National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister –September 18, 2015
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
This past Tuesday prior to the weekly cabinet meeting, I had a chance to present awards to winners of an art contest entitled “OUR HOME OUR COUNTRY STRONGER TOGETHER”. All of the drawings by the children showed their determination, which not only exhibited their skills but also their thinking, and their hopes and dreams for our country to develop and progress, void of conflict, with solidarity and cooperation that can take the country to lasting peacefulness. I would like congratulate all the winners and thank all the supporting people which include teachers, instructors, officials, and staff who made this activity happen. I would also like to thank the parents for their effort in supporting and advising these children and for cultivating knowledge, affection, and solidarity among them through this activity.
Today, I would like to speak from the heart. I would like to inform you, and ask you to come, and help to think and take action and work with the NCPO and the government for the future of our nation, especially during this important period. The NCPO and the government would like to ask all Thais to help disburden our country, through civil and non-violent means, from the difficulties we are facing that have been brought on by those who wish our country ill. I also ask for us to work together to find the truth about the misconduct perpetrated by some groups and perhaps inform others as well about this, and with a better understanding, we will all be able to work together in solving our country’s problems more rapidly. We may have different opinions and disagreements on issues, but violence must not be used in any way as a means. As we all have different opinions, we should know how to respond to different viewpoints. It is not like I ignore what you have to say and want you to always think like me. It is impossible. Everything that I did and have done was based on everyone’s opinions. I put your opinion into context as well as find a solution and adapt it to our work. The government doesn’t want to use special laws our powers again. We know that some groups have intentionally done things to prompt the government to use special laws. Then they use these incidents as a tool to make our country look bad. I would like ask these people to stop causing problems to the nation.
If all of us have a common purpose, which is for the country to have stability, prosperity and sustainability, without seeking selfish gains, then the country will flourish, with peacefulness, orderliness, and safety…stronger together.
In this context, the phrase, “the nation is the home, the soldiers are the fence”, may not be enough, as the saying should go “the nation is the home, the people and civil servants are the fence, while the soldiers stand guard”. The people and civil servants should unite to look after the nation, making sure to create peacefulness, safety, and sustainability for our country.
For any country, when conflict and struggles for power persist, which usually derives from the self interests of leaders of each opposing group, this often leads to crisis. Therefore, those who have power should use it scrupulously, in the most constructive way, to resolve long standing problems. They should never use their power for self interests, or try to cling on to power in the wrong or illegal way. In the past, unscrupulous leaders have abused their powers as we could all see. We need to allow all the processes to go in accordance with democracy and the judicial system. Therefore, I would like to ask all citizens to cooperate and help protect our nation and deter such unscrupulous people. I ask for your cooperation in action and in determination, and we shall successful. Many people have said they wanted to help, but they didn’t know how. Well, you could be vigilant and report any irregular activities or send us evidence if you have. A lot of people have been sending complaints and cases for me to investigate. We have seen some obstruction following the launch of our investigations.
Every country comprises its territory, natural resources, and citizens. If a country knows how to manage its resources it has, the people will be strong, and will have an appreciation for the common good and the motivation to do what is good for society and for the country. That country shall be safe and secure with people living in peace.
This is a pivotal time for Thailand. This is the time when Thailand is curing itself of many ills while strengthening our immune system so that we can become more invulnerable to the dangers and threats that may come, so that we can live up to our traditions of being a land that is “Suvarnnabhumi” as we have known ourselves to be.
In a democratic system, power that is mandated by the people to national administrators is based on trust, confidence and sincerity, but this does not mean the administrators can do anything they want with this power, whether right or wrong. Leaders should use the power according to the intentions of people who voted for them. On the other hand, if the government uses its power in the wrong way, this act should be considered a betrayal of public trust, a betrayal to the people’s trust, which cannot be denied, yet these individuals never take responsibility for their actions, lacking the principle to truly serve the people.
We have seen so many failed states in the past. According to analytical studies, there only a few factors that cause a country to become a failed state, with the fault usually coming from the actions of the leader or the government’s decisions and not necessarily the environment, the people or the history of that country, whether it is:
1) The leader who is unethical, who is greedy, who owns monopoly-like businesses, who issues regulations against rivals, and who uses political power only to make their businesses more profitable.
2) A weak government that is unable to administer the country, unable to issue and enforce laws and regulations effectively, leading to disorder and lawlessness in society, without safety to the people and their properties.
3) Amid social disparities, a government that uses double standards to further social divide, and social conflicts.
4) The government that does not promote sustainable development, that has a leader lacking in vision, refuses innovation and prevents people from having appropriate education so they it can rule easily.
