National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister –July 31, 2015
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
This past week, I believe all of you have come across some news about people queuing up to pick up T-shirts and pins for the upcoming “Bike for Mom” event. People were seen lining up since 1 am until 1 pm in the afternoon. It was very delightful to see all Thais express their loyalty and love for Her Majesty Queen Sirikit in harmony with HRH the Crown Prince’s gesture for Mothers Day. It is also delightful to learn that Thais are united. In the meantime, please prepare yourselves and your bikes, and study road regulations ahead of this event. HRH the Crown Prince is very concerned about the safety of all cyclists. On August 16th, I hope that everyone will take part in the activity with happiness and joy.
Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department issued its annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report). I can assure you that the Thai government will not be discouraged or disappointed. We must remain hopeful, this is a matter with international implications, and we will continue our efforts to seriously combat human trafficking. We will assist all victims. We shall bring all perpetrators as well as those benefiting from human trafficking to justice. This government has declared the tackling of human trafficking to be a national agenda. We must care for people from every nation, not just the Thai people. We are more than willing to work with every country and every organization to repel and remove such a crime from our nation as well as from the ASEAN region. There are a lot of problems we have to address together as well. We cannot be disappointed when we are reproached in this way, but we must maintain our commitment to the stability and safety of Thailand and to our reputation. Creating understanding is a complex issue, especially when explaining matters. But if the Thai people listen and consider that before anyone can accept us, we will have to prove ourselves, then others will eventually understand us. Thailand has been listed in Tier 3 since last year, so we must now do many more things better than before. But this ranking is a matter concerning the US Department of State. We know how much we have done and how much progress has been made. This doesn’t mean that we have not tried to address this problem, but our efforts did not meet their minimum standards during the time of their evaluation. They came when we had just started seriously attempting to remove human trafficking activities. It has been several months since they visited and much progress has been seen. Things will get better from now on. More than 100 officials who were found involved in human trafficking have been punished, compared to other nations who have had much fewer arrests. These offenders are now facing indictment. We need to take serious action against this matter urgently. Now that our efforts our clear, we shall have results which should be reflected in an upgrading to Tier 2 in the near future.
As for the other problems we are dealing with, be they human trafficking, aviation safety, or IUU, it is up to them on which list they want to put us. Our job is to do all we can for our people, with and for the resources that we have, and for human rights, especially in ASEAN Community where things are interconnected. We heed all suggestions and we welcome all compliments. A problem always has overlapping sub-problems. However, the government needs cooperation from everyone, so please refrain from politicizing this matter. The government will handle its area of responsibility. All related agencies must lend a hand, especially entrepreneurs as well as the workers. You all need to be honest to each other. Human trafficking is a critical problem and closer to us than you think. It affects all sectors in Thailand including trade and investment. We have to get rid of human trafficking.
Let me reiterate that this government will be committed to dealing with human trafficking, IUU, and the ICAO – issues that have lingered for many years under several administrations. We will handle them based on international human rights and the maintenance of our national security. We will do our best to support and help Thai people as well as others in this region. The government will work with all sectors – private sector and civil sector – and will seek cooperation from other countries and international organizations to address human trafficking in this region as well as other parts around the world. Related agencies need to inform, create understanding, and show proof of progress to the international community.
One more issue the government places great significance on is the economy and how we must lay a foundation for a strong economy and enhance Thailand’s competitiveness. Thailand is an agricultural country and is heavily dependent on exports, which has been a large part of our national income. Therefore, we need to make us of our geographical advantage that links our country with other nations in this region. We therefore need to form strategic partnerships. We also need to look at ourselves and think how we are going to reach that goal of regional resilience. Understanding is crucial. We need to ensure orderliness, effectively enforce the law, edge our competitiveness, and focus on domestic investment especially among Thai investors. However, foreign direct investments are also necessary to economic growth. Please rest assured that this government will always put national interest first.
Today all countries are adjusting their economic strategies, introducing new business ideas. For example, some countries no longer solely rely on exports. Other sectors are as important such as tourism, transportation, and infrastructure, all of which must be interconnected. This will encourage investors to spend. And when investors spend, the state will be able to earn revenue as economic growth continues. Thailand has great potential as it is situated in the center of ASEAN region. We have good infrastructure and we have great advancements in our rail services.
In addition, our potential in agriculture is second to none while medication and tourism are also of the highest standards. Thailand’s weaving industry, cosmetics, herbs, and other services are greatly appreciated. Now we need to think of how Thailand can gain maximum benefit from these sectors. Earn more for our country. This can be an offset to the global economic slump. We cannot afford to just rely on exports and agriculture.
