National Broadcast by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister –October 30, 2015
Good evening dear citizens.
This past week, a group of para- athletes once again brought fame, honour and delight for our country. Rawat Tana was able to win a gold medal in T54 Men’s 1,500-meter race at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, on October 24th. In addition, Saichon Konjen, won a silver medal in T54 Men’s 200 meter race. We are very proud of their achievements and I would like to thank them for being outstanding representatives for Thailand.
Today, I have many concerns I wish to talk to you about. The first issue is about road accidents. It is a matter which officers and agencies have always been concerned about. Many attempts have been made in order to protect the lives of commuters, especially during festive holidays when roads are filled with personal vehicles, tour buses, and other public transport vehicles. According to the survey, the road fatality rate in Thailand is very high. This is such a loss of our country most important resource, our people.
As such, the government has instructed all responsible units to 1) review laws and regulations regarding the control of vehicles on the road, traffic, and driving speed, as well as the matter of vehicle and life insurance.
2) There will be a major adjustment of measures to monitor driver safety, as well as regulations to control working hours of the drivers or how fast they should be driving. There should be specific measures or a control system to make sure these drivers will not get behind the wheel while intoxicated. GPS and speed control systems should be installed in new public buses. Old buses should be remodeled. This process should be expedited to prevent the further loss of lives and injuries.
3) Risk-prone areas such as curves, street corners, ramps, and turnarounds should be renovated while more advanced equipment should be given to traffic police and related agencies. State funds should be well spent for the safety of all commuters, with successful and tangible outcomes.
Regarding uses of land for tourism purposes, those which have been done legally will have no problems. But if the area has been encroached or if a project has been done without the correct legal procedures, such as Phu Thap Boek, then they will have to be processed according to the laws before any further initiative is undertaken.
In some areas where there are discrepancies, then we have to find the ways to regulate land use, while encroachers need to accept that they cannot continue to break the law as well as cooperate with the government to find a solution. As for designated areas for tourism, the landscape should be kept neat and tidy and beautiful. Tourism is booming in Thailand. So those who are breaking the law need to first acknowledge that they are doing so before you seek help from the government on this matter.
In general they should cooperate and abide by the law, as well as discourage and not condone illegal conduct or the disrespect for regulations based on the reasoning that they need to earn an income. The government is trying to correct such problems and instill orderliness in the most sustainable manner.
As for agricultural production, the government is currently considering assistance measures while trying to restructure the entire agricultural system for the sustainability and the stability. We want Thai farmers to be resilient. I ask all local leaders not to encourage farmers to demonstrate against the government at the moment. This administration will not adhere to any demands that end up not yielding real benefits. What we will do is focus on building stability for the farmers so please help us achieve this goal. Every group that has come to make demands, we have informed them that if they listen and heed our suggestions, the government will be able to assist you in the right way. However, if they insist on doing things illegally, then the laws need to be enforced.
As for the problem of debts, the government is aware of your plight. The problem is many people have a large amount of debts, not just farmers. Teachers, civil servants, and other members of the public; we understand the seriousness of this problem and that lot of people have had to borrow from the bank. Because of this we need to look at the source of such debts and how not to increase them.
The government is trying to find solutions for this, so some time will is needed to develop the most appropriate measures. The whole system will have to be improved through the help of public and commercial banks. We must not turn regular debts into NPLs while total debt relief would lead to other problems. There have been several groups that tried pressure the government for total debt forgiveness, which is not plausible. Please think of others as well. What you asked was not viable in terms of banking. As for informal loans, I ask that everyone involved be cautious and do things legally.
We face many problems today in our society. Poverty, crime, and hardship in daily life are our complex challenges. The government is attempting to overhaul the entire system for our 70 million citizens. I would like to ask for cooperation from every individual to work together to come up with effective solutions. At the same time we must bear in mind that everything cannot be solved all at once and the government must spend prudently. So things will happen incrementally.
