National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister –August 7, 2015
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
August is a very auspicious month and one of the most significant times of the year as the 12th marks the Birthday Anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, which is also National Mother’s Day. Therefore, I would like to call on all Thais in all parts of the country to express our loyalty and love for Her Majesty the Queen, ‘Mother of the Land’, who has always worked alongside His Majesty the King wherever he would go, especially to places where the King was on a mission to improve the quality of life of his people in rural provinces.
Her Majesty has great vision and has always been interested in handicrafts and folk art. The Queen had directed that training should be given to citizens so that the quality of their handicraft work can be enhanced, and when these skills and handicrafts had improved, Her Majesty would use Her personal funds to purchase these artworks in a bid to support the careers of craftsmen, preserve Thai art, and to promote the beauty, delicacy and uniqueness of Thai handicrafts, such as molding, weaving, tatting, and basketry. To fulfill Her Majesty’s wishes, the Foundation For the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT Foundation) was established while its projects have been introduced in all provinces throughout the country.
On this very special occasion, I am inviting every individual to follow Her Majesty the Queen’s footsteps in conserving and carrying on with traditional weaving by donning Thai clothes on the basis of a sufficiency economy. We all should pledge to perform virtuous deeds for Her Majesty the Queen. The government is scheduled to host an alms-offering ceremony at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem, near Government House, on August 12, at 6 am. The ceremony will be performed by a highly-revered abbot. Everyone is invited to the event.
Today, I have some important matters I to share with you.
The first matter concerns national reform. Everyone has to understand the concept of reform. It means to adjust, revise, and improve things, which is our priority at the moment. Since 22 May 2014, we have discovered many problems in terms of legislation and practices, not to mention the structural problems.
It may have been the case that previously, the politicians did not place a lot of emphasis on restructuring, but rather kept providing for the low income earners while forgetting to improve the overall structure and the potential of our country, especially law enforcement, the enhancement of the work of state officials (civil servants, police, and military officers), modernizing outdated laws on trade and investment, agreements with other nations, which we already have but never put them to good use. Our inability to implement those agreements has led us to fall behind while today’s world is changing constantly
As for corruption, this problem exists in Thai society and we are working very hard to address it. We also need to revamp social norms and orderliness in society, improve water management, flood and drought prevention which has lacked effective management. We need water for consumption, for agriculture, and for the industrial sector. As for infrastructure development, we need to expedite efforts to improve our infrastructure to be in pace with global developments.
One of the most important aspects at the moment is economic structural reform which will be vital in helping us to compete with other nations. We are also working to preserve and save our natural resources such as land, forests, and water. Everyone understands that treeless mountains lead to rain/precipitation scarcity and this problem has been with us for a long time. We also need to build stability in the agricultural sector.
We must improve ourselves and improve the country’s competitiveness in agriculture. We need to figure out how we can raise prices of our agricultural products. The government is doing a lot of things for this purpose and therefore time is required for all of these to be achieved. Everything the government is trying to do is for the sustainability of our country.
If you view us fairly, you will see that we have addressed many issues. Some issues have been successfully addressed while some are work in progress. But what is essential is that must sustain this progress, which will mean that we all need to truly understand the problem, so whenever a problem arises, we will be able to solve it at its roots. Laws are being carefully considered, including agreements, while there are many citizens that still do not understand the new laws, which are there for orderliness in our society. We will keep our promises we made with international community so as to regain trust and confidence.
Thailand will soon return to its normal state. Authorities will seek cooperation from every side in the attempt to resolve all situations and bring effective solutions to social problems. It is common that there will be both dissenters and supporters and this is why the reform process is divided into two phases.
The initial phase involved the establishment of the NCPO and the interim government and has focused on moving the country forward without hindrances to national administration while fixing urgent problems along the way.
The second phase involves the establishment of the National Reform Council (NRC), with the aim to initiate reforms in 11 aspects as stipulated in the provisional constitution, so that the country can eventually attain the goal of sustainable reform with continuity.
As for all the problems that we have addressed in the first 2 phases, it does not mean that the government will move on to the next set of problems after the current ones have been resolved, but we also need to make sure that they will not resurface. Therefore unfinished business will be passed on to the third phase where an elected government will take office and deal with these pending matters.
In view of this, the law as well as the constitution might need to specify how continuity can be ensured for the handling of these reform issues/problems. Some issues will take longer, maybe several years, as many countries have taken almost 30 years to reform issues while problems keep arising as the world continuously changes.
Please understand and rest assured that the current government and the NCPO are not here to build a foundation of power or seek own benefits. This kind of thought has never entered our mind.