The government has formed a committee in charge of increasing national competitiveness and potential. The committee has talked to the private sector and together come up with 6 strategic plans.
The first one focuses on the stability of macroeconomics. We will seek partnership with all sectors in order to enhance the potential of Thailand.
The second plan is to uplift each cluster according to economic activities in agriculture, tourism, aviation, and medication. We need to link them together and push for joint collaboration in local, national, and regional levels.
The third plan emphasizes on potential development which includes the development of data center that will allow greater access to information pertaining to trade, investment, and the industrial sector. It also helps improve waste management, research and development under cooperation between the government, private sector, and educational institutions. Research centers will be set up in schools as well as in investment promotion centers operated by the private sector. This promotes better use of budget and helps us figure out which way we are headed or what research area we need to focus on.
The fourth plan is to improve human resources through better education. We need to produce workers that the market needs, be they skilled workers or workers capable of English or other languages of those investing in our country. We need to understand these languages to ready ourselves for the inevitable event of labour flows in the region. The Education Ministry has put in place a policy to strengthen educational foundation which centers on building good citizens with morality. It is essential that we truly understand the essence of good citizenship and decency, so the principle of morality was added in the wording need to emphasize the point.
The fifth plan is to improve government services such as the One Stop Service which has seen step-by-step improvement. Government officials have been working tirelessly and receiving thousands of your complaints. These services help facilitate both domestic and foreign investments and businesses. Furthermore, customs services have also been improved. For example, tax registration is much easier, with personal information being linked to tax documents of each individual.
The sixth plan is to manage data under a management plan for data services. This is to manage information and create awareness and understanding in a proactive approach, with the aim to support and bring together every sector.
Thailand is an agricultural country, with a large number of farmers. In order to convert our country into an agro-industrial country, water sources are key to success. We need a better and highly sustainable water management plan. It is important that we build confidence in terms of the country’s capacity to manage water resources. At present, the government’s National Water Resources Board, which used to operate under the NCPO, forwarded its water management plan to us. The plan will run from 2015 until 2026. The plan, which was derived from the NCPO’s water resources management and policy committee, will be implemented by related ministries focusing on 6 issues and 12 activities. As a matter of fact, these agencies have been working closely with the NCPO, and we have adjusted the strategies to be in compliance with the government’s framework. All of the six issues will be covered and 12 activities will be monitored. We cannot only pay attention to flood prevention or drought, but all activities need to seriously be restructured.
We will focus on irrigation systems in local communities where there are villages and schools. Reservoirs will be constructed. Water resources management will be improved. Watersheds will be rehabilitated so as to prevent natural disasters. Groundwater systems will be developed so as to ease drought during the dry season. Canals and rivers will be dredged, not to mention prevention of excessive water in suburb areas, reforestation, and prevention of coastal erosion.
We are trying to rectify all problems including those that occurred during the last disastrous flooding when our country was heavily damaged. Although we are doing our best, everything will take time as it must go step by step and in accordance with the roadmap. This urgent task we are implementing is to help Thais get through the drought. Although anticipated, nobody thought the damage would be this severe. Unfortunately, we are struck by El Nino. Not only us, other countries also struggle, except Myanmar which has been blessed with rainfall. This is why we need to prepare ourselves for all circumstances. This new plan must be implemented this year and finished by next year.
As for the middle and long term measures which will run until 2026, sub committees have been formed to analyze and monitor the water situation as well as formulate national policy concerning demand and supply for water. However, everything will also depend on the global climate patterns. We need to study all possibilities and gather information that will be useful for making Thailand’s irrigation system become integrated.
For example, we could bring in more water from the western part of Bangkok and use less water from Chao Phraya River.
Second, we could dig a waterway from Chao Praya River to Khlog Sam Lae in a bid to help push salt water and to create a more balanced ecosystem.
Third is to supply more water to the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority.
Fourth, we need to issue dead storage regulations on Bhumibol and Sirikit dams whose combined capacity is 7.5 billion cubic meters.
And fifth is through negotiations. We may need to bring water from the Salween, Moei, and Mekong rivers for the maximum benefit of our country.
