National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister –June 19, 2015
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
Following the announcement by the Sheikhul Islam Office to declaring 18 June 2015 the start of the holy month of Ramadan, or the fasting period which will last about a month, I would like to sincerely convey my best wishes and intentions to all Thai Muslims residing in Thailand. Ramadan is a very important month of Islam. It is the month when believers practice teachings of the Prophet Muhammad with their commitment and devotion. Fasting is primarily an act of willing abstinence or reduction from certain or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time until the end of the day. Fasting practices may also prohibit certain activities which may be unconstructive to the self and to society. I would like to wish all Thai Muslims to be able to achieve what you set out to achieve during Ramadan. Your practice will bring you happiness, success, and prosperity.
Next, let me congratulate all the Thai athletes for their success, winning the highest number of gold medals at 28th SEA Games in Singapore. Thai athletes were able to claim 95 gold, 83 silver, and 69 bronze medals. I would like to congratulate all the athletes, coaches, trainers, staff, and other responsible personnel for their sacrifice and commitment, which brought happiness to all the Thai people.
I was able to support and cheer for Thai athletes in Singapore as well as on television. I believe I speak for all the Thai people when I say everyone is proud of these heroes who brought back such a great success. But what is more than the success we have witnessed was the unity, commitment, and sportsmanship exhibited by team Thailand. We also had many fervent Thai supporters in Singapore. Sport fosters camaraderie, unity, fair play, and mutual respect. In the arena, we compete. But when we are outside the arena, we bond. Not only were Thai athletes able to top the medal table, they also demonstrated professionalism while completing their tasks. I will always be here to support these athletes. You should always look to further improve yourselves. Those were did not win must keep trying. Friendship is far more precious than winning medals.
Earlier this week, I attended the 2015 World Environment Day event which was held to raise public awareness on environmental conservation as well as to call on the public to help preserve natural resources. Environmental problems and natural disasters must be seriously taken into consideration as they can cause a domino effect for every sector in society, not to mention climate change, pollution, and other effects to our daily lives. We all must change our behavior and limit activities that could damage nature. It is the problem that we must solve together. We are one family. Parents should spend more time with children and teach them about the environment. Schools should do the same as well. Children need to be told about environmental rules and regulations and how they can be a part in helping to protect natural resources. Natural resources must be better managed to meet the demands of 70 million people in the country.
The government has adopted His Majesty the King’s principle of Sufficiency Economy in its work and in its policies to develop the country, a main part of which involves protecting the environment. At the World Environment Day event, I met a number of environmental activists. A senior villager told me about Phra Khru Wimon Panyakhun, a monk from Pha Sri Sang Tham Temple in Ubon Ratchathani. He is an inventor who applies the Sufficiency Economy theory and the government’s policies to modern technology. He introduced solar power to Sri Sang Tham School and teaches students to rely on themselves in every aspect. The school is able to generate electricity by using 100% solar energy. The school is a learning center for children in the border area and a model school for solar energy. Furthermore, the monk invented a mobile power cart that can provide electricity in places where power is insufficient. Not only can the cart convert solar energy into electricity, it can also be used as a water pumping machine. He has so far opened two training courses on how to make the power cart.
However, current residential power generation is limited by old regulations and outdated laws. The government wants the people to be able to stand on their own feet and support each other as members of the community. We should also place importance on environmental objectives and social development. I instructed responsible officials during this week’s cabinet meeting to look into the possibility of revising related regulations to be in line with the state policies as well as study pros and cons. If that cannot be done, it is then important to make sure that people understand and receive the support they need.
On the economic front, the government has prioritized taking care of low-income people and helping them with necessities. For instance, community food centers have been set up to provide quality food, with prices not exceeding 20 baht per dish. Food entrepreneurs joining the project are financially supported by the Finance Ministry. This project gives alternatives to people with low income. Not only food, but consumers will find a variety of low priced products such as toothbrushes, soap, etc. It also creates jobs in the community.
As well, the government will sell rice stored in warehouses and silos across the country to low income earners at a reasonable price. In doing so, I have instructed officials to be cautious when engaging in this process, making sure that corruption does not take place and that there will not be any leakage of information or abuse of the system. Corruption shall not occur in any processes, which includes management, rice delivery, and rice selling.
