From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – April 14, 2017

Good evening dear Thai citizens.

April 14th of every year marks Family Day in Thailand. The family is one of the most important institutions. In many ways, the stability of our 3 most important institutions of the nation, religion, and the monarchy, as well as the state of the country’s prosperity and happiness of the Thai people is based on a strong family.

Sustaining peacefulness and orderliness in society depends much on the conscience of the individual. Every family member, especially adults, is obligated to nurture youngsters and the next generation, teaching them to be good citizens. On the occasion of Songkran Festival, Senior Citizens Day, and Family Day, I’d like to ask all family member (father, mother, children, and relatives) to spend this quality time together bonding, getting together, and enjoying activities together. These little small things can bring warmth, happiness, and strengths to the community as a whole.

This government not only underscores the importance of the “family institution”, but has also promulgated the 1st National Morality Promotion Plan (2016-2021). The plan is the first of its kind for the country and serves to promote ethics and morality by giving people the chance to foster ethics, values, and a social conscience.

The plan stems from the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and through the “Pracharat” mechanism, aims to build stability from within, with a focus on ethical values to make Thai citizens valuable human beings and create an ethical society.

For 2017, the plan emphasizes 4 ethical values namely sufficiency, discipline, honesty, and service mindedness/volunteering, in addition to expanding a network of moral communities and organizations.

Currently, 300 government agencies, private organizations, civil networks, and media outlets have pledged and proclaimed to foster morality by building ethical provincial agencies, ethical companies, ethical schools, ethical police stations, and ethical hospitals, only to name a few. The program will be expanded to 5,000 organizations.

Not only will these organizations uphold the 4 ethical values, they will also build a community where members can help themselves and one another.

The government is confident that the morality promotion plan, which goes in line with the 20-year National Strategy on human resource and community development, will make Thailand more stable, prosperous, and sustainable, and will also rid corrupt practices from society.

My fellow citizens, in order turn Thailand into a “4.0 economy,” the most important element is human resource development. The government, civil society, and the public should work together in self-development and learning in order to raise awareness and understanding.

The government will not be able to implement any policies if people discriminate against each other, while questioning the readiness of the public to accommodate government policies. Several media and academic commentaries have mentioned this. Why don’t we help each other instead by raising awareness and understanding and promoting cooperation in our society?

Everything the government has done has been for the country and the people. I would like those who have made such commentaries to look at the bigger picture and to pay attention to the government and the NCPO, given that we’ve been consistently explaining process and expected outcomes. Though not easy, this task is not too difficult or impossible. Everything is possible if we work together.

Next is about education reform. The work of the NRSA and the NLA may seem slow. I want to stress that any kind of structural reform is complicated. It is not always easy and it takes time. Such task cannot be achieved within days.

It involves many groups of people. There are many existing laws related to education and many responsible agencies to reform. Teaching personnel are scattered throughout the nation, prompting the government to develop a system that integrates the efforts of all related units.

Teachers and instructors (Prathom, Mathayom, higher education, and vocational education) have different viewpoints. Some think the old system works. Some think the problem lies in the system because of the lack of cooperation. This is why they are working separately, thus creating imbalance in the education system. There is not enough connectivity or collaboration.

In fact, not only do such units and personnel have to work together, they must also integrate their efforts through connectivity. You have to work with other agencies as well. You have look at work force demands in the future. The country has seen more investments now, especially in the Eastern Economic Corridor. We will need more workers, skilled and unskilled. In addition, predictions on the nature of the work force in the future will have to be done by the Ministry of Labor and other responsible ministries.

It is found that the demand for skilled labor has increased according to our implemented strategies, reforms, and investments in the nation. For example, the logistics industry will need more than 6 million skilled workers while the tourism industry will need 600,000 more people.

This demonstrates that there remain many things to be done, plans to be revised, and efforts to be incorporated. There has to be integration among our agencies. There are those who agree and those who disagree. Sometimes it is necessary for the government to invoke Article 44. Some people agree and cooperate while the others don’t. You can see that the government does not wish to exert its full powers as some have claimed. Some people don’t oppose it but at the same time do not cooperate.

