National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister –October 9, 2015
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
The vegetarian festival will be celebrated during the period of October 13 to October 21. There are many objectives of this festival, ranging from abstinence from eating meat to healthy eating to upholding the 5 Buddhist precepts, purifying one’s thoughts, balancing emotions, making merit, doing virtuous deeds, and practicing Buddhist principles. Religious activities will be held throughout Thailand during this period. The government would like to ask members of the public to work with officials during this time and be vigilant about public safety.
The following are matters I would like to address this week.
The first issue is about the economy. It is the government’s policy priorities to adjust the country’s entire economic structure, increase border trade, access new markets, enhance cooperation on fisheries and agriculture, encourage innovation and technology, and build stability in all sectors. This is not an easy task, given that Thailand did not previously attach that much importance to such matters for many years and then the global economic slump occurred.
I would like to ask all of us to have confidence in our economic foundations. Every country is encountering the same problem, though foreigners remain confident in Thailand. I ask that all of us work together to get through this period.
There have been a number of surveys and studies conducted by Thai and international organizations. According to these surveys, the problem of the current economic situation in the country stems from many factors, but the main contributor is the reliance on exports coupled with the lack of innovation. Thailand’s production cost is considerably high compared to other nations. Thailand also lacks its own brand that is highly popular, so we need to build this new branding, so that our goods are unique and stand out amongst the rest.
Our economic base is not strong enough, especially the farmers and low income earners. These two groups are heavily affected by the current economic slowdown, drought, falling agricultural prices, and policies of previous administrations.
The tax structure is complicated while certain regulations are obsolete, which is difficult for businesses and investors. Improvement must be made in order for Thailand to enhance its competitiveness.
Thailand also lacks a strong linkage between production and marketing, whether in raw materials, production factors, and product distribution to Thai communities, CLMV countries and the global market.
As for corruption, there are a large number of such cases in the judicial system now, and they have been a key factor in the country’s regression.
Our basic infrastructure and public utilities have focused on supporting the public but not as much for businesses. So we have to pave the way for future investments in the industrial sector as well.
Other factors affecting the Thai economy include trade barriers, tariffs, some trade agreements, and the forming of economic blocs, which can lower Thailand’s negotiation leverage as prices of Thai goods also fall.
Previously, the state sector and governments had taken on many initiatives with too much focus on political issues, unsustainable visions, and actions that did not yield any tangible outcomes. So we are correcting all this now, and after initial inspections it was found that some previous initiatives did not even adhere to national economic and social development plans. We have had 11 national strategic plans. We are now using the 12th of its kind.
Another factor of course was the conflict in our society and the dragged out demonstrations, as we all know too well.
In terms of the annual budget, most of it is spent on what’s necessary. But a portion needs to be set aside for investment projects and for local administrative offices. This is why Thailand only has limited budget to invest as well as for research and development, while our taxation system has not been so effective. We need to amend all this, but rest assured this will not come at the expense of causing distress to the public.
The other issue is about the national data base, which is still incomplete and therefore cannot be totally made use of. I seek cooperation from the public on this matter, so that we can improve our budget expenditures to be more effective.
The next matter concerns education and educational institutions. People need to be well educated in order to be resilient to the constant changes in the world. Thailand’s education system needs major improvement. There remain a number of problems. I ask for your cooperation to create linkages in the aspects I have mentioned, from production to research and development.
All of these issues have put Thailand in the following position:
- Lesser revenue coming into the country, problems in trading, an insufficient budget to adequately cope with risk factors or alleviate distresses to the public – all further compounded by the changes in the global economy;
- the lack of resilience and sustainability in the agriculture sector and other low-income professions, lack of support for the SMEs and other related issues.
As for solutions to these problems, the government has focused on HM the King’s approach to engender development and growth, and build resilience and connectivity for all. We have also worked to enhance national competitiveness, with the private sector and public sector doing more for the promotion of R&D, with the aim of creating new entrepreneurships. Regional economies, economies in border areas, and the ASEAN economy shall be stimulated simultaneously. This is what we are focused on at the moment, in the very first phase of economic reform.
At the same time, the government needs to create understanding among those in the public, the civic sector, and the private sector, who may have been used to getting financial support from the government before, which may have been done to maintain political strongholds in the first place. This conduct is unproductive while the laws should be modernized to reduce social disparities and enhance social justice. We must also be more empathetic for the low-income earners.
The advent of the AEC is both a challenge and an opportunity. Without stability and reform, an opportunity can turn into a difficulty. What the state has to do therefore is build collaborative efforts between the government sector, the private sector, the civic society, and the people. In the past, there was not enough understanding about this while solutions to the problems were not as effective. I ask that my fellow Thais understand this fact.
