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Thailand

Thailand has wet markets at which wild animals or their meat is traded. Public health regulations apply to such markets. A person who operates a wet market must obtain a license from the relevant local authority. In addition, there are laws that protect wild animals. The wild animal trade is also regulated by laws that seek to control epidemics. Animals to be slaughtered for meat are examined by an official before slaughter for food safety.

I. Overview

Thailand has wet markets at which wild animals or their meat is traded. Thailand also has “many venues that serve as transit points for cross-border trade in illegal wildlife.”[1] These wild animals end up in wet markets in China and Vietnam. Although there are laws that protect wild animals from being killed, captured, sold, and treated cruelly, the enforcement of laws restricting the wild animal trade is regarded as lax.[2]

Thailand has public health regulations that apply to markets, including wild animal wet markets. There is also a law aimed at preventing animal pandemics. Animals to be consumed are examined by an official before slaughter for food safety.

II. Public Health Regulations

The Public Health Act B.E. 2535 (1992) includes provisions that regulate markets. Under the Act, “market” means a place ordinarily arranged for merchants to assemble to offer for sale animals, meat, vegetables, fruits, prepared or cooked food, or perishable items, with or without other kinds of goods for sale, regularly, from time to time, or on appointed dates.[3] In order to establish a market, a person must obtain a license issued by the local competent official.[4] The Act states that the relevant local government issues ordinances and oversees markets.[5]

The Ministerial Regulations on Market Hygiene B.E. 2551 (2008) establish hygiene requirements for the markets in Pattaya and Bangkok. Other localities use the Regulations as guidelines for their own hygiene regulations.[6] Market license holders are responsible for cleaning, pest-control, and maintenance of the markets.[7] They are also responsible for keeping the market and foods to be sold safe and clean.[8] They make sure that animals to be sold are caged, and no other animals enter the markets. The slaughtering or washing of large animals, such as cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep or pigs, in the market is prohibited. Slaughtering or cutting poultry in the market is also prohibited in the event of an influenza epidemic transmitted by birds in the locality.[9] The location of the market must be at least 100 meters (about 109 yards) away from sources that cause pollution, including waste, animal husbandry, and sewage disposal, unless the public health official has given  approval due to pollution in the market being prevented.[10]

The Regulations divide markets into two types: markets with building structures (Category 1) and markets without buildings (Category 2).[11]

The requirements in the Regulations for Category 1 markets include the following:

  • The floor is made of materials that are strong, smooth and easy to clean, and does not absorb water;
  • The building has barricades or obstructions made of strong and durable materials to prevent animals such as dogs from entering the market;
  • Ventilation within the market is sufficient, suitable, and without a musty odor;
  • The intensity of the light in the market building is not less than 200 lux;
  • Food stalls consist of strong materials with smooth surfaces and easy to clean, with a height of not less than 60 cm (about 23.6 inches) and 1.5 square meters (about 16 square feet) or more;
  • There is sufficient tap water or clean water from pipes for cleaning and washing hands and there is a sufficient number of sinks;
  • The wastewater treatment system and drainage channels are in accordance with the law;[12]
  • The market provides toilets and sinks in accordance with the general building regulations. Toilets must be located right outside the market building or separated by a wall from the food distribution area in the market building.[13]

The requirements for Category 2 markets include the following:

  • The flooring is smooth, strong, not slippery, easily washed and cleaned for the sellers of fresh food;
  • Food stalls consist of strong materials with smooth surfaces and are easy to clean, with a height of not less than 60 centimeters and may be foldable;
  • There is sufficient tap water or clean water for washing foods;
  • The drainage system is adequate;[14]
  • The market has toilets and sinks for the vendors;[15]
  • There are adequate numbers of toilets and sinks, and they are located separate from the sales location, unless there are public toilets or other toilets that are able to be used in the vicinity (not more than 50 meters (about 54 yard) away);[16]
  • There are enough collection or storage facilities to support the amount of waste each day.[17]

