National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister –September 11, 2015
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
Today there are many important matters I would like to speak to you about. The first matter concerns the draft of the Constitution which was rejected by the National Reform Council (NRC). I would like for you all to see this issue from many perspectives and not just whether it was democratic or undemocratic or about prolonging the governments stay in power. I would like all of you to help think about what is best for our nation, for the people, and how peacefulness can be sustained, without society reverting back to conflict, so that true reforms take place and are continued by the next elected government.
I think this is very important. Whether we can do this will depend on if we can all work together. This doesn’t mean I don’t trust the next elected government. Anyone, except felons, can run for an election. But what can we do to ensure that the next government will hold the maximum benefit of the nation at heart, and not pursue personal gains? How will they address inequality issue? Will they be fair as well as being able to implement the laws effectively, without any distress to officials? If you come in and are responsible, I would not have a problem with how we shall move forward, how it will be drafted, and I will not be involved.
I want everyone to help think about how the new constitution should look like. Don’t just base it on democracy alone or think that it mostly involves prolonging the tenure of this government. Rest assured, I am willing to give up everything if we get a government that takes responsibility and doesn’t falter. I believe that 90% of all politicians are good. Only a few are unscrupulous, but they are the ones that tarnish their own party and makes things worse. This is our once in a life time opportunity to make our country better and move forward in the right direction. In the future, I will not be there to help you fix any problems.
Therefore, if you are worried about this issue, please lend a hand and try to study the constitution. I am inviting everyone especially politicians to have a say in the new charter. At least help us with reforms. I will invite all of you to sit as members of the national reform steering assembly. If you reject this invitation, please don’t come back and denounce it later. Please join this body. The charter drafting committee will write a new constitution and will inform the public of developments as they progress. The last committee did this, but whether we all followed up on progress was another matter.
Today, we have to encourage and build a democratic system that meets international standards and is able to fix the country’s problems. This is most important. And then we can move forward with reconciliation efforts through legislation and the judicial system. Reforms in 11 areas will take place with the support of laws written to facilitate the reform process.
As for the issue of conflict in our society, we need to go back and look at what sort of problem we had in the past. It would be a problem if the police, the military, or security units didn’t intervene at all. However, that was not the case. War-grade weapons such as guns and grenades were being used during the demonstration. Neither the military nor the police was involved in the use of force. A lot of people were jailed for the violence. The society should be the one to judge these people.
We are soldiers who have become temporary politicians because of necessity circumstances. Most of us are civil servants. What have always faced the challenge of fixing the nation’s problems and we would like to carry out our work autonomously, honestly and under the law. So please let the officials do their work for the country. This is what I want you to think about, especially those who will become politicians or run for a seat in parliament.
The national committee on reform and reconciliation strategy may not even be necessary should politicians or the next government truly want to make our country strong and commit to their roles and responsibilities. But how can we ensure that everything will progress the way it should? Should there be an agreement between politicians before and after an election? I have never thought that I am better or smarter than the public. Everybody is smart in their own way, with their own expertise in their professions. I can’t compete against you. I don’t know how to grow rice or handle any other profession. All my life, I’ve only been a soldier. So don’t think that other people are not as smart as you.
We need to help people with education, be fair to them, and take good care of them; not divide them by creating conflicts among the public. Don’t abuse your power. Use state funds in the right way. This was the problem which prompted previous protests. This kind of problem existed in all governments, not just the previous one. The demonstrations were prolonged while war-grade weapons were being used, as you already know. This is exactly what happened in 2010.
Who was the government? Who was the opposition? Protests against the government and even international meetings, and the use of weapons…but I am not referring to all of them. There were only a few groups that wanted to use violence, who thought that violence can fix problems, and can scare people away from protests.
I don’t want to see that anymore. Let the law have its place in our society from now on. Otherwise the military or the police will always be used as political tools as in the past. Because of this, I didn’t come here with the intention to punish such officials. But it was necessary to remove some police officers, provincial authorities after May 22 when I came into office. I asked them why they did what they did. They said they were ordered to do by the government sector.
