National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister –September 4, 2015
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
We are at an important period now, and I would like to emphasize that all Thais need to work together to move our country forward. Everyone should deliberate and consult with each other to come up with ideas and common solutions, while putting away their differences and conflicting stances. Today, we are talking about our own future, which is about having a complete democracy that is accepted universally and how we can be assured that the same old problems will not come back to haunt us once democracy has been restored. This is what we need to focus on. This weekend, the Constitution Drafting Committee will present the revised charter draft to the National Reform Council, the process of which is in line with the NCPO’s roadmap. I have informed you before that the NCPO has never sought to postpone the process or change the roadmap. The NRC has the mandate to pass or reject the draft. If passed, we should be confident that national reforms will take place without conflicts. If rejected, we should go over the draft and amend problematic provisions. But if the only reason behind the rejection is because it is perceived as undemocratic, I think that would be unfair to the people.
People want to see change and reforms. It is not only about the Constitution being democratic or undemocratic, but it is also about how people actually benefit from the charter. People should be the center, not political parties, not any one group and not the NCPO. So please study the draft carefully.
Many people want me to make the decision about the charter which is impossible. The decision rests upon the people. You are the ones to decide this nation’s future. Each individual member of the NRC is entitled to his or her own opinion. They will act on their own without manipulation. Members who agree shall pass the draft. Those who disagree shall reject it. However, the decision must always be logically made. Please look through every provision and clause. Don’t just look at the content concerning political parties. It would not be right. I respect everybody’s decision. I only hope for our country to move towards real reform, with quality politicians and responsible representatives who will carry on the reform process. The process of reform shall take time and cannot be completely done within the next two years. I will be waiting for that day to come. It rests on the NRC’s decision on September 6th.
In order for our country to grow strong under the campaign “Our Home Our Country Stronger Together”, economic stability is a key factor, given that everything, especially the economy, has to move forward together. This week, the government has issued some urgent economic stimulus measures, hoping to alleviate people’s hardships, especially low-income earners. These measures are meant to create jobs and more income for local communities, with projects to create real benefits that match the needs of local communities.
This will allow for more circulation so that strong economic fundamentals can be created. These measures cover local communities like villages and sub-districts. As for the village level, a fund of 1 million baht will be available for loan to A and B grade villages, meaning these villages have strong economic foundations. In the first 2 years, the villagers will be exempt from loan interest. This allows them to invest without having to worry about paying back debts in the first two years. Please do not use this fund on unnecessary things like in the past. Previously, the public didn’t believe that the money was being spent at the public interest.
Village committees will be responsible for overseeing the spending. This is also considered a democratic system, because you need people’s consent in order for the village to spend. The move is meant to allow people to look after each other through this sort of fund. This is a start for what we call decentralization. However, corruption shall not be tolerated. The fund will not be given to election campaigners or campaign members. This has been our problem in the past. If this problem continues, then we will not go ahead with projects.
What the government wants is for the people to have improved standards of living. I am not doing this to gain popularity because I am not asking anyone to like me. I only want the economy to prosper. When budgets are allocated, production capacity will be increased. If we produce but there are no buyers, there will be more problems. The government will inspect if the money is spent for the maximum benefit of the communities, unlike what has happened in the past, before our administration. This time, we shall seek the real benefits of this project. So for those who have come out to say it will not work – please go back and look at the details and then go see how you previously handled this.
As for C and D grade villages, the government has an active plan to rehabilitate these villages. The funds have been approved since the last cabinet. The money will reach every community. It would be wrong if only successful funds are supported. We also need to help improve those funds that need improvement. We will help them. The NCPO, the Interior Ministry, and related committees will be assigned to help these funds. Corruption must not occur. I don’t want any political impacts or links to influence, especially during this period. Village funds are something that can truly reach the people who partake in the operation. But at this crucial stage, authorities will help you monitor the funds. In the past, the law allowed the people have full decision on these funds, but there were a group of individuals who caused disorganization and disorder. The money was thus not fairly spent.