This is what was written in a book by a foreign scholar.
I can assure you that the NCPO and the current government have the determination and sincerity to serving the people and the nation. We are not here for personal benefits.
The government and the NCPO will steer this country through these challenges and difficulties, in accordance to the Roadmap. The second phase, which is between September 2015 and July 2017, will feature the restructuring of public affairs which includes administration, reform, and reconciliation. The NCPO will also focus on national security and orderliness of the nation. It involves taking care of the poor, low-income earners, and measures to promote justice and transparency. This will be a key mechanism to help us alleviate problems and swiftly and effectively respond to all circumstances. The government has used power granted by Article 44 in 27 different cases. The power was used in the most constructive and transparent manner, given that there are committees overseeing the use of this power while the operations proceed strictly according to set regulations. This has helped us in terms of revision of the laws, making Thailand’s laws more modern and leading us to long lasting solutions to problems.
Apart from this process, we also have a number of steering committees as well as a strategic committee established by the prime minister to supervise the 3 aforementioned aspects. These operations will go in tandem with the reforms in 11 areas outlined by the NCPO and the NRC’s 36 reform agendas, 7 national development agendas, and other policies. As for the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the body is playing a vital role in helping the administration by issuing useful legislation. This will allow our country to grow and move forward in a sustainable manner.
As for the reform steering assembly, the new body will be established to carry on the work of the defunct NRC. Its work must be in line with the 20-year strategic plan. It will be responsible for the reform work and will not intervene in the government’s work. I understand how people may be apprehensive that the new assembly will overshadow the government’s power. This was never the intention when thinking about forming this body. We need to trust and have confidence in each other. We all understand well what kind of problem the country faces. Now, how are we going to address it is the question. We must do it in a way that does not create further conflicts or cause further distress to people suffer. I understand that no matter who wins or loses, it is the people who shall always be affected no matter what. The people are my primary concern.
Regarding the establishment of the new constitution drafting committee and the national reform steering assembly, I am now looking the list. Please have confidence about this and bear in mind that the drafting of the charter has never been concealed from the public. If we go back to conflicts, there will be even more difficulties with this. So far everyone and every sector have all made suggestions, just as I have. But it is matter for the committee to consider.
This past week, there was a tripartite meeting between the cabinet, the NCPO, and the NLA. We agreed that potential individuals from all sectors should be selected. These individuals should always put the country’s interest first. What is needed is a group, comprises of people with morality, intellect, wisdom and the will to work for the benefit of our country. At the same time, we must admit that everyone can make mistakes. The question is how are we going to make things right together. We need to have more trust in one another, unlike before. Individuals to sit as members of the new assembly could come from the NRC, could be lawyers, scholars, civil servants, retired citizens, traders, and regular people. They all come from different sectors. So please don’t say that the new charter is drafted only by civil servants. The last committee included people from many sectors such as military officials. However, along with many sectors, we must have people who know the principles of the law or knowledge of the regulations. This is why civil servants should be involved. It is important to know how things are done, because when we didn’t know and when things went wrong in the past, you blamed the civil servants. This is wrong. Even politicians blamed the civil servants, so please be empathetic.
This week, I summoned some of the cabinet members and formed another committee to oversee urgent issues like poverty. The new team will be responsible for improving the economy. The committee is also required to tackle the drought problem which is expected to worsen between the months of November and December. Farmers along Chao Phraya and Mae Khlong rivers will face shortages of water. The irrigation system will not be able to reach all of them. I understand that farmers don’t really know what else to do apart from farming. But forcing farming when drought prolongs can only cause more damage. Please do not ignore the government’s warnings. I ask that all farmers listen to what the government officials have to say and to the information provided. They want to help. We didn’t give you the money so that you can pay off your debts, but for you to cope with drought as well as create new jobs such as road renovations, canal dredging, reservoir building, or any other jobs. The government has been providing and funding everyway it can, but we have to admit that the government is unable to provide for everyone in the country. There are millions of people and millions of jobs. Not only the farmers who are poor, other professions also don’t make any more than these farmers do. If we spend all the money to help the farmers, how are we going to support other professions? The government only has limited amount of funds. The economy is lagging while Thailand’s economic infrastructure needs to be stronger. However, I expect the situation to improve in the next 2-3 years, given that there will be more investments and better infrastructure.