I would like everyone to understand what a reform really is. It is something that needs continuity. We must start from not so difficult problems and then move on to more challenging issues. It is impossible to address all big issues at the same time as it only brings conflicts, chaos, and unwanted consequences, and the opportunity for certain groups to exploit low-income earners, or those who have been economically afflicted, or those in distress, as a tool to oppose reforms and national administration from the very start.
Those people who were exploited may not have even known that they had been manipulated or realized how their actions could bring about problems. But if we are able to show them what the government is really doing and has accomplished at the initial stages and what is intended d for the future, the problems that had manifested over many years and have since been resolved have a good chance of not recurring and thus being sustainably rectified, with the cooperation of all sectors in Thailand. I would like the Thai people from all backgrounds to understand and cooperate on this. Of course this is not an easy task, but we shall keep trying our best.
The next matter pertains to economy, politics, and democracy. We must admit that these three are interconnected, because Thailand will finally have a complete democracy. But we might have some differences from a western system in the areas of professions, incomes, education levels, national resilience, country competitiveness, social disparities – all these have differences around the world. Therefore if we consider what this government has done so far, although we have not been directly financially supporting the people so as to avoid distorting other matters, but we have spent much on issues to alleviate those in distress, such as in the agriculture, the drought and floods.
These issues have been implemented constantly to alleviate many distresses in society, but government spending has also been to bring sustainable growth to the agricultural sector, especially in terms of production cost reduction. A certain proportion of the money has been invested in the industrial sector especially on technology, research and development, infrastructure development, new approaches to crop planting, connectivity of transportation systems, and sustainable water management. The previous administration had used the budget for a number of populist projects, which resulted in problems with budget disbursement. I understand that there may have been some necessities, but problems should not arise in the future from these.
We are doing our best, but the public keep on pressuring us on some issues. So we need to create understanding with them that we cannot spend all the money we have now. We need to save some for whatever to come in the future. This is why the overall structure must be reformed. A stronger and better system needs to be adopted.
Of course, many people still do not understand because previously they had been given easy access to cash, without realizing that this dependency weakens them and society in the end. Some political groups, especially those influential people, might have had good intentions initially, but eventually succumbed to vested interests and to being exploited for certain matters, thus developing even more entrenched positions begetting a vicious circle of conflict in society. A government that upholds good governance should refrain from that course and try to prevent conflict in society but rather build stability so that people can help themselves and be proud of themselves.
In order to look after 70 million people, there must be a clear guideline so as to allow the state to address each problem according to degrees of severity. However, we will not look at each group differently or divide the people into opposing sides, nor do we seek to enhance our popularity so that we can remain in power for a long time. I would therefore like to call on our politicians to refrain from this sort of behavior in the future.
I can assure you that there is no need for you to be worried about the current government or the NCPO. We do not wish to stay in power. I have never had this ambition from the very start. I would like to repeat this to you now. I would like for all of us to consider how we can help each other to achieve a sustainable democracy, how the permanent constitution should be, so that the next government can work effectively, can continue with reforms, and can progress accordance to our national strategy for the next 20 years, and how it can administer legitimately and with good governance.
No one wants the people to face hardships right now or for the country to face an economic slump. We are doing everything in our capacity and with sincerity to shape the country’s future. Every citizen has the hope to break free from poverty and have a good quality of life with sufficiency. But if we don’t adopt new solutions now, our country will face even more problems and this will bring instability and a country without stability is a country without sustainability.
Our next topic concerns members of the press, be they television or radio broadcasting, print media, or social media. I am not in conflict with you as you know. Information provided by the media can be a helping hand. Some news has good content, some not, some are based on truth, some on untruths – so I ask all of you to use your discretion and reasoning when considering the quality of news you are receiving. But I would like some social media or unethical press to stop misleading the people. Our people have been misguided or rather manipulated for a long time. I want to say this to create more understanding. Those who seek to benefit from creating disputes or a conflict situation in society – we should change this behaviour. Otherwise, our country will never be peaceful. All of us are Thai, and we must constantly improve ourselves, to be knowledgeable, conscious, and with the ability to separate right from wrong and truths from lies. I do not wish for Thai people to be easily manipulated, or be controlled by a certain group. All of us need to build stability and resilience under the rule of law.
At present, the drafting of the constitution is proceeding in accordance to the process stipulated within the interim charter. I would like everybody to consider the contents by taking account of the past and of what we need in the future. Stability is of prime importance. Would the kind of democracy in western countries ensure the security and safety for our country at the moment? We possess certain differences. So for the next phase of reform what kind of government should we have? Will it come from the same politicians from the past whose ideas are unchanged? Or, will it be a government that upholds good governance and receives greater recognition domestically and internationally than the current administration?