If there were no officials being involved in these cases or if power was not abused, these things never would have happened in the first place. I have never used my power to seek personal gain. My intentions and sincerity have been clear in creating understanding with the public, to ask for their patience until things get better. Society shall be the judge in this respect.
Thailand has fallen into many traps while trying to progress. There are traps everywhere such as in the economy and national security. We have to be able to step pass these traps and one day we will become a stable country with higher income and sustainability.
I urge those accused of misconduct to come forward and enter the justice system. Judges will ensure that justice is provided for you and compassion is rendered. Please give your cooperation and don’t become an outlaw. I empathize with court officials. Officials who are investigating fraud and corruption have been attacked. This is wrong. Please don’t condone this behavior. Please refrain from distressing others, instead prepare well for the next election.
Perpetrators are judged guilty according to witnesses and evidence. They won’t be able to charge you for anything if you are innocent. Everything will be judged based on witnesses and evidence. No matter what accusations you are facing, if it is proven that you are not guilty, you did not do anything wrong.
Therefore, government officials, the opposition, civil servants and the people have to be responsible for their own actions.
You need to think about what you can do to help and remove conflict. What can we do to promote peace and bring orderliness to our society? If we keep on fighting each other, or keep being used by each faction, nobody can help you fix your problems.
As for foreign affairs, the government and the NCPO understand Thailand’s international obligations and I have tried my best to create understanding about the current situation in Thailand, but some fugitives will do what it takes to distort the truth. They will try to make other nations misunderstand Thailand and the Thai government. I heard that most of the news stories that are being reported overseas are mostly negative. I don’t understand why this has happened and will ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out.
I do not wish to create further conflict in Thailand as we are here today to ensure that our international friends are cared for, as are investments; and to ensure fairness and fight corruption. I have not harmed anyone. The only thing you can hold against me is how I came to power. We have accomplished many things so far and foreigners realize this. Therefore, to the fugitives in other countries who continue to give distorted information and blame Thai authorities, the government, and the people, I say “enough is enough”. Please come back and prove yourself through the judicial system. All Thais who love their country should consider whether these people, who have publicly supported defamation against our highest national institution and even supported violence, should be able to administer our nation. This is what people need to think about. The future of Thailand is in your hands. You will be the ones facing the actions of the next government. If you elect a government that does not exercise good governance, no one will be here to fix the problems for you.
In reference to the enforcement of Article 44, as I mentioned, we will use it in the most constructive way, paving the way for national reform. It is used to resolve complicated problems in a timely manner. Please refrain from linking it to our highest institution. It seems like these people will not refrain from insulting our highest institution, both verbally and through social media with distorted information. Thai laws cannot prosecute those outside the country. We cannot stop them from giving out distorted information. But this action causes misunderstanding towards Thailand. It accuses Thailand of violating human rights. We have never sought to violate anybody’s rights. But resolving this issue has to be considered by all of us.
In the meantime we have to look at several angles when trying to understand complicated issues.
Sometimes the news will confuse the public. But consider the gist of the matter, see what I have done, what others have done, for instance I can assure you that I’m very cautious when it comes to budget disbursement or anything that could have consequences. Despite this, I am always the target or being accused of misconduct. I have not done these things you accuse me of, so I give you briefings regularly and I can guarantee you that I never intervene in any court procedures. I don’t want to see arguments like this linger or for this to cause anymore hatred in society. Thailand has no future if we continue to hate each other the way we have. So I am not criticizing every politician, but only few of them. Unscrupulous politicians should be separated from good ones if we want to stop social conflicts. It is the public’s decision who should be the next government. I will not say anything about this matter. When you are elected, you need to commit to the country and to your job and carry on the work and reforms. The things I have done will not obstruct your work. Please try to carry out the plans for reforms and the improvements that the country has to undergo. When you are in office, please respect others and respect others’ duties.
