New Year Address by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha

Good evening and Happy New Year to all dear citizens.

On the occasion of the New Year, I would like to ask every Thai citizen to move past their conflicts, let justice take its course, and draw valuable lessons from our tribulations as we look to the future.  I wish you all happiness, success, and a prosperous future and for all of us to be resilient and progress together with solidarity, as a peaceful nation under the grace of His Majesty. The government seeks support and cooperation from all sectors to mobilize their efforts to make Thailand move forward with all working together as a “state of the people”, so that we may become a strong country in all dimensions with stability, prosperity, and sustainability.

To usher in the New Year, I would like to share with you some good stories.  I believe everyone remembers the “Penguin Man” or “Ekachai Wankaew”. Without both of his arms, he is an exemplary citizen who has never given up, and thinks positive. He understands that he can be a valuable asset to the society by contributing to make Thailand a better place. Despite his physical limitations, he has recently conquered Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, which stands 5,895 meters above sea level. After reaching the mountain top, Mr Ekachai drew a picture of His Majesty the King as a tribute for  His Majesty’s 88th Birthday Anniversary. He also performed a song in honour of His Majesty with great devotion, as he was able to conquer this monumental challenge.

What Mr Ekachai wants to tell the world is that his success was inspired by his dedication and strong faith in His Majesty the King. Through his accomplishment he also reminds us not to give up on things too easily. Mountain climbing is about physical strength and mental stamina. If your heart has the will, the rest will follow. He has truly inspired me as we all work for the nation and I hope that this has inspired you as well, to be strong-willed, no matter how hard your task can be, as faith and hope will be our biggest inspiration as we guide our country through this era of reform.

This past Monday, I traveled to southern provinces of Surat Thani and Songkhla where the cabinet team and I followed up on many issues while also putting forth a number of government policies.

The “City Rubber” project, worth around 1.67 billion baht, is a service center for investments in the rubber industry in Hat Yai District of Songkhla. It was an ongoing project that didn’t see much success for a while. This government has thus taken on this work and pushed to create an industrial cluster that connects with other businesses in other parts of the country.

We should start within a certain area and expand the production to other regions of the county. We call this the production base of rubber, which has a capacity to domestic and foreign investments. Our target is that by 2021, there should be at least 70 investors in rubber production, while the combined investment capital must not be less than 8 billion baht. This is expected to generate more than 7,000 jobs, increase demand of up to 200,000 tons of rubber per year, and create 6-14 billion baht of rubber production a year. This is a sustainable way to address this issue through increased use of rubber in the country.

The government’s measures to ensure stability in the country’s rubber industry through the Rubber City project will be divided into two parts.

The first part focuses on the main businesses that require rubber, such as car tyre production, rubber pipe production, rubber glove production, and processed rubber latex as well as processed rubber wood.

The second part focuses on supporting businesses and sectors like the “Future Rubber Plantation” project, R&D projects, data compilation, exhibitions, logistics, central markets, and warehouses. Educational institutions need to work on human resources development in order to increase the country’s competitiveness in the rubber industry. We also need to invest in basic infrastructure which is very important to future development, with emphasis on roads, electric rail, and irrigation. This is to facilitate future investments. Farmers must improve themselves while the government will try to support you as much as we can in your farming and ranching. The most important thing I want to reiterate here is that it is illegal to invade public forests for rubber planting or any other types of farming.

According to a recent report, two large car tyre producers from China are interested in making Thailand their production base for compound rubber production as they see potential in the country as well as the government’s policies and support. We are thus committed to put forth the “Rubber City” project.

We also want to see more small processed rubber factories acting as suppliers for the SME sector. We will also seek financial support such as low-interest loans or soft loans for existing entrepreneurs. This aims to build stability in the SME sector and to encourage the emergence of new entrepreneurs.

We will encourage you to form cooperatives that can feed raw materials to car tyre producers or other rubber-related industries. I would like to ask everyone to prepare for Thailand’s future economic transitions.

Rest assured that I have instructed related units to find a way to attract investors seeking opportunities in rubber production. We will provide privileges, tax incentives, better land and water transportation, easier access to the international market, productive work forces, and researches which they can use in their production. We need to make sure the rubber industry grows sustainably and in accordance with the green concept. If successful, we will have higher income, better living standards, more jobs, and career stability.