All will depend on the decisions that will be made by every Thai citizen. Therefore, those who will take roles in the future government should willingly embrace and undertake reforms. In order for more clarity, let us get some answers from politicians and political parties and see what ideas they have about reforms. Many current politicians will be running in the election. They should think about the 11 reforms and let society know what they think. This is collaboration, not opposition. Instead of relentlessly opposing and rebuking me, suggestions can be made through several channels – the National Reform Council, the NLA or the government. The government is already dealing with numerous problems and we need to finish our work quickly, the way you want.
Conflicts, unrest and relentless opposition will take us back to where we were before, and the current government will not be able to create progress – we will be stuck at the same place or will make slight progress. I do not wish to take up a lot of time in office. Meanwhile, I know you would like to enter into the scene. Thus, I am trying to quickly make things ready. But it is not going to work if there are the amount of conflicts we are seeing right now. The verbal exchanges will never end if rebukes are made over every word spoken. Work will not progress. The public will be anxious and apprehensive and there will be distrust. This cannot be the case. We need the public to have trust in each and every one of us – the current government, the next government as well as past governments.
I have no disagreement with the word democracy. However, a good democracy should allow a country to be secure, to have a future, and to have enough strength to face both internal and international challenges. We must try to avoid the pitfalls of democracy or falling into the ‘democracy trap’, something that has occurred countless times over the past 80 years. We have been very slow in overcoming this hurdle. Please take this into consideration.
The drought problem remains a major issue at the focus of the current government. In addition, some provinces have now encountered floods. The government’s many assistance measures and guidelines are being implemented. Some of the measures are dependent on the results of surveys. At present, employment is being generated in afflicted areas through the efforts of the Ministry of Interior and the agriculture ministry. Support for alternative crops is also being given. Small water sources are being sought out. Even water hyacinth collection is ongoing. I have assigned additional tasks after having recently inspected afflicted areas. Areas damaged by drought are being surveyed in order for assistance to be promptly prepared. I would like to ask provincial governors and local agriculture offices to follow the weather forecasts and closely work with farmers to provide suggestions, especially those that concern the second crop, so that farmers will be able to face any recurrence of dry spells in the next planting season.
On water management, 6 strategies and 12 activities have been implemented since May, 2014. As a result, water retention capacity has increased by 2.074 billion cubic meters. The increase is attributable to the following: 907 village waterworks projects and 700 community and school waterworks projects. 732 million cubic meters of water sources within irrigated areas has effectively increased irrigated areas by 4.7 million rai. Almost 3,000 water sources outside irrigated areas added 1 billion cubic meters of water for agriculture.
50,000 pools have been dug on farmlands. 2,300 water sources with 287 million cubic meters capacity were developed for disaster prevention and mitigation. Groundwater sources were developed for 66,250 rai of farmlands. Groundwater sources were developed at 900 sites to mitigate drought. Some 200 kilometers of major waterways for dredged. Flood prevention projects were carried out for 24 urban communities. 45,000 rai of forest areas were restored. Soil erosion prevention and mitigation measures were employed for 675,000 rai of areas.
For long-term water management and for concrete, sustainable results that correspond to the national water strategy, the government has set up a national water resources committee to take over the work of the NCPO’s committee on water resource policy and management.
In conclusion, the major issues that are being addressed by the government and the NCPO include the following:
1. Honouring Thailand’s commitments made with the international community. Confidence shall be fostered, and adherence to international law and agreements must be kept.
2. On the matter of state administration, problems are being addressed and the efficiency of the civil service is being improved. Synergy is being created among state agencies involved in particular matters. Efforts are being made to see that policies get implemented concretely and rapidly. Budget use is being expedited while taking into account value for money, transparency and the elimination of corruption.
3. National agendas have been designated for the purpose of concretely driving current work. Examples include the systematic tackling of the problems of narcotics, human trafficking, waste and garbage management, land encroachment, lack of farmland, illegal fishing, civil aviation, state enterprises, water management, in addition to numerous other problems. If you have been paying attention then you will know that much work has been done. Many people have been busy making their living and so may have not paid attention. People may have only noticed the things that they have directly come in contact with, and come to think that little work has been done. There are many stakeholders in different sectors and at many levels. If we focus too much on specific areas then there will be gaps in coverage.
4. Reforms have started for many affairs. Phases 1 and 2 are being implemented at present to pave way for phase 3 to be implemented during the next government. The five categories being pursued by the government include security, economy, society, foreign affairs, and law and justice. Phase 1 and 2 reforms are involved in all of the five work categories for the ministries. Phase 3 will be for after the election.
5. For public participation, we have the National Reform Council that is a gathering of people of varying occupations, groups and factions who come from different areas. They are deliberating the reform plans for use in the next phase, so that a guideline for country administration will be ready for use after the new charter takes effect and after the elected government takes office.