In the sub-district or Tambon level, each Tambon will receive 5 million baht to be used to organize economic activities. In the past, we already provided assistance to drought-stricken areas which received 1 million baht each. The locals told me that they had never received such a fund before. Now with the money, they could build reservoirs, repair roads, create jobs and income, build agricultural zones, and procure agricultural equipment. This is how the money reaches the people. The NCPO, the Ministry of Interior, and the Agriculture Ministry will monitor the progress of how the money is being spent.
I urge local authorities to report all acts of corruption. If you didn’t do anything wrong, there is no need for you to be concerned. If you have good intentions, you will spend the money in a way that helps the people. Many have complained that the current government is too strict; the NCPO is too strict on the draft project plans. I can assure you that you need not be worried if everything is done the way it is supposed to be done legally. Those who are worried are usually involved with some misconduct. But some may worried because they have no knowledge of what they are responsible for. So please go and find out how the money should be properly distributed and managed, and help the government and the people. For those who have been used to avoiding getting caught, if you have been involved with any misconduct, you will obviously be caught.
I would like for the projects to be launched in people’s interest as well as to trigger local economies and reduce disparities. We don’t want to pay heed to former politicians who claim that the reason as to why the budget allocation is delayed is because the scrutiny process is too strict. Are we wrong to investigate how money is being used? I told my inspection teams that it is unnecessary to investigate every project due to the fact that there are monitoring committees which are already overseeing certain projects. However, those projects that are vulnerable to corruption will be closed monitored. If corruption is found, the project will be halted. Perpetrators will be indicted. And the project will be continued under another committee. This is what we are doing at the moment. Justice will be brought upon the wrongdoers.
The government will also expedite fund allocation for those agencies wishing to make small investments such as for repair work on school buildings or refurbishing public offices. The budget shall be given in order to create jobs. Disbursement will be made swiftly. The government will amend rules and regulations to allow smooth budget disbursement. Some laws have already been relaxed. All I ask of you is to refrain from corruption. Legislation must be used along with creating social consciousness, as in having principles and good intentions for our country. Should everyone have these ideals this way, I would be quite relieved. I would not be talking this much. All these aforementioned policies will help boost the economies in four region’s and thus stabilize the nation’s economy as a whole.
We want to distribute wealth, build strong communities, and stimulate the economy, particularly in this difficult period when external factors have a big influence on the domestic economy. We need to build strong economic fundamentals. We don’t just focus on one particular matter. We are trying to boost the economy through all possible mechanisms including the to-be-established special economic zones and border trade. In the past, nothing was well organized so we are trying to make everything more systematic. Please do not denounce me when am advocating transparency and tangible benefits for the people.
I can assure you that we will uphold transparency and people’s interest when implement a project. Many may think that this is being done to gain popularity. We are doing this for the peoples benefit, while will not receive any of our own – if you are considering to do what I am doing now, please review your past actions and adjust. Today, there are more than 70,000 village funds. Two thirds of them are effectively working. The rest are either enough to get by or not working at all. This is what happened to public hearings in the past. The current government will be stricter in a bid to raise higher social consciousness. We will not let you work on your own in projects that are not ready, but will assign knowledgeable people to help you.
Please rest assured that the government will be disciplined when it comes to finances even though much has been spent in this second phase. We will make sure our spending will not exceed the fiscal policy. We will control public debt. However, should there be any public debts, they will be in the form of valuable debts, meaning these debts should occur from rail construction or any other forms that create jobs and income. We will not create debts that damage the country. We will not increase the public debt without positive results like securing future income from invested projects. The money that is being spent is to the people them become stronger, increasing their ability to compete. Without systematic thinking, our country will not be able to progress. We cannot solely rely on exports.
The next topic concerns prices of consumer goods. According to a recent survey by the Ministry of Commerce, prices of some products have increased, but not to a level where one cannot afford them. I have ordered all responsible agencies including the Ministry of Commerce to inspect the prices and to ask entrepreneurs and producers not to take advantage of the consumers. Meetings and discussions have been held between officials and the private sector regarding the matter. I have given instructions to my economic team to set up central and community markets in every region of Thailand. This is to allow the public to purchase goods at reasonable and affordable prices. Traders at these markets are the farmers themselves. Officials will lend a hand in terms of finding locations as well as packaging. Farmers will be the ones to set the benchmark prices. I have seen this sort of method in foreign countries. The DPM along with the Commerce Ministry will see how this can be done.