In the following cases, the director general of the Health Department can order a market to be closed or that any other measures be taken to prevent harm to the public:

  • Microbes that cause disease or excess numbers of them were found on samples of food, surfaces of utensils or equipment, or food vendors’ hands by microbiological examination;
  • The quantity of animals or insects that are carriers of diseases, such as rats, flies, or cockroaches, are more than the criteria;
  • A merchant or sales assistant is found infected with, or a person is found to have been infected by consuming food, pathogens of certain communicable diseases, such as cholera, measles, mumps, tuberculosis, hepatitis A, and influenza, or pathogens were found in the market; or
  • Leaks from a septic tank or a sewage treatment tank spreads germs or cause the breeding of animals or insects that are carriers of disease.[18]

III. Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act

In March 2019, Thailand enacted the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, B.E.2562.[19] The Act created five categories of wildlife: preserved wildlife, protected wildlife, controlled wildlife, dangerous wildlife, and wildlife carcasses. Preserved wildlife are rare or endangered wild animals. Protected wildlife means wild animals that are important to the ecosystem or species whose population tends to decrease, which may affect the ecosystem. Controlled wildlife means wild animals that are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,[20] and other wild animals that require appropriate control measures as specified in this Act.[21]  

The Act prohibits hunting of preserved or protected wild animals.[22] Hunting a protected wild animal is punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine not exceeding 1 million baht (US$31,450), or both.[23] If the hunting takes place in a wild animal sanctuary, the punishment is increased to imprisonment for three to 15 years or a fine of 300,000 baht (US$9,430) to 1.5 million baht (US$47,000), or both.[24]

The Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act also prohibits possession of preserved wild animals, protected wild animals, or the carcass of these wild animals except as otherwise permitted by the Act.[25] A violation is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to 500,000 baht (US$15,700), or both.[26]

A person may breed protected wild animals if the government specifies the species to be allowed for breeding and the person obtains a license.[27] A license is also required when a person keeps protected wildlife that can be propagated.[28] A violation is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to 100,000 baht (US$3,145), or both.[29] The Act also requires a person who transports a preserved wild animal, protected wild animal, controlled wild animal, carcasses of these animals, or products derived from such carcasses to notify the authority for inspection.[30] A violation is punishable by imprisonment for up to four years or a fine up to 400,000 baht (US$12,600), or both.[31]

Trading in preserved wild animals, protected wild animals, their carcasses or products derived from such carcasses is prohibited.[32] A violation is punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine not exceeding 1 million baht (US$31,450), or both.[33] A person who imports or exports protected wild animals or products derived from the protected animals must obtain a license.[34] A violation is punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine up to 1 million baht (US$31,450), or both.[35]

IV. Animal Epidemics Act

The Animal Epidemics Act, B.E. 2558 (2015), states as follows:

For the purpose of prevention and control of epidemics from the animal or carcass trade, any person who trades or seeks profit in the form of an intermediary from the following animals or carcasses shall obtain a license from a registrar:

(1) elephant, horse, cow, buffalo, goat, sheep, deer, pig, wild boar, dog, cat;
(2) bird, chicken, duck, goose including eggs used for reproduction;
(3) a carcass of the animals under (1) or (2); and
(4) other kinds of animals or carcasses as prescribed in the Notifications by the Minister.[36]

The license expires in one year, and is renewable.[37]

V. Cruelty Prevention and Welfare of Animal Act

The Cruelty Prevention and Welfare of Animal Act, B.E. 2557 (2014),  states that no person can perform any act that is deemed an act of cruelty to an animal without justification.[38] Killing for food an animal that is commonly used as food and killing an animal under the Control of Animal Slaughter for the Distribution of Meat Act (discussed in Part V, below)[39] are justified.

