From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – March 3, 2017

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Good evening dear Thai citizens.

This Friday, I have many things to talk about, including the King’s Philosophy, some key achievements, as well as many other issues I would like you to follow up on.

On February 27th, I presided over the ceremony to erect the main pillar of the Royal Crematorium to be used in the Royal Cremation Ceremony of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

I also visited and observed the operation of the “Vi Tha Na Sa Tha Pa Ka Sa La” Building. The construction is progressing according to the plan. This kind of artwork requires a high level of skills by traditional artists called “Chang Sib Moo.”

These traditional skills must be passed on and preserved and involves drawing, sculpting, carving, lathing, casting, molding, crafting, padding, and cementing.

I would like the Thai people to take pride in these traditional skills, not to mention the culture and the uniqueness of Thai arts. Moreover, it is a way to express our everlasting faithfulness to the “Royal Father of the Kingdom.”

Parts of the artistic creation portray the teachings of King’s Philosophy through the Royal-initiated projects, which are divided into 4 different categories including:

1) Soil – such as the Huay Hong Krai Development Study Center in Chiang Mai and Khao Hin Sorn Royal Development Study Center in Chachoengsao,

2) Water – such as the Royal artificial rain-making project and the Chaipattana Aerator, 3) Wind -such as the Chang Hua Man Royal Project and wind turbines, and 4) Electricity-  such as the bio-diesel power plant and water turbine generators. This art work truly commemorates the benevolence of His Majesty the late King.

I’d like to offer my thanks to the Department of Fine Arts and every artist and craftsman for their hard work in paying the highest tribute to His Majesty the late King, which thus symbolizes the devotion that the Thai people have for their Monarchy.

Another art piece that honours His Majesty the late King very well is the one by a young artist named Wachirawit Samart, aka Nong Armani. This little artist is only 10 years old. He is a Prathom Suksa 5 student at Kajonkietsuksa School in Phuket. He is a former student of national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.

Nong Armani beautifully drew a portrait of His Majesty the late King. It took him 50 days to create that masterpiece. This is something we can admire and build inspiration on.

I’d also like to congratulate a group of successful graphic designers namely Prasarnsuk Weerasunthon, Nut Mintrasak, and Rattanin Sirinrumarn who are members of the production team of Hollywood-made animation Zootopia that won “Best Animated Feature Film” at the Oscars 2017. I consider this as a key success which the Thai people can take pride in, which includes the work of others behind successful animated films.

These two examples are a good indicator of how Thai people are as talented as anyone else in the world. Thai citizens have great potential. It is up to us – families, society, and the government –to find ways to promote the talents of our youth on the international stage so that they can be successful.

Last Friday, I went to Sisaket province on an official trip. Let me take this opportunity to thank people of Sisaket for a very warm welcome. Not only did I get to talk with the locals about their problems, I also had a chance to follow up on many projects and learn about the obstacles that local officials faced when implementing urgent measures to solve the people’s problems. I inquired of the problems and obstacles and offered assistance accordingly.

I wish to convey that the government has promoted many projects under the Pracharart approach, especially the large-scale farming project which allows farmers to form into a group and work together in managing their crops. The government and the private sector will support these projects, from the stages of production, processing, marketing, to value adding, so as to increase local producers’ competitive edge and leverage in the market place.

This year, Sisaket province will turn 75 land plots into large scale plantations, covering 22 districts and more than 150,000 rai, with 13,080 farmers joining the project. This allows for farmers to have stable careers, as they are able to manage their crops according to demand, as well as curb costs from using fertilizers and pesticides. This has resulted in increased production which has helped to raise their incomes and quality of life.

I also had a chance to visit the Rice Seed Production and Promotion Center in Um Saeng Community. The center was formed by a group of local farmers who adopted the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, which enables them to reduce production costs, preserve the environment, and manage economic risks through the promotion of farming in high value crops, such as bean farming.

This group has been supported by the district and province’s agriculture offices who educated them about organic farming, the solution to expensive fertilizers. Farmers learned to make organic fertilizers, reduce costs, and help preserve the environment. They also learned to process organic rice for more distribution channels, increase value to the product, and create jobs for community members.

The government then sent in experts to give them further advice and training so that the community can develop and make progress in a stable and sustainable manner. This group serves as a very good example for other communities.

 

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While in Sisaket, I also met Boonmee Surakot or “Uncle Boonmee” who initiated the local farming network by integrating the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to the group’s operations. Local farmers are now able to grow organic rice, reduce production cost, and avoid chemical substances. Uncle Boonmee started organic farming on his plantations first and later asked others to join. Together, they formed the “Kaset Thip” network.

