National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister –July 24, 2015

July 28th marks the auspicious occasion of the Birthday Anniversary of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn who is beloved by all Thais. His Royal Highness has tirelessly devoted Himself to improving the well-being of his people through His outstanding talents and vision. On this auspicious occasion, I would like to invite all Thais to express our loyalty and gratitude for His Royal Highness’s benevolence with our best wishes for His Royal Highness’ good health, happiness, and longevity.

As we all know, on August 16th, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will graciously preside over the “Bike for Mom” activity to express His gratitude and loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. The bike riding event will take place nationwide as preparations has made substantial progress while the routes in 76 provinces are now fully ready. More information on starting points, rest areas, cycling tracks, and distances can be obtained from the website of each province. I would like to see all those who shall take part in this activity to be physically ready and have your bicycles checked prior to the event. Make sure you practice and rehearse as well as study traffic regulations and follow safety procedures.

Not only does this activity allow us to promote exercise through bike riding, it also allows us to express our unity and love we have for one another as Thai citizens. As many regions across Thailand are encountering with the prolonged drought situation, HRH the Crown Prince has graciously bestowed 200,000 bottles of drinking water to help alleviate drought in affected areas.

The government is doing all it can to handle this drought, despite recent rainfall. The most important thing at the moment is drinking water, followed by water for agriculture, especially in those areas where rice is ready for harvest, and areas with crops and plants that we cannot afford to lose, because if we did, it would take some years to grow them back. We will take care of the farmers in this predicament. As long as we have sufficient amount of water for consumption and agriculture, there should not be a problem.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has been looking for additional water sources to alleviate drought. Its aim is to dredge 511 groundwater wells and install turbine water pumping machines in drought-stricken agricultural zones. At present, 415 wells or 81% of the targeted number have been dredged, with the pumping capacity of up to 200,000 cubic meters of water per day. Submersible electric pumps have been installed at 202 out of 380 to-be-constructed wells. More than 60,000 rai of land have been benefiting from these wells whose combined pumping capacity is 30,300 cubic meters per day. Once all the wells are completed which is expected at the end of July, the anticipated water pumping capacity is as high as 350,000 cubic meters per day while more than 100,000 rai of land and 4,000 households will benefit from these wells. Afterwards, we will come up with a holistic water distribution plan for agriculture.

As for people who have been affected by the ongoing dry season, I have told the Commerce Ministry, Defense Ministry, and the Interior Ministry to initiate “Blue Flag” fairs in communities, offering low-priced and discounted consumer goods to our fellow citizens. There will be mobile “Blue Flag” units travelling to different communities to offer necessary products with prices 30-50 percent lower than the actual market price.

Apart from these assistance measures I just mentioned, the government is instigating two additional measures. The first one focuses on creating jobs by having each province allocate 10 million baht from provincial budget reserves. Agreements on how the money will be spent will be inked between the Interior Ministry and the Finance Ministry. The money will be used to hire local people for repair jobs.

I think they should be employed as contractors, with village and community heads acting as supervisors who oversee the entire project from the beginning to the end. This will allow the project to meet the needs of each community and will also help foster camaraderie and unity. Creating jobs and employment is also hoped to strengthen Thai communities. The second measure concerns agricultural rehabilitation, the effort of which is spearheaded by the Agriculture Ministry. 273 district offices in 22 provinces along the Chao Phraya River basin will lend a helping hand to farmers according to the degrees of drought severity, be they rice farms, orchid plantations, and fruit plantations. Useful information will be gathered so that the right assistance can be provided for all farmers. New technology will be introduced to them. New methods will be initiated. New principles on soil and water will be taught. There will be cooperation between the private sector and provincial authorities. Cooperatives should extend the period of debt payments for members. There are several matters that we need to complete together as a group and share benefits. There are several matters that require joint efforts.

Although our country is moving forward with steady momentum, we still have several problems to address. First of them is conflicts, be they political disputes or those stemming from the disbursement of state funds. Despite the fact that their intensity has reduced, conflicts are still lingering in our country. So I ask all sides, those who have been openly and discreetly working to use economic issues and people’s problems such as drought, wages, and prices of crops, to stir conflicts in our country, to understand that the government’s intentions are sincere and we are committed to helping all people solve problems. We try to do everything we can to make things better. The government truly understands people’s problems and is doing its best to address them. The problem obstructing the government’s work now is misunderstanding in society. It is difficult and will take time in order to change one’s perception. We all need to be more patient.

We have also been working to restructure many sectors including the economy, energy, agriculture, trade, domestic and overseas investments, measures to assist low and medium income earners, education, society, judicial and the justice system. As for reform and reconciliation, we have a clear plan and policy on what ought to be done next, but now such issues have to go through judicial processes first. National strategies will help steer our country to a brighter future. We need to have a vision of how our country will turn out in the next five years. Without this, the country may not achieve anything at all. There will neither be continuation nor sustainability.