Those who disagree find their own way out. The government and the NCPO are empathetic and will not point fingers at anyone, as the problem is not for one to solve, but for all to master. This is not an individual problem, especially the issue concerning education. Many ministries and agencies have to be involved. This is the problem the whole nation should attention to.

Therefore, for all citizens be they youngsters, children, parents, teachers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, farmers, and freelancers- what will these people get from education reforms? Is the current education system good enough? Does it need to be revamped?

All people should evaluate themselves and find a way to participate. How can we be a part of the solution? What are the big problems and what are the small problems? If considered already working, the task will be carried on. If not, we will start fixing it. The persons to say whether it’s good are children, parents, and the employers.

The nation is like a customer buying a product (human resource). The nation needs a workforce that meets the demands, and is worthy of 20% or one fifths of the budget the country spends. This is to invest in the future, which is necessary and worthwhile. Money will be spent based on urgency and necessity. We will look at each aspect and work on them depending on their urgency. We all need to find the answers to this issue for more active participation and cooperation.

This is one of many examples of reform. There remain many other aspects that have similar problems. Apart from those problems awaiting solutions, there is also the aspect of human nature, where no one likes to be forced, to consider, as well as the instinctive resistance to change.

These are general obstacles to our reforms. However we need changes that will lead to a better future. The world is constantly changing with new technological advancements. Things are developing at a faster pace, especially thinking and learning. Everyone wants to move along with such new technologies, so we need to start with ourselves first by embracing these changes.

Traffic law enforcement is another example of ineffectiveness which desperately needs to be reformed. A mistake on the road can cost drivers and others lives and damage to properties. Everyone is valuable to their family and the nation.

Many laws such as the Vehicle Act, B.E. 2522 and the Land Transport Act, B.E. 2522 have been promulgated for over 30 years, but not properly enforced. Most importantly, these laws fail to create an awareness or force people to respect traffic regulations,

such as wearing seat belts and helmets, using vehicles for registered or reported purposes, respecting traffic law, respecting speed limits, and refraining from driving under the influence.

There are two elements to safety. First is the safety of vehicle and second is the person driving the vehicle. There are better chances of you surviving an accident if you put your seat belt on. We need to raise awareness about this.

Failures to respect the law have put people in life-threatening situations, making Thailand a world leader in road accidents. Major causes of road accidents and fatalities during Songkran festivities in the past 2 years have been drunk driving and speeding. 70% of the victims are people in the working ages and youngsters.

The first thing we need to fix is ourselves. We as drivers, especially public vehicle drivers, have to be more responsible for the lives of their passengers. The government enforcing the law will mean nothing if people continue to deliberately break them.

We will focus on the causes of accidents by inspecting the readiness of vehicles and drivers and setting up safety points on the main roads. Passengers have to be careful as well.

To lower the number of road casualties, the government will continue to raise awareness and enforce the law during festivities and in normal times. Songkran Festival will be the time for traffic regulations to be strictly enforced. We will give warnings depending on the severity of the offenses.

Drivers need to be responsible for themselves and others on the road. Please have self-discipline and be patient while on the road. Please share the road and be kind to one another. We all need to compromise.  This is what we can do now to reduce road rage and accidents.

Another cause of the problem is that the country doesn’t have a good public transport system. I’ve mentioned this many times before. The government is trying to connect all modes of public transport for public convenience. We have tried to unlock many obstacles. The government is keen to develop the transportation system for every citizen in the nation.

We also realize the issue concerning low-income earners who cannot afford sedan cars to replace their pick-up trucks and other kinds of vehicles to commute. We understand that trucks can transport both people and cargo. We also understand that truck owners cannot afford another vehicle. The question is how can everyone be safer?

