From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – January 27, 2017

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Good evening, dear Thai citizens.

Although the flood situations in southern provinces have improved, His Majesty King MahaVajiralongkornBodindradebayavarangkun has been closely monitoring the situation and has expressed His concerns for the well-being of the victims. His Majesty has also conveyed a message for the government to take the best care of the people in the flood-plagued region, so that rehabilitation efforts are completed quickly and people can return to their normal lives and as soon as possible.

His Majesty has consented for the His agencies and Privy Councilors to visit the south and the people in the region, as well as the relief efforts undertaken by the government. There have also been   discussions on further assistance measures in collaboration with the government. His Majesty’s benevolence for the disaster victims has been overwhelming. Furthermore, His Majesty has emphasized for the government to work with other agencies collaboratively and systematically, so as to ensure efficiency in our assistance measures. We also have contingency plans and measures prepared in case of future flooding.

The government, led by the National Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Committee, has undertaken His Majesty’s recommendations, and has been implementing them accordingly since the advent of the crisis in December, deploying measures provided by the 2015 Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Plan that was drafted by the government to respond to public disasters in Thailand, such as floods, droughts, landslides, storms, fires, wildfires and hazes, earthquake and tsunami, threats from transport and communications, and communicable diseases. This is to allow the government to be more proactive and progressive, in line with international standards to be “alert, adaptive, and resilient in a sustainable manner”.

The ongoing flood crisis in the south is a more severe natural disaster than has normally been. Nevertheless, the government is expediting efforts and financial assistance as well as collaborating with other agencies in the inundated areas. We have sent help in terms of personnel, financial aid, and donations to the victims. We have an effective management team. Our efforts and policies are clear and in accordance with the degree of urgency.

For instance, our policy in the preliminary stage is focused on saving lives, making sure the communication system is running, and giving people shelter, food, medicine, and other necessities. In the next stage, we will help people help themselves, making sure that they can return to their normal lives. Then, we will repair and renovate the basic infrastructure – roads, bridges, railways, airports, electricity, waterworks, and communications. These are the short-term and urgent measures.

The government and the private sector have been working hand in hand in the most productive way under the “Pracharat” approach. I’d like to thank 10,000 teachers and vocational and non-formal students who formed 15-person teams to help the victims of the southern flooding. Together, they have repaired more than 900 motorbikes, 38,000 bicycles, 4,700 machines, 1,400 houses, and more than 50,000 appliances. These services will be offered continuously.

Yesterday, I traveled to the southern province of SuratThani. In the past month, many agencies have visited the southern region to render their assistance. My visit was to boost people’s morale and offer support to the local officials, volunteers, and everyone else working around the clock to help those in need.

I was able to follow up on the operations of the Natural Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Command Center and observed the progress made on the rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of the floods. Despite the fact that the situation is improving gradually, the command center is still very much active in helping the victims. Officials will not rest until people’s lives have returned to normal.

I have also instructed the command center and its officers to be well-prepared for future disasters and unexpected incidents. The most important jobs for now are to rebuild houses, rehabilitate farmlands, and restore the industrial areas.

As for long-term and sustainable plans, the government is determined to undertake the approaches graciously bestowed by His Majesty King BhumibolAdulyadej, King Rama IX. We will take into consideration all related and factual information including weather forecasts, maps and landscape, satellite images, and geography. This will allow us to improve and prevent the same problem from recurring, and to address the problems correctly and in accordance with the laws.

We will turn this crisis into an opportunity to make lasting improvements, such as by making positive adjustments to city planning for it to be more compatible with mother nature. We will protect forests, water detention areas, reservoirs, floodways, lakes, and canals. Sluice gates will be monitored along with the storm surges.

Every undertaking shall be in line with academic principles and the wisdom of the locals who have a true understanding of their areas. The solutions to the annual floods must also not lead to the problem of droughts.

The King’s Philosophy teaches us to live in harmony with nature. We are obliged to protect mountains, forests, and the ecosystem as well as prevent flash floods and wildfires, and preserve our waterways all the way down to the ocean.

With discipline and adherence to follow in His Majesty’s footsteps, we can sustainably avoid having to deal with constant floods and droughts.

Dear citizens, there is one thing that most people still have difficulty understanding. People may have not noticed or realized that the government has always placed emphasis on city planning. We need to learn from this disaster. With a thorough review, we will see that the structure of our cities and the waterways are contradictory to each other, which has thus led to the current crisis, and even worsening it.

People have been illegally utilizing land for agricultural and industrial purposes without any order or controls. Buildings and roads are cutting through and blocking waterways, from the mountains to the ocean, a problem impossible to fix. However, it is our responsibility to formulate a city plan that is compatible with the nature.

10 years ago before the current government, Thailand only had 12 city plans a year. Overall, we only had city plans for 19 provinces nationwide.

But in the span of 2 years, the current administration has implemented 39 plans per year, bringing the total number to 49 provinces. The rest will be done by the end of this March.