When there are central markets from agricultural and seafood products, it is possible if we do this both ways? Meaning can cheap products be sold at these markets as well? Although the “Blue Flag” project is a good campaign, it still cannot reach everyone. If this is successful, communities will definitely be stronger. I would like to ask the private sector to consider lowering prices or maybe lower some frills associated with your products so that the prices can be more affordable. This is to allow the low-income earners to be able to purchase your goods when the economy is sluggish. Please try this idea. Other countries have been very successful.
In reference to moving our country forward, I would like every Thai to modernise and follow the news and updates themselves with useful information, especially on social media like Facebook, Youtube, and other applications, bearing in mind not to waste your time with useless information. All you need to do is be attentive to how we can move forward together. Every ministry has been launching smartphone applications for you to keep yourself updated. We all must become “smart Thais”, just like smart farmers. We have to adjust ourselves to technology while acquiring more knowledge in order to make our everyday lives more productive, earning more income. Today, we are trying to push for the realization of a digital economy. Every ministry has been asked to inform the public of what they have done. You cannot keep quite over the things you have done for the people. As I said, the public must gain the maximum interest. Every achievement needs to be put on your application where people can see. Tell people where they can follow your ministry’s work. Every ministry must do this. Officials are working around the clock. We need to let people know.
In regards to investments, the government is expediting the process. The new finance minister has been asked to oversee this matter. Contracts have been signed, agreements have been made, and laws have been revised. The process has already started and the work will be initiated by 2016. We are not doing this for the benefit of any individual. Everything is people-centered and all people will gain. The Finance Ministry has been assigned to oversee this matter and formulate a 5-year investment plan for a clearer picture. The plan will be implemented with utmost financial discipline so that the burden does not have to be passed onto the next government. These are the differences between the current administration and previous governments. This government anticipates what is to come in the future and what could be the consequences. What is deemed necessary will be implemented. We will not leave any burdens for others to take on.
State-private sector investments will be sped up and more frequent. As I told you, the government will act as facilitator. We will make sure the right legislation is in place. Markets will be opened up while the private sector will help drive growth by inviting foreign investors to seek opportunities in Thailand and encourage Thai investors to seek opportunities overseas. You can also form partnership and support one another. It is impossible to have the government be the only investor. We also don’t want anyone to seek profits through loopholes. The structure of our nation needs to be readjusted in order to help our people improve the standards of living. We will focus on all aspects – small, medium, and large. We need to enhance the country’s potential and competitiveness. This is an urgent issue that must be addressed in timely manner. Otherwise we will not be strong enough to be able to face future economic challenges.
The government is making legal amendments to address obstacles to investment and business. This requires time, because each law needs to pass an evaluation by a committee that has been set up by the NCPO and is subjected to extensive deliberation. It is not as if all matters I submit are final. This is how the work flows and everybody involved knows their responsibility. It is better for each of these laws to be issued than not at all. These laws are long overdue. There needs to be a starting point somewhere.
On the matter of incentives, many groups of people who will be doing business may not realize the gains they stand to receive from special economic zones and from the AEC. Everyone stands to gain. Those with lower income will be able to pursue side jobs such as working at stores, or at other accommodation related services. These types of work will become more abundant. This is how the gains will be shared with locals. Without such initiatives, gains will be limited to the same group of people. We are putting emphasis on businesses that already exist in each of the locales, especially the SMEs. There are many of these small companies and we must support and strengthen them. Incentives will be provided to Thai-owned businesses that already exist in each locale.
A different set of incentives will be provided to businesses from outside each locale, and yet another set for businesses from abroad.
Investment in each locale will consist of three parts. The first involves areas that will be managed by the Industrial Estate Authority; the second involves privately-operated industrial estates that will be paying rent to the state. The third part will involve city-building. These special economic zones can be created anywhere there is potential. These three types of investment will occur in every zone. The first two types will occur at six zones near the border within this year.