The government has tried to the fix the problem by raising people’s incomes through short and long term measures. The government has a number of measures to help grassroots people have higher incomes,

by connecting the “value chain” and increasing the economic value of products through innovation, for higher export volume and trade volume. This will lead to higher household incomes in the community. People will then be able to afford modern products or technology based products. They will be able to afford travelling on electric trains and high-speed trains. They will able to afford products that are useful to their lives, all for the benefit and happiness of their families.

For example, we will increase the production capacity of each community and increase their competitiveness, in accordance with the 20-year National Strategy. This can be achieved by registering community products as “Geographical Indication” (GI) goods and promoting them in different locations and markets, which is a way to raise brand awareness and bring recognition to the products.

All registered goods will be legally protected and certified. GI products can easily be marketed because of their uniqueness and because of a production process that is on par with in international standards and regulations, such as those concerning human trafficking and child labor.

Ensuring credibility to consumers results in added value to the product as well as better pricing. This would in turn ensure occupational stability and revenue for communities, in addition to developing a reputation for products in the area.

We have also pushed for Geographical Identification (GI) for export-bound products to enhance the standards of our local products, such as Tung Kula Rong Hai Jasmine Rice, Doi Tung Coffee, Doi Chang Coffee, and Phatthalung Rice Cakes that have been exported to the European Union. There are many other products that I have not mentioned that will receive GI from the government.

These products will undergo GI registration for exports to China, Cambodia, Japan, and Vietnam. Moreover, this government supports the expansion of market channels for community enterprises to ensure that all business levels are being supported.

We have done this by collaborating with shopping malls and supermarkets to feature GI products and host events, such as the GI market exhibition, which is being held at Central Plaza Chaengwattana until May 3.

The next event will take place at Central Plaza WestGate from August 1-7. I would like to invite everyone to support Thailand’s GI products and to make these products known across the world in order to help support communities across the country.

My fellow Thai citizens, there are many issues that need reform, but the first step towards our progress must be taken now, while ensuring that nobody is left behind.

The issue of decentralization is currently being considered by the National Reform Steering Assembly. While a conclusion has yet to be made, the assembly is working hard in carrying out this long process, especially in receiving input from the public.

This administration is unable to move forward with this matter at this time because it must adhere to a procedure which must be carried thoroughly. We all must ensure that the public is able to participate in the process in order to come up with a solution that is agreed-upon by the majority that is also of benefit to the country.

I encourage the public to submit its proposals through the appropriate channels in order to ensure peacefulness and avoid any unnecessary disagreement. This goes for any agenda that is under consideration at this time.
Regarding politics and moving towards a democracy, I would like this transition to take place with peacefulness and orderliness. This is because we must also focus on solving other problems regarding the economy, society, and security.

Solving economic issues at the grassroots level requires a considerable amount of time because it involves tens of millions of people and a multitude of issues, such as agriculture, drought, flooding, low commodity prices, and safety. These high priority issues require short, medium, and long term solutions that also are in accordance with our new constitution.

I would like everyone to consider the broader picture of this country, and how misunderstandings and distortion of facts can serve as pitfalls that prevent us from achieving our goals.

This government has progressed according to the Roadmap and is currently preparing for important events of the Royal Cremation Ceremony of King Rama IX as well as the Royal Coronation of His Majesty King Rama X which will take place at the end of this year.

Today, there also seems to be a situation like a boxing ring where the boxers are now punching the referee even before the fight begins, thus preventing the start of the real contest. This is just a simple example

Right now, people are trying to refer to the election and reconciliation as one matter. While they are complementary to each other, they are not the same issue. The election involves democratically choosing a government that we want, which will run the country according to the principles of good governance. Reconciliation, on the other hand, involves society at all levels, from the family up into the regional and national level.

It is an activity that ensures that we don’t revert back to conflict during normal political conditions. It is a process that must happen continuously, whether before or after the election in order to prevent violence and division in the country.

The presence of a democracy isn’t the only precursor to reconciliation. Lack of reconciliation is society is also a result of factual distortions. All governments must use their powers under the constitution to ensure peacefulness and orderliness.