This demonstrates the effectiveness of our efforts when we work with a vision and strategy. This is because urban planning not only affects the flow of water as I have laid out, but also creates connectivity through urban zoning, making for effective use of land for purposes such as for government affairs, education, recreation, agriculture, industry,

forest land, irrigation, garbage disposal, or electricity generation.  These zoning allocations must not cause negative impacts on each other. When we look at the zones from a more complete picture, we will be able to identify zones for trade, investment, ports, border cities, tourism cities, provincial clusters, and the 10 special economic zones. All these zones must have connectivity for the flow of labor, goods transportation, public transportation, and the flow of both domestic and international tourists.

These are the challenges we have for nationwide urban planning, which will affect our society, economy, and natural environment through the establishment of infrastructure, transportation via roads, rail ways, water, and air. It will also incur a spread of wealth from urban areas to local communities, raising the standards of living of people across the country. This is a point that I would like to stress to the general public in order to fix what has been wrong and move the country forward.

There are many other issues that the government and the NCPO have been working on as foundations for our national development, reforms, and National Strategy – all which require participation from the public, as well as unity and reconciliation. The well-being of the public is the government’s highest priority when moving forward with the “Thailand 4.0” agenda. The government has pushed for policies regarding public welfare, management of agricultural products, creating resilience for businesses, and supporting cross-border investment.

Notable policies worth mentioning include,

1. Developing small grocery stores across the country, reducing costs of living for the public by a total 35.5 billion baht.

2.  The program to stall rice sales and invite buyers from 29 countries to negotiate trade deals for rice and cassava, which has successfully raised the price of rice from 8,500 baht per ton to 12,000 baht. We have also been able to reclaim our award of rice excellence at the World Rice Conference 2016 and have been able to generate sales of cassava, palm oil, para rubber, and fruits, totaling over 90 billion baht.

3.  Strengthening businesses by pushing for effective legislation on business insurance, trade privacy, measurement regulations, trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade competitiveness, public companies, and sole proprietorships. These steps we’ve taken were done to facilitate trade and support small and medium businesses.

In addition, we’ve placed great importance on e-commerce in order to provide businesses with new sales channels, such as Thaitrade.com and the Smart Online SME programme, which has received an award from the UN’s World Summit on Information Society of 2016, for excellence in capacity building.

4.  Our efforts to promote international trade and investments in the form of strategic partnerships, coupled with our free trade agreements, has generated over 7.5 trillion baht in export value, making Thailand the 11th fastest grower in export value in the world.

As for new financial innovations, the government has officially launched the “Prompt Pay” system today, on January 27 as part of its “Thailand 4.0” agenda. This new service is a new, low-fee alternative for financial transactions. Transfers no more than 5,000 baht are free of charge. In addition, the new service is expected to reduce cash transactions by 30 percent, saving the country cash management costs by 20 billion baht per year for the next 10 years.

I consider this an important step towards the digitization of our economy. Within the span of over a year, we’ve been able to develop our digital infrastructure at a faster pace than many other countries. This was a collaborative effort between government and private entities, and involved such agencies as the Ministry of Finance, Bank of Thailand, Thai Bankers Association, Commercial Banks, and Government Financial Institutions.

This programme has enabled fast, convenient, and secure transactions according to international ISO 27001 standards, audited by the Bank of Thailand. People can make transactions via ATM, mobile, or internet banking by inputting the recipient’s 13-digit national ID number or mobile phone number without having to input a bank account number.  In the future, financial transactions will be swift, convenient, and cheap, which is appropriate for a digital age.

The government has already implemented the Prompt Pay system through its child care benefits programme and financial assistance programme for low income earners. We will reopen registrations for this programme in the near future and I advise everyone to stay up-to-date with the latest government announcements.

Dear Thai citizens, in these past decades, we have long prioritized our export industry over our tourism and service industries, despite a constant decrease in investment. A new approach of utilizing our resources, coupled with comprehensive management and connectivity between industries, will be able to create wealth and enable the country to prosper during times of global economic downturn.

In 2016, the tourism sector has generated a total of 2.5 trillion baht in revenue, 1.64 trillion coming from foreign tourists, and 0.87 trillion coming from domestic tourism. This number accounts for 18 percent of the country’s GDP, resulting in the employment of 12.5 million personnel, and an increase of 11 percent from the previous year. From 2013-2015, revenue from tourism has continuously risen.

As for 2017, we expect revenue from the tourism sector to grow by 10 percent to 2.5 trillion baht, accounting for approximately 18.6 percent of GDP, employing a total of 13.75 million personnel, an increase of 10 percent from 2016.

Today, I would like to invite everyone to join in on the 37th ‘Thailand Tourism Festival 2017’ which will run from January 25th to 29th 2017 from 2:00pm to 10:00pm at Lumpini Park. In addition to various tourism activities and a great collection of products from all across Thailand, the event will also be promoting ‘trendy traditional tourism’ in order to appeal to the new generation to meet our goals and bolster our tourism market.

There are some activities in particular I would like to recommend to all Thais. These include: the ‘dress traditionally’ project, the ‘Pracharat for Happiness’ project, the ‘Travel Army Areas’ project and the 1672 hotline project for all your travel needs in Thailand. I’d also like to recommend our new 100% biodegradable packaging campaign.