6. Preparations are being made for national strategies that will allow the country to keep moving forward, for the next 20 years. Every plan and every strategy for each state sector must have relevance. I would also like future governments to proceed in ways that are in keeping with these national strategies.
7. There may be a need to set up a committee to drive the aforementioned strategies, to drive reforms and reconciliation as well as to prevent violent situations from recurring. We should think about how we can do this. We are not indifferent to the possibilities of such situations recurring. It will be good if no recurrence takes place. However, there should be a mechanism to address such situations so that they are not solved in the same manner as tried before May 22, when I had to step in.
This committee could work in tandem with the next elected government’s state administration affairs. But it should not interfere with state administration and should only look after reforms, reconciliation and the avoidance of violence. The primary reason for having the committee is to enable the country to progress forward. At present, we have the NCPO assisting the government. In the future, such a committee will be available to assist the next government in moving the country forward.
8. As for work that has already been achieved, emphasis has been placed on communication between the NCPO, NLA, NRC and the government when dealing with work affairs over the past period. Work coordination has been continuous. Joint meetings were had and related documents were submitted for acknowledgment. Many coordinating committees existed. You will see that up until now, the NLA and NRC have been informed of all affairs undertaken by the NCPO and the government. This was done to allow the NRC to ponder over their affairs, so that it makes its own additions and include them in the reform plans that will be implemented by the next government.
I want to clarify that the ideas expressed by the NLA, NRC and various committees have been made by knowledgeable individuals who hail from various backgrounds and who were independent. Please try to listen to them. I do not want to restrict the ideas of these distinguished individuals – they all mean well. Well-meaning ideas have been the case in every age. However, some ideas do not match. There are many laws that are sent from the Cabinet to the committees, and each required 3 readings at the NLA. It is not as if the Cabinet, upon completion of consideration, can send a law for immediate enforcement. There are 3 NLA committees to filter these laws.
Some drafts have been almost completely revised while some have been modified for improvement. We have limited time to work on the various matters that we submit. The ministries, the Council of State, the Secretariat of the Cabinet have limited time to go over the laws in detail and there are many pressing matters at present. We also have numerous laws that have been backlogged from the previous administrations while we are also thinking up new laws and updating other laws. The purpose is to create gains for the public, for trade and investment, and for the reduction of disparities in society. There are many laws that involve our commitments to the international community which have not been updated.
Our laws pertaining to international collaboration were not in keeping with current circumstances whereas many countries have already updated theirs. This has to be corrected. Previously once revisions were made, conflicts arose between different factions over who would be gaining more. I think we have to share the gains and place the country first. Please understand that we have continually been trying to ensure transparency and efficiency in all undertakings.
Importantly, I would like to call on everybody to contribute toward the creation of stability and security for the public and for the country, as well as the fostering of confidence among international organizations and friendly nations. We must place importance in developing our human resources to accommodate changes in global circumstances – changes in the economy, connectivity, global climate conditions and the threat from international terrorism – as well as in bringing about empowerment for our people and increasing the country’s competitiveness.
To increase income for the country, we need to adjust our economy to be less reliant on exports. Innovations have to be created and collaboration has to be sought among ASEAN nations, in a manner of ASEAN plus one. What I mean is that any country among the 10 member countries that invest with us can do so according to its own capacity. ASEAN nations must grow strong together. We have our friends and we must be committed to them. The entire ASEAN will then truly become strategic partners, not competitors. The most importantly thing is the cooperation of everyone and every faction. This will enable us to overcome the middle income trap and return to being a country known as ‘the land of smiles’ with unity.
As for the Bike for Mom activity on August 16, I would like to invite all members of the public to participate concertedly in this activity. Please also address the issues I have pointed out – safety, orderliness and formation. Please come to Bike for Mom, to commemorate the auspicious occasion of Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday Anniversary as well as to promote everybody’s health.
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has continually expressed his concern for those who will partake in the activity and has asserted that relevant officials be prudent in matters such as routing, accidents, emergency response and nursing stations. You may participate by cycling as well as by observing the event along the route. Based on last week’s inspection, everything was going according to plan and only slight adjustments were required. I would truly like to thank relevant officials from all agencies for their efficient work.
As for members of the public who will be participating, please exercise caution when training. It is raining and the roads are slippery. I have been informed of many injuries during rehearsals. Because of the injuries, we now know how to better guard against them. From now on it would be preferable that no serious injuries occur. Please provide your cooperation to the officials on all matters that have been officially announced as well as the issues I have mentioned. I will take this much of your time today.
I wish you happiness. Thank you and goodbye.