The government is looking into both the matters of household and public debts. This topic has been discussed by our economic team. One of government’s measures is to help low-income earners purchase a house while at the same time bolstering the real estate sector. We must make sure that house debts will not become NPLs. Many may doubt if this program will be similar to the first car scheme. At first glance maybe, but under closer scrutiny it is totally different, because no taxes are paid back in cash. Installments will be made while interest rates shall be lowered.
This is how we fix the problem through the banking systems by an effective monetary measure without having to give back tax refunds. This is different from the first car rebate program where it creates artificial demand in the market. Today, it is fortunate that the auto industry has been resilient when the economy is picking up. There were problems for many years in the past when artificial demand was created. We will act with fiscal and monetary discipline.
The government will use tax measures and needs cooperation from private and public financial institutions. We will also follow up on the progress by looking at loans as well as interest rates. We shall look after the whole process and spend prudently given our budget limitations and our revenue status.
As for the drafting of the new constitution, significant progress has been made. Thank you to everyone involved. This week, I met with the five branches or ‘rivers’ of reform and discussed the ways to move this country forward based on cooperation and participation from the people. The main objective is for our country and people to have security and stability, as well as a 20-year national strategic plan.
Also important are the measures for our transition period towards a new constitution and a complete democracy. We must develop a constitution that best suits our nation. I ask for cooperation from the charter drafters, the lawmakers, and the reform body to understand the particular problems that our country has endured. Then we can works towards finding the solutions and how to implement the solutions. Then our Road Map will need to undertake these solutions, while the details of how to implement them should be written in reform plans. Related agencies should work closely among themselves and proceed in the same direction. We have opened many channels through the CDC, NLA, NRSA, social media, and websites.
Please voice your input through these channels. When the constitution is actually being written, these agencies will go out to explain you the detail of the draft charter. People need to participate more in this process. According to the information I have, those who participated in public hearing sessions didn’t really have a problem with the draft and were able to propose a number of issues, but there were also some who wanted to give their opinions but were cajoled by certain groups not to join. I do not understand why this group that denounces and rejects everything, refuses to participate when given the chances to do so. Instead, they keep saying that the government does not attach important to them and human rights. Platforms have been opened for all. So please come and give your opinions.
Many people have written letters to me directly and have made requests. I am willing to work with all of you. I have asked officials to talk to teachers and students at Thammasart University and appealed for them to understand the circumstances Thailand is facing at the moment and that democracy is returning while reforms are underway. If everyone thought reform is unnecessary, then I would be discouraged.
As for re-organization efforts in Bangkok, other provinces, tourist sites, mountain areas, and beaches as well as the organizing of motorbike taxis, public vans, and street vendors and stalls, authorities have arrested many offenders. Some areas are still well organized and the people are content there. But responsible units need to be on the lookout to prevent the problem from reoccurring.
The BMA should inspect all areas regularly. These orders are for the sake of the people. The problem of public space invasion should not reemerge. There will be actions taken on officials who refuse to perform duties. Thai and foreigners, all are affected by this problem of public space. As for inspections, I would like to ask local officers to actually go into your responsible areas and see what we are doing today can be continued.
However, everyone needs to play by the rules, and we must find the ways to prevent conflicts and future problems. For instance, we might consider that if responsible units cannot their duties in their area, then they might need to be disbanded while a special organization is set up to oversee this matter. The most important thing is that members of the public cooperate and refrain from infringing on the law. You can always find another way to make a living that is not against the law and does not take advantage of others. Then we shouldn’t buy products from stalls or vendors that illegally use public space but instead go to ones that do not break the laws.
We need to keep our city clean and organized especially waterways, canals, and river banks. I am still very concerned about these places. The solutions need to be sustainable. Affected people will be assisted. Many of these activities are illegal although they are commonly done. The government is trying to improve their living standards and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security is responsible for finding places for people to live. The idea is to have people pay rents at the very low price. The whole system is being looked after.