The government wants to empower all groups of the populace that are still having problems with income. The National Savings Fund, which is geared towards members of the public aged 15-60, will start taking membership applications on August 20. Roughly 30 million persons within this group are not covered by state pension or private retirement funds sponsored by employers. Some of the occupations that fall into this category include farmers, merchants, taxi drivers, architects, doctors, lawyers, daily wage earners, temporary employees, members of parliament, local politicians and students. The fund will also care for those in retirement age who are not being supported by other systems.
The fund will also encourage a habit of saving in all age groups. The state will top up the deposit made by the saver. Once the saver turns 60, the person will be eligible for monthly pension payment for the rest of the person’s life. The fund provides one with security during the time when no regular income is earned, and is an attempt at reducing social disparities. Interested persons can make inquiries or apply to the fund at Krung Thai Bank, the Government Savings Bank of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.
I have been informed of the progress in tackling farmers’ debt. The Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Finance, the NCPO and the Ministry of Defense are collaborating on this issue.
Based on the survey of farmers’ debt – owed to formal as well as non-formal lenders – there are about 1.6 million indebted farmers as of July 10, 2015. The debt amounted to roughly 400 billion baht or an average of 240,000 baht per individual. To prevent the farmers from losing their land, the problem shall be concretely addressed by providing legal assistance to debtors and by negotiating compromises and arranging debt-clearing.
1) The agriculture ministry’s center for coordination of farmers’ debt will be the main agency that oversees work related to the solving of debt problems faced by all types of farmers.
2) The Ministry of Justice’s center for assistance of debtors and unfairly-treated persons will see to urgent cases of debtors of non-formal lenders. This collaboration between the Legal Cases Department and the Rights and Liberties Protection Department will cover debt cases being processed in the justice system and cases of non-formal lenders who were influential figures or associated to influential figures. Legal aid will be provided to the debtor, after which the case will be handed over to the agriculture ministry for debt-clearing.
3) Non-urgent cases of persons owing money to non-formal lenders will be overseen by the revolving loan fund, Farmer’s Reconstruction and Development Fund, and the Farmer Aid Fund. Compromise-negotiating or debt-clearing will be arranged afterward.
4) As for debtors in the formal system, the finance ministry will issue measures to financial institutes and cooperatives for their assistance.
In order for the solving of farmers’ debt to proceed efficiently and for the designated objectives to be realized quickly, there will be utilization of important mechanism at the local level. The provincial- and district-level subcommittees for the assistance of farmers and persons in poverty, as well as relevant provincial-level agencies, will arrange debt compromises in accordance with the figures acquired from surveys. The debt cases will be screened and handed over to relevant agencies for further assistance. Operation plans for debt negotiations shall be finished within August 31 for all cases. Prioritizing will be based on the urgency of each case. Debtors and lenders will both be dealt with fairly.
During the month of July, the Ministry of Public Health hosted the ‘healthy city, local tenets’ fair at Phadung Krung Kasem Canal Market. Visitors to the fair paid special attention to self-care herbal products. Korea, China and Cambodia currently order large amounts of Thai herbs, most of which were extracts from pomelo and bergamot skin, herbal drinks and herb-derived cosmetics. More than 95,000 people have visited the fair, which has generated some 22 million baht in sales of health products. Cosmetics, health food and drinks, spa and massage products are also available. Other attractions include traditional massage, acupuncture, EQ testing, Alzheimer’s risk screening and body fat check. This very comprehensive set of services is available right beside Government House.
From August 3 to 23, Phadung Krung Kasem Canal Market will host a ‘creative industry, gift for mother’ fair. The Ministry of Industry will link activities by the Ministry of Culture and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration into this fair, which will be held in honor of Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of Mother’s Day. The fair will also strengthen confidence for products derived from Thai know-how from past to present. Many creative products and innovations have been made up until now, some of which may not be familiar to people. We only need to take these products to mass production and exportation, and build our own brands. Doing so would earn Thailand more income, and would constitute a development of innovations for today and the future. Without innovation, we will stay where we are and the economy will remain dormant. We need to improve the thinking and research processes. Through industrial means, the products shall be taken to the manufacturing process and to market while they retain the value and quality sought after by consumers. There is a future for many of the products.