The same principle goes for other projects. Rubber inspection and rubber distribution must be conducted based on transparency. Don’t tell me that there is only a small amount of quality rubber in stock when there is plenty. If you then illegally sell quality rubber at low prices, such conduct will subsequently be penalized. I have assigned NCPO teams to inspect many projects. Despite that, we still need cooperation from rubber planters as well as the public to report any suspicious activities that could lead to corruption. Please report these cases to Damrong Tham centers located throughout the country. Please don’t let the government’s efforts be diminished by corrupt officials. The government is sincere in helping out the agriculturists. We don’t want to see our good intentions tarnished by offenders who always look to seek their own benefits. Please be the eyes and ears for the government and ward off corruption by state officials. The Thai society is moving in the right direction now and our future is ahead of us. We must not let this problem hold us back. If you have any useful information, please give it to related agencies. I believe that our society realizes how important this matter is. Anyone who has information leading to any misconduct is encouraged to forward it to state officials. Come find us before sharing the information on social media as the information could distorted. You could be charged with defamation if you share misleading information. Please don’t let people with ill intentions use you as a tool to damage the country. It is only a small group of people who are attempting to stir conflict in our society. We don’t know who. But whoever it is, they should stop all this and help move this country forward. Please do not pay heed to misleading information. Ask me directly should you have any questions.
SME businesses the government supports include OTOP products, many of which need major improvement in terms of attractiveness. The products should be designed in a way that catches consumers’ eyes. Government officials must help potential producers access the international market. I can tell that many SMEs have great potential. In addition, the government has asked malls, department stores and retailers to display OTOP products on shelves. Airlines have also been asked to offer OTOP goods on flights. The Ministry of Transport has been assigned with this task.
Additionally, the government will help foster community markets and cooperative markets where local products can be displayed. The problems we have are marketing and quality control. This is to open more channels for local entrepreneurs to sell their products without having to go through middlemen. If you can have everything done in your own communities, you will be able to sell your produce. Producers will be able to sell at higher prices while consumers will be able to buy at appropriate prices. If the quality is good, there will be buyers. The government will set up central markets at different locations and in the vicinity of Bangkok. They will be similar to the Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem market near Government House. With these markets in place, consumers will not have to travel into the city to get cheaper products.
The Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Interior, and the BMA are now preparing to make these markets come to realization. We will put our focus on social business which is part of the circle of social enterprises. Social business is something we do for the interest of the community. If the people and the community have more than enough to consume, the products will be distributed to private companies and will finally be exported to other countries. This is how the government will build security for farmers and cooperatives.
There are many communities in the capital. Some communities are situated near canals where the environment and the ambiance are not ideal, making the well-being of people perhaps below standards. Without the help of the government and the general public, there remain serious problems such as drugs, crime, and influential figures. I want everyone to cooperate with the government on this matter. Allowing these communities to fail will hinder national development. I have instructed the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Interior Min, Finance Min, and the NCPO to pioneer the “Pathum Thani Model” at Khlong 1 where 9 communities (1,060 families) are located. These agencies have been assigned to reorganize communities and prevent the abuse of public spaces. This abuse obstructs officials from deploying flood prevention strategies and prevents officials from uplifting the quality of life of community members. The project will allow officials to find new and better locations for these families, so that they don’t have to illegally take over public land. There will also be financial assistance for those paying rents. There will be community organizations and cooperatives. The landscape will be renovated. There will be public parks and community markets. This is what the state is trying to do for the low income people. The private sector will help us spearhead this project while many communities have accepted the idea. In the span of the next 3 years (2015-2017), the project will be launched in 9 more locations including Khlong Lat Phrao, Khlong Prem Prachakon, Khlong Bang Khen, Khlong Sam Wa, Khlong Lat Bua Khao, Khlong Bang Sue, Khlong Prawetburirom, Khlong Phrakanong, and Khlong Phraya Ratchamontri. The project will be introduced to 66 communities or 9,981 families.
The transport and interior ministries, as well as relevant agencies, have been told to develop plans that take into account future special economic zones and railway routes. This will ensure that urban expansion, the rise of new communities and the relocation of existing communities will not lead to overcrowding or discontent in society. People will not have to come looking for work in crowded cities. Local employment will also be generated, and this will help remedy economic and social problems.
The aforementioned projects constitute a part of current efforts to enable Thailand to progress onward, after a lengthy period of stagnation. The government realizes there are some people affected by these efforts, and some sacrifice has to be made. However, the government is working to foster harmony and satisfaction for all citizens, by asking for cooperation and by finding appropriate means of assistance. Everybody needs to help each other. If we can improve the people’s quality of life then everything will become better – the economy, businesses, the ambiance.
