Women poorly represented as lawmakers
Thailand has one of the poorest rates of gender equality in politics globally, and international agencies say more women are needed in key decision-making processes.
UN Women data shows that as of January 2017 women accounted for 4.9% of the Thai parliament, ranking the nation 184th out of 190 in terms of female representation.
Malaysia and Cambodia have at least twice as many women in their parliaments with rates of 10.4% and 20.3%.
The kingdom also ranks low on the latest Gender Inequality Index by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), coming in 93rd out of 189 countries.
Anna-Karin Jatfors, deputy regional director of UN Women Asia and the Pacific, said that she wants to see the government and political parties empower women by putting more of them in positions of leadership.
Ms Jatfors made the remarks at a seminar in Bangkok yesterday on promoting women's leadership and political participation ahead of the general election next spring.
"Women at present hold only 22% of national parliamentary positions globally, but in the case of Thailand the rate is just 4.9%," she said.
"This means women are underrepresented in all facets of the political process, and factors such as domestic responsibilities, prevailing cultural attitudes regarding roles of women in society, and lack of support from family are among the main reasons that prevented them from entering politics," she added.
"Overcoming obstacles for women to enter politics will not only create an enabling environment to increase female political participation, but can bring about transformative change for all."
EU Ambassador to Thailand Pirkka Tapiola said the low rate of participation runs counter to the ideals of democracy.
Ladawan Wongsriwong, a former deputy minister of the Ministry of Labour, also a board member of the Pheu Thai Party, said entrenched social norms and attitudes were among the chief roadblocks.
"Women need social and family support to overcome this. At the same time, political parties themselves must also see gender equality within their structures, processes and practices as an important issue," she said.
"I can assure you the Pheu Thai Party is promoting gender equality. Our head of strategic committees and spokesperson are women, as were our former leader and ex-prime minister."
Critics say a fear of being shamed in public positions is also holding women back.