The constitution states the inalienable rights of the people. However, there are also organic laws and laws pertaining to security and political assembly. Therefore, don’t just cite the constitution as a right to create political unrest.

In the event of any situation, the governments must listen to all sides in an attempt to reach an equitable solution. The government must create an environment of cooperation instead of fueling the flames of political contention. I have done my best to elicit the cooperation of the people of this country and I hope that people understand my actions by now.

The NCPO has tried to act as a mediator in settling many conflicts since 2014. It must work to ensure that political conflict is resolved in a concrete matter while taking into consideration the suggestions from all sides. We seek reconciliation not just to be able to hold an election, but to be able to ensure political stability for years to come.

We must create an environment that is safe and suitable for investors. This means we must be able to ensure political stability, have regulations, and laws that are in accordance to international standards which provide incentives and benefits in order to compete with other countries.

Most importantly, we must ensure that our country has peace, moves forward with its reform agendas, has a stable democracy, and is absent of inciting material on social media and news outlets, whether they be from domestic or foreign sources. Only then would investor confidence be regained.

Confidence among Thai people at this time is between 52 and 54%. Investors will consider their options when they see that confidence has exceeded the 50% mark. I hope that this confidence level continues to improve along with other key indicators.

I want the Thai people of all occupations and income levels to consider what sectors we have seen improvements since 2014. For example, peace and order, international relations, public health, public utilities, education, and agriculture.

The country’s economic situation has improved according to both domestic and foreign assessments, in the midst of struggling global economic conditions. Thailand has been able to maintain its state of stability due to its strong economic foundations.

The people will receive many benefits in the future despite not having enough right now. This is because we are now in the process of reorganization, reform, lawmaking, restructuring the state administration system to achieve effectiveness and fiscal balance, and making strides towards creating suitable conditions for investment, such as the EEC and special economic zones.

The success of all these initiatives depends on all our efforts. We may not be able to reap much of the benefits of our efforts at this time because we’ve only just started. Once we continue on our course, we will be able to generate income through numerous value chains and new businesses. As a result, the people will have more income and opportunities as our five, 10, and 20 year plans reach their fruition.

Some issues require legislative reform before we can progress. While we are unable to bypass critical procedures, we may be able to shorten the timeline of implementation. Budget allocations for the purpose of public health, education, public transportation, childcare, and elderly welfare have been increasing.

This is because the government has decided to provide these benefits to the public for free. There have also been assistance funds in the event of unforeseen disasters, investments in construction programs for contracts that have long been delayed, while also dealing with organizational corruption. Our work has also been delayed by our efforts to simultaneously combat corruption in state administration.

If we don’t resolve our existing issues, legislation will be ineffective and there will be corruption and budget inefficiencies. We have made great strides in these past three years, equivalent to paving roads that will extend out as highways to connect each other.

Using this metaphor, tackling long-standing problems is like conducting essential maintenance and repair before we can expand to new frontiers. We must do both simultaneously to ensure our place in the future. I hope for more cooperation during this year’s Songkran holiday.

Since April 22 of every year is Earth Day, I would like to take this opportunity during the Songkran holidays to invite my fellow Thais to preserve the country’s beautiful culture through activities that also respect environmental protection.

For example, refraining from littering and excessive use of plastic containers. Landfills are breeding grounds for germs that are harmful to people.

If we all commit to reducing our use of plastic bags and containers and be conscientious of our consumption behavior, we will be able to improve the state of this world.

I ask that people resort to using cloth bags. I also ask that people refrain from selling alcohol in Songkran festival zones because it can affect safety and will also be a deviation from our traditions.

As for those who will be traveling back from their hometowns or vacation destinations next week, I hope everyone journeys back safely and I thank all officials, both along the roads and our country’s borders, for their hard work during this time.

Those who are working abroad, I thank you for your work towards enhancing credibility for our country and earning the trust of foreigners who have traveled to our country.

Thank you and I wish everyone and their families’ happiness during the Songkran festival. Sawasdee Krub.

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