Plans are being formulated. We will focus our assistance on people at all levels and in all areas so that problems do not reoccur. Measures will be implemented. Canals and waterways are becoming shallower following human invasion. Water distribution cannot be consistent as a result of this. Canals can no long hold floodwater, nor can it send water to people when drought strikes. This is because all the waterways are clogged. The waterways have not been well taken care of.
Whose duty is it? The Department of Local Administration should be responsible for supervising this sort of matter. Local administrative offices have some budget. When the budget is not enough, the government will find ways to find more operating funds for these offices.
Canals and waterways must not be clogged. Every now and then, you go inspect waterways, but you don’t see any improvement. The canals cannot be made use of. These canals were working just fine when they were handed down to you after the construction. Now you said you don’t have the money to look after them. However, the real problem is you never cared to look after them. 70-80 percent of these canals have been damaged. What are we going to do now? Please don’t let this happen again.
Waste management is an important issue and cannot be taken for granted. The matter also requires a large budget. We all understand that the Department of Local Administration is responsible for waste management. The department has little income, because the garbage collection fee is 20 baht per month. The fee is always the same while the amount it has to collect increases. In the past, nobody actually looked into the details of this problem. It may seem to be only a small problem, but can cause huge impact as it brings complications and negative consequences and no one wants to make sacrifices, which makes it harder for authorities to work.
Sometimes, corruption comes into the picture. Today, we need to review this problem and think of how to make the best use of the garbage, which can then create jobs and can be turned into power. If you reject this idea now, accumulated waste will increase day by day. Tons of waste can be seen every day, month, and year. It then turns into toxic waste. The garbage collection fee is only 20 baht a month so can this be raised? I would everyone to cooperate in being part of the solution.
In this case it is necessary to think about what is good for the public, rather than self gain. This is a “give and take” situation. The question is can we fix the problem. If the answer is yes, then it must be done before a larger problem emerges. If waste treatment plants cannot be built, where is all the garbage will go? The plants are necessary and can be very benefiting for the community in which the plants operate. We need to create the balance. I ask that authorities keep close contact with the locals and tell them why this is important.
This past week, the deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs and I met with investors from various companies who voiced their concerns to us. It was pleasing to learn that big companies like Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Seagate, Sahapat and Samsung are happy to continue their operations in Thailand. They are looking to increase their investments as well as focus more on R&D and technology transfer. This helps to create stability for Thai people especially the skilled workers. I would like to reiterate that foreign companies are very much confident in Thailand. Therefore, we need to adjust our strategies to be in line with the regulations of the international market. Foreign investors will be entitled to privileges when conducting business in Thailand. Changes need to be made in our country so that we enhance our competitiveness. There are some companies that have moved their production bases to other countries. This is because their operating plants were obsolete as they have had to find new bases, with new technology so that they can create added-value to their products. In view of this, we will renovate and modernize all areas and factories, so that jobs will come to Thai communities. Investors will be able produce added-value products and use these products to develop the country. This is how Thailand’s R&D as well as innovation can be improved.
As for the Free Trade Agreement or so called “FTA”, we are proceeding with this matter and progress has been made, such as for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). We are also looking to partner up with Turkey, Chile, and ASEAN+6 countries like China, Japan, India, Australia, and New Zealand. I will soon be attending a conference on special economic zones in the ASEAN region where there will be discussions on how the efforts from all countries can be united. The conference will take place next month.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being thoroughly studied and under the discussion among the government, private sector, agricultural sector, and traders. We’re trying to figure how Thailand will most benefit from this agreement. However, there are both pros and cons. We have to work together. It is a decision we need to make as a group. If a problem rises in the future, we will accept it and together find a solution. This is a responsibility for the whole group. This is how a “democracy” works. People need to decide what is best for the country. But we need to be able to accept mistakes and learn to fix them.
Turning to the matter of graft, the government is continuing with efforts to suppress corruption. All processes must be carried out prudently and clearly. The NCPO and I have not interfered with any processes. The speed in which each case is completed depends on the justice procedures, evidence and witnesses. The point is a judicial process would not be initiated if there was no wrongdoing in the first place. Penalties are not yet being handed out; investigations are proceeding in accordance with normal procedures. Claims are now being made about injustice, unfairness, and rushed cases. I have mentioned before that regardless of the speed of the judicial process, justice will be served. These are the facts.