This week, I read an article in the media that questioned the benefits of BOI or special economic zone incentives offered by the state. Perhaps the writer should look further into the BOI’s role in promoting investment. Currently, there is global competition for investment. Production bases are being moved here and there. We need to compete by increasing incentives and by using tax measures. More tax revenue will be generated in the future as more businesses enter the scene, even though tax exemptions are offered initially. I would like to point out that incentives are not only being offered to new investors. A budget also needs to be allocated for the promotion of Thai-owned businesses and local businesses. These businesses will become stronger and the technology they use will be improved. Foreign investment will reinforce these existing activities in each rural community.
Clustering of businesses will take shape at the special economic zones. Generally, an operation may be limited to BOI-issued incentives. For example, if the operations will become a cluster located in localities we have marked for rapid development, then these operations will receive BOI incentives plus ‘X’. If the operation or cluster deals with a new activity or high technology, education or research then more incentives are warranted. This might take the form of BOI incentives plus 2X.
If we do not carry this out in this way then nothing will be gained. Tax revenue will not be had. I am not an expert in economics, so I make my evaluation with consulting the experts. What gains will be had if we do not start to implement these things and let things remain the way they are? The BOI incentives have not been adjusted by many years, and the adjustments made still did not attract investors then. Are we okay with investors not coming in? Although very high standards may not be practical for the time being, we must be able to ensure that the operations comply with the conditions set by us.
Therefore, I would like everybody to help out and look into matters such as urban planning and local investment. Without investment, a locality will be deprived of revenue from downstream businesses. Hardships will likely continue – rice and whatnot will continue to be grown and debt will continue to be incurred. If development takes place then there will be more job opportunities. The state will take special care of people who have to be relocated and will regard them as the first group eligible for various commercial activities in the respective locale – they will earn income before anybody else. More thought will be given to the details.
I am not very pleased with how profiteers have been meddling with the preparations and speculating on land and hiking up property prices. It has always been this way. I fail to understand why people must only consider self interest and gains. Progress has been halted up until today because those who disagree with an initiative or those who may lose advantages keep opposing the initiatives. Many have encouraged me to use Section 44. I would rather not use it. Let us think about how these investment zones can be developed. With these zones, urban societies will sprout up in all regions. Investment on education centers will be encouraged in each zone. People will no longer have to come to Bangkok for higher education. The local educational institutions will be able to produce workers that match the demand in the area. Consideration can then be given to local raw materials and what kinds of operations are suited for the locality. Workers can be drawn from local residents as well as from the border. Meanwhile, these cities will increase in prosperity.
Tax revenue is currently not the same for each locale, and local administrations have less money because people do not make income. Decent income will be had if such aspects within a region can be reinforced and populations will be happier in each area. Progress will not be made if we do not think this way. But when such efforts are denounced and instead overshadowed by objections of how a democracy should be and what not; it is not just about that and other countries have stopped doing this like that for a long time, hence their progression.
Marketing, exportation, demand and supply need to be considered whenever an alternative crop is promoted. We do not want to excessively take up mung bean, soy bean or chili cultivation because they fetch higher price than rice, only to end up with an oversupply and price deterioration. Such a scenario will then come back to the government and the latter will be criticized for promoting inappropriate activities. These details must be yielded by provincial governors.
I have given assignments to some 18-19 ministries, and the provincial governors are the ones who will implement these assignments in each locale.
This past week I presided over a kickoff event for measures for promotion of low-income earners’ well-being, and measures for stimulation of small-scale investments nationwide. The launch event took place at the Impact exhibition and convention center in Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi. Some 8,000 people attended the event, mostly hailing from village fund committees, urban community committees, village fund members and state agencies.
Each village fund possesses 1 million baht, and each sub-district fund possesses 5 million baht. The fund for small-scale investment promotion amounts to 1 million baht for each locale. In all, roughly 100 billion baht is being used. It may be observed that nothing is happening although such a large budget has been spent. This is because we are only starting and the sustainable results have not come about yet. If this budget is instead utilized for matters such as floods and droughts then these other problems will recur. Our method is to make sure people can make ends meet, while the state makes investments such as special economic zones to ensure that these people will no longer be dependent entirely on income from agriculture. At the very least, there are markets, factories and other operations where they can make income from.
If we do not proceed in such a manner then these people will not have the money to send their children to school because no profits are made from their paddies or plantations. Debt will only pile up, and misery will continue. If we are to free ourselves from this trap, people should help the government solve problems in a long-term manner. Problems have always been dealt with on a day-by-day basis. Right now, we have to address all accumulated issues – the law needs amendment, new laws must be issued, fairness has to be fostered and empowerment has to be brought about. Nonetheless, everything must be based on stability, peace and order. Each government must achieve these conditions; else the nation will not progress. You are well aware of what has taken place in the past. Today, we need to become empowered – the country’s foundations must be strengthened. I said before that our democracy had not collapsed but was collapsing. We will prevent this by applying the mortar, bricks and sand – reinforcing the foundations.
