National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, January 22, 2016
Good evening dear Thai citizens.
On behalf of the Thai people, I would like to praise the Thai national football team’s effort and spirit during the 2016 AFC U23 Championship. Although the team did not qualify for the knockout stages, all Thais consider this a success as it will pave the way for a better future of Thailand’s football. I would like to thank the players, head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang and his staff for bringing enjoyment, excitement, smiles, and team spirit for our citizens who support their national team in every competition. I watched the game myself. Thank you for teaching us that Thailand is second to none when we do our best, making the Thai people realize that we should keep fighting and that there is still hope until the final whistle. We should never give up in any circumstances. I strongly believe that every problem has a solution and should we understand each other, and care for each other, and have solidarity.
Today, I have several topics I wish to talk to you about.
The first issue concerns measures to solve rubber problems. This past week, I assigned the Agriculture Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Industry Ministry, the Science Ministry, the NSTDA, and other responsible agencies to seek immediate measures by putting rubber in the market into production, which is according to the government’s policy to ensure stability in the agricultural sector. Participating companies will be granted privileges and incentives by the BOI and the Office of SMEs Promotion. All of these measures will be added on top of existing mechanisms.
The next matter is about R&D. Because we have not focused on turning our research into production, the government will now work with the private sector and universities on this, which will allow us to create added-value, innovation, and increase the prices of our materials such as rubber and rice. Products developed by research can also be used to facilitate the work of the government. Budgets will be allocated to purchase crops and we will turn these crops into valuable goods. There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed especially about the budget. The government has recently revised its financial policy, allowing us to spend up to 10-30% of our budget to support new products and innovation. If we can fix problems at midstream and downstream, it will be a good start for us. Many people have said our budget is low. We have already spent 1% of our money. We have not been very successful on research and product innovation. At this stage, we need to turn domestic crops into processed goods, add value to them, and build a successful chain.
As for rubber plantations, I have told the Agriculture Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and the Rubber Authority to give rubber farmers who have grown on illegally acquired land assistance. The farmers have to first acknowledge that what they are doing is illegal. We will find assistance that will not break the law. Please adhere to the measures issued by the National Land Policy Committee. We can also be flexible with the farmers according to given circumstances. As you can see, everything has a connection. Some farmers who had already received assistance are now asking for more. But I ask that all farmer leaders and demonstrators respect the law. You are the ones breaking the law now. And when the law is enforced, you claim that your rights are being violated. I believe that government’s assistance may be causing oversupply of rubber in the market. The supply will never exceed demand if crops are grown only on designated areas. Due to previous assistance, farmers invaded forests, a move that destroyed our forests and natural resources. Not only that, the amount you grow is more than the market demand. This is why you need grow fewer crops and lower the cost while increasing midstream activities such as small factories and SMEs. Then you can sell your products to domestic consumers and other countries.
The next issue concerns sugarcane plantations. Many areas are growing sugarcane. Farmers switch to growing crops that yield more profits. The production then becomes too fruitful which prompts the market price to drop. In addition to existing measures, the government will issue an order for sugar factories to be built no farther than 50 kilometers away from sugarcane plantations. The old policy was 80 kilometers. Many companies have asked us to lower the number as well as other demands such as make their areas special economic zones.
The law is the law. You need to find solutions that are legal. It is not possible that the government has to buy sugarcane from 400,000-500,000 rai of plantations. The logical explanation is how to use less land to grow sugarcanes. The more you grow, the bigger the problems you will have. Factories will not be able to process them. Then you will again ask for assistance. The whole process will then be disturbed make it harder to achieve sustainability. You need to respect the law.
If we have a lot of factories to produce sugarcanes, the price will surely drop. The more sugarcane there is, the lower the price will be. The price plummets once you grow more. Please think about the laws, the production, and the market. A lot of farmers are growing sugarcanes, assuming that prices in the world market will remain high. The prices have now fallen.
We must create balance by regulating domestic production according to domestic demand. You need to find new markets while maintaining existing ones. If everyone in the world produces sugarcanes, who will we sell them to? Sugarcane farmers need to understand. The government will try to find measures to address the oversupply. Reports said sugarcanes are dying because of the drought. What am I supposed to do? We all need to meet half way. The government will help you and you need to help yourself as well. You need to respect the laws, otherwise, the problem will not go away.
