National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister – July 10, 2015
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
13 July is Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali Kitiyakara’s Birthday Anniversary. Her Royal Highness has long been contributing to her people and has shown great interest in improving social welfare as well as public health services for the Thai people. Many Red Cross’s projects are under the patronage of Her Royal Highness. On this auspicious occasion, on behalf of all civil servants as well as the Thai people, I have the honour to wish HRH Princess Soamsawali happiness, good health, and longevity.
Today, I want to share something we all can be proud of. A group of Thai youths has just put Thailand on the map. I want all of us to praise the students and their trainers from Suranaree Wittaya School, Nakhon Ratchasima for their success in winning a marching band competition which took place in Germany. The competition was joined by 64 student bands from 10 countries around the world. Furthermore, the conductor, Mr Apiwut Minalai, received the best conductor award at the competition. Also, I would like to congratulate all the students from Satri Wat Rakang School. On July 3rd, Suranaree Wittaya School students won the Concert (Wind Band) category on a global and mainland Europe (The World Championship for Marching Show Bands). The competition was held in Denmark. The thing that most impressed me is that all the students were really committed to winning this competition for the Thai people and as a tribute to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. I would therefore like to see related government agencies support children who have the talents in terms of academic, arts, and music. We need to support and encourage this. The students need to feel that we appreciate their capabilities, so that they continue to have the will to improve themselves and bring acclamation for the country.
This past Wednesday, I met with Thai youths and parents who study and live in the United States as well as in Europe. Prior to that, I welcomed a group of Thai students studying in Australia. I have always seen these students as special ambassadors of Thailand. The students should be proud of their heritage and mother land, know our history, and understand the importance of our monarchy. They should be able to disseminate information and explain to foreigners about the situation and developments in Thailand. Remember, we are all Thais.
As for solutions to solve problems in the fishing industry which has been overlooked for more than a decade, we have many laws in place but due to various reasons such as lack of technology and high standards, these laws have not been enforced properly. As a result, there are consequences such as labor problems, human rights violation, and deterioration of marine resources. If left unsolved, there will not be marine animals in Thai waters, seafood exports will be boycotted, and businesses and livelihoods will be affected. Because Thai seafood exports account for 200 billion baht a year, the government has to tackle this problem urgently. Once the problem is solved, the Thai fishing industry shall have sustainability, and create jobs and income for the people.
It is inevitable that government’s measures will affect big and small fishing businesses. As we understand the consequences, we are doing our best to rehabilitate and help those affected by these regulations to adjust themselves, especially local fishermen. Any measures that are not in violation of the IUU Fishing regulations have been revised while some others have been put in place. I have instructed the Command Center for Combating Illegal Fishing and the Fisheries Department to revise related policies in order to allow entrepreneurs and fishermen to make appropriate modifications.
If successful, there will be more fish in the sea. I heard that fishermen can now catch more fish. Using unauthorized fishing equipment can destroy the balance of marine resources. And as a result, local fishermen will not be able to catch any fish, given that the fish have all been caught by unregistered fishing boat operators. Today, local fishermen are happier, with more income. You probably might still don’t understand. We don’t want to force you out of business, but you need to do it legally. The media needs to help me tell the truth about what the government is doing. Without understanding, chances of Thailand reversing EU’s yellow card are slim. The reason we are able to implement these measures while our fishermen have also been able to remain positive is because the policies have been introduced incrementally so as to allow local businesses to adjust and operate. Today, more vessels have authorized fishing equipment and now meet the other standard requirements.
Thank you all fishermen and stakeholders who cooperate. Those who have yet to cooperate, please start do so. I want all the fishing vessels, either local or commercial, to register with the government as required. We even have a registration platform floating at sea. Some boat operators claim that they don’t have enough time to get a license. So I sent this floating platform to register them at sea. This is the best we can do. It is impossible for us to facilitate everyone, all at the same time. Please make some time to register for a license. More licenses have been issued. All you need to do is install required equipment on your vessels and licenses will be provided for you. We cannot have you do business illegally. The government is willing to listen to all suggestions. The government relaxed its fishing policy by clustering operators in a bid to allow local fishermen to operate. There were too many categories and it was inconvenient. I believe that local fishing activities have the least impact on marine resources. However, local fishermen need to use equipment allowed by the law.