What the government will do next is bring stability at all dimensions in order to further build investors’ confidence. Thailand has to move towards becoming “state of the people” where the government, private sector, civic sector, and the public work together for sustainable growth and development and thus national resilience, which is in line with the United Nations vision as well.
In addition, there must be both short and long term economic stimulus measures which focus on tourism development, strengthening economic relations, market expansion, market penetration, and promoting Thailand as a trade hub and product distribution center. In production, we need to use both domestic and imported materials while developing the country’s marketing approaches as well as trade agreements and negotiations. We have already spoken with many countries as progress has been seen.
As we know, demonstrations have a direct impact on trade and investment, national security, public peacefulness and political stability. For such activities, I ask that all citizens abide by the law. Laws on public gatherings have already been promulgated. Please think of the consequences to innocent people as well as to your nation. Today, our nation needs stability, security, and peace. I would like to ask everyone to try to understand the past and the problems we encountered. There are still some people who think the NCPO and the current government want to stay in power. Please understand that this is not the case. There may be some unethical people who deliberately distort the truth, and create misunderstanding among the people, the farmers, international community, and international organizations. They never look at their own mistakes and many who have committed offences have been able to avoid the judicial system.
This government is here to provide lasting solutions to the country’s many problems that have manifested over many years, so that we can return to peacefulness and orderliness. We need to respect the laws so we can co-exist with mutual respect and honor without violating each other. We cannot keep hurting each other on the excuse of “democracy” for the people” while not considering the consequences of “impunity”. Sometimes they even use the word democracy to break the law. They would claim that what they do is for the people. But then they never take responsibility for their own actions, especially when intentionally misleading the public in order to damage the country by creating instability. So please be very cautious when consuming information in the media. I ask for your cooperation on communicating useful information. Many media stations report facts and truths and provide constructive criticisms. But I urge that truths shall never be distorted. I wouldn’t want the public to consume all the information without analyzing first what is being presented. Some media stations have biases so please go back and look at what actions were taken in the past. Have you done anything to help the country? I am not here to blame anyone in particular, but this is my perspective and I ask for your consideration as well.
On the matter of budget disbursement, this administration does not spend state funds for popularity purposes. Some say some populist policies are good and some are bad. But the fact remains that bad populist policies can create a huge problem for the country’s reserves. Under populist policies, money that is set aside for the future is spent for popular gain, while the real problems remain unsolved. The current administration does not look to gain popularity, nor any political stronghold. We try to disburse our budget to every community according to each community’s needs. We are not politicians. We vow to look after everyone regardless of who you are. We can no longer keep spending our budget the way it was spent in the past. I have mentioned that many problems that we are facing now have been caused by not knowing how to spend. If changes don’t take place, things will not improve. People and the agricultural sector will be not be stronger and farmers will not be taught newer techniques. The government cannot spend more than it actually earns. If the problem is not addressed now, Thailand will not be able to move forward. We won’t have any money to spend if we become fraught with this failure. How will our children live? How will the next generation cope with this?
Some have said that a number of our policies may seem like populist policies. Some of the policies were passed on from the previous government. But what can be amended will be amended. This government will never overspend the state budget. This government does not wish to be popular or to be likes, but what we do wish is for you to understand the government’s intentions. We seek to alleviate the distresses suffered by many by building stability. What those of you have done in the past may have encountered problems in terms of building and sustaining stability for our people; while creating more demands as the same old problems drag on and reoccur. Today, we are addressing these issues. Although time is required, understanding and cooperation must be fostered as well.
Regarding the issue of single gateway, let me say it one last time, the matter was just brought up during a discussion, with no conclusions. The main idea is that human rights must be respected, and the law will be respected. If the law is to be broken, the single gateway issue would not be brought up in the first place. No conclusions have been drawn yet. The notion was to think of the ways to protect our country against cyber threats. It will never be used to violate your rights. That would never happen. The idea is to protect our country from cyber threats. You need to help us find a way to make this work. Communications agencies need to help us figure it out. Those with websites will have more responsibilities. There are many companies today that are not taking responsibility against cyber threats. We need to instill awareness in society about the possible dangers. False information is often used to instigate conflicts, especially on political issues. There are only some individuals who keep trying to distort the truth. It is important that governments protect their data and citizens information. How will our future generations be safe from these dangers? How shall we also deal with false information or harmful information that draws people to conflicts? A lot of this comes from abroad, and please rest assured that we have no policies or intentions to breach your rights. We hope that you understand that we need to think about the future generation. I urge those who may not understand and have voiced disagreement to help me think how to make this work. Please help and apply your vast capabilities to find an effective way to handle illegal websites, and those that defame our highest institution. I ask you to help come up with ways and new ideas that can actually help resolve social problems. I would like to see a campaign that raises public awareness on dangers of the misuse of technology. Please don’t press the button “F5” to bring government websites down. It is counterproductive and causes problems to other people. When I announced that I have not taken any action on this issue, why would I persist? But thousands continued to protest causing millions to be affected. This should not escalate to cause future problems so I urge that you all help out and think about real solutions.