Such development would mean those who come by will admire us. Foreigners want to visit Thailand because of our Thai heritage and our long-thriving culture. I want to create neatness and cleanliness, and eliminate things that give rise to abnormalities or threaten the safety of the public, as well as visitors to our country. I ask for everyone’s cooperation in proceeding toward an improved quality of life for all. I would like your understanding and cooperation.
As for the drought problem, UNESCO has commended Thailand’s comprehensive water management projects as the government has placed importance in pro-active strategies to ensure equal access to water. UNESCO also viewed that this policy can serve as a model for other countries in ASEAN in preparing to handle future water shortages that may result from anomalies and deforestation. There have been negative effects on the amount of raw water at sources, caused by the generation of green-house gases and the imbalance of weather conditions. The amount of water available is low.
It would all depend on management. If the forest is destroyed then rain will not fall or rain will fall away from reservoirs. All Thais must share this responsibility. The government now has a policy to reduce plastic bag usage on the 15th of each month. This could be expanded, voluntarily. The target is now to reduce green-house gases or carbon credit by 20% within the year 2020. All parties need to join hands and work toward this goal.
This year, Thailand is facing a recurrence of drought. The causes may be climate change and deforestation. The latter has resulted in a diminished amount of raw water available, an amount that was low to start with. Today, we see how water in dams, canals and rivers is depleted. Farmers grew crops in quantity last year, resulting in continuously reduced raw water supplies. This has been exacerbated by the lowered amount of rainfall now. Let this be a lesson and let us turn this crisis into an opportunity. I must ask for cooperation in delaying the planting of in-season rice and in abstaining from the planting of off-season rice.
Relevant agencies have been ordered into each locality to provide assistance. I would like the public to rest assured we are doing all we can to provide assistance to foster understanding and to encourage farmers to consider changing their behaviors. I do not want to force things but please help out by switching to crops that need little water, or by switching to aquaculture, livestock or alternative crops for rice and rubber trees. I have seen on television that frogs and turkeys are being raised for export. Livestock might be kept in rubber plantations and paddies might be converted to vegetable fields.
We have to help ourselves too. The government is working on the whole picture, but the fact remains that our supply of natural water is currently lacking. Rain is not falling much. What will happen if planting already commenced but rain does not fall? The plants will not make it. Thus, please delay the first crop. The government is considering support toward alternative farming such as raising crickets – these can be eaten as a source of protein. Earthworms could be raised to generate more income and for use in soil improvement. Much of our soil has deteriorated.
There are other stories of farmers or locals who were simply seeking additional income but have been so successful that their side jobs have become the main occupation. There is a case of a person quitting a job in programming to grow cacti. The person first invested 3,000 baht, and now generates some 100,000 baht of income per month. Success will come about so long as effort and vigor is put in. If one continues to fight a recurring problem without changing, then one will remain afflicted with that problem. There may also be greater economic freedom this way. Do it independently – marketing and what not. The government stands ready to assist. We have to try to become our own bosses. I would like members of the public to help themselves out initially, which will make it easy for the government to provide support. Otherwise, everybody will face hardship as the budget is limited.
Nonetheless, the government does not deny any responsibility over the well-being of people and over the task of finding water sources. There are many plans as of today. Each of the plans needs time and budgeting. Some plans call for water to be drawn from Salween River and from the Mekong. The very high amount of required budget for this presents a problem. These plans are being evaluated in their entirety. Water requirements for daily consumption are also being evaluated. There is a report from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment indicating that only 10% of groundwater is being utilized and there is much more potential for its use. Subterranean water would be another issue.
I have met with representatives from the FAO and we discussed how many countries were utilizing surface water, groundwater and subterranean water. The natural resources ministry and the interior ministry will collaboratively find out the details of how each water source can be used to provide raw water in place of rainwater. Can these sources be used to replenish reserves at dams, and then fed into the irrigation system? We are thinking about all aspects for this single problem. Time is limited, and many problems are being encountered. We will do our best, and we ask for a little patience.
It will not be of benefit if conflicts between us are to be prolonged. If we help out one another then we will be able to overcome these obstacles. Surveys are being rapidly carried out. Problems are being solved based on urgency and based on the practice of sustainable problem-solving. We do not want to create one problem by solving another.
