Soft power: From tunes to tom yam, Thailand’s recipe for global wow!
The concept of “soft power” took centre stage during Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s tenure and has since become the government’s focal point.
However, despite official announcements, the actual implementation of “soft power” initiatives seems to be somewhat limited. Yet, it features significantly in the election campaigns of several political parties, especially Pheu Thai.
In a move reminiscent of the OTOP (One Tambon One Product) initiative, Pheu Thai introduced the “1 Family 1 Soft Power” slogan, prompting discussions about the practicality of every family contributing to soft power.
Upon assuming power, Pheu Thai relaunched and rebranded the “soft power” initiative. Party leader Paetongtarn Shinawatra was named deputy chair of the National Soft Power Strategy Committee by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.
Paetongtarn also joined the National Soft Power Development Committee, tasked with driving soft power policies and presenting proposals.
Questions have been raised about whether politicians fully comprehend the concept of soft power or if they are just following a trend.
The success of the Thai film “Undertaker”, which grossed nearly 1 billion baht, brought its “soft power” into the political spotlight. However, director Thiti Srinual expressed discomfort with political involvement, emphasising that it involves far more than photo opportunities.
The Pheu Thai Party, meanwhile, has started actively shaping its soft power agenda, designating it as the “National Soft Power Model”. Here are its key initiatives:
• Thailand Creative Content Agency (THACCA): Operating under the Prime Minister’s Office, THACCA would adopt an economic development model that focuses on fostering creative industries.
• Funding soft power policy: A budget of 10 billion baht has been proposed, following the model of the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA). The initial phase will consolidate funds from various ministries amounting to 7 billion baht annually.
• Draft legislation for THACCA establishment: The party aims to present the draft bill to the Cabinet within six months, with a parliamentary review scheduled for next year.
Meanwhile, development strategies for the soft power industry span 11 areas, namely cuisine, Muay Thai, global festival cities, tourism hubs, high-quality music, the “Books Build the Nation” initiative, film and television, game industry hub, art, Thai brands and fashion.
Simultaneously, the National Soft Power Strategy Committee's Festival Branch has unveiled plans for the current and upcoming years. The committee aims to organise over 10,000 events to create a distinctive image for the country, incorporating unique elements into festivals like Loy Krathong and Songkran to attract new-generation tourists.