In addition, my team and I inspected a plantation where bananas and rubber were grown. The plantation belonged to Mr Visut Khantharaksa, a member of a local cooperative. It is a project that must be admired. The project is in line with the government’s efforts to transform farming principles. Farmers should no longer take the mono-dimensional approach, but rather follow the idea to make the best use of all farming areas, use fewer spaces to grow rubber, grow quality rubber trees, and use the rest of your land to raise cattle and grow other commercial crops.

This approach also can be adopted for fruit farming and rice farming. You can grow other crops or raise cattle as a supplementary occupation and earn extra income. This income will help you make ends meet when your main crops have not ripened or have not been turned into a valuable product. This is why you need alternative crops that help you pay bills, especially organic crops. You need to use organic fertilizers and avoid pesticides. We also need to increase the production volume as market demand increases. There are high demands in Bangkok and other provinces.

The rest of the world is also interested in organic crops and is willing to purchase them. This can help to reduce the risk of price fluctuation of agricultural produce. We need to create career stability for the farmers. Farmers make an honest living. I know they are proud to be farmers. We need to help them raise income and living standards which they deserve.

Mr Visut is a rubber farmer and has been growing rubber for a long time. When he encountered the falling prices of rubber, he sought membership with Ban Na San cooperative. Since last year, he has been growing bananas as an alternative crop. With the help of the cooperative, he is now able to grow bananas on a 13 rai of land and the plantation is very fruitful. He now exports his crops to Japan and makes about 20,000 baht in net profit per rai.

Moreover, Mr Visut, apart from growing bananas, also grows rubber trees on a 30 rai plantation. And each day, he earns approximately 1,100 baht from rubber tapping. Fifteen rai of his agricultural land is used to plant oil palm, of which he makes 7,000-8,000 baht a month. As you can see, if you divide your land into different parts and use them for different things, you will make more money. You can no longer rely solely on a single crop, because once the price drops, your income will drop. This is why I want our fellow farmers to understand. I don’t want to force any changes but my intention is to see you earn sufficient income today and in the future.

In addition, you can also allocate a part of your land to grow trees for the sake of the environment. It is also to follow His Majesty’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, which can help farmers make a sufficient living. From what I know, the trees that are being grown are mahogany. This type of wood takes time to grow. But when full grown, the texture of the wood is beautiful and often used to make furniture and other products.

If you have an idea to do something new or different but lack confidence on certain issues, you can always consult specialists. We are more than willing to give you advice. Just go to agricultural centers in your local areas or ask government authorities for advice. I already told them to prepare this kind of information for you. This information may contain agricultural procedures and successful examples. The Ministry of Commerce will be in charge of marketing. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Interior will make sure the new principle is adopted nationwide.

Today, I want to give some guidelines to responsible agencies – Agriculture and Interior ministries – that model projects must be launched in every village. They should focus on such issues as, where should alternative crops be grown? Where perennial plants should be grown? After these model projects are launched, every farmer will be able to learn from them. However, we cannot force the farmers to do what they don’t yet understand. It is necessary that farmers understand the importance of change in their agricultural approaches. You need to add value to your land. Don’t sell it. If you don’t follow the concept, you may one day need to sell the land and then out of desperation, you might need to rent the land again. Please study the details of this approach.

There are many other examples of change which can lead to future success. Some who have acquired a Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree have turned to the career of farming and now earn a good living. I have urged them to help other farmers and many are doing so. I learnt about this by seeing it for myself and so I would also like to ask members of the press to help present information on these alternative agricultural approaches for the benefit of the farmers. If you (farmers) worry about the market, we have authorities helping you with this matter. Please listen to the government’s advice and try to improve your situation by embracing knowledge and technology that best suits your situation.

In cucumber planting for instance, Khun Prakong, who is a farmer in Phetchabun Province, makes a monthly income of 200,000 baht. You cannot make this kind of money from rice farming now. The process begins with preparing the plantation, laying down water system, covering it with plastic bags, sowing, and erecting bamboo sticks. It requires a small investment of 30,000-50,000 baht. It allows you to grow cucumbers 3-4 times a year while the productivity is 1-2 tons a day. You will be able to sell them at the price of 10 baht per kilo.