In regards to the mobilization of the nation’s economy, it is important that we take everything into consideration, starting from low-income people, farmers, urgent issues, restructuring of various professions, and investments. This is to make our country stronger economically. The government has to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), readjust water management plan, better manage the resources that we have, and better manage public land. This is to make sure that fairness is given to everyone. When we grant land to you, please don’t sell it off. After you sell it, you invade other areas. This is why forest areas are diminishing. Then come infrequent rainfalls. As you can see, there has been less rainfall. The amount of water in major dams is not enough. Then you look for alternatives which do not work. I need you to understand this fact. I want to build all these things, so that you can have higher confidence and will not have to face hardship in the future. But you need to understand it first. Other countries understand what is going on in Thailand. All of them want to engage with Thailand and everywhere I have gone, they would seek bilateral cooperation. This includes trade associations in Thailand, Europe and America. Association presidents said they understood us. It makes me therefore wonder why there are a lot of people who said they don’t understand or deliberately don’t try to understand and thus continue to send false information about Thailand to others.
We need to make sure equality is provided for the investors. We also need to protect the benefit of Thai investors, whether they invest locally or overseas. In the meantime, we have to take care of foreign investors in Thailand. Thailand promotes a competitive market, which paves the way for strong foreign relations. We need to look at different aspects. We will not be versatile should we only look at the problems. A lot of things need to be resolved. We are currently facing the problem of human trafficking as well as
evaluations by international organizations on the punishments for offenses, how we have restructured some organizations, how victims have been care for, and the IUU fishing problem. This has caused some distress for our fishermen as they are innocent and they don’t make a lot of money. But they are the ones who suffer from the actions of corrupt businessmen and corrupt officials. Those who follow the rules can carry on with their lives as normal.
Please make things right. I ask that all fishing operators help to protect marine resources, so that we have enough food sources in the future. If you catch the fish while they are still young, they will not be able to breed and all the fish will be gone. When there is no more fish, you enter other countries’ waters and you will get caught. You will be breaking Thai laws and other countries’ laws. However, I thank those who always respect the law. Thank you for making changes. We need to bring positive changes to Thai waters.
The next matter concerns aviation problems. The government will continue to use Article 44 to help the Ministry of Transport to fix problems. There has been some progress under good cooperation from the Air Force as well as from neighboring countries. I want everyone to look into the rules and regulations that we have, and make sure these regulations will help us solve aviation problems. Don’t rush into it. We don’t want another mistake. This problem has prolonged in Thailand for more than a decade. It has casued a lot of damage. I don’t think I am as smart as many politicians, given that politicians are well-educated and have the expertise in public administration. I can’t compare myself to you. You are definitely smarter than me. But you must have ethics and good governance. You need to look after the people and civil servants so that they can be strong.
We can co-exist peacefully; other advanced countries have accomplished this, when conflicts are not fueled in society, when conflicts between the public and officials that arise from enforcement of the law are quelled. It has to start with this idea, and how we can be responsible to one another other to make ourselves stronger. This is how we can lay down strong foundations for each community, locality, village and sub-district. It has to be brought about starting from the smallest unit, by creating strength within. His Majesty the King has said before, that it needs to start from the heart – from the community – before the top and the middle parts are reinforced. Then, there is the promotion of small and medium sized businesses through the use of funds, loans, and tax measures. These initiatives cannot simply be carried out immediately upon inception, as many laws and many entities are involved.
There is also a limit to the budget available, which needs to be diverted toward investment and other existing problems. You will see that many issues overlap and would have remained so. With us being here, there is an opportunity to solve these issues – issues that must be solved one way or another.