Most of the boat operators affected by the new regulations are those who have been using unauthorized equipment. We will not issue licenses to this group. Police will not remain lenient in order to facilitate this transaction. It is logical that you will lose income if you do business legally. The matter of illegal fishing crews or workers concerns human trafficking. We have to think about this problem as well because everything is interconnected. Human trafficking, illegal fishing, fishing in unauthorized areas, are all connected. Every other country is looking to get better. Some countries have closed off their waters. We have to make everything legal. There must be more cooperation. The Thai government has been in touch in other countries on this matter.
As for matter relating to downstream activities such as in fish markets, the number of fish and other seafood items has been lower recently. However, the situation has been alleviating. More vessels are now allowed into the sea while local fishermen can catch more fish. Due to this fact, more fish are delivered to markets. The impact is only minor and temporary as more fishing boats have been operating normally. We have to come clear now. Fishing vessels that have been suspended since July 1st are due to 1) they are in the process of registration, 2) the weather has not been suitable for fishing as waves and winds are too strong, and 3) licenses cannot be issued for vessels failing to meet the requirements.
The inspection of fishing vessels by Thai authorities which is now in progress is hoped to collect factual and most up-to-date information in order to find the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The MSY is expected to help create a balance between the use of fishery resources and the amount of marine resources. Furthermore, the information will allow authorities to issue licenses in accordance with the amount of marine resources Thailand has. It also ensures sustainability in the fishing industry.
Apart from what the government has been doing and abiding by the IUU regulations is that the government has been caring for local fishing as well as focusing on marine resources preservation. Please understand that the government cannot relax any policies related to IUU regulations. Your cooperation is much appreciated. I want Thailand to have plenty of marine animals. We need to let the fish grow before catching them. Stop using illegal fishing nets. We need to create good conscience and awareness about marine life. Now we need to think about the next generation. How will the next generation cope without marine resources? There will be no more fishing. Please make adjustments now.
Marine resources are treasure of the nation and should be maintained for next generations to come. Natural resources are great treasure that must be preserved and passed on to our children. As for land resources, I have ordered the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to inspect damages caused by deforestation and land evasion. The ministry inspected forests in the northern part. According to the report, it is a worrisome situation, as more than 8.6 million rai of forest areas have been encroached. There have been more than 800,000 encroachers, 80% of them are people living on high land, 10% live in flat areas, and 10% are capitalists. The total damage accounts for more than 469 billion baht. Most of the encroachment activities are rubber planting, corn growing on high lands, evasion of watershed areas by financiers. Please stop these conducts and abide by the law. We promise to look after those affected depending on circumstances.
As for long-term solutions, cooperation must be integrated. We must reform the forest conservation plan as well as land allocation of the National Land Allocation Committee. We must adhere to His Majesty the King’s thought to care for land, improve human resources, develop professions, and promote healthy relationship between humans and forests. There must be integrated cooperation between 6 ministries and all sectors.
As for strategies to rehabilitate and manage watersheds on high lands, the government has started the idea for you and will need collaboration from all sides as well as understanding and support from members of the public who are the owners of this land. The plan is scheduled to run for 20 years (2015-2035). The first phase which is an urgent phase has a span of 2 years and will be implemented in Nan and Chiang Mai. The second phase which will run for 10 years (2017-2026) will focus on 13 provinces, 40% of which are target areas in the north. The last phase with a 9-year timeframe (2027-2035) will be forged ahead in predetermined areas and will be divided into 4 categories including soil and water conservation forests (60%), community forests (10-20%), community economic forests (15-20%), and residential areas (5%). Living standards of hill tribe people will be improved as they can live off the forests while preserving them.