However, all of this will take time and will depend on understanding and patience. There will be positive changes. If I did not want changes to be made, I would not be standing here, trying to improve things for our nation. I admit that there have been consequences, and there has been opposition. Of course, there will be those who agree and those who disagree. But we all need to compromise at some point.

In asking for cooperation from our citizens, I want the public to understand that there are certain necessities that the country has to consider, such as the issues of energy, waste management, projects requiring a lot of investment that should be encouraging the state and the private sector to invest in order to create employment and boost the economy, especially those in infrastructure such as rail and road, water management system, and investments in industrial sector. All this is to create growth and prosperity to all areas and regions of the country. We should not rely solely on agriculture for our future. We need to introduce a new form of economy where agriculture and non-polluting industries can grow alongside each other.

As for those who are opposing certain government initiatives, the government will hold discussions with you to find a way out. We cannot afford to waste any more time quarreling as we are moving towards becoming a single ASEAN community. Without preparation, we will be behind other nations and we could lose many opportunities. I would like all sides to talk to each other, but not just about our problems, but to also come up with real solutions and envisage how these solutions will turn out. How much of an impact one solution can be. If you are concerned about negative consequences, please look at other areas that have similar projects or similar problems and learn from them. If a problem arises, you need to find a solution. If all sides look only for confrontation, nothing will move forward. The budget will not be spent and the economy will be hampered. If we could not push for any procurement contracts or if public hearings consistently fail to reach any agreement, the country would bear the consequences and time would be wasted. Without government funds being disbursed, the overall economy will then slow itself down. I assure you that the government is willing to listen to all problems and heed all suggestions. In return, you need to listen to the government as well and together we should reach a point where all can compromise. I do not wish to see any groups go up against us without logical and solid explanations. So what we can accomplished will be done for now. But if you oppose or try to derail every issue without listening to reason, then first study the scientific explanations and avoid relying on just hearsay, which only makes things worse.

Problems will not be rectified without a sense of unity. Nothing will change if we are not willing to listen to others. Everything could go back to the way it was during conflict and violence when the government had to consider enforcing laws and then the people were distressed. People need to be aware, listen to each other, and think for themselves. Do not let anyone misguide you as you are entitled to your own reasoning. The government will listen to you as you need to listen to us as well. Look at numbers and facts before making decisions. We have to listen to each other and find a solution we can all agree on. Confrontation will not solve anything and if we allow it to prevail,  the nation would only be stepping backwards. Today, we are moving in the right direction.

Although the current administration is not an elected government, it has been committed to creating a system of good governance in all dimensions of national administration. We listen to the public and have adjusted our work methods to be more proactive in order to reduce future risks. Civil servants and members of the public should adjust to one another. You all need to find a common ground and sort out differences. Without development projects, there will not be growth. The government wishes to build stability, prosperity, and sustainability for the country within the next 5 years. If we fail to establish growth or fail to start what we set out to achieve, everything will have to be postponed and when is growth going to be realized? It will be too late as we will be stepping behind other countries. Other ASEAN nations are free of conflicts. They do not have to encounter problems like us. They can push forward everything they want to. Thailand’s neighboring countries are planning to construct nuclear power plants in the next few years. They are now studying this possibility. In the meantime, conflicts amongst ourselves are still holding us back. Please think about it. Please do not just look at negative consequences of things when their benefits are much greater. I ask all sides to reconsider their positions, and I have always been worried about the well-being of the people. If we cannot do the things we need to do today, what success will the next government have getting anything done?

Of course, the public has a stake in every affair.  But If the work cannot be carried out in one area then there may be consequences for other matters.  It would be difficult if everyone just did their own thing without thinking about the impact it would have on others. So think about the situation in the country before May 22, 2014, about what happened, maybe people have forgotten already.

It is obvious that addressing complicated problems required time and effort.  All problems are being addressed now, and this may make it look as if nothing is being done.  We have examined the major problems and taken them apart, identifying major and minor affairs.  We then determine which major affairs to be tackled and which to put aside to be tackled after the reform plans are complete.

Today we are working under the set time frame we have for national administration, and all matters that are problematic are being addressed.  Your cooperation is needed.  We need to start by setting up systems and rules, and by creating trust among ourselves.  Another aim is to prevent future conflicts within society.  I am here without any personal agenda, but only to bring about sustainable gains for the country and the public, in accordance with our stated vision for 2015-2020 – ‘stability, prosperity, and sustainability’.

On Thursday, July 23, which was yesterday, I welcomed Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and his wife on their official visit to Thailand as guests of the government.  We used this opportunity to hold the 3rd unofficial joint meeting of the Thai and Vietnamese cabinet ministers.  The objectives are as follows:

Tighten bilateral relations under the’ Thailand-Vietnam strategic partnership’

Propel collaboration in all dimensions.    For the economic dimension, progress was made in labor-related cooperation, promotion of trade and investment, cooperation in agricultural and fishery goods, reinforcing land, sea and air transport linkages, and cooperation in international and regional affairs.