The Industrial Estate Authority’s areas will be nearer to the border while the privately-managed areas will be situated deeper inside. The state will undertake some joint investments, and will allocate land to allow these estates to be created – rubber cities, automobile cities, etc. This is in contrary to the existing industrial estates that have no more room to grow. Energy, planning, transportation, infrastructure, electricity and waterworks have to be prepared in advance, else problems will follow and be compounded by corruption. The private sector is ready to give its support. The state needs to improve itself for this purpose. Civil servants have also been giving much better cooperation as they have realized I am not here for any personal gains.
Long-term preparations for the labour demand must be made now, by the ministries of labour and education. The labour ministry must allocate electricians, plumbers, welders and the likes. Railroad engineers and railroad equipment must be provided. These activities are commencing next year – do we have the manpower for these purposes? Progress must be made in the preparation of teachers, in research, and in competitiveness-building. We must also look at whether our school curriculum is producing people who are good at competitive exams but not at practical work. Work skills must be taught. Most of the graduates do not yet realize the value of learning – they only know that they can take pride in being able to do exams, earn degrees and earn honors. Then, they cannot work practically and are unemployed. I am worried about this, and therefore I would like to ask for everybody’s cooperation.
The problem that stands out for the special economic zones right now is the problem of land price speculation. Land is being bought from people who have encroached on the land or from people entitled to plots designated for agriculture reform. These purchases are made without evidence of sale and the title holder is still the original holder. These purchases will be scrutinized. State-owned land will be reclaimed as they cannot be sold. Buyers of these plots are committing offenses and they should return the land if they realize their offense. The same goes for agriculture reform areas nationwide. The underprivileged keep selling the land allocated to them and then encroach on new forest areas. This is how some people keep breaking the law.
Issues such as the lottery are continuously being addressed. However once addressed, some go about creating new problems as they only seek profits but have no regard for correctness. We have considered step-by-step processes to solve issues, yet people will keep making extra demands once each step has been realized. The real culprit is disparity, injustice and corruption. When illegal activities are tolerated, officials cannot do their work.
Therefore, I am going to address these matters during this administration. Profiteers who have purchased land illegally must return all of the land. Policy has been handed down to the ministries of justice, natural resources, agriculture and interior. Paddies, orchards and rubber plantations will all be looked at. Rubber plantations being worked on by the underprivileged will be allowed to remain – rent will be charged until new plots of land can be allocated to them. However, legal action will be taken against profiteers who rally people to oppose the government.
I will be paying more attention to these matters and will not let them go unaddressed. For cases that have become overlooked, and thus people should send in information. They can send it directly to Government House if the ministries or other agencies were not able to address the problems. The ministries are burdened with work and may not have the time to address the numerous issues. I believe there is close to a million issues that have been submitted to the Damrongtham centers. 70%-80% of the issues have so far been addressed.
Time is needed for major issues that require legal amendments. Some have rushed to voice their complaints through television channels, mostly through Thai PBS. In response, I want to say that the government will tackle issues that it can. Those suffering urgent plights should report their problem. Consideration is being given to whether there can be a fund that would allow for legally-owned land to be mortgaged. Meanwhile, illegally possessed land cannot be utilized.
I have stressed that the public needs to know the gains they are entitled to. I ask that governors and civil servants in every sector to clarify these gains to the public. This will afford the country greater sustainability.
Last week, I officially visited the Philippines through the kind invitation of His Excellency President Benigno Aquino III, to advance our bilateral relations which are approaching their 7th decade. The Philippines is Thailand’s 6th most-prominent trading partner in ASEAN and 18th globally. There is roughly 270 billion baht worth of trade annually. I would like to emphasize that Thai investors in the Philippines should conduct commerce and investment projects that benefit both countries. In addition to cost-effectiveness, thought must also be given to how to share the gains with the Philippine society. In the same manner, I ask that Filipino investors in Thailand share the benefits with Thai society as well.