I view the upcoming Mother’s Day period as an opportunity for everybody to display their gratitude and piety for their beloved mother. Please visit the fair and there will also be an exhibition of crafts that receive the support from Her Majesty the Queen. Examples include works done by glass-blowing, court dolls, porcelain and oil paintings. The Ministry of Industry will also be holding an exhibit that provides counseling over business development and management, in order to spur the creation of new entrepreneurs – such as in packaging and product design advice aimed at increasing the attractiveness of the products. Advice on improvement of products and standards will also be given. Business matching has been a feature at every past fairs held by the government. State or private banks have been providing funding support for said business match-making as well as for SMEs and social businesses. Business planning based on Sufficiency Economy was also being taught. A degree of risk tolerance was also being encouraged. Without these developments, businesses will be run the usual way. Present times require good governance for businesses. The aforementioned services will be available at the fair, and I would like to invite everybody to the fair – the general public, business operators, and civil servants. Please participate in this activity so you may expand on your success. If we do not accumulate new knowledge then we not develop accordingly.
At present, the government is trying to drive new developments – current technologies, as well as agricultural and industrial restructuring. These undertakings require new knowledge. I have been learning and asking the people with the knowledge for guidance on this, so all due matters are given consideration, and initiatives will be thought over carefully. All assignments issued have received the endorsement of everybody within the Cabinet. I have said before that I can take the initiative on things, but if it turns out not to be effective then you must not allow me to continue it. Those involved with plan implementation should provide the confirmation on whether or not something can or cannot be done. The power plants issue is an example, wherein I believe clarity and resolution are needed. This did not mean I would compel the projects to go ahead. Please do not misinterpret this. Consider future gains for the country and take heed of comments and find a solution. If it cannot go ahead then both parties need to give alternatives. Third-party groups will also be encouraged to participate. We will not turn away anybody. I would like civil servants in the respective areas to take heed.
On the matter of expediting education reform, agencies have been tasked with determining how to make students, parents and teachers more contented. We have also been looking at teachers’ debt. The Ministry of Education will be making adjustments related to teachers’ expenses, the Student Loan Fund, teachers’ debt and borrowing.
The economic slowdown has perhaps been exacerbated by the drought. However, we will become stronger if we face our problems. It depends on how much preparation we have made and how much perseverance we have. We have been plugging the holes, but system-wide problems must now be addressed. We have also spent much money in advance. Perseverance needs to be exercised at present. Please understand that I always think of low-income people when addressing the various issues. Business chains should be supported so employment can be generated and income can increase. If this is not done and money is given out then people will run out of money again. Aid will be given based on severity and necessity.
As for the drought, the problem remains although some rain has fallen. Reservoirs are being replenished, but the water inflow is almost negated by the amount of water discharged. The water from reservoirs flows onto open systems. We may have to work on this system in the future. As for today, I would like to tell all agencies to look into whether they have leftover budget for employment. If so, see to whether reservoirs can be dug in additional places. Start digging them so water can be kept. I am worried about future episodes of drought, which will afflict farmers’ second harvests in the same way that the first crop had been affected. Thus, I would like relevant ministries to see to how we can prevent problems for the second crop. Orders related to the employment of people have already been given. The Cabinet has already approved the funds required for the employment of people in localities afflicted by drought. This will be limited to the afflicted areas, although the coverage of the scheme is nationwide.
Secondly, the agriculture ministry has been tasked with encouraging a change in crop selection.
Thirdly, preparations are being made to assist farmers who suffered losses from the drought. Surveys are being carried out as coverage will not be universal. We will see to those who suffered losses from the drought whereas those who were unaffected need to keep going. We also need to prepare for the next crop.
Next, I would like to thank everybody for their interest in the Bike for Mom activity. I trust that everyone is readying their bodies for the event. Please also take caution of the rain when training, and avoid becoming sick and missing the real event. His Royal Highness the Crown Prince has expressed his concern over the issue of safety and people’s enjoyment on the event date of August 16. A rehearsal will take place on August 2. I will be inspecting the various spots on the route. As we are trying to keep the effects on road traffic to a minimum, the starting time of the rehearsal has been moved earlier. This is not the main event. Please focus on the main activity on August 16.
Lastly, I would like to address tourism. With four days off, this is a long weekend. I am still concerned for the same issues – accidents, driving, drinking. I would like to ask those of you who like to drink and drive and those who like to speed to give some consideration to other people, if it seems that by behaving this way you do not value your own lives. Other people still value their lives even if you don’t value yours. Please do not inflict them with losses and injuries, or bestow grief upon their families. I have made many appeals over drinking and driving and not much improvement has been had. If you do not love yourselves then at least please avoid damaging the nation and other people and be aware of life’s value.
Thank you. I wish you happiness and safety over the long weekend. I also wish for abundance of rainfall over reservoirs and over fields of crops and freshwater aquaculture sites. I hope the drought threat passes soon.
Thank you and goodbye