We all need to play by the rules and regulations. Freedom does not justify impunity. All countries have laws and rigorously enforce them. Officials have no intentions to harm the people. Why would a Thai hurt a Thai? Officials have responsibilities. They need to respect the law and at the same time respect their orders. Both officers and the public should refrain from breaking the law. Other countries, especially the major powers, have freedom and stability. This is because their people are well-educated and have access, have vision, and have social consciousness. We are ready. However, some people still try to distort the truth all the time and I urge them to stop hurting your country. People of advanced nations uphold the law. Are we able to have freedom and stability like them? The laws must be allowed to take their course. Without this, conflicts would eventually return, and then no one would want to trade or invest with Thailand, and the government would not have the money to help those who need assistance. Please keep in mind that lower-income earners account for up to 50% of the country’s population, followed by the middle-class at 40% and the wealthy at 10%. We need to improve the standards of living of our people. We need to adopt the sufficiency economy approach. When the concept develops further, Thailand will one day become a high-income country.
Currently, the government considers the drought situation to be an urgent matter and is making preparations for the next 10, 20 and 30 years. The El Nino phenomenon is among the many problems at present. Less rainfall is being had because the ASEAN region gets its rainfall from forests. Much of our forests have disappeared because of inadequate attention over the past. We must now recreate these forests. Re-organization is needed for the people who are living illegally on encroached areas. I must appeal against the use of demonstrations on this matter by those making claims even though they have been violating the law in the first place. Problems will overlap and become more complex if we allow this violation to continue.
We also need to prepare preventive measures for future scenarios of global weather changes. What will we do if rain does not fall in our country and dry conditions prevail? Do we prepare water sources in advance? Many waterways are being dredged, but rainfall is not very abundant. I only hope that more rain will fall next season, or that depressions and storms carry in more water. Floods also come with the latter, however.
We must take the aforementioned into consideration. The problem will recur if we continue to address it provisionally. I would like caution to be exercised from November to April, when the water situation will determine our circumstances in year 2016 and how we are to proceed into the next rainy season.
Most recently, I have been informed by the Utokapat Foundation, Under Royal Patronage, that His Majesty the King has ordered for all water sources and water retention areas managed by royally-initiated projects, and projects collaboratively managed by the Utokapat Foundation and the Army, to be readied. The aim is to mitigate floods and droughts, and to facilitate the management of water sources in communities.
Meanwhile, there possibly are people who are trying to distort the truth and persuade others from accepting the fact the there is little water to go around. The change in weather is global, and the government cannot create water. We have built many storage sites for water; His Majesty the King has also built many such sites. At present, more are being built. However, not much water is being stored because there is little water coming in. Let us all help to preserve the forest and use water sparingly.
With less abundant rain and rain falling away from reservoirs, we are presently addressing the problem in urgent, short-term and long-term manners. The Cabinet has approved 55 projects under 8 drought-solving measures, worth tens of billions of baht. The projects – digging for additional ground water sources, dredging of waterways, employment of farmers, reduction of production cost, adjusting crop selection, providing clean drinking water to schools, and expansion of cloud-seeding operations – require the combined efforts of all ministries. The state cannot carry out all of these projects by itself, and the private sector will be involved. Budget will be used transparently.
I have concerns about whether the next government will continue with these projects. I will leave the decision to them. I am performing my duty as best as I can. At present, I would like the individuals who will run in the election to come out and tell society what they intend to do when they become the government. People have been accusing me of cajoling the public through the use of state media and whatnot. I am providing the public with facts and giving them the knowledge and information that will enable future collaborations. There are more people who understand this than people who do not. However, those who do not understand are being rallied, and this is causing damage.
On the topic of empowering the agriculture sector, I was reading the Krungthep Thurakit newspaper this past week when I saw news that promoted good things about members of the new generation who had a love for their locality and for agriculture. This group of individuals is making many people realize that raising water buffalo in the Northeast is not outdated. Additional income is also generated.
