11 July 2024

Thailand is ranked 35th out of 120 countries on the Global Soft Power Index 2022, a fall from 33rd last year.

“Soft power” has recently become a buzzword in Thailand, following a performance by Thai rapper Danupha Khanatheerakul, aka “Milli”, at the world-famous Coachella music festival in California, during which she ate mango sticky rice, helping to increase the international popularity of the Thai dessert.

The ranking, which was released in March, is determined by several factors, such as familiarity, reputation, influence on other countries, as well as the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also evaluated by the seven pillars of soft power, namely business and trade, governance, international relations, culture and heritage, media and communications, education and science and people and values.

The top five soft power countries on the index are the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, and Japan.

Dr. Charika Channuntapipat, a research fellow at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), believes that Thailand’s ranking will keep declining if no one enhances the soft power that the country already has, adding “the decline in ranking means that our attractiveness has declined too, which will affect the economy.”

Dr. Charika further commented on Milli’s Coachella performance, noting that the artist used popular culture to present a “Thai-ness”, of which people may not be aware, and helped to address misunderstandings about Thailand. Therefore, many people think that what Milli did was to deploy soft power.

Regarding the seven pillars of the Global Soft Power Index, Milli may have helped increase the scores on Culture and Heritage, with a specific impact through arts, entertainment and food, as well as people and values, said the research fellow.

If the Thai government wants to elevate soft power, conserving the country’s heritage may not be enough. The government should also create an ecosystem that supports the creative economy, which will play a huge role in creating soft power. They should also come up with policies and resources to support artists in creating soft power in the future, according to Dr. Charika