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Cover story : 25 Oct 2003
Vol. 20 No.14
One Tambon One Product (OTOP)
A Showcase for Thai Folk Crafts

By Ninnart
Photos by In-Chan

One of Some Best Buys




Up to this moment, it is certain that every Thai knows the "OTOP" project. The abbreviation stands for "One Tambon* One Product" which is a project to promote hand-made goods and folk handicrafts of each district. Folk crafts in this campaign get a brighter future than those that are not. It is because OTOP was set up to widen markets and generate incomes for villagers in each community to improve their life standard. The ultimate aim is to establish a strong sense of marketing management among people, so that the sustainable self-reliance will take root deeply in the social structure.
The OTOP logo
The meaning of "product" here covers services and activities. Actually, one tambon may have more than one products. And sometimes a product is the outcome of the cooperation among a few tambons. Therefore, almost all folk products, ranging from chilli paste to silk and from shampoo to pottery, can be put under the project.
The OTOP logo is a Pla Taphian Bai Lan (a mobile woven from palm leaves in the form of a carp) with a tiny Thai flag on its body. (See the above picture.)

Hand-woven cloth and hill-tribe costumes

This object completely mirrors Thai local intelligence as it requires such practical skills to make a beautiful one.
To find out the origin of the project, let's trace back to the year 2001 when the rural people were dramatically threatened with poverty.

Exquisite pottery

The government of Pol. Lt. Col. Dr. Taksin Shinawatra, then initiated the OTOP project to tackle with the problem.

Products from hand-woven textiles

Aiming to bring out folk intelligence to upgrade local products, the government provided the local artisans with advanced product knowledge and marketing management skills (both domestic and international) by arranging for specialists to set up intensive courses for them. Instead of subsidizing, which, in the long run tends to reduce the communities' self-reliance, the government supports each group in other forms. For instance, the setting up of chain stores and the use of internet system have been encouraged in order to extend their market shares and channels of distribution.
Exotic beauty of artificial flowers
from rubber leaves
Lots of governmental units have played important roles in the OTOP project development.The following are some of them. The National Executive Committee of One Tambon One Product is responsible for monitoring the product standards, supporting each community with new knowledge about the products and promoting them in full scale. Its duties also include storing statistical data of premium products popular among consumers. The Department of Export Promotion has arranged numerous domestic expos to draw public attention. And to penetrate into international markets, it is planning to hold overseas exhibitions displaying OTOP products in several countries:
The atmosphere of the Top Industrial
Villages & Thai Textiles Expo 2003
• Asia Expo' 2004, London, UK, from 7 to 10 February 2004
• MACEF Spring' 2004, Milan, Italy, February 2004
The Thai Industrial Standards Institute is also a key office in controlling the standards of OTOP products.
The criteria to select goods in the project are as follows. First of all, the community whose handicrafts are unique will get the priority to be considered. Second, the products need to have a high standard. Third, there must be sufficient manpower in the group to assure prompt production.
Regarding the progress of the project, statistical data of exporting OTOP products indicate the primary success of the whole project. According to the Department of Export Promotion, there was an 8% increase in the total value of export handicrafts (gifts and home decoration items) in 2002 when compared with the year 2001.

Famous OTOP products in international markets include:

• Textiles and other related products such as scarfs, ready-made clothes, table cloths, etc.
• Wickerwork from bamboo, water hyacinth, yan liphao (lipodium ciliare), reeds, flax, etc.
• Pottery from producers in Sukhothai, Songkhla, Ratchaburi, Chiang Mai, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi provinces
• Artificial flowers from rubber leaves, nylon, silk, and flower clay
• Wooden furniture
• Furniture from water hyacinth and rattan
• Flowers, stationery and lampshades from paper made of the bark of Sa (paper mulberry), banana leaves and pineapple leaves
• Products from metal such as ornaments and home decoration items from silver or brass
The charm of silverware
Recently, Deputy Prime Minister, Somkid Jatusripitak made a forecast that in a couple of years the international OTOP sales volumes would increase to 100,000 million baht compared with the present figure of 20,000 million baht. According to the OTOP Product Championships 2003 lately conducted by the Community Development Department, 581 out of 6,683 items got five stars and 2,474 got four stars to guarantee their quality. Moreover, some five-star products were scheduled to show their exquisiteness at leading department stores during the APEC CEO Summit 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand, (October 2003). There is no doubt at all that this campaign will be even more successful than ever.

You may wonder how the government controls the products' standards. Here are some brief principles:
• There is an information database system to prevent product repetition.
• Researches on consumers' opinion and behaviour are done by authorized organizations.
• Statistical data are monitored and analyzed by authorized organizations to evaluate the level of success.
• Techniques involved in productivity is developed by each community.
The craftswoman is covering a
vase with dried stems of Water Hyacinth.
Thaiways asked exhibitors in "The Top Industrial Villages & Thai Textiles Expo 2003", held recently at Muang Thong Thani, Bangkok, about their earnings when they are under the OTOP project.
The exquisite complete work
They all answered with one voice that they have been able to sell more goods and their orders have increased. What's more, their products have been promoted to the public, which arouses target groups to directly contact their communities to purchase their goods.
The carver is carving the bamboo
stock into the figure of a bearded man face.
It is hoped that the OTOP project will meet with a long-term success, not just because it generates more incomes for local people, but also because it brings out the talents and innermost spirit of them.
The fantastic complete works
It is the pride of the country; it will present Thailand's uniqueness to foreign countries.

*Tambon is an administrative division under amphoe. The former is translated as "district" and the latter "county".

For the correct pronunciation of romanized Thai words, see
Romanization System of the Thai Language.

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