Projects driven under collaboration between the state sector, universities, private organizations and civil society organizations are helping to empower localities and regions. I would like farmers to rear more livestock – cows, buffalo, goats, sheep and others – because we have less water. We may have to raise more animals in the future and grow crops that need less water. Demand, supply and marketing all need to be considered. This could allow farmers’ to make more income than from only growing crops. Livestock rearing might also be taken up as a side job so that the main income remains unaffected.
We may have to undertake both agriculture and raising livestock. Recently, I saw on television that Wagyu beef was being produced in Si Chiang Mai District. Cattle were fattened and various methods were applied so fat is interspersed throughout the muscles. The price per cattle, about 100,000 to 200,000 baht, is approaching the high price fetched abroad.
The ‘brave returnees to localities’ is another development of interest. Some 700 young adults were taking part in the first batch, in order to empower communities with know-how in integrated farming and the Sufficiency Economy philosophy. The participants will coach farmers in each locality, teaching them the sufficiency way of life. The starting point will be simple things that already exist, not things that must be requested from the state. It starts with enabling a person to sufficiently have means to go about life and sustain themselves. The state will make contributions on aspects that remain missing.
As an example, the ‘edible fence’ project already exists to encourage backyard garden-keeping. If we reduce our expenses and keep a household expenses account, then we can keep track of whether each spending was necessary. Quality organic fertilizer can be produced based on each locality’s attributes. A Soil survey has to be conducted before the fertilizer mix can be devised. Costs will be reduced and thus farmers’ margin will improve. Livestock rearing, forest planting, preservation of watershed forest, and optimization of natural resource usage will allow farmers to save on cost and enable them to have higher income and better well-being.
I would like more people to be educated in their localities, at the local colleges and regional universities. If everybody comes into Bangkok or into big cities then their localities will not be developed as much. We are accelerating local development at the moment. People should study in their own locale and then work in their own locale, so their hometowns can be improved. Urban communities need to take shape in rural areas as well. Environment-related undertakings must also be carried out in tandem. Pollution must be avoided during industrial development. The farming occupation will then be reinforced by the labor requirements at factories. I would like members of the public to help think this through. Otherwise, we will end up with no gains – people will be swamped with problems and short on money.
I would like good projects such as these to take shape, and demonstrate how collaboration between the state, the public, independent organizations, the private sector and civil society sector allows a state of the people to function –where everybody contributes towards the empowerment of communities.
I have been dispatching teams to many provinces in the South and Northeast in order for understanding to be had about the real state of the problems facing farmers, especially the problems faced by cooperatives and farmers’ groups. Good cooperation was received from farmers, most of who understood the government’s policies and were willing to cooperate. All messages of support and reports of problems are being received. I am trying to solve these problems according to their urgency. I have said before that the budget is limited and that if a certain matter cannot be addressed in the first phase then it must wait for the second phase. There are phases 1, 2 and 3 and priorities are set based on the severity of each problem, with no intention of trying to win the favor of people in specific areas.
I have been informed that many farmers have merged into farmers’ groups in order to jointly manage a larger land area for the purpose of cost-saving, in accordance with government policy. These groups have also registered to form new cooperatives. Many of the cooperatives have also been developed to the point that the profits can be distributed. Another initiative being driven by this government is the creation of community enterprises and social businesses in every locale. I would like the members of each farmer’s group to collaborate, learn, and consult the public sector. They will then have the power to negotiate with middlemen and to develop new markets for themselves, enabling higher produce prices.
Nevertheless, many farmers’ groups remain unregistered and have not yet been established into cooperatives. This is important. The same goes for SMEs. If you do not register as a juristic person then it will be difficult to receive assistance from the state, due to the nature of public funds expenditures. Once you register, orders and priorities can be set for aid to be delivered. Please do not worry about the government demanding tax from you. You need to learn how to sustain your operation, and the government will give you assistance in the initial period. Once you are strong, the taxes will be appropriate and you will be ready to pay up. Currently, I am not trying to hasten your taxation duties. Relevant officials – provincial cooperatives, district and provincial agriculture offices, provincial commerce or industry offices – must head down into areas under their jurisdiction.
I would like provincial governors to foster synergy between all agencies and create understanding. The NCPO will also head down to the areas to help with the facilitation of knowledge on registration, which many people might view as being complex and associated with numerous official documents – some of which are hard to make sense of. I have ordered for this aspect to be addressed, but some time will be needed.