For SMEs, registration presents an important problem. There have been demands for overdue taxes to be waived. Why do we need to talk about this when I have not even mentioned the issue of taxes? Why not let us talk about handling the new affairs well first? We can then say that transition is achieved if the new undertaking goes well, and if no damage is incurred. With this kind of successful transition there will be no need to proceed further into other matters. However, if there are problems then back inspections will be required regardless of whether the SME has since been registered or not. I would like to give this word of caution. To say that there should be a full exemption on all taxes- is this really possible? The legalization process has reached this point, and I would like us to proceed forward without lapsing back to where we were. The operators who say they will not come into the system unless the tax waiver is assured and choose to remain outside the system are nonetheless still legally accountable. With that said, these operators should not complain about not being able to access funds when they are choosing to ignore the conditions.
The state needs to provide support to the aspects of funding, marketing, labor, production technology, designing, management, and information awareness. Relevant civil servants must oversee the entire circuit, from upstream to mid-stream and downstream. Start with production, reducing production costs, increasing competitiveness for the domestic and international markets, and building connectivity. We are preparing to set up central markets in many areas to provide linkage between community markets and border trade markets. The interior, agriculture and commerce ministries are working on this. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid has already been told to see this through, and we will quickly see to its realization.
I believe we need to create an incentive for everybody to enter into the system. Thus, please refrain from making new problems by straying here and there. We are talking about investing for the economy, and there will be consequences. There is no need to mention past issues when you come in, just proceed with what is in front of you. So long as you do not commit offenses then there is no need for retracing old matters. The people who are to be part of this process are all operators of small businesses.
You have likely been informed about the monetary measures. Banks and financial institutes will take part in providing working capital, which will amount to no more than 20 billion baht in total. There have been talks and these financial entities have agreed that it can be done. Similar measures have been issued previously by the government but they were not implemented because talks have not been had downstream. The deputy prime minister and finance minister will now talk with every sector to determine how to collaborate and if implementation is possible. Another matter is that of credit guaranteeing under the PGS-5 scheme, which provides a maximum of 40 million baht of credit guarantee for each business, under a total limit of 100 billion baht.
To reduce the tax burden on SMEs, the finance ministry is issuing a measure calling for the reduction of income tax for SMEs, from 15% or higher to 10%. The SMEs will then be able to make investments more easily. A small company might not yet earn profit in the first 3 years of operation as it struggles to find its markets. These companies will be stronger if the state helps out with funding, credit guaranteeing, and tax reduction. They should be also provided with more knowledge and data. We are also working to provide income tax waiver for new, start-up SMEs. We will also help out underperformers that are still viable. Waivers will be provided for 5 consecutive accounting cycles.
As for measures to support public-private sectors partnership, we are setting up 2-billion baht joint funds that amount to 6 billion baht in total. These funds will make joint investments with SMEs, in accordance with conditions deemed appropriate to each of the target SME group.
Note that we are not able to provide support to businesses that have not entered the system – those unregistered by the state. If everybody gives their cooperation then employment will be created locally and income will increasingly be distributed to communities. The government expects that investment will expand by 3.8 billion baht and consumption by 960 million baht in the future.
As for reforms, no damage has been incurred from the work of the National Reform Council despite there having been some conflicting views. This is the kind of democracy that people wish for; where everybody has the right to make their voice heard, so don’t blame the NRC members for their debates. You want democracy but you become disgruntled when they exercise democracy inside the NRC. How will you react in the future, given that there will be elections and debates in parliament? This is a sample of the democratic system.
I am currently considering the new, 200-member council to drive reforms. The reform plans by the NRC will be reviewed and upsized and downsized here and there. The roadmap for each affair will then be laid down to allow implementation to take place. Then, supporting laws will have to be addressed. I have not even named this new entity yet – I am saying that perhaps there needs to be such a mechanism in place. We should think about how we would proceed without such an entity and who will take responsibility for the reforms.