VI. Control of Animal Slaughter for the Distribution of Meat Act

The Control of Animal Slaughter for the Distribution of Meat Act, B.E. 2559 (2016), applies to the slaughter of cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, pigs, ostriches, chickens, ducks, geese, and other animals as prescribed in by ministerial regulation.[40] When such an animal is slaughtered at a market to sell its meat, this act is applicable. Although slaughtering animals outside a slaughterhouse for the distribution of meat is prohibited, in a case where it appears that the locality has no slaughterhouse or where there are exceptionally reasonable grounds, the governor may permit the slaughtering with the approval of the Animal Slaughter Business Supervisory Commission.[41]

A person who intends to slaughter animals for the distribution of meat must notify the local official of the kinds and number of the animals to be slaughtered, their origin, the date, time, and location for their slaughter, and must also pay the slaughter duties.[42] Prior to the slaughter, an animal-disease examination official carries out an examination. In a case where the official has reasonable grounds to suspect that the animal to be slaughtered has contracted a disease or is unsuitable for consumption as food, the official will order a suspension of the slaughter and removal of the animal for verification.[43] 

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Prepared by Sayuri Umeda
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
August 2020


*At present there are no Law Library of Congress research staff members versed in Thai. This report has been prepared by the author’s reliance on practiced legal research methods and on the basis of relevant legal resources, chiefly in English, currently available in the Law Library and online.

[1] Editorial, A Wuhan in the Making?, Bangkok Post (Mar. 21, 2020), https://perma.cc/6ZZ9-4ZTN.

[2] Charlie Campbell, Don’t Blame China. The Next Pandemic Could Come from Anywhere, Time (Mar. 10, 2020), https://perma.cc/6U6J-ZRPD.

[3] Public Health Act B.E. 2535 (1992), sec. 4, https://perma.cc/QCG8-59CK.

[4] Id. sec. 34.

[5] Id. sec. 35.

[6] Ministerial Regulations on Market Hygiene B.E. 2551 (2008), art. 2, https://perma.cc/ZHQ4-5QW2 (in Thai).

[7] Id. arts. 19 & 20.

[8] Id. art. 21.

[9] Id.

[10] Id. art. 5.

[11] Id. art. 4.

[12] Id. art. 8.

[13] Id. art. 9.

[14] Id. art. 13.

[15] Id. art. 12.

[16] Id. art. 14.

[17] Id. art. 15.

[18] Id. art. 26.

[19] Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, B.E.2562 (2019), https://perma.cc/F79W-LFJP (in Thai).

[20] Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, U.N.T.S. I-14537, entered into force July 1, 1975, https://perma.cc/FC2Q-LG8Q.

[21] Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, B.E.2562 (2019), sec. 4.

[22] Id. sec. 12.

[23] Id. sec. 89, para. 1.

[24] Id. sec. 89, para. 2.

[25] Id. sec. 17.

[26] Id. sec. 92.

[27] Id. sec. 28.

[28] Id. sec. 18.

[29] Id. sec. 90.

[30] Id. sec. 25.

[31] Id. sec. 94.

[32] Id. sec. 29.

[33] Id. sec. 89, para. 1.

[34] Id. sec. 23, para. 1.

[35] Id. sec. 93.

[36] Animal Epidemics Act, B.E. 2558 (2015), sec. 24, https://perma.cc/9GWS-PWGT.

[37] Id. art. 26.

[38] Cruelty Prevention and Welfare of Animal Act, B.E. 2557 (2014), sec. 20, https://perma.cc/H8MP-CD34.

[39] Id. sec. 21.

[40] Control of Animal Slaughter for the Distribution of Meat Act, B.E. 2559 (2016), sec. 4, https://perma.cc/3S3L-EC6J.

[41] Id. sec. 39. The Animal Slaughter Business Supervisory Commission consists of the Permanent Secretary for Agriculture and Co-operatives as Chairperson and other government officials. Id. sec. 6.

[42] Id. sec. 31.

[43] Id. sec. 34.

Last Updated: 12/31/2020