During the 7th Mekong-Japan Summit in Tokyo, Japan, from July 2 to July 4, 2015, I along with the Thai delegation were given an overwhelming welcome by other leaders. The meeting went smoothly amid cordial atmosphere. At the meeting, I reassured other leaders of Thailand’s commitment to be a part of the development of new strategic partnership dubbed “Tokyo Strategy 2015 for Mekong-Japan Cooperation”, which aims to establish goals as well as form a 3-year cooperation plan for Mekong development. The move is hoped to mobilize ASEAN and the whole region and ensure sustainable growth, benefiting both CLMV countries and Japan. Thailand will place emphasis on quality growth, sustainable development, stability in all aspects, human security, and environmental conservation, all of which are in line with the policy to improve connectivity as well as promote mutual cooperation. The strategies are people-centered and seek to promote employment under Dawei project between Thailand, Myanmar, and Japan. It also fosters development of special economic zones, promotes investments under “Thailand +1” principle, and seeks cooperation on agricultural products such as rice, rubber, fruit, fresh meat, and frozen meat. In addition, it helps to improve the skills of workers. There will be cooperation on skill training. All of these matters were discussed during the summit.
The next topic is about the mobilization of national growth. All developed countries have clear development plans or national strategic plans to steer and regulate their movements. We have never had such a plan. What we have is the NESDB’s plan. It is a must that we have national strategic plan. Countries around us already have this plan in place and have had it for as long as 20 years as evidenced by their continuous growth. We have to have a clear plan and set a clear path for our country. Should Thailand’s role in the international stage be raised? Should we build more stability? It doesn’t matter which party governs this country, the administration should focus on this national development framework. In the past, I understand we did not have a direction for national development that was clear and were therefore unable to move the country forward. We are still uncertain if we want to be an agricultural, industrial, or agro-industrial country. I think it should be the latter. The most important thing is that conflicts amongst ourselves must be abated. Then we also have environmental objectives. We want to be a hub for trade, finance, and services. Our people will have sustainable income. We have to understand the problems and formulate solutions along with strategic plans. The plans must be in line with the strategies. Then we need to combine the NESDB’s plan with plans developed by our ministries. However, we will need a master plan which is the national development strategy. Today, our fellow agriculturists are facing adversity as their children have not carried on with this tradition and thus moved into bigger cities to seek higher income. This diminishes the agricultural sector’s abilities, be they knowledge and technology. Farmers get older as debts accumulate. This is why we need national strategies to be clear in order to assist these farmers. Farmers’ children need to find higher paid jobs in order to support their family.
On the front concerning national security, political stability is important and necessary. At this moment, we should not have a political divide that segregates our society. I am not a politician and we are not an elected government or political government, but we are here to introduce reforms, end conflicts, and move this country forward. We will use special laws to implement what is urgent. I never want to stir up conflicts, but only wish to solve these problems and take this country forward and then hand over administration. We must have an improved economic foundation. How can the country earn more income? How can we tackle public debt? What should the proportion between income from the production, services, and trade look like if we were to increase GDP and the country’s revenue? The answer lies in education. Our children have to be ready and well-educated. They must have the skills that are needed by the international market. As for R&D and innovation, researchers as well as scientists should look for ways to improve the country’s potential. As for infrastructure development, the government will improve rail services, roads, airports, and piers. Water, land, and air transport will be readied. However, we are only in the initial phase as these projects will take more time. They will have to be carried on by the next administration.
This past week, I instructed authorities at the cabinet meeting to draw up national strategic plan to be executed in the next 20 years. A committee has been formed to work with the cabinet. The committee understands the problem and will mobilize efforts in the first phase. A long term plan will be developed and forwarded to the reform body. Then it will be incorporated into the Constitution in a bid to ensure continuity of the effort. It has to be accepted by all sides especially the next administration. I have been very careful in terms of considering the consequences and do not want any problem to emerge for the next government. I understand that everyone is thinking about this. Some may oppose this or disagree with it, but the people will ask this for their future, so I will have to initiate it. My job here is to help you build a strong foundation. If the people see that what I am doing benefits the country then please have the next government continue what is good for our country. I only want to see a true national reforms take place in Thailand.
