On 30 March 2021, the Thai Cabinet approved a draft bill calling for the digitalization of a slew of government services. The Draft Act on the Electronic Performance of Administrative Functions, B.E…. (the “Draft Act”) is poised to alleviate financial and documentary burdens on the public in their applications for licenses and public services, and subsequently enhance the ease of doing business in Thailand.
Electronic submission of documents and communication with government agencies
Under the Draft Act, applications, documents, and payments for government services, (such as registrations, approvals, licenses, welfare benefits, etc.) may be submitted electronically via an online channel provided by government agencies. Similarly, when an application is submitted electronically, government officers must send all communications and documents electronically, unless the applicant has requested otherwise. This will undoubtedly reduce the time and expenses associated with traveling to government agencies in order to submit and retrieve documents. However, there are a few notable exceptions to the electronic submission scheme, including services pertaining to the registration of immovable property, and matters which require the applicant’s personal involvement, namely applications for identification documents or procedures such as marriage, divorce, adoption, etc.
Copies no longer required
If the application process for a government service requires copies of an original document to be submitted, once the applicant provides the original, it will be the government officer’s responsibility to make copies and certify the documents. This will be done at no additional cost to the applicant. Furthermore, government officers cannot use copying and certifying the document as an excuse to delay the application process. Such a change would greatly reduce the documentary burden of many regulatory procedures in Thailand, which often require applicants to obtain certified copies of documents.
Electronic display and verification of licenses and documents
Under the Draft Act, if a license is required by law to be overtly displayed, it may be displayed in its electronic form in accordance with methods to be prescribed by the issuing government agency. Moreover, applicants would no longer need to bring physical copies of licenses or documents to government officials for inspection; they may provide the document or license in its electronic form instead.
Scope of the Draft Act
The Draft Act applies to government agencies at the national, provincial, and local levels, in addition to public organizations. However, the following types of state agencies are excluded from the Draft Act:
1. State enterprises in the form of limited companies or public limited companies;
2. State agencies in the legislative branch;
3. State agencies in the judiciary branch;
4. Independent constitutional organizations;
5. Public prosecutor organizations; and
6. Other state agencies as specified in the Ministerial Regulations.
If the Draft Act is made to apply to entities under categories (2), (3), (4) or (5), it will be prescribed by Royal Decree.
The Draft Act proposes an ambitious scheme that would greatly reduce the amount of time and money spent by companies and individuals when applying for government services in Thailand. However, in order to implement the Act, government agencies will need to create digital infrastructure for the electronic submission of documents and intragovernmental communications, in addition to enacting policies that clarify and carry out the Draft Act’s provisions. Therefore, although the goals of the Draft Act are promising, the digital and policy infrastructure it requires may take quite some time to establish.