Our policy to suppress influential figures stemmed from the government’s concern about many social problems at present. There are now more criminals, and greater use of violence and weapons of war. There is no fear of the law. Are we to become a lawless state? Motorcyclists and motorists race each other on the road and pull up guns to threaten one another. This cannot be done. It is against the law. People are shooting each other for the slightest things now. Sometimes family quarrels end in shootings. These acts of violence are easily seen in the news, especially through social media, thus having an effect on our youth.
People are increasingly being exposed to violence and the use of weapons as a routine thing. This is a global trend and one of the drawbacks of social media that contains unethical sources. I would like to deliver a policy for all state officials – civil officials, the police and the military – as well as members of the public to help create an atmosphere of orderliness and safety, in order for society to return to normal.
There is a specific definition for the word ‘influential figure’, which means a person who is connected to violation of the law.
The word also encompasses state officials who abuse their authority to exploit or oppress innocent people. These influential figures usually possess a network of criminals or gunmen as an important component, and this also relates them to the issue of weapons of war.
The issuance of this policy is not meant to trigger manhunts. It is meant to bring about appropriate measures that would increase the efficiency of officials in their work. There is no need to issue new laws. Existing laws are adequate, and we also currently have Section 44 at our disposal. I do not wish for people to fight each other with war weapons again. We will use the law in the best manner. We already have laws on narcotics, illegal weapons, smuggled oil, human trafficking, and migrant workers. Some of the laws that we lacked, have since been promulgated
There has been a general sense to strive for impunity in our society. This is dangerous. Debt collection, ‘protection fee’, forest encroachment are examples of actions that should make the general law-abiding citizen concerned. We are doing this to return justice to society, and to create safety in communities while reducing mistrust among the people. The law is the basis for a democratic society. Others’ rights must not be violated – this is how a correct democracy works. The law provides society with equality, as the same law applies to all.
I would like the media to help publicize this point. There are active offenders and we need to enforce the law. How is this wrong? Also, there are certain media outlets that have never corrected themselves after inaccuracy and preferred to create conflicts and expand on statements in ways that lend toward conflicts, even websites created solely people to comment on topics of conflict. We must help each other out today and understand this; otherwise reconciliation will prove even more difficult.
In the first phase, matters were addressed in a straightforward manner – an order was given to fix a problem, an amount of manpower is used and the law is utilized. But these matters will resurface if we do not help guard against them.
The current work, under the second phase, involves numerous overlapping issues. An issue spans across ministries, departments and relevant agencies, as well as the public, the police force and the military. Many laws that require amendment are implicated. Work is challenging at the moment, and there are people opposing us for whatever reason. I am unsure as to what reason is behind this opposition, perhaps democracy and human rights. But have these people ever given regard to those who are troubled because of their actions or how the government is trying to solve their problems? In any case I will not quarrel with them.
An election has to take place. So, whatever is unlawful must be recognized as such, and should be addressed. If the scale of the misconduct substantial, it must be urgently addressed. Many issues have been left unaddressed for long periods of time. Officials have to take responsibility. I have to take responsibility. I have been fostering collaboration between the various agencies and the government. With everybody’s help, we shall bring this goal to realization.
I must ask dissenters not to point fingers at people and demean others. Reconciliation cannot be achieved if accusations continue to be made. I have asked people to have a dialogue with students and lecturers, and to ask for their understanding and to do what is best for the country. The kind of democracy everybody wants is coming in the future. Everybody has had strong motivations, which has lead to some people taking actions that have endangered themselves and others. Come forth and talk. I have been informed of promises for dialogue and participation in reforms, and I must thank these parties in advance.
On the topic of national development, the government is striving for sustainable development. I have assigned the Cabinet with three affairs. On the education system, attention has to be placed on infants aged up to 3 years. We are looking at how to prevent children from becoming sick or stressed from their environment, during this period of vigorous brain development; and how to use education to increase competitiveness, experiences, work efficiency, work collaboration, social work, career development and innovation.
