this requirement and are allowed to operate with a smaller fund.
This capital fund must be maintained throughout the foundation's working life.
2. REGISTERING NGOS
NGOs which are required to register and details of the agencies they must register with
(including contact details):
All associations and foundations must register with the Ministry of the Interior, according to the Act of
National Culture 1942 (amended 1944) and the Civil and Commercial Code.
In Bangkok, the registering authority is the Ministry of the Interior, whilst initial assessment and
applications are considered by the Bangkok Metropolitan Officer of the Department of Provincial
Administration. In other provinces (of which there are 73), the governor of the province is the registering
authority, with the district office the receiver and initial assessor of information.
NGOs working in the fields of culture or religion also need to register with the relevant Ministry (Office of
the National Culture Commission or Ministry of Religious Affairs).
Foreign NGOs must act in accordance with Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare’s regulation on The
Entry of Foreign Private Organizations to Operate in Thailand B.E. 2541 (1998) and be approved by the
Committee on Consideration of the Entry of Foreign Private Organization. The Committee is chaired by
the Permanent Secretary or Deputy Permanent Secretary for Labour and Social Welfare and includes
representatives from a range of government agencies. The FPO Committee is hosted by the
Department of Employment (in the Labour Ministry) and supported by a secretariat.
NGOs which may register voluntarily and details of the agencies they can register with
(including contact details):
In theory, all foundations and associations must register. In practice, there are a large number of
unregistered organisations which are not pursued by the authorities unless there is a cause for concern.
Registration as a PBO is voluntary. Qualifying NGOs may submit an application to a Commission for
Certification as a public benefit organization established by the Social Welfare Act. Registration is
recognised by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.
The registration process:
Registering organisations must submit a standard application form, as created by the Ministry of the
Interior, to their district authority (the Bangkok Metropolitan Office in Bangkok). With their application
they are required to submit copies of the NGO’s regulations, minutes of the meeting of the founders,
location and map, names and details of committee members (including the identification of foreign
nationals, biodata and copies of ID cards for Thai nationals, and household registration of the founders).
In addition, foundations must submit a bank statement, names of authorized persons to receive
transfers, a contract to transfer assets to the foundation, and details of funders' gifts and confirmation of
Following initial scrutiny, the application is referred to the registering authority. The registering authority
is the provincial governor or (in the case of Bangkok) the Ministry of Interior. The responsible office
consults with other government departments and agencies to scrutinise the purposes of the NGO and
the background of the NGO officials.
Registered organisations receive a certificate of registration with a registered number.
The registration fee for a foundation is 200 Baht, 2,000 Baht for an association. An appeal can be made
against refusal (whether this refusal was from the governor of a province or the Ministry of Interior) to
the Minister of Interior within thirty days. NGOs must go through the process again whenever changes
are made to the objectives or committee members, which (for the latter) is required every 2-4 years.
This consists of a new round of checks on committee members.
Cultural and religious NGOs must get the approval of the relevant Ministry before they submit an
application. Both the Office of the National Culture Commission and the Ministry of Religious Affairs
have distinct application processes. Cultural NGOs must complete an application form and are
subjected to checks. Religious NGOs’ applications are considered by a Committee, with submissions
from government agencies and, (for foreign NGOs), NGOs from the same religion.
Foreign NGOs. Initial scrutiny is by the FPO Committee secretariat, which checks that an organisation
qualifies as a non-profit NGO with objectives and plans that meet requirements. The application is then
referred to the FPO Committee, which considers background checks on individuals and the organisation
and submissions from various government agencies on a range of issues, including security and
Approved foreign NGOs can routinely employ up to five foreign nationals without further approval and
can apply for approval to employ up to 25 foreign nationals in total. Each approval costs 3000 Baht.
Those applying for a work permit must meet the police for a brief interview.
One group is excepted from these regulations. Foreign NGOs based in Thailand but operating
regionally with backing from their 'home' government can receive approval directly from the Cabinet,
following application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The NGO’s foreign employees are thereby
exempted from tax and immigration requirements, and the NGOs imports are exempt from duty (unless
sold or transferred to non-exempt organisations within Thailand). Successful applicants must sign a
Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This sets out the respective
responsibilities of the NGO and the government.
3. GOVERNANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR NGOS
Requirements for governing documents:
Certain governance requirements are a pre-condition of establishment as an NGO (see above).
The Office of the National Culture Commission and the Ministry of Religious Affairs also set out specific
governance rules for the NGOs under their supervision.
Foreign NGOs must submit a registration certificate from the country of origin, certify the juristic person
status and a letter authorizing a person to work in Thailand.
What responsibilities and/or liabilities are imposed upon governing bodies of NGOs?