The network now has 213 members and 1,000 rai of organic plantations. The group is also working with Siam Kubota Corporation on integrated farming. With PhD and master’s degrees in chemistry, the children of Boonmee are very helpful to the group. They have also come to help at the local Agricultural Learning Centre, helping to improve crop production. The Centre also provides education and various services to local producers. Supported by the government through the Agricultural Ministry, there are 882 agricultural learning centres nationwide.

Another important issue the government is expediting in Sisaket is water management. In Sisaket province, the government has prepared measures to deal with several water issues. One of the solutions is to store water in medium sized reservoirs by building up sandbag walls to prevent spillage.

The same approach will be implemented for small reservoirs. We are also promoting drought-tolerant crops and will install more water pumps to be ready at all times.

What I saw and admired about the community was the unity, the high spirits, and the determination of the people, the local government, and community leaders who all wanted to make their community better, so that members can have jobs, produce quality products and build a foundation for themselves and for the country.

I will take what I’ve learnt there and apply it to the government’s work for positive changes and future development, so as to improve standards of living for the people.

In addition to that, the government and the NCPO have always prioritized improving the quality of life for low-income earners. According to statistics compiled last year, 7 million people registered as low-income persons, 70% of whom are farmers, freelance workers, and blue-collar workers whose annual incomes are below 40,000 baht.

Another concern is that more than 20% of them have informal debts. On average each person owes 65,000 baht. Compared to their incomes, this amount is a huge burden that prevents them from “standing on their own feet”, thus requiring help from the government.

Realizing the problem, the government has initiated a programme to solve the issue of informal debts, with the help of various agencies.  These agencies will work hand in hand with the lenders and the borrowers under 5 approaches which are:

1) take serious action against unlicensed lenders, 2) allow borrowers and informal debtors access to formal loans, 3) ask informal creditors to compromise on debts,

4) increase the potential of those with informal loans and educate them about finances, jobs and employment, as well as provide skills training, so that they don’t have to borrow money in the future, and 5) together establish a community network for financial management. The network is meant to replace informal creditors.

Networks will be trained and given some funding by government agencies such as the Government Savings Bank and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives. The initiative hopes to support stronger communities with financial prowess and stability.

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So far, the government has laid out a number of measures such as loans through village funds, village development programmes for the improvement of people’s livelihood through Pracharat grassroots projects, Tambon-based measures, or income generation for low-income earners, and the bolstering of grassroots economy. I ask that members of the public keep themselves updated with what the government has done or is doing, so that they can take the advantage of the opportunities available.

As for agriculture, the government has launched a campaign under the Pracharat approach with Kasetsart University and the Thai Chamber of Commerce to develop the “ThaiGAP ” standard, which is a system for fruit and vegetable safety according to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP),

which takes into consideration the quality of land management, soil, seedling, water management, fertilizing, pest management, consumer safety, and environmental protection. Furthermore, we will be promoting research and technology in the agricultural sector.

Currently, the Ministry of Science and Technology is deploying experts and researchers to farming zones to educate producers, in addition to providing support in the form of new technologies such as smart farm houses that keep temperatures and humidity levels appropriate to crop growth, without resorting to chemical substances.

Once certified by ThaiGAP, producers will receive their own QR Code so that smartphone users/consumers can find information about the product, such as its origin and production processes, before the product reaches consumers.

This initiative is a way to uplift the farming sector into the 4.0 era, and also facilitates new age consumers or “Thai citizens 4.0” who are more aware of their health issues and consumer items, whilst encouraging them to consume more pesticide free products.

For this project, the government will be supportive right from the start of the production level, to the midstream wherein crops are processed, and the downstream – from where processed crops are marketed and transported to consumers. Therefore, new age farmers must be able to turn themselves into entrepreneurs or businesspersons

and add additional value to their crops for better and higher income. At this initial stage, 26 entrepreneurs have been certified. 50 more entrepreneurs are expected to get the same certification within 2017. We will keep trying so please render your support.

In this light I have also instructed the Science Ministry to build a network and expand cooperation with the private sector to put each ministry’s learning centers to good use, by using the ICT infrastructure in villages to connect and integrate the work of different agencies and disseminate knowledge to the farming sector

in order to build strong communities, and help local producers to become smart farmers, entrepreneurs, and SME operators. They must be able to make use of research findings and technologies for cost reduction and higher productivity, which will in turn increase their negotiation leverage and competitiveness, in line with the “Thailand 4.0” policy.