As for infrastructure development, the government has formulated a long term plan which will run until 2026. It doesn’t mean that I will spend all the money. However, some projects will require certain amount of budget, given that they are G2G projects. Some projects will be done periodically so as to keep public debt stable. The government wants be able to take care of its debts without leaving any of them behind. This is why we are being very cautious. This is one of the most difficult tasks any administration has to encounter. It is easy to launch policies just for popularity but it is necessary that we continue to invest, increase the nation’s competitiveness, promote regional connectivity though productive discussions with other countries around the world. Thailand made its stance clear that it wants to be the region’s hub for trade and investment. We must cooperate with other nations. ASEAN should aim to be hub of the world. Some projects have already been implemented such as MRT Blue Line extension and Jira-Khon Kaen Dual Track Line which will be ready by next year. This will help increase capability of Thai rail services. More concrete investments will be seen late this year and early next year. Many more projects are now being studied as information and data is being collected. We will implement all, be they rail, transport, and aviation in order to pave the way for future trade and investment activities as well as the setting up of special economic zones which is now in the first phase. I will do as much as I can. I will not be able to finish it as it requires a large sum of money and an extended period of time.
I have tasked the Ministry of Finance with overseeing and evaluating the feasibility of the investment. Although we all want these projects to be realized quickly, let us not forget there are many burdens that have arisen from the global economy’s condition, poverty, disparity and injustice. Money is required for addressing these burdens. We cannot commit to just one issue and we also cannot refrain from investing in any particular issue. The poor have to be cared for, education has to be funded, and adjustments relating to public health are needed. Our income has not improved but the investments have to be made, and results are expected in a couple of years. This will enable us to catch up – we can no longer remain disadvantaged. I would like the public to understand the government’s expenditures and the need to maintain financial discipline. The next government will become involved with the projects and investments initiated by this government. The projects will not be completed in totality in their first phase – responsibility will be shared and the public and private sectors have to cooperate with each other.
As for the study into details of the high-speed train routes under the collaboration of Thailand and Japan, the study is expected to continue into next year. We also need to discuss the investment aspect and determine the gains that will be had from the investment. Doing so will allow the economy and communities to become empowered. The populace needs to become resilient first. The government is encouraging the private sector to jointly invest in numerous projects, many of which are in the phase when cooperation is being sought. Nonetheless, all undertakings must be lawful.
The concept of integrity pact is now employed when contracts are made. State agencies and all firms providing their service must sign integrity pacts to prevent bribery. The Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) system is also being employed to lessen channels available for exploitation by influential persons, as well as to increase oversight efficiency. Probes by the private sector need to be structured – which projects are to be inspected? What quantity and what price is involved? No progress will be made if each and every project becomes scrutinized for the slightest issues. It will not do to have the civil sector probe everything. The projects can be inspected when they are being built or after they are completed. Any findings should be reported so I can stop the projects and hand out the penalties. We have to trust one another right now. The CosT system covers TOR issuance, bidding, construction, handover and results. CosT enables higher confidence to be vested over every dimension of a project.
Let us turn to the issue of peace and orderliness. The stability of the country is a key factor enabling all aforementioned undertakings to progress. I would like the cooperation of all Thais, all groups and parties, and every level. Please do not become hostile to each other again. We must talk with one another and cooperate. I would like everybody to be aware that the situations and damages that have arisen in the past were the results of having a deficient democracy. At present, we are building a comprehensive democracy. Everybody needs to help. Former politicians should also come in to contribute, provided they have not committed offenses. I am not harboring any grudges against them.
For education, I have been hearing the views of education personnel – former education ministers, academics and other personnel. I fail to comprehend how everyone was aware of the problem but no concrete solutions have been yielded. Some have attributed this to the fact that ministers were changed too frequently. I would like to ask, then, who made the change? Was it not the ruling party at the time? Your administration was the one that made the swap. The people did not do it.
After hearing the explanations for these failures, I was not able to firmly come to terms with any of them. We know of the problems, but how do we implement the solutions? What kind of budget do we need and what kind of burden would it create on the country? Anyone can talk about the problems – but from now on please mention the solutions as well when hosting programs. Of all these issues, education is the most important. Are the curricula up to date? At which levels are changes needed? How can management be improved? Are students spending too much time in class? Is it necessary to have 8 subject groups? We could make some reductions. At around 500 billion baht per year, funding for education takes up almost 1 in 5 of national budget. Most of it went to personnel and ordinary expenses, meaning that little remained to fund improvements. Poor people did not have access to aid for education because of the lack of funds. The production of teachers also did not match demand. Private educational institutes were not producing teachers in the fields where shortage are seen – science, research and development, mathematics. They were producing teachers that taught everything in general. I believe they need to be more specialized. Personnel production should be categorized and relegated to specific types of institute – state universities, private universities, vocational institutes. Teachers, students and skilled workers have to be produced separately. I would like to ask of this. If you only look to expand coverage, then I ask if you can take responsibility for the students when they graduate and cannot find work. Would you be helping us build the nation, then? The government will make arrangements for the said production distribution, and I would like to ask for your cooperation.
