Time to update Thai startup regulations, say experts

Time to update Thai startup regulations, say experts

Speakers at a seminar on Thailand's laws and regulations regarding startups highlighted the benefits of having stronger regulations for such business entities.

The current law formulation process is not resilient enough to deal with startups, said Panachit Kittipanya-ngam, the President of Thailand Tech Startup Association (TTSA), at Tuesday's seminar organised by Chulalongkorn's Faculty of Law.

Even though the definition of startups is still unclear and prohibits lawmakers from coming to an agreement on what entity should be considered a startup, in the new age of volatility, complexity and uncertainty, laws and their implementation need to be resilient, he said.

"I think laws regulating startups should be 'lean'. It can even imitate the fast-paced nature of startups itself: implementing and testing them out to see whether they work or not. If not, just adjust or discard them," he said.

For Mr Panachit, regulatory bodies of Singapore could be a model for Thailand for how to deal with startups.

"Singapore's law dealing with startups is really quick. If one law doesn't work, then it gets scrapped and a new one gets tested to see what works best," he said.

Mr Panachit stated that current regulatory laws are outdated as most of them were written back when new challenges hadn't yet emerged, and laws should be flexible enough to take on business challenges and opportunities of the new age, even outside of startups.

"Concepts like startups didn't even exist back then. But laws regulating startups are set in stone. We have to engage the public to discuss this to find solutions," he said.

Mr Panachit, who had been working on startup regulations with the government, said he and his peers acknowledged that the government tried to accommodate the needs of startups but that their efforts have proven to be unfruitful.

"We studied, drafted and proposed the suggestions and laws that could address startups. But our proposal has been stuck at the Office of the Council of State for four years now," adding that no single law has emerged from the proposal yet.

Vice President and Director of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), Chinawut Chinaprayoon, said a change is needed and Thai society needs to firmly address the issue, adding that Thailand's legal system needs to be better equipped for the future, and be more flexible.

He noted that maybe the attitude required for the change to happen is: "Whatever the law doesn't prohibit is doable."

"We need to bring our legal system to that point because innovation will always be one step ahead of the law. So, laws that aim to regulate innovation need to be flexible enough to cope with the fast-paced scheme of things," he said.

In this new scheme of things, Mr Chinawut thinks government will gravitate toward the role of facilitator and the law should be adjusted to be ready for change.

"If the law cannot accommodate and adjust, we will lose out to foreign competitors who will use our confusing system to their advantage and beat us," he said.

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