In the future, if you have your own transportation and create your own connections, every farmer in that particular area, not only cucumber farmers, will earn more money. They can also exchange cucumbers for other vegetables. Then you convert yourself into an entrepreneur and find larger trading partners. This is how you improve yourself and your career.

Another project is the successful crossbreeding of the Mekong giant catfish and the iridescent shark by fish farmers in Mae Faek Mai Subdistrict of San Sai District in Chiang Mai Province. The project spends 4 months combining the strengths of booth breeds of fish. The project cost 2,500 baht in feed and 40 baht per fish. Profit of farming 500 fish throughout the course of 4 months was over 30,000 baht. You can see that this is a low investment compared to traditional agricultural methods with a high return on investment. This is just a suggestion.

The demand for the industries that I’ve mentioned is still increasing, including bananas, cucumbers, fish and many other things.

3. The next project is marigold planting by farmers in Lam Daeng Subdistrict of Singhanakhon District in Songkhla Province. The project utilized only 1 rai of land but created up to 50,000 baht in monthly revenue. Many households are now planting marigold instead of farming. You can opt to plant these as a supplementary occupation, or open salons. It’s up to you.

These projects were undertaken with the support of the Lam Daeng administrative office and related officials. Some households have planted marigold in addition to farming. The project divides crops into two farms where seeds from one farm will then be used for the next. This way, people won’t have to acquire new land or trespass other spaces. All you have to do is rotate your crops and you will able to do planting continuously. In addition, buyers can purchase the products right at the plantation site. During festivities, prices of marigold can double, giving planters substantial income. I recommend that you  look into this. Plenty of information is available on the internet.

4. The next project is mushroom farming of Nong Chok District in Bangkok. Farmers here planted Hungarian oyster mushrooms, Bhutan oyster mushrooms and Japanese termite mushrooms and were able to generate 70,000-80,000 baht in monthly income. This came to about 6-8 baht per handful.

5. The next project is the planting of various vegetables to sell to Si Mum Muang Market and Talad Thai. I’ve called for the establishment of the community markets, Si Mum Muang Market and central provincial markets. People will be able to sell their crops to these markets and the rest to middlemen. I think the government and officials are doing their best to support the public in this area. I ask that you take the time to consider this approach and participate with the officials. Please also show appreciation to officials that are offering their expertise.

As of today, farmers in a village in Bueng Na Rang District of Phichit province have joined hands in generating over 200,000 baht in daily income for their village. I’ve informed all that you should use His Majesty the King’s 3-3-1 farming model. You can choose to share land with your neighbors to achieve the 3-3-1 model. This will create a network that strengthens your community as well as your bargaining position in the market. This is something that you should consider.

What I’ve just said is an example of how a village was able to come together to generate over 200,000 baht in daily income. This is much better than doing other things that are costly and have low return on investment. I’m not saying that you should forfeit your main occupations. I’m saying that there are indeed ways you can generate additional income.

In addition, Mr Thanon Teerawongpaisal graduated with a bachelor’s degree but stuck with farming like his ancestors. I’ve seen many people do this. Some studied engineering, education, arts or law and have chosen to conduct farming according to modern practices to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors.

They also know of related obstacles such as the drought, the slump in rice prices, poisonous fertilizers. Many plant organic melons in 72 square meter houses. This doesn’t cost that much, is water efficient and can generate good income.

If you’re going to use chemicals on your crops, please think of those that will be consuming your products. If you guarantee quality and adhere to standards, prices will rise and your products will be wanted by foreign countries as they do check whether you’ve used chemicals. During the New Year festivals, organic melons have already been preordered with more orders coming in.

These are a handful of examples. I think we can also do a lot more than these things. Don’t be apprehensive of marketing or if you don’t have adequate capital now. If you all get together, the government is ready to assist as many as possible. You can learn from your successful neighbors. Maybe you can even partner with them.

It will be beneficial if there are neighboring communities that can serve as examples. There are also Community learning centers that are connected to the Ministry of Agriculture. This is an example of the cooperative connectivity under the state of the people framework that exchanges information and opinions. We’ve educated farmers across the country to have options in conducting fair practices and develop their methods to meet global conditions, including climate change.

