The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part fourteen in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
Every province in Thailand has its own arts council. The 76 regional departments develop their own culture policy based on national guidelines, attuning activities to the local needs. With this organization the Ministry of Culture is striving to achieve one of the pillars of the policy determined in 1981: increasing appreciation among the population of Thailand for the country's own culture.
The provincial councils belong to the National Cultural Commission. This sub-division of the Ministry of Culture also runs the Thai Cultural Centre, a cultural and recreational mega-complex that was erected in Bangkok in 1987 with Japanese support. Another ministerial department is the Office of Modern Art and Culture, which strives to promote work by Thai artists. This department's activities focus on cultural industries and making the arts economically feasible.
The Department of the Arts, another ministerial sub-division, has borne responsibility for art education and the protection of cultural heritage since 1911. This department's wings cover the national library, more than thirty national museums, the Institute for Music and Drama and ten historical parks. Striking is the fact that the ministry also has a religion department: in Thailand convictions of faith are part of culture. Thailand also has some12,000 cultural organizations, the best-known of which is the Siam Society.
The country has established bilateral cultural agreements with fifteen countries, including Japan and many EU member states. Thailand is also home to the Regional Centre for Archaeology and the Arts (SPAFA), a South-Asian organization with ten member states that is concerned with cultural heritage. The country is also a member of UNESCO's Asian Culture Centre (ACCU).