Rice yields in Thailand are among the lowest in Asia. In northeast Thailand where about 90% of rice cultivation is rain-fed, climate variability and change affect rice yields. Understanding climate characteristics and their impacts on the rice yield is important for establishing proper adaptation and mitigation measures to enhance productivity. In this paper, we investigate climatic conditions of the past 30 years (1984–2013) and assess the impacts of the recent climate trends on rice yields in the Mun River Basin in northeast Thailand. We also analyze the relationship between rice yield and a drought indicator (Standardized Precipitation and Evapotranspiration Index, SPEI), and the impact of SPEI trends on the yield. Our results indicate that the total yield losses due to past climate trends are rather low, in the range of < 50 kg/ha per decade (3% of actual average yields). In general, increasing trends in minimum and maximum temperatures lead to modest yield losses. In contrast, precipitation and SPEI-1, i.e. SPEI based on one monthly data, show positive correlations with yields in all months, except in the wettest month (September). If increasing trends of temperatures during the growing season persist, a likely climate change scenario, there is high possibility that the yield losses will become more serious in future. In this paper, we show that the drought index SPEI-1 detects soil moisture deficiency and crop stress in rice better than precipitation or precipitation based indicators. Further, our results emphasize the importance of spatial and temporal resolutions in detecting climate trends and impacts on yields.