Regulations relating to payments and distribution of profits:
NGOs are non-profit organisations.
4. COLLECTING INFORMATION ON NGOS
Foundations. Provincial offices of the Ministry of Interior are required to collect information (including
number of the members or names of new committee members; copies of the agenda of the committee
meeting; and copies of the annual report) and undertake regulatory inspections. The main purpose of
inspections is to verify information supplied, verify the activities of the NGO, ensure that there is no
threat to national security and check for other possible problems.
Foreign NGOs must report to the Department of Employment every 6 months on projects and/or
activities that were carried out to target group, area and budget. Failure to comply may result in
withdrawal of permission to operate.
Public Charitable Institutions. The Ministry of Finance designates certain NGOs as Public Charitable
Institutions (see below). As a condition of membership, these organisations are required to submit to
the Revenue Department for information within 150 days of the accounting period the following
1. Minutes of their general meeting;
2. Balance sheet;
3. Statement of revenues and expenditures;
4. Report on operations for the previous annual accounting period.
Analysis of information:
Foundations. Financial reports and balance sheets submitted by foundations are reviewed prior to
Foreign NGOs are visited and monitored by the FPO Committee secretariat.
Public Charitable Institution The Thai Revenue Law states that the Revenue Department shall
conduct examination of documentation and evidence submitted by PCIs and will withdraw approval for
the organization to function as a PCI if it ceases to meet the criteria set down.
Making information publicly available:
5. ACCOUNTABILITY AND ACCOUNTING
Requirements and standards:
Foundations. In their annual report, foundations are required to summarize their work and submit
financial balance information which has been prepared by a registered and authorized auditor. The
Annual Report follows a standard format. Foundations set their own financial year and are required to
hold an AGM within either 90 or 120 days. The report, accounts and minutes from the AGM should be
sent to all the relevant authorities.
6. PREVENTING AND INVESTIGATING ABUSE
Foundations that fail to provide annual reports for two consecutive years may be referred to the Court
by a provincial governor or Ministry of the Interior to be de-registered.
Where there are allegations of abuse, initial investigation is by a provincial governor or the Bangkok
Metropolitan Office. These agencies have the power to request relevant documents and require
attendance of NGO officials at interview. NGOs that are identified as failing to meet any of the legal or
regulatory requirements may be subject to dissolution.
If allegations against an NGO are proved, the registration is withdrawn and the case goes to the Police.
Criminal matters and prosecution of offences are the jurisdiction of the Police and Courts.
The Office of National Culture Commission has some powers in its own right to address and resolve
problems in NGOs which are registered with them. As well as the power to de-register NGOs, it can
attend meetings of NGOs or require officials to attend meetings they convene. The Ministry of Religious
Affairs has no powers or sanctions other than de-registration.
Certain agencies (such as the Office of National Security Council) have the right to call meetings of
relevant agencies to exchange information and recommend action where they have a particular national
security concern. This covers all organisations and individuals, including NGOs.
Public Benefit Organisation. Where there has been dishonesty or fraud in a Public Benefit
Organisation, the Commission has the power to revoke certification. The name of the organisation is
published in the Government Gazette and the organization forfeits its sponsorship contribution.
Right of appeal:
An appeal against dissolution by court order can be made by the committee or a minimum of three
members of the NGO within 30 days.
7. REGULATIONS RELATING TO INCOME
Under the Revenue Code, registered NGOs are taxed at 10% and are entitled to tax exemption on
income from donations, membership fees and registration fee for members.
Foundations registered with the Ministry of Interior which meet certain criteria may also register with the
Ministry of Finance as a Public Charitable Institution to benefit from complete exemption from income
tax. Eligibility criteria are:
1. Must have a juristic personality;
2. Objectives must be for public charity in Thailand only;
3. The revenues of the foundation must not be derived from trading or provision of paid services
unless such activities were related to religion, education, clinic or social welfare and the revenues
applied in these areas.
The Revenue Department of the Ministry of Finance examines three years of records to ensure that the
organisation is stable and that such things as the management:administration costs ratio are
appropriate and at least 60 % of the annual income is applied for public benefit each year.
Donations to NGOs registered under the Ministry of Finance's instructions are deductible expenses,
subject to certain limitations prescribed by the Revenue Code
NGOs can raise funds by doing business in line with their objectives. Should that income exceed 1.8
million Baht the NGO must be VAT registrant and thereby subject to an output tax. This rule however
can be exempted on a case by case basis.
Trading for other purposes is allowed but is fully taxable.
Registered NGOs may publicly solicit for funds provided they have the necessary permit from the
Ministry of Interior. There are some ministerial regulations governing private fund-raising activity.