As for the public health system, good management of our limited funds may be able to promote efficiency in our human resources. Our capacity will be hindered if we are unable to manage our funds well. The sick will not have the strength to work, and more money has to be used for medical care, which may incur more debts. The country will face even more problems unless we remedy this and become stronger and healthier.
As for the environment, sustainable development must be undertaken in a manner that is environmentally friendly. The environment needs to be there for us for the foreseeable future. Humans need to care for the environment, and the environment will then care for us. Balance has to be achieved for forests, waterways and ecosystems. Resources need to be conserved for the future. There is less forest area and less rain at present. How will our descendants live if there is even less forest areas and rain than now? The government is trying all methods in accordance with the Sufficiency Economy philosophy. Through various collaboration frameworks, the ideas of the global community are also being used to drive sustainable development. We are dependent upon one another on this earth, and Thailand cannot stand isolated.
Another matter of importance is income for the government. We have numerous expenses. State income is earned from tax collection – taxes on persons, juristic persons, and other sources. I would like to create an understanding today, else conflicts over this topic will continue to prevail, that increased taxation will not start now. However, I would like you to think about how we can make the country better given that we have clear expenses such as annual expenditures and investment budgets, which may vary. There are urgent budgets for disasters and other various plights. We can see that the education ministry uses the largest portion of our funds. The budget for free education is a good thing. And so is the budget for free healthcare.
What can we do to get more money to support these budgets? What can we do to achieve greater equality and coverage? Damage must not be incurred to the healthcare system and hospitals must not incur debt. We must all help to find the solutions. Nothing can be done if you only make demands but do not collaborate or help out. Improvements cannot be made, and there will be no money to produce doctors and nurses or make improvements to hospitals. Everybody will then go to clinics instead, and they will then complain of the expense. Development and investment have to be carried out, in order to generate more income. Our tax structure has never been systematically improved and is rather confusing and difficult.
Another hindrance is the failure to collect tax due to dishonesty and tax fraud. Currently, some 10 million people have submitted income tax statements. Only about 3.5 million people pay tax whereas some 6.5 million are exempt. Of some 1.5 million juristic persons, only about 600,000 pay tax. There are accurate as well as inaccurate filings within the group of 600,000. Another source is the tax for maintenance of localities, which is being collected at a rate that has remained unchanged for some 30 years. Even so, collection still falls short due to inefficiency in the handling of collection.
Adjustments need to be made all around, as the shortfall is causing the state to incur roughly 200 billion baht of loss because it needs to divert budget towards localities. Income that should be kept for annual expenditures, investment budgets and the central budget is diminished in this manner.
Investments need to be made. Roads, railways, electric trains, sea ports and air ports all incur high cost because we are unable to make them ourselves. For now, we have to engage in collaboration as well as make purchases. In the future, we need to able to make them. Agreements we make must lend toward technology transfer.
Meanwhile, produce prices are continuing to decline. Income declines as a result. How do we fix this? With farmers earning low the state needs to find money to alleviate their plight. How can we break this cycle? Let’s think about this. Once the situation improves and the economy gets better, what can we do about taxation? Those earning low income should not have to pay too much, however.
I understand that in order for our country to prosper, more money must be acquired through appropriate measures. Over the past few days, ‘ultimatums’ and various demands have been made. The situation is not normal at present. Tell me of the problem and I will find ways to address it. Present me with ultimatums and nothing will be gained. The well-being of others has to be taken into account as well.
The same goes for the VAT. Citizens may not be paying income tax because they do not earn enough income. However, everybody pays 7% VAT when buying things. The rate has been 7% for many years even though it should be raised. In the future, once income improves and the economy gets better, everybody will have more money to make purchases. The VAT could be raised then, although I do not know by how much. As an example, a 1% raise would generate more than 100 billion baht. However, it is not yet being raised now. Meanwhile, we need to spend on investments.
