Background Pneumococcal colonization prevalence and colonization density, which has been associated with invasive disease, can offer insight into local pneumococcal ecology and help inform vaccine policy discussions. Methods The Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health Project (PERCH), a multi-country case-control study, evaluated the etiology of hospitalized cases of severe and very severe pneumonia among children aged 1–59 months. The PERCH Thailand site enrolled children during January 2012–February 2014. We determined pneumococcal colonization prevalence and density, and serotype distribution of colonizing isolates. Results We enrolled 224 severe/very severe pneumonia cases and 659 community controls in Thailand. Compared to controls, cases had lower colonization prevalence (54.5% vs. 62.5%, p = 0.12) and lower median colonization density (42.1 vs. 210.2 x 103 copies/mL, p <0.0001); 42% of cases had documented antibiotic pretreatment vs. 0.8% of controls. In no sub-group of assessed cases did pneumococcal colonization density exceed the median for controls, including cases with no prior antibiotics (63.9x103 copies/mL), with consolidation on chest xray (76.5x103 copies/mL) or with pneumococcus detected in whole blood by PCR (9.3x103 copies/mL). Serotype distribution was similar among cases and controls, and a high percentage of colonizing isolates from cases and controls were serotypes included in PCV10 (70.0% and 61.8%, respectively) and PCV13 (76.7% and 67.9%, respectively). Conclusions Pneumococcal colonization is common among children aged <5 years in Thailand. However, colonization density was not higher among children with severe pneumonia compared to controls. These results can inform discussions about PCV introduction and provide baseline data to monitor PCV impact after introduction in Thailand.