I am having the subject of history and civic duties subject added. This did not mean I am increasing the load on students by adding 4-5 subjects. Remember, I have asked for students’ school attendance time to be shortened so they have more time to spend at home, have experiences appropriate to their age and are able to engage in practical learning. This is preferred over single-minded memorization of text and spending all free time on homework. Once these reductions have been made, then implement the subjects I proposed. It does not have to involve so much content – definitely not 4-5 hours of law, civic duties or the 12 values. Reduce the load on students so they can use their time to think and make decisions from experiences. Other countries teach work skills to their students. In our case, graduates are knowledgeable but unable to work or churn out ideas. This is our problem. At this time, matters that can be immediately fixed must be handled as quickly as possible. Curricula adjustment has to be made now instead of taking 5 or 10 years to plan. It is being made this year, and I will see to it. There needs to be tangible results for the public to see.
As for adjustment of the administrative structure, initiatives should be submitted to me – regardless of whether there will be 1, 5, 6 or 10 pillars within the structure – so I can consider using Article 44 to accelerate progress.
Those tasked with social science affairs need to seek approval from me and the Cabinet before making the aforementioned adjustments. I understand everybody is committed, but undertakings also need to match. I am looking from the angles of management, application and results. I ask for input on every matter, but I am demanding that every ministry yield concrete results within 2016 because I need to adhere to the charter. Therefore the government is addressing all current problems.
As for the drought problem, we are addressing the management of available water sources and the improvement of the water infrastructure. Implementation has taken place, although there are delays in the disbursement of budget into many communities – the figure stood at 70%. I was hoping for more, although this figure was substantial. Each portion of the money needs to be drawn upon the completion of the relevant portion of work. Is work progressing slowly? How was the efficiency? Is there monitoring of work? Each project that has been reviewed should be accelerated, else it will not finish and budget will not be disbursed. I am not pointing fingers at people, so the media should refrain from relaying my words in ways that positions me as a conflicting party with everybody else.
The government is seeking all relevant measures for alleviating the current plight of people – economic hardship, drought, water management, and the employment of farmers who could not carry out farming. They are being hired to dig small reservoirs, so they can earn money to pay expenses during a time that crops cannot be grown. This will be limited to areas where agriculture truly cannot take place. Rain is starting to fall in other areas, and these areas will receive assistance in the forms of job training and promotion of SMEs and social businesses. Doing so will also simultaneously help to stimulate the sluggish economy.
As for the amount of water reserve, please do not panic. Rain has started falling in many provinces and the water level at some reservoirs has improved. Although the amount remains low, the situation is starting to improve. It would be of no benefit to make excessive demands at this time. We can make further discussions over water management once the rain falls.
There are many things I would like to add. Once the rain comes in full force, caution must be exercised over winds and waves at sea to prevent accidents that would afflict tourism. Fishermen who make catches in shallow water and those with small vessels must be especially careful. All state agencies have to prepare their aid response in advance and carry out drills.
As for the matter of dredging waterways and reservoirs, the security and economic agencies, the interior ministry and the agriculture ministry are working on the matter using the central budget as well as agency-specific budgets. Make some locality-specific adjustments to help out afflicted farmers. It is not possible for every area to receive the same assistance. We have to share.
As for the hosting of forums for all parties to partake in discussions about reforms, the aim is to provide everyone with the opportunity. We will also allow the opportunity for students – those who agree and disagree – to partake in the discussion, which will be publicized through numerous media. Both the pro- and anti-government groups will engage in discussions, but not to find fault with each other. Then we shall see how understanding can be reached. The same goes for academics – there are pro- and against-parties. Thailand has been moving slowly, perhaps due to our characteristic of not letting anything go and making an issue out of everything. When there are two persons, and they are both competent, they need to be able to reach an understanding. If there were 100 persons, each with their own set of problems who could not reach agreement with each other, then none of the problems can be solved.