Another important matter is supporting research and innovation according to the Thailand 4.0 agenda, by expediting the process of bringing innovations to markets. We should not conclude that we will always be a country with rich resources and cheap labor. We cannot rely on these aspects forever

if we wish need to be able to compete with other countries, especially our neighbors. We are friends, but we must develop, as all nations do, while remaining competitive in the form of strategic partners. As friends, we must all develop together and leave no country behind.

Several other countries are not that different from us in terms of resources, but some have much cheaper labor costs. Therefore, we must best utilize the country’s resources, especially from the agricultural sector, which is a source of well-being for the majority of Thai citizens. We must increase our revenue to the best of our abilities by utilizing our intellectual property, research, and innovations from our advancements in science and technology.

We will need to add value and meet the demands of consumers in each segment. Our rice industry may no longer be confined  to just exporting crops, so we must also utilize the rice by creating other processed goods while highlighting their unique histories, which can add considerable value. We must also take advantage of the growing popularity of organic agricultural products and a more health conscious society.

In addition, our processed agricultural and herbal goods industry can play an important role in elevating the country to become a medical hub of the region. This government has supported alternative medicine, traditional Thai medicine, traditional Thai massage, and traditional Thai herbal practices by drafting a strategic plan and related legislation to support the industry in a sustainable manner.

Clear examples of value addition can be found in sesame seeds and riceberry, which is a product of comprehensive research by the Faculty of Medicine at Chiang Mai University. This endeavor began from supporting the growing of organic rice, first by buying rice and sesame seeds from farmers and processing the products into riceberry, rice flour, and low-fat sesame grounds using local practices and equipment.

Afterwards, the university used packaging machines which increased the value of the original product by over 10 times. Moreover, the university added further value to the products by incorporating the latest scientific research methods and technological advancements in creating innovative agricultural products according to the 4.0 model. Once the university added the history to the products, certified them, and conducted branding and marketing efforts, catering to health-conscious consumers, they were able to add value to the original product by 100 times over.

If such creativity and innovation is able to form a value chain, starting from farmers, laborers, students, researchers, marketing professors, all the way to the consumers, it will thus create beneficial value chain for producing healthy products.

This program has successfully generated income for over 5,000 farmers, employed over 1,500 workers, producing over 10 SMEs and startups along the value chain, and generating over 600 million baht per year in sales as exports to other countries. Market surveys have also been conducted to forecast future demand and determine the production volume for products, estimated at over 200 million baht per year.

In order for positive effects of this program to reach the public and the country in the form of tax revenue, which is then utilized in the economic cycle, we need to also work to ensure a balance between supply and demand in the market.

An issue that I would like to create understanding with the public  at this time includes,
1. Wat Phra Dhammakaya. I would like to ask officials, monks, Buddhist disciples, and the general public to exercise patience and discretion in analyzing the facts of the situation whilst moving forward together to resolve this issue.

I would like all sectors that I mentioned, including the press, to carefully examine the issue at hand and why it has dragged on this long. Is it really because the state wants to harass monks or a temple, or is it about law enforcement and cracking down on corruption, or about Buddhist teachings or political agendas? I ask all too examine the situation in an objective manner and help determine how we should move forward at this time.

2.  The government and the NCPO have continued to welcome feedback from all sides, despite false accusations or distortions of the facts from certain groups. This administration has exercised restraint in its use of power, and has used Article 44 only in the most necessary situations, without the use of force, to handle urgent issues. The Thai people all have their expectations, which derive from many viewpoints, with the majority of people having expectations for positive change to happen.

There are those who are welcoming of change. There are also those who want everything, but without having to change themselves or listening to any reason, while still hanging on to ways that don’t present any real solutions for the issues that the government is trying to address at this time. There cannot be one solution that meets everyone’s demands, whether it be energy, land, water, agriculture, the economy, corruption, or debt. There are also some who understand but have yet to contribute to raising awareness of the solutions and there are those who have benefitted from changes but have not shared the experience, which has led many to misunderstand and then spread incorrect information further.

I’ve spoken of this before, but I ask again that those media who are still spreading false information in hopes of selling more news, to please stop causing damage to the country. I’m only referring to a certain few media outlets and columnists. You all know who you are and what you’ve been writing. Please take responsibility for your actions.

National reforms will not succeed if everyone is still set in their old ways. I would like everyone to reflect on the problems that existed prior to this administration in 2014. We have had up to 100 issues which have been addressed and resolved or addressed but yet to be resolved. We’ve continuously been making efforts.