I would like to invite the businesses of both countries to exchange investment by means of partaking in the ‘Thailand + 1′ special economic zones. The Philippines’ experience in labor management abroad can be used as a model, especially for the creation of a fund to help people with job placement and with adjusting to the conditions abroad. Many of our people have gone abroad and there are many foreigners in our country. The pursuit of this matter will benefit the integration of all countries in ASEAN into the ASEAN Community, which will occur this year and will continuously be developed.
I task each ministry with quickly yielding practical results from every foreign visit by the government. There needs to be a target for every negotiation, a report, and a working guideline. If agreed upon, further discussions shall be made back home and matters that need the Cabinet’s approval will be submitted. So far, progress has been continually yielded from each visit; in contrast to trips abroad just to talk and coming back with nothing tangible. Details have to be discussed with the leaders. Otherwise the visits will simply be for the sake of travelling and time will be wasted. This is how nations are collaborating at present.
Another important matter is security. The Philippines has experience in handling such issues. We should be able to learn from some of these experiences. Step-by-step progression is being made on the Deep South issue, with negotiation and a peace dialogue in sight. Nevertheless, violence has to be curbed. If parties cannot exert control, then pledges cannot be made. Positions have to be clearly understood and wrongdoings cannot be blindly accepted, nor can any justification for violent movements. Results must be first yielded so that legal and judicial processes can be employed to solve the problem. I promise to do my best and be fair, while Thai and international laws must also be respected.
Lastly, I would like to invite the public to another event at Phadung Krung Kasem Canal Market. In September, the theme is about geographic indication and community identity. The market will be showcasing quality products that possess the geographic indication (GI) mark. This is important as products now require traceability due to the numerous laws and pacts that are in effect. We have addressed a significant portion of matters relating to the said laws and pacts – matters that have been largely unaddressed and would have led to our goods not being able to be sold in the future. Creative industry products include tea from Mae Salong, the Ban Na Kha textile market, the Nakhon Si Thammrat niello wares, Doi Tung and Doi Chang coffee, Hom Mali rice, Nakhon Chaisi pomelo, Phu Lae and Nang Lae pineapples, Chaiya salted eggs, Trang roasted pork and much more. These products are registered in and outside Thailand and are very well-known.
The GI products fair is about traceability. The same goes for fishery products that have to be traceable to the origin. This time, the fair will be split into two phases. Because of the sheer number of offerings, products will be from the North and Northeast in the first half of September. In the second half of the month, products will be from the central region, the eastern region and the southern region.
Business knowledge activities will take place. Lectures will be presented by leading speakers. Advising sessions and demonstrations will take place. There will be a photo competition with airplane tickets as prizes, and a ‘golden minute’ sale at the public service stall. I would like to invite the public to visit the market to support well-priced quality products from around the country. Sometimes we do not have the opportunity to purchase these products at their place of origin. Those with foreign friends, those who work at the various embassies in Thailand and all expats are invited to the market throughout the month of September.
I have said many times this is a demonstration market. It has hosted many fairs. The idea is to apply this model at central markets, via participation from the public. People will then be able to sell their products without needing middle men and without making prices too high. Middlemen are still needed to facilitate commerce but the prices will become more appropriate if there is this type of balancing mechanism.
Another matter is the oversight of tourism destinations and attractions. Generally, the tourism ministry is already overseeing these sites nationwide. There is also much opportunity for eco-tourism development in every locale. Thus, I would like the public to help out with security and cleanliness so that our tourism-related resources will not deteriorate. If there is too much activity at a small site then it can be ruined. In some cases the site can accommodate a large number of tourists but the locals cannot because they have nothing to gain. The minister has already been told to address these matters in detail.
Another important matter I would like to mention is how conflicts are still being instigated in society despite the country currently facing external problems and threats. We need to reduce internal conflicts as much as we can in order to keep external threats at bay. Currently, there are some parties trying to prevent the nation from becoming strong, for whatever purpose. The public must not go along with these people as they do not mean well. I am not going to say that I am better than these people, but I would like you to consider my expressions, my way of working, my way of explaining things to the public, and whether anybody else has done what I have.
I wish you a happy weekend. Thank you and goodbye.