If there were 100 persons, and 100 problems, then address 80 of the problems together and leave the remaining 20 for further discussion. The amount of problems will lessen over time. Sometimes there is no problem over an issue, but then you go about creating one, which then I have to address almost daily.
As for preparations for the AEC, we are making progress. Plans for the economic corridors and rail linkages have all been laid down. They will not be finished during my time in office because they have only been initiated now. No one is to be blamed for this.
I would like to thank civil servants, civilians, policemen, soldiers, students, teachers and academicians who are stakeholders and who have voiced their opinions. I believe there is a tendency for everything to improve, and for greater understanding to be achieved. The pressure exerted on me has lifted to a certain extent. However, those who have been pressuring me are still doing so. Please help out and avoid forcing me to enforce the law on certain issues as it can cause problems and lead to further conflict. Then this damages the judicial process, officials are unable to work and then reforms do not progress. What would we do then? Who will take responsibility for me? Therefore those who have committed offences will have to take responsibility for your actions.
Many things have become clearer. Evidence verification is more precise now. There is evidence for certain actions carried out by individuals and evidence of the links between them. Do not claim I speak without evidence.
As for the community markets, I have been having some concerns over this initiative. The market at Phadung Canal was not my market, it belongs to the public. I just wanted to pilot it as a place where tourism and social exchanges can go hand in hand with shopping. Many people still did not realize many of the products on offer were made in Thailand. I have looked into herbal and spa products. Some of the brands are now generating hundreds of millions each year. For those who have not done so, please visit the market at Phadung Canal.
There are spaces at the 4 Moom Mueang markets belonging to Bangkok City Hall as well as other spaces in the provinces. I would like state agencies, industries and chambers of commerce to look into hosting community markets at these spaces. Do not wait for the state to take the initiative – you also play a part in national development. You have been making significant profits, and you are demanding that I look into matters amid the economic woes. I am trying to, but the government does not have that kind of money. You already live more comfortable lives than the poor, and I would like you to find space for them to sell things. Can you do this for me? If not, produce your goods or give 5% or 10% nationwide discounts on your items. It would be an act of generosity and would unlikely cause you to go bankrupt. I would like to ask this of you. The decision is yours, but Thais are facing hardship right now.
I ask that governors, chambers of commerce and industrial boards in each province work with more synergy. I do not know who else to ask this of. Sometimes space is all that is needed, while small amounts of funds may be required at other times. This way, your organization can contribute.
Lastly, there have been threats of work stoppage or grounding of transportation services. Please don’t do it. I have already prepared contingency plans. If you do stop operating, so be it. Private vans and personal vehicles can replace your service, and this way people will be able to make extra income. If you opt not to make your income then so be it. I am asking everybody to cooperate and carry out their functions in accordance with the plan that has been laid out. Why are you saying I am restraining you? Because no rules have ever been established. This means problems arise when rules are set up. How can I solve any problem if I cannot mandate anything? Therefore, don’t do it. I am not challenging you, I am just cautioning you. Please do not disregard the law or do anything that that is illegal. Democracy is returning. We have come to this point, but if things start to derail while nothing has been solved – then who is going to be responsible? Then you have to be responsible, so I will make a note of those who are making such demands when things are not ready. I have never distorted anything from you – I am unable to do so under the interim charter. So thank you.
I would also like everybody to live peacefully and without trepidation. There are already enough domestic issues, so refrain from involving the country in conflicts with any other nations. It is necessary for us to abide by agreements and international, bilateral or multilateral regulations. This is necessary. There is no other way. We are also not a party in conflict with anybody else. Thailand’s role needs to be understood. It is one thing to have infighting. It is entirely another to have conflicts with other countries. Some issues are sensitive and precarious. So, I would like the media to please help me out. The media – I am not quarrelling with you. It is hard for me to explain some issues when I have explained them many times and you keep asking me over and over. So please be gentler with me, as I am trying to be gentler with you too.
Thank you and goodbye. I wish you a happy and safe weekend.