If we do not invest in infrastructure then no one will come to invest in our country. They have been coming here because of the relatively good infrastructure. We need to do better; else we will not be strong enough to compete with other countries that are also making improvements. Our country has gotten more populous and roads are limited. There are problems with transportation. Please think about how we can acquire revenue for state administration. Do not be afraid of the word ‘tax’. I have paid my taxes in full throughout my work life. All civil servants do so, because their pay is taxed upon receipt.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicize National Savings Day, which falls on October 31. We shall take this opportunity to promote a culture of saving. Based on surveys by the Bank of Thailand, the National Statistical Office and universities, 41% of the public still has not made savings for old age. I understand that there are no savings because income has been inadequate. However, we should think about how we can save money. 41% is a worrisome figure. 56% of survey respondents did not think they have enough savings for use in old age. 52% of elderly people could not support themselves.
Our country will become an aged society in the future. At present, the elderly can rely only on the monthly stipend and on their children. If their children have no occupation and inadequate income then they will not have the means to care for their parents. The cycle of burdens hence continues. But people should take care of their parents, even if they have limited means. Therefore, it is necessary to start saving whether a person is still a student or whether she has reached working age. If one does not start saving now, the person will have problems in the future. Start saving early to avoid difficulties in old age. The current lack of savings is a concern. Saving is an important component of sustainable economic development. A household expenditure account should be kept, in order to reinforce discipline in saving, as well as to promote prudent spending of money. Money management within the family is crucial. How to avoid becoming indebted to non-formal lenders? How not to incur household debt or credit card debt? The figure of household debt continues to rise.
These debts do not generate income. In order for the public to have less debt, we must first revisit sufficiency. Maintain discipline about spending money. The children must help out the parents. Parents love their children and always try to provide for them. At present, many people are downplaying how important it is to have warmth within the family and any need to be respectful to parents. I have seen this on social media, but don’t know who is advocating this.
The government has been pushing ahead with the National Savings Fund. Membership applications have started since August 20. Currently, the number of members has already surpassed the target for 2015. There are now 340,000 members, of which 70% are farmers. 95% are aged more than 30 years. Our target for 2016 is 1.5 million members. I would like this number to continually increase. This is not a sole effort on the part of the saver; the government will make contributions toward each person’s saving so they would receive more than what they put in.
I would like to invite all members of the public, especially those who are not entitled to state benefits, to apply for membership to the fund. You need to also help yourself, and build up your own insurance for the future. For those aged 60 and above, the government is providing them with the opportunity to apply for membership of the fund until September 25 of next year. Their children may also apply for them. Income does not need to be substantial to make use of the fund. Monthly deposit amounts are not fixed and limits are not imposed. Details can be acquired from the BAAC and the Government Savings Bank.
On National Savings Day, the BAAC will be holding an activity to promote saving, by allowing people who are not covered by state or private pension programs to save up little by little for future pension benefit and as a source of income in old age. The bank will also be hosting a program to promote the health of customers who are farmers. This will take place during November 2-6 at the BAAC office in Chachoengsao.
Lastly, let us turn to the results from the recent events at Phadung Krung Kasem Canal Market, which include the ‘innovations for SMEs’ and the ‘best of SMEs’ fairs. The events garnered good interest from the public. Some 65,000 people visited the fairs and contributed to 160 million baht worth of orders for the innovations and technologies that were showcased. 17 million baht of circulation was generated within the fairs. The events provided the opportunity for SME operators, researchers, developers, students and members of the public to access the work of the science ministry. Product makers and sellers were able to trade in scientific innovations. Science and technology awareness was created. Visitors were made to see how science innovations can be appropriately and sustainably used to respond to needs of daily life. The science behind the innovations was not something out of reach. Scientific innovation will play a part in stimulating Thailand’s economy. The events will also provide another example of how fairs can continually held at Phadung Krung Kasem Canal Market.
Thank you. I wish everybody happiness during the weekend. Be safe. Goodbye.