Some may think that this is a normal situation or that the administration and the NCPO have not made good use of their powers, resulting in a lack of progress in certain areas, while at the same time, making demands for things that cannot be done. These differences and disputes have affected our work, hindering progress on several matters, which has caused frustration among some. Some members of the press have even forgotten their duties as good citizens.

This is what happens in a deeply divided society. I’m not trying to force or control anyone, as you can see in what is being said on social media. I have tried to ignore certain things, but everyone should try to find common ground in order to reform the country together. I would like people to not only use the concepts of democracy or journalistic integrity as the sole basis for their actions. Try to think about the problems that this country is trying to address at this time.

Go look at how major power countries that are democracies treat their press, and compare the struggle we face today with theirs. Therefore don’t just argue for what is best for you at the expense of the well-being of the rest of the country.

You want everything, freedom – democracy – but you don’t look at what you have done to the country and its people. Are you prepared to fix the country’s problems? Don’t just blame the government or the NCPO for not making progress.

Everyone should understand that people will always be in need of something, whether it be money, labor, free medical services or free education. However, are we ready to be able to provide all of that? Does the country have enough income for that? Today many people don’t understand this and then go on to convince low-income earners or those that are impoverished that the government should be taking better care of them.

We have been trying to provide more benefits without reducing what is already available. However, because of the revenue the government makes, this is all we can give for now. Therefore, please do not believe people who suggest that the government is only favoring a certain group and is forgetting the common person. Every day, I talk about people with low incomes. I never forget them.

Our entire economy must grow together as a value chain. Therefore, we should all reflect on what we have gained so far from our progress. Personally I don’t think I have gained anything, but the country has gained much. This gives me hope and motivation to continue to work for the betterment and happiness of the Thai people.

If people along the waterfront communities have houses of their own, prices of agricultural products increase,  low income citizens receive more benefits, freelance contractors have access to social security, and everyone receives justice under the laws and judicial procedures – I don’t want people to have diverging opinions on where we should go while remaining critical of what’s already been done.

These actions are not constructive. I ask that news outlets and columnists take responsibility for what’s happening in society. You should know well about the state of the country, how much revenue it has received, how much taxes it has collected, how low-income citizens have been cared for, what benefits have been made available, and the consequences of overspending to the point that the country’s financial system is in jeopardy.

People need to know of all these things before they can make informed comments. Otherwise, people will criticize based on incomplete information which can be damaging and can have a detrimental effect on what we’re trying to achieve or make people feel that nothing good has been achieved.

If we think like this, the country will not go far in developing itself. I am trying my best and am never disheartened. I will continue to provide moral support to those who are working hard. I am doing my best for my country, the people, and the institutions that we all love.

We need to expect more from those who are refusing to cooperate. Please reflect upon your actions and determine what should and should not be done. Please don’t create conflict and hate.

Today, I want our country to move forward and avoid failure or be in a situation of disorderliness as before. I welcome any suggestions you may have towards the government’s work. There are some things that we had just gotten started on which take time to reach fruition. I ask for you to be patient with this government the same way you have been patient with other governments.

Finally, I am concerned about our water management system. In the past year, the government has tried its best to resolve various issues. We are now entering the dry season again. Therefore, we must all remain vigilant for the issues associated with periods of drought. It may not be as bad as last year, but we can never be certain about the weather.

This year, we may have sufficient water for consumption and production. But that doesn’t mean that we are able to use it in abundance. This is because we need to conserve water for a long period of time before the rainy season returns. Right now, our irrigation system may not be as complete as it should.

The government is doing its best to supply water to those in need. We must be careful about our use of water throughout this dry season. The media should also refrain from selectively publicizing photos of dried up water sources. This could alarm the public.

The government, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Irrigation Department, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment are all implementing water management policies. However, the amount of water we retain depends on the amount of rainfall we receive. Everyone should contribute to our water management plan.

The government is doing its best in mobilizing its water management system according to its budgetary and time restraints. Most important is keeping up-to-date with the latest weather and water supply conditions in various areas in order to make assessments and coordinate with related agencies in addressing issues that arise in a timely manner.

Another important matter is support for our fellow Thai citizens in the southern region who are currently in a process of recovery. Residents are advised to adhere to instructions from officials regarding the elimination of obstructions to the natural flow of water. Please also inform officials about matters that need to be addressed.

Thank you very much and I wish everyone a happy weekend. Sawasdee Krub.

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