I also would like to encourage more appreciation for learning than just relying on past experiences. We need to support this type of cooperation according to the state of the people model that I’ve repeatedly mentioned. This is because the people are the ones that determine the future in conjunction with the support of the government. There are 9 centers to support and develop agriculture with branches in all 77 provinces and 882 districts.

If you find that a certain branch is inefficient, you can notify your governor and then the Ministry of Interior or Agriculture will look into the matter. If the problem persists, you can notify me and I will take care of this for you. There are also 36 agricultural career development centers, 14 agricultural technology centers with a total of 1,018 branches across the country.

This is something that has already been done. I know that some people still are not aware about this service while some have gone to get training but then decide that they can’t do it so they revert back to their old practices. We provide comprehensive services, information and receive complaints by farmers and the public. The ministries of Interior and Agriculture are helping to inspect areas that are ready to implement new projects and help those that are not quite ready. Those that have an interest are encouraged to apply.

People can get together and have leaders in various areas. However, some areas have duplicate groups and various leaders. This can lead to inefficiencies and can compromise bargaining power which can cause prices of products to drop.

As for the visit to the south, I’ve concluded that our ‘state of the people’ model of cooperation has seen much progress as we all undergo various changes to the way we do things  and consider new environmental factors. However, we must maintain that the people are at the center of this approach, as they shape the future of their communities, families and themselves.

We need to implement these various projects and exchange of products of various communities, establish vendors and exchange information that leads to career investments. This includes low interest rate projects from the government’s financial institutions as well as supporting marketing and connectivity to increase product value.

In today’s world, innovation is important in a competitive market as it boosts the value of products. Prices will not increase if we use the same stagnant practices. This includes packaging and design that should also be appealing. There can be a narrative on the package that is appealing if it is unique. I would like all to cooperate, from small, medium to large, including community funds, the Government Savings Bank, SME bank and the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.

The most important benefit from the visit to the south was being able to hear the concerns directly from the public. I appreciate people from all regions because I’m sure you know why I visit.

As we know, some problems can be easily solved while some are difficult. However, we must address all problems together. If you help each other, your lives will be better off. You’ll benefit from technological practices with low costs. However, right now our costs are high and our output is low. You need to balance this part out so the next generation will be in a better position.

Another important issue is resting during the New Year festival. During the long holiday, many are returning back home to visit their families. Some who have come to Bangkok to work are returning back to their hometowns to celebrate the New Year. Please be safe. Please celebrate in moderation and not overdo it to the point that is dangerous and distresses others.

Therefore I want everyone to be able to enjoy a good rest during the New Year. Please express your gratefulness and respects to your elders and have a safe journey. Those that are drivers must be responsible to society and the public. Please think of the lives of passengers and their families. Please refrain from drinking as other people’s lives and property will be on the line.

The New Year festival is a good time for all to have fun, to travel and to go shopping. I have enjoyed seeing many joyous people now. So please be extra careful during the festivities can try to keep it that way.

If people can control themselves, the authorities will not need to resort to law enforcement to protect and safeguard others.

I also consider these security policies as special initiative by the NCPO to the public. I want to use my powers in this constructive way to prosecute violators, such as reckless drivers or businesses that harm the public. Otherwise, these things will likely not stop.

My orders aim to prevent accidents and create a sense of responsibility among businesses. This includes illegal racing or gangs that create harm to society. Freedom of expression or rights and freedoms must not be at the expense of other people’s rights and freedoms.

If there is no enforcement of the law, everything will be the same as previous years. We’ve lost lots of money, servicemen and lost lots of investments. The most basic investment is the investment in yourself. Invest in yourself and you will be a benefit to society as a whole.

Please travel safely and have a Happy New Year. As for myself, I am not traveling anywhere but I am going to ready myself to do my duties better and and take care of you all. Next year I will also give myself a present by talking less and having fewer tiffs with reporters. I will try to be the ‘good guy’ now. I’ve been quite intense for the past 2 years because it was the beginning of the administration. The next phase is reform. Everything, as in real reform, begins with the self so I will also reform myself. Those that deliberately aggravate me and make me talk a lot; perhaps you should reform yourself as well.

Be safe and I wish you all happiness as we move Thailand towards a better future.

Thank you very much. Sawasdee Krub.

Delivered on January 1, 2016.