I thank the Ministry of Tourism and Sports for continually seeking measures to attract tourists into the country. This is considered an effective way of generating national income and reviving the economy. I also thank the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for successfully solving the long-standing problems of trade in ivory and wildlife. I have been informed that the secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES has commended Thailand’s improved operational plan against ivory trade, especially for its ability to issue relevant laws and punish traders of illegal ivory. This will help Thailand avoid trade sanctions on many items that generate income for the country – orchids, crocodile skin, etc. I would like to commend all officials for their efforts and I ask that they continue to perform in this manner.
Finally, I would like to provide my moral support to farmers who are experiencing severe water shortage at present. They may have to change by cultivating alternative crops or by acquiring income through other means. The government is seeking measures for rapid assistance, in the preliminary phase. I would like everyone to understand that nature is taking its course and making us pay for excessive deforestation that has deprived areas close to dams and flood plains of moisture, which has consequently resulted in diminished rainfall in farm areas and irrigated areas. This problem may exacerbate each year. Thailand needs to prepare itself. The foreign community is already well-aware of the climate change issue. They are also concerned about having no water to use. Some are fortunate in having snow. We only have rain to rely on. If rain does not fall then many things cannot be accomplished. We must help preserve the forest while preparing measures in anticipation of these circumstances.
We have spent much time on destroying the forest, and thus the problem cannot be solved within a short time. I ask that everybody help to reforest watersheds, or better yet, relocate away from watersheds. If forests are left on their own to grow, they will. But the current problem of water shortages also means that the forests might not be able to grow by themselves and therefore care has to be given.
The cultivation of crops and other plants can have wide-ranging effects. I have earlier mentioned the proposed use of water that flows through main rivers. The segments that run through the North and Northeast could be tapped to refill reservoirs. This is a project thought of many years ago but requires a very large budget. We are reviewing it at present to determine how much can be done in each phase, how much budget is needed and whether it is worth the investment. We are not aiming to make gains out of corruption within the project. On the contrary, when considering large projects, there has to be just as appropriate measures to prevent graft, and so this may have caused delays.
The first thing that needs to be looked at is the agenda. Graft will be instantaneously punished so the work in question may progress. No progress can be made if every undertaking becomes faulty. We need to look at the available public waterworks. With little raw water, there is a risk of running out of tap water and water for farming. Most importantly, how are we to prevent saltwater incursion with the little raw water at our disposal. Saltwater incursion gets worse each year. If the incursion reaches the heartland of the country then we will not be able to do anything because the soil would be bad and trees would die. A desert may arise out of such area in the future.
I understand all of the plights at hand. If possible, send your representative to the provincial governor or Damrongtham centers for all matters, and refrain from using pressure to force things. This will allow me to be aware of the circumstances. Information is being collected on the circumstances of each challenge in each local area. We all need to help share the burden. The problem cannot be solved if everybody insists on using water, by demanding that the government needs to find water and money for them to use.
The government has already spent a significant amount of the budget. Many matters have required new investment; otherwise a plethora of problems will arise in the future. I ask farmers for their cooperation. I do care for you all; it is why I am standing here today. Please do not fight the government’s efforts to help you – doing so is not useful. The government is trying to solve the problem in its entirety. Please wait for further developments next week. Persevere and help yourselves. Many villages throughout the country have been doing so.
In my meetings with community leaders or representatives from agriculture centers, I was told that the farmers who used to grow water-intensive crops such as rice had switched to other crops, and now earn more income than from paddy farming. Please review your own situation and see what can be done. The rainfall is late, but it is fine to dig up reservoirs so we can store water if it does rain. Then, turn to other things such as growing vegetables or anything that yields more income. Any financial aid would be exhausted again if people do nothing and just sit and wait for help. Although aid is provided, you must do your part and help yourself as well.
We were trying our best to build more water reservoirs. The present development is slightly unfortunate. We have built many of them – small, medium, large – thousands of projects. As it turns out, the rainfall is late. This is a burden on not just farmers but also the government. We are troubled because of this, and we are concerned for farmers. We know they face hardship. I would like to extend my moral support to each and every farming family. We must help the country to move forward, no matter how difficult. In doing so we cannot afford conflicts among ourselves anymore. I ask this of you. We are trying to secure a sustainable future for you with the best of our abilities.
Thank you and Good bye.