Buying used vegetable oil from the restaurants at the event is another good way we are re-using fuel. We can make use of 1500 liters per day of this oil to use as biodiesel. This is in line with the ‘Lucky Waste’ project will focus on creating a culture of social responsibility in order to protect the environment and reduce waste at the source.

We can create a waste management system that really focuses on the environment by sorting waste into three categories: food and general waste; glass bottles and cans; and plastic. This will be in conjunction with the special zones “In support of the southern provinces” where we will be donating all proceeds from our sales to help those affected by the flooding.

The government is moving forward with two areas of focus to expand our tourism potential: (1) By promoting smaller cities through tourism hot spots, activities, and travel infrastructure between locations, and (2) the preparation of a travel database on where to go, where to stay, and how to get places. We will be using technology to facilitate communication online so that everyone can get access to all the information they need nice and easily.

As for providing services to both foreign and local tourists, it is important to always put safety first. We must never exploit tourists but instead make them feel like this is their home away from home through our smiles, our kindness, our service, and our cleanliness. This is what makes people want to come back.

Another area we must focus on is national reform in order to strengthen our nation. This will allow us to compete on the international stage, increase our revenue, and improve our economy. We can accomplish this stability by first focusing on many different facets of infrastructure: transportation (roads, rail), utilities, and power. We must also solve the problem of our flooding in a sustainable manner through long term planning, budgeting, and working with the public. Of course, this must also be approved by the Environment Committee.

Many projects run into issues when the public doesn’t fully understand the situation, the pros and cons, or items of consideration. Many issues have been distorted by some NGOs that do not have the best interests of the country at heart and are not based locally. This has thwarted sustainable solutions to certain problems or solutions that have not live up to the needs of the local people, especially in dealing with floods and droughts.

Developing our economy and its foundations will create new opportunities and areas of employment for society. I ask that people carefully consider this matter. The Government and NCPO have not used budget expenditures for any vested interests, but solely to uplift the quality of life for all citizens, bearing in mind the need to conserve our natural resources and the environment whilst doing so.

As for the working of the Committee for Reform Strategy on Reconciliation, I ask that it be given a chance to work first before prejudging its effectiveness. For all the different groups, if you cannot agree on certain issues, express your opinions to the committees, in particular the Reconciliation Committee. However, this will not work if you refuse to cooperate in the first place, so please find a way to work together and do this correctly.

The Reconciliation Committee has a main committee and several sub-committees for various fields such as legal, economy, and politics. They each have to cooperate with each other to make proposals to the Reconciliation Committee to consider, before taking them further to the CRSR and then the government.

Lastly, I wish to mention a very important issue, perhaps the most important issue at this time, which is transforming Thailand into a learning-based society – one that is founded in knowledge, good sense, and reason to differentiate issues and understand matters, in particular between what is real and what is fake, what is virtuous and what is unscrupulous, and what verifications are needed to consider something as credible and the truth, given the abundant information available from various sources, especially in social media.

Before believing or further propagating unfounded information, please think about the consequences this can have to organisations as well as the country Damaging criticisms that are not based on the facts can eventually come to harm our current reform efforts.

Many organisations abroad are monitoring Thailand now. Therefore, initiating such endeavours for political interests (whether Left or Right) can cause misunderstandings and misinterpretations that Thailand is in a state of conflict, without security and stability. If this is the case, all the progress we have made will not be acknowledged or appreciated. If the Thai people do not understand the state we’re in, how can foreigners?

I ask that all Thai people value our nation’s integrity. Any misconduct will have its own legal consequences and the proper judicial procedures. You cannot take the laws into your own hands. Many discourses about the misconduct of an individual have so far been distorted to be a wrongdoing by an organization, the government, and even the entire nation in some cases.

I would like to ask all us to have a social conscience and good sense. In all undertakings, the government–civil servants-civil society-the private sector-human rights – all citizens should have a conscience of being Thai and love our nation, and not only see the harmful aspects of issues. Many things have been done with the noblest intentions, but have since been misinterpreted, thus damaging our nation further. Media in social networks should be conscious of this. Nobody can complete a task 100% in an instant, they all have to be started and develop incrementally.

Why do we have to hastily jump to damaging conclusions from the figures mentioned in external assessments of procurement projects? We need to help each other solve our own problems. Foreigners will come to understand us. I think that they do understand, but are not confident if this conflict will remain with us. If this is the case, we can lose out on the many opportunities that we have now.

Then we will realise our mistakes and be sorry and regret them later, and that will be useless. As the writer Napalai Suwannathada once said “Today we do not worry about battles that are far away, but when the battle draws closer and Thai people start to destroy one another, who will our national anthem be sung to?”. Please think about what we can do together, before it’s all too late.

Thank you very much. May you have happiness this weekend and during the Chinese New Year’s. Please also send your support and encouragement to our brothers and sisters in the southern regions. Thank you and Sawasdee krub.

Source: www.thaigov.go.th

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