For the security dimension, we will expand collaboration in the suppression of of transnational crime, narcotics and human trafficking.

In the aspect of arts, culture and tourism, we agreed to support exchanges in language, culture and sports.  Cooperation over tourism promotion will be expanded by encouraging tourism ‘packages’ that take visitors to various tourism destinations within our neighboring countries.  Tourists will be attracted to the region by such linkages, allowing each country to earn income.  We must not abandon each other.  If we have shared goals, then we need to designate goal-setting and the methods to be employed.

During the meeting, I spoke to the Vietnamese prime minister about how we need to set a new goal now that we have had diplomatic relations for almost 40 years.  We need to determine how the next 10 years will play out, as well as 40 years into the future.  For now, we would like to increase the trade value from about 15 billion US dollars to 20 billion US dollars by the year 2020.

The Vietnamese prime minister and I witnessed the signing of 5 important documents, comprising of the following.  1) A joint declaration of the 3rd Thailand-Vietnam unofficial joint cabinet meeting.  2) a Memorandum of Understanding on labor cooperation – emphasis was on labour for fishing vessels, of which Vietnam possess a large number.  3) Agreement on hiring of labour, fair treatment of labour, registration and verification of nationality.  4) Memorandum of Understanding on the establishing of friendship cities between Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province and Vietnam’s Kon Tum province.  5) Memorandum of Understanding for the establishing of friendship cities ties between Thailand’s Trat province and Vietnam’s Long An province.

The sister cities/parallel cities relations means development has to be undertaken together.  Trans-border linkages will be created and expanded.  This will likely take place with all our neighbors.  Connected countries have been pursuing similar collaboration, which concretely lends to closer relations between one another and reinforces preparations for the ASEAN Community integration at the end of the year.  We are trying to avoid letting our boundaries act as limitations to our joint cooperation in taking care of our citizens.

We also discussed linkages between the business sectors of the two countries.  For example, the Thailand-Vietnam Friendship Association has been holding seminars on investing in Vietnam and also hosted business matching discussions between the two countries’ business sectors.

I believe that if Vietnam and we are to cooperate in the same way that we cooperate with Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia, we will be making ASEAN strong.  I do not want us to look only just at Thailand, because we have to build upon our regional networks and regional economic chain.  Our dependence on exporting to far away countries will be reduced if we are strong and trade within the bloc increases.  It is problematic for us to pin most of our hopes on exports to far away communities.  We must make ASEAN peaceful, and Thailand must be a model in creating sustained peace and orderliness.  Various developments can only come about via stability in the aspects of politics and security.

The Vietnamese prime minister and I agreed to create resilience for the purpose of driving the entire ASEAN region.  This will allow the people of the world to notice us, to notice ASEAN and to notice the identity of each of the countries in our group.  If we cannot come together, we will be divided and continue to face problems of diminished leverage.  Vietnam has agreed to partake in rubber-related collaboration, which means there will now be four countries instead of three that are in this association.  Having discussed rubber, I then proposed that rice-related collaboration should also be undertaken, in order for us to avoid over-competing and bringing down prices of agricultural commodities.  If we can cooperate and share and avoid price undercutting then circumstances should improve.  The prime minister agreed, and this is something to be welcomed.  I think this is the best era for talks with neighboring countries.

There will a long weekend next week because of two important religious dates – Asanha Bucha and Buddhist Lent.  Aside from taking rest, I would like Buddhist Thais to take the opportunity to recollect the teachings of Lord Buddha so they may think good thoughts, do good things and participate in activities such as merit-making, alms-making, temple visits, sermons, Dhamma discussions, prayers and candle-lit ceremonies at the temples.  Also, please remember to give to charity and the underprivileged after having made merit.  There are many people facing hardship.  I wish everybody happiness during the holiday period.  Please drive safely when making your holiday journeys.

For the occasion of Buddhist Lent, I ask that we all reflect on our faith and focus on following the five precepts of Buddhism.  The five precepts are not rules; rather, they are codes of conduct that everybody – regardless of whether they are Buddhists – can use as guidelines for daily life whereby happiness and safety in society can also be fostered.  The government has declared Buddhist Lent Day as the national day of liquor abstention.  This year’s slogan is ‘develop youths and human resources by ceasing subjugation to alcohol’.

I offer my moral support for those aiming to reduce or quit alcohol consumption during Lent.  May they meet success, be healthy in mind and body, and make further contributions to the country.  For those who will be traveling, please check traffic updates and avoid driving too fast.  Also, do not drink and drive.  Losses from such actions are suffered by families and by the country.  Countless human resources have been wasted in this way. You have to value your life, as you do not only live for yourself but also  for others, for those you help, for your family, and for creating a stronger society in the future.  I wish everybody safety and happiness during the weekend.

Thank you and goodbye.