As for the trip to the UNGA in the United States, the visit should be taken as a success by our country and not mine. People have nonetheless tried to criticize my acceptance of various awards in order to discredit me. I would like to clarify that everybody knows I am a prime minister that was not elected. Nevertheless, the assembly received me with respect and allowed me opportunities to deliver my speeches on various affairs. Thailand has also been entrusted by member countries to take the chairmanship of the G77 bloc, which was based not on rotation but on year-to-year selection of the appropriate country. I would like the critics to try to appreciate how other countries constantly provide Thailand with opportunities. We should not, by our own actions, ruin these opportunities afforded to our country. I am trying to keep things together until we are past this period of crises. In the future when democracy is completely restored after an election, our international relations will be cordial as it has been. But If we sabotage ourselves now, credibility will not be restored even after the election takes place.
After my return, the United States issued a report on how Thailand has made significant advancement in our efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor for the period of 2014. The efforts of 140 countries in eliminating the worst forms of child labor were assessed, and Thailand’s placement was upgraded from moderate advancement, to significant advancement. This was the highest category a country could achieve, and Thailand was only 1 of 13 countries that was placed in this category. I believe the upgrade was a result of the efforts of all parties and all Thais in carrying out this duty in a collaborative and concrete manner.
The creation of a national policy committee to address migrant labor and human trafficking problems also demonstrated the government’s sincerer effort to address the problem of child labor.
The Ministry of Labor had issued a regulation setting the minimum age of workers in the agriculture and fishing sectors.
Significant funding and supporting programs by relevant sectors targeted the elimination of child labor.
Labor law enforcement was conducted by a proactive, multidisciplinary team.
The National Plan of Action to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor (2009-2014), and the 2nd NPA for 2015-2020, were both implemented.
Nonetheless, I am not saying that we must act in exact compliance with an evaluation just for the sake of an evaluation, but because it is the right thing to do for real change and progress, to really make corrections, for the purpose of bringing about equality and gains for the people, and to prevent exploitation of youths.
As for the media, I have made countless pleas in Thailand and abroad, that we must analyze information before you deciding what to believe that is printed or broadcasted. You can even ask me directly if you want, or questions can be submitted to the government or to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Office of the Spokesperson will clarify them for you. Some columnists are still taking sides. The public remains divided, although less so. I fail to understand how these individuals can denounce every single thing said by the government. Don’t you have any love for your country? No matter how good something is, the only connection they draw is how it came from an undemocratic government. Consider what happened under the previous governments. Consider what I am doing today. Some of the things I am being criticized for have already been addressed, and yet I continue to be accused.
I would like to ask the younger generation of reporters and columnists to exercise the highest ethics. I want all of the younger members of the press to know that they are an important driving force for the nation. The government does part of the work, and the public does the other part. The press creates understanding, linkage as well as conflicts between the two. You need to also respect the rights of others, and not make demands or criticisms on things that are not based on facts. Everybody knows about the circumstances we are in at the moment.
For the month of October, community products from SMEs nationwide are being featured at the government’s market. The fair is co-hosted by SME Bank and various state agencies under the concept of ‘four ready to serve items’, which include:
1) Tasty food
2) Pleasing gifts
3) Various funding sources
4) Established on sight at the fair
The fair is arranged to facilitate business matching and pleasant shopping experiences. Visitors can shop and try out new food as well, or learn about the available low-interest sources of funding supported by the government. SME operators can also receive counseling at the fair. I would like everybody to come and listen. SMEs have to be registered as juristic persons in order to access the funds, because state budget is involved. The Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion will help with the registration of the businesses. The Ministry of Commerce, the Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation and the Cooperative Auditing Department will also provide counseling. Accounting presents a problem for many SMEs. The operators did not understand accounting and this had prevented them from registering. Please come and learn – it is easy and takes just a short while. Registration can then be completed.
I would like to invite members of the public, business owners, civil servants in the nearby areas, and tour groups visiting Rattanakosin Island to visit the fair. Visitors can also enjoy the various, which are results of recent research and development efforts. Visitors will be sheltered and kept dry from the rain. I would like everyone to come to learn. We have to keep ourselves relevant by continuous learning, and not only for obtaining a degree. I would like all members of the public to support this fair. Moreover I would like all of us to be involved in contributing to our nation. I have my responsibilities, like others, and am here to propel matters, to re-organize, to ensure equal access and fairness, while everybody also has their share in country development. Some things still need understanding, and that is why Thai people keep talking about power, gains and inheritance of power without trying to understand that I am working for the benefit of everybody. I am working for your future. What would I want power for?
I wish you have a happy weekend, and may you travel in safety. Thank you and goodbye.