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Bangkok, 11 July 2013 - Although Thailand has experienced the fast transition of population change in the past 20 years, Thais in general don't have awareness over the impact of the demographic change in Thailand, according to the speakers who attended "Fewer Births, Smarter investment" Press Forum organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Thailand Office and Office of National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) on July 10.

Caption: Ms. Nattha Komolvadhin, News Broadcaster of ThaiPBS (far left) was the moderator.

"I am glad that UN organized this forum. It is a starting point for us to discuss the impact of population change," said Dr. Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, Executive Chairman of Thailand Future Foundation. During the press forum to commemorate the World Population Day this year, Dr. Sethaput added that unlike other economic topics such as GDP growth, the demographic science is more accurate. NESDB estimates that a Thai woman will have 1.3 children on average in 2040, compared to 1.6 in 2010.

Yet, while Thailand has seen the lower birth rate, Thais have not been sufficiently prepared for the impacts from the population change because they think the change will not happen until seveal years from now. This is despite the fact once the population structure is changed, it will be too late to reverse the trend.

Mr. Kosit Pampiemras, former Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of Sub-Committee on Population Policy Planning, NESDB, said that there are many challenges in anticipation with Asean Economic Community (AEC) which will become effective from 2015. Thailand will have to rethink the migrant policy as more foreign workers are expected to come to Thailand to offset the declining domestic workforce. For instance, there are questions over the welfare of these foreign workers in Thailand.

Mr. Mechai Viravaidya, Chairman and Founder, Population and Community Development Association (PDA), said that the quality of education will be critical to shape Thailand in the future. Schools and educators should teach students to be analytical, instead of applying merely rote-learning. As Thailand is experiencing high number of teenage pregnancy, the students should also receive age-appropriate sex education.

During the press event, Mr. Mechai also brought 14 high school students from his Mechai Pattana School to perform the popular song "Look Dok" which was successfully used to promote family planning campaign 30 years ago. The press event was also participated by media members from print, TV and online medium, general public and government officials.

Caption: Khun Mechai Viravaidya and students of Mechai Pattana School

The theme of World Population Day entitled Adolescent Pregnancy has well resonated with the situation in Thailand which has seen high number of unwanted pregnancy among adolescent girls in addition to the fact that Thailand has become an ageing society because of lower birth rate.

Although Thailand experiences low birth rate, Thailand faces a problem of quality birth because there are a number of mothers, especially the girls aged 15-19 years old, who are not ready to have children.

The delivery rate of mothers aged 15-19 years old in Thailand has been steadily increasing.  According to the statistics from Bureau of Reproductive Health, Ministry of Public Health, the delivery rate of mothers aged 15-19 years old in 2005 was 113,048 from a total 2,293,588 girls in this age group or 49.3 per 1,000, rising to 118,921 in 2008 or 50.1 per 1,000 and 129,321 or 53.6 per 1,000 in 2011.

Caption: Xinnhau News Agency interviewed Mr. Caspar Peek

NESDB noted that in 2011, there are 114,001 mothers who are younger than 20 years old or 14.32 per cent of mothers of all age groups. There are 110,325 mothers aged between 15-19 years old and 3,676 mothers who are younger than 15 years old.  Among this number, it is found that the youngest mother is 8 years old, while the youngest father is 10 years old.

Unwanted pregnancy affects the quality of birth for both adolescent mothers and children. Chances are high that the children born from the unwanted pregnancy will have less opportunity to be educated and be denied of social opportunity. These children can be highly vulnerable to be left out because their parents don't have capacity to provide them with adequate resources and opportunity to make them grow up as quality citizens.

Caption: Dr. Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput and the media

Caption: Participants