I’m aware that Thailand likes to think of itself as a developed country and dislikes being considered a third world country. No one likes being thought of in that way. Nonetheless, there are some very pointed reasons as to why Thailand is still a third world country, no matter how serious of efforts they have made in overcoming that status in recent years. Of course, I say this not to ridicule Thailand, but rather to at least comment on the factors that make a country third world for the rest of us to ponder rather seriously about.
For one, nations that cannot keep their utilities up to date are third world countries. For example, a couple of days ago we lost power for a few hours, and there has been no water at all this morning. Nations that can’t keep their utilities going strong for villages close to major cities, especially under normal circumstances like today, don’t get the right to consider themselves developed countries. It may not seem fair, but people in developed countries take electricity, running water, and internet for granted these days. Having one’s internet slow down is a first world problem. Not having any running water to flush the toilet or take a shower is a third world problem. By that standard Thailand is still a third world country, sadly.
Another issue is that first world countries have better infrastructures than third world countries. Utilities, of course, are a part of a nation’s infrastructure, but not the only part. If a nation’s logistics systems are dependent on one port, or if their transportation networks depend on a single hub, that nation is clearly third world and undeveloped. First world nations have a variety of backup systems that can pick up the slack and have much more developed infrastructures and logistics systems. Third world countries depend on one central point–usually a capital (but not always) for access.
Nonetheless, we have to be careful to judge on a scale that allows us to see Thailand as fairly high on the third world scale. For example, Thailand is clearly less third world than Ghana or Burma or Laos. In fact, Thailand is probably only a little bit of work from moving out of the third world altogether, if it can develop some alternate entries for logistics and tighten up its infrastructure a bit. But, the point remains that Thailand does need work, which it may not be particularly interested in hearing as it seeks to build massive factories and projects in its neighboring and still less developed countries.
Of course, it is also worthwhile to remember that the same problem could affect other nations that consider themselves first world. If utilities and infrastructure collapse in a more developed country, then it too will see itself slide into the third world. We must be careful not to only point the finger at others but also examine ourselves. If we eat our seed corn and do not provide for the future, we too will see ourselves in the same situation, high and dry without the utilities and amenities we take for granted in our own lives. We cannot take these things for granted.