If the reforms are not carried out then I will regret the waste of time, effort and intellect spent. Everybody has been dedicating themselves for the cause, thus we need to be able to have confidence that the reforms – if they are good – will be continued. A method for this entity to function will have to be sought. Changes will take place, owing to the charter drafting, reforms, and other ongoing affairs. However, we will not be avoiding the fact that democracy is a global standard – we will not be able to proceed otherwise. Trust needs to be fostered among the public, politicians and civil servants. Let there be no more creation of anxiety, misunderstanding and distortion. The law and judicial procedures must be allowed to function, in order for us to make forward progress. I would like to assert that I have never infringed upon the authority of the judicial branch.
In the previous week’s meeting of the Cabinet, I was informed by the National Water Resources Committee about the current water situation in waterways and major dams. Farmers are waiting to hear what the state will make of the situation. Analysis of the situation leads us to believe that problems will be had with off-season rice cultivation at the end of the current rainy season as well as during next year. The amount of water available is 10-20% lower than the preferred level. Meanwhile, raining has been inconsistent and has been taking place away from reservoirs. This means there will be less water available. The amount of water held by the 17 major reservoirs is 30% below requirement. This amount of water has to be used for consumption, preventing saltwater incursion, etc.
Thus, I would like to caution about off-season rice cultivation in advance, or else the farmers will blame me and aid measures will have to be issued again. The government will seek out solutions, perhaps by switching to other crops temporarily and then switching back to rice once water becomes plentiful. For now, the farmers will have to grow other things such as beans or sesame, whatever crop that yields income during this period of water shortage.
Therefore, I am having the interior, agriculture and commerce ministries look into production costs, demand and supply as well as into farming equipment. Attention also has to be paid to agricultural zoning and marketing. Domestic consumption, border trade, exportation to overseas must all be looked at. The various trade agreements have to be considered while we determine whether we are able to compete and whether our costs are prohibitively high.
We are currently working on a large number of water retention projects. “Monkey-cheek” detention basins and small basin arrays will first be created in areas with recurring drought, before all other areas are covered. Because of the diminished supply of water from reservoirs, these basins will have to be dug both in and outside irrigated areas. They will also have to be able to provide water for consumption. One of my ideas is to create a large lake or permanent water source that would also lend itself to fishery and other activities, in areas downstream from dams. Perhaps they could even sit next to waterways that flow toward other countries. We will be able to make use of water that would otherwise flow out.
The same goes for Pak Mun Dam and the 30 major and branching waterways. Perhaps the water feed from the Mekong should be retained at Pak Mun for domestic use before being discharged. Everybody there is saying they want to engage in fisheries. I have nothing against this but we must determine how we can retain water. We will then be able to carry out fishery activities and discharge excess water at will. The dam has so far been repeatedly shut off. The same goes for the Salawin River. The retention areas can be set up on state-owned land that is not being put to use. Such sites are being sought out. If possible, we will create lakes by storing water before it enters the main rivers. The lakes will then become tourism sites or aquaculture sites.
As for the promotion of employment, individuals in each occupation should assemble into groups that will be registered so that assistance can be directly provided in the future if rice or other crops cannot be cultivated. So far, many adjustments have been made and state officials have improved their performance. Follow-up and oversight is needed after orders are issued.
Therefore, every state agency must help out to conserve water. We have already told farmers to save water. So far, the agencies have been able to reduce water use by about 40% – some have achieved a 48% reduction. Some agencies have to check on leaks and faulty taps that have been ignored or which have been neglected due to budget restrictions.
Be cautious of cultivating off-season rice in areas where bans have been imposed. Go to the provincial governor, the provincial agriculture office or the New Theory centers – there are some 800 of them – and ask them what you can grow instead of rice. You will be provided with seeds, funds, and fertilizers. Join the program. You will continue to suffer losses if you do not take any advice and continue planting your usual crop. The state cannot keep diverting money to provide you with subsidies.
I would like to thank the public and all officials for helping out in the aftermath of the Ratchaprasong incident. An improvement in the situation has been seen. The media has also been more careful about their presentation of news. I would like to reassert that security agencies remain hard at work to assure safety and bring back confidence. The foreign and tourism ministries have reported improvements. The tourism minister has attended meetings in many countries and has indicated that other nations stand ready to support Thailand in the tourism aspect.