Social conscience, ideals and good health must be fostered in the public and the various sectors such as merchants and civil society. This is in line with His Majesty’s “understanding, access, and development” strategy, which has been bestowed a long time ago.
The things we are doing today are in keeping with a principle accepted by the global community, which calls for any government to employ a people-centered approach. Actions taken must correspond to people’s wishes, and the public’s participation must be encouraged as much as possible. This is part of power distribution. There are many components for public participation. Previously, the components involve steps such public hearings, EIA, HEIA, etc. These already exist. Next, I intend to add the component of venues for gathering the views of the civic sector. However, the opinions gathered at such venue should not only be used for instigating more conflict by people opposed to the government like in previous times. I am aware of how several media outlets have been trying to facilitate this, and I know they have good intentions. However, the method being employed is causing topics of confusion to become even more distorted, and I do not see what can be gained. Even the things that you want cannot take shape because there are conflicts at the very beginning. You also need to sympathize with civil servants and the laws and regulations they uphold. At the same time, we are ready to listen. I have asked officials to listen to the public. However, the public also needs to pay some heed to civil servants. If everybody refuses to listen and only take actions for their own selves then our democracy will remain unstable.
On the matter of resolving the debt of farmers who have mortgaged their land in exchange for loans. The farmers have already reached their credit limit and can take out no additional loans. Their land was on the verge of being seized, and thus they had to borrow from non-formal lenders. In turn, this meant they were possibly taken advantage of and interest had accumulated exponentially and now amounts to many times the principle. Farmers are usually honest and are incapable of cheating. Rich people exploiting the poor – that is usually the case. Because of this, the poor remain poor. If they accumulate more debts then all of their land might be seized.
Therefore, I asked for information to be gathered on how much farmers’ land had been mortgaged to secure loans from loan sharks – what is also known as non-formal debt. The government is trying to provide assistance through measures laid down for two primary groups. The first group comprises 2,292 debtors whose cases have already reached the legal process phase. The amount of debt stands at roughly 2 billion baht. These debtors need urgent assistance because their land might be sold. The interior ministry’s Department of Provincial Administration is coordinating with the justice ministry’s Legal Execution Department to forward information to the BAAC so the respective debts can be transferred to formal financial institutions. This does not mean the debts do not need to be repaid. It means some compromises may be made. Non-formal debts have to stop. Those who have charged excessive interest should no longer demand interest, but the outstanding debt needs to be paid.
Previously, these debtors will return to becoming indebted after their problems were temporarily solved because they have not been empowered – Their income stayed the same. Additional income must be secured for them, and not in the manner of hand-outs. Empowerment must be achieved by the creation of jobs, community businesses and social businesses. These endeavors will be linked up with SMEs, in order to spur forth a regional commerce network. Central markets, community markets, SMEs and border markets will be linked together to reduce the problem of middlemen. People will then have more money left over. With more money left, they will not become indebted.
I believe our farmers are now adhering to His Majesty’s Sufficiency Economy philosophy and are living in moderation and exercising reasoning when making monetary decisions. This is how we shall proceed at the moment, while the accumulated debts are being addressed. We must now create immunity or invulnerability by generating higher income and reducing unnecessary expenses. If additional income does not come about then the debts cannot be unlocked and the cycle will continue. The farmers have been in poverty for generations, so improvement must occur. Therefore, please do not take heed of people who denounce such initiatives – this explains how they do not want you to experience the improvements I mentioned. I believe your situation will improve if you hold out for a little while.
The second group comprises 46,747 debtors who have not reached the legal proceedings phase. Their debts total some 6.4 billion baht. There is less urgency than the first group but the government is working in parallel to assist them. District-level committees for debt information screening and negotiating will be forwarding their cases to the BAAC and the district-level subcommittees for assistance of farmers and persons in poverty. The latter will conduct debt negotiations and work toward the lifting of debts. So far, the subcommittees have been able to resolve the debt problem of almost 3,000 farmers, with total debt worth roughly 2.3 billion baht.
You will see that we have been working on everything in parallel. Some people have ignored these efforts because they were not stakeholders. You must grasp the main picture of what this government has been doing for everybody, and not just specific groups. Resources are limited. Water resource is limited but everybody wants to use water to grow crops. The government has limited monetary resources while it faces a plethora of existing problems. Empowerment has to be brought about, more income has to be earned, and problems must be solved more quickly. I will use the time available to me to achieve as much as I can.