I am also having officials look at glitches about life insurance in this context. Insurance companies can help out by providing buying channels at the airport. The foreign ministry might collaborate with the private sector to organise this facility. Sometimes the tourists have not purchased insurance from the source country, and the government is only able to provide a specific amount to cover them. This insurance could attract more tourists to Thailand. So far, many tourists have commented that they are not afraid about coming because such incidents do not happen frequently. Similar incidents also occur elsewhere.
We expect that another 10 million foreign tourists will arrive in Thailand in the final 4 months of the year. Some 20 million have already arrived in the past 8 months. Total arrivals will reach some 30 million with the additional arrivals expected. This should allow the economic team to proceed as planned despite experiencing shortfalls in other aspects.
Through this incident, the cooperation and the solidarity of the Thai people at a critical time stood out. We refused to give in, and support was given to the government and to the officials. The media has been very understanding. I believe trust and confidence are the most important factors that determine whether there is peace or unrest. The media has an important role in creating understanding among those in the country as well as with foreign nations. Thus, matters that are not useful, and matters that have already been concluded do not need further elaboration. But when some people keep digging up old issues and convince others to do the same, how can I address problems effectively and maintain orderliness?
A national-level event is ongoing now. Recently, I inaugurated the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair 2015 at Impact convention center in Muang Thong Thani. Gems and jewelry have been a primary export item for our country. Although we export farm products, textiles, computer parts and other items, we have very high capacity in the gems sector. The sector generates very high amounts of income for the country every year. In the first 7 months of this year, we ranked as the third-biggest exporter of gems and total value as 196.42 billion baht. I would like you to visit the fair. I was informed that business matching representatives and middlemen visited the fair every day to make contracts with the sellers. There are a hundred shops at the event, some of which are from abroad. Our gems industry ranks among the world’s top 5. People from 160 countries are expected to visit the fair. The last event of such scale was about food. Today it is about gems. I was talking with the association president about how transactions should reach about 15 billion baht by the end of the fair.
Another event is about Thailand’s younger generation – those aged between 18 and 30. One Young World is a gathering of younger people from 196 countries. It can be seen that everybody comes to Thailand for important events, thus we need to help keep them safe. Do not leave anything to just a single agency – everybody has their part to play to country development and in fostering security and safety.
This meeting is about seeking leaders for the new generation – individuals who want to bring positive change to their respective society or country. Their skills will be promoted and reinforced in such way as to allow them to become leaders of social businesses in the future. This year, Bangkok was given the honor to host the meeting, which is the first time an Asian city has ever done so. I would like to invite interested youths to attend.
A workshop about projects for society will be held by Muhammad Yunus, the banker who founded Grameen Bank and who initiated the concept of micro-credit. He has been successful with such projects abroad. They are businesses that truly return the gains to society and allow communities and localities to become empowered. We should listen and learn so we might be able to come up with ideas appropriate for our own home. If possible, record what he said and spread the awareness through the press and media. People should be encouraged to learn, not dwell on matters that cannot be fixed. It will not do for people to remain indebted and cease developing their thoughts. When else can we fill up knowledge if we do not do it today?
Last year, a total of 41 Thai youths attended the meeting in Dublin, Ireland. Phetchompoo Kijburana was selected to speak on stage about leadership and national situation.
This year’s meeting will be held during November 24-26 and interested persons can still apply until September 13. More information can be acquired from the links below:
(Applications can be submitted online at
www.oneyoungworld.com/thai-young-leaders and details can be acquired from www.facebook.com/oywbangkok)
I would like all Thai citizens to welcome foreign guests to our country with smiles, goodwill and a pleasant attitude while also providing them with safety. In turn, we will be able to impress foreigners with Thai people’s unity and culture.
Thank you and goodbye