Farmers who are not included in the surveys and who would like to receive aid in accordance with government policy can contact the Damrongtham center in their respective districts. Public workers should be patient with the debtors because people in debt can be temperamental, whereas debtees are usually indifferent unless they are not being paid the money owed to them. Thus, all of the mentioned parties should try to be amiable when dealing with one another. Any initiative that is thought of and assigned by me to the ministers and deputy prime ministers cannot succeed without the cooperation of the public. These problems will continue to trouble politicians who will form future governments, if they continue to refuse to cooperate. They have been unable to handle these problems in the past. I am mending many things for them now, yet many continue to hinder my work. What will come about in the future, then? Please think about this.
The 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York is a special occasion. The UN oversees various matters within the global community although it usually does not meddle with national politics. Some political issues may discussed in general, but the agenda at the assembly will mostly the progress made by each country in creating well-being for its citizens. What progress has been made in the past 15 years, and what will be done in the 15 years to come? What kind of international cooperation will take place for the purpose of sustainable development, in accord with the 8 UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The goals include: 1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. 2) Achieve universal primary education. 3) Promote gender equality and empower women. 4) Reduce child mortality. 5) Improve maternal health. 6) Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. 7) Ensure environmental sustainability. 8) Develop a global partnership for development.
I am pleased to have received the honor of being invited by the UN to the general assembly, and I will be attending the assembly to express my views on such development goals and on what we have done to contribute to these goals. We will be expressing the thoughts we have toward our neighbors, and the thoughts that ASEAN countries have. Preparations for the attendance are being made. We will tell them of Thailand’s success in development during the initial phase of the MDGS and some of the developmental leaps made. These have taken place long ago. We will also discuss how we have progressed from a low-income to a middle-income country, and how we are working to become a high-income country. However, as I said before, we will not achieve high-income status if we keep handing out money, subsidies, price guarantees or mortgage programs. We could slip back to being a low-income country if these practices continue amid a deteriorated economy. Therefore, we need to adopt the Sufficiency Economy philosophy of His Majesty the King. I will also make remarks on this philosophy – this is something I have done at all international assemblies and is something that has garnered the attention of many countries that face development circumstances similar to us.
We must encourage people to employ the philosophy in daily life. Sustainable development starts with human resources. The government must consider the people as the center. Care has to be given to low-income people in all sectors, not just specific groups. I have made these points many times at international meetings and meetings of the island nations. I presented them with Sufficiency Economy projects, which drew admiration. Sufficiency Economy has been adopted even on our peacekeeping missions in various countries, where locals are now able to cultivate crops and raise livestock to feed themselves. They admire Thailand’s King, and have thanked us for having our soldiers teach them farming practices that have lifted them from hunger and poverty. Our country is past that point. We must now make further progress so we can become a ‘donor’ nation like other advanced countries. How can we build a future if we remain where we are, unable to give and needing to ask for assistance all the time? We are not yet able to depend on ourselves, and the citizens of the country are not yet properly cared for. Thus, I would like to ask everybody for their understanding in this matter. Please do not involve our politics with our national standing. Regardless of whether there are intentions to harm me or oppose me, I will be attending the assembly in the name of your country, and this country needs to move forward.
I would like everybody to be mindful that the Sufficiency Economy philosophy can be applied in all circumstances. His Majesty has graciously bestowed the Thai people with this philosophy as long as 4 decades ago, and the philosophy has received international acceptance. 9 years ago, His Majesty was presented with the UNDP Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts in lifting the quality of life of Thai people through his long-time, vigorous pursuit of royal duties. I see this assembly as an appropriate opportunity to present Sufficiency Economy as an option for sustainable development and as a tool for a new global development agenda, and will be discussing these matters with the delegates at the assembly.
Most of the initiatives discussed today and in fact most of my work has been derived from the guidelines which Their Majesties the King and Queen had bestowed during numerous occasions. I have continually adhered to these guidelines, which have fueled my determination to solve problems for others. Their Majesties have taught us that it is right to do things for the sake of others than for ourselves. I have adhered to this teaching throughout my life as I performed my duties. Thus I would like members of the public to follow the work of the government and the NCPO. Put a stop to the conflicts; have things based on law and order, and change unscrupulous people into good citizens. The law must be allowed to take its course – reconciliation and reform can then take place. The country will be sustainably orderly and peaceful if this is achieved. We are ready to heed the suggestions of each and every Thai on matters that should be improved or adjusted. However, I cannot give in to across-the-board rejections of every single affair and every initiative, which means we will be taken back to where we were before.
Thank you for your attention. I wish you a happy weekend. Drive safety this Saturday and Sunday. Do not speed, and do not drink and drive. Goodbye.