The next matter is about other crops. The government has been continually helping all farmers. You may have forgotten this fact. We have issued tens of assistance measures to help you. What you need to do is participate in our projects. Please listen to the governments recommendations on this issue. Please understand the law and the government’s policies. You grow crops more than the market needs and grow on invaded land. The government then will not be able to help you. This is like a circle where problems never actually go away. Today we will fix the problems at upstream, midstream, and downstream. The government will need cooperation from the private sector and the public under the process of the “state of the people”.
The next issue concerns water management for agriculture. There have been a lot of complaints about the drought. The government has been informing and reminding you that we will face water scarcity this year. It is happening right now. The drought could drag on until next year. Please listen to us. We have been warning you for a long time. Sometimes, upstream water does not reach farmers living downstream of the river. The next problem is the invasion of salt water. This problem is being caused by excessive saltwater fish and shrimp farming in agricultural zones without thinking of consequences. Authorities need to talk to the farmers. We prefer not to use law enforcement on something like this You need to grow less produce and use less water. You cannot grow on the land you illegally invaded on the assumption that what you grow are economic crops. You will not be able to sell your crops and you are destroying the land. The saltiness spreads widely, making impossible to grow other crops. This is the problem if saltwater is used in agricultural zones. The same goes to freshwater fish farming. This kind of farming requires lots of water. I know I cannot stop you. But I ask you to balance it out. Everyone needs to learn to solve their own problems. Please help to restore balance in the nature. When things go wrong, it will be difficult to fix. The ecosystem and natural resources will be afflicted.
As for the matter of rice farming, before I took office, farmers had been growing rice at the excessive amount. They overused the soil and the land. Farmers didn’t grow quality rice on the right kind of soil. Rice with good quality is now mixing with substandard rice. In some areas, rice grains that use to have big and long kernels become smaller, shorter, and have lower standards. The scent and the taste are also different. This is because farmers grow substandard rice on soil that is meant for quality rice. Rice with short life cycle should not be grown on in-season land. This causes problems to the whole sector. It may take up to 10 years to complete eradicate this kind of problem.
The next matter is about addressing the drought problem. Many people question the government’s measures to tackle the drought. I have talked about this many times. I have asked for cooperation. We have issued a number of measures. We have spent a large sum of money.
We understand that water is an important substance for consumption and agriculture. Water is essential to all crops and all industries. Water can also help us maintain the balance of the ecosystem as well as push saltwater away. You may complain that there is too much saltwater. This is because we don’t have enough freshwater to push saltwater away.
When the sea rises, saltwater goes deeper into land. We only use fresh water when necessary. We are doing the best we can. Whenever we release freshwater, it will be used along the way before it gets to saltwater. Water released is used for rice farming. How are we going to every fight saltwater intrusion if this keeps happening? Please understand this before it’s too late.
The government had issued assistance measures for the past two years. We have tried to educate the farmers, change farming behaviors, promote joint plantations, and promote cattle ranching.
There are quite a few farmers who changed themselves and have been cooperating with the government. They improve and make technology useful to them.
However, there are a large number of farmers who refuse to do what we suggest, because they are too familiar with the old method. They don’t want to accept change and deny new knowledge. Today, everything has to go in the same direction. I understand that rice is your pride. But what shall the government do when your crops don’t yield any profits. Please don’t only wait for the government to act on your problems.
I am very concerned about the provinces declaring themselves drought-hit zones. How can the whole province have no water? I will send teams to find out what really is going on. They will find out if the whole province or just certain areas that are drought-stricken. Water for consumption and water for agriculture are two different things. If water for agriculture is scarce, that area should not be declared a drought zone.
Some areas need drinking water while some areas need water for produce. Some areas need water to feed cattle. These are all for different purposes. You need to designate these areas according to their needs, because they will never have the same need.
We cannot have all 77 provinces be declared drought-affected areas. How is the government going to respond? Please make it right and make it clear. I ask that regional and local offices regularly check their areas. The NCPO will check all areas if necessary. We need to find out what sort of assistance do people in each area need. Some matters may need government’s attention while some may not.
Each problem is different. We cannot fix problems assuming everything is the same. Where is the government going to get the money from?
At present, you all know that we have limited amount of freshwater. We acquire water from dams, reservoirs inside and outside irrigation zones, and water basins in various parts of the country. For many years, rains do not fall in places where we can store water. Most of the rains fall downstream of dams. This is why we have less water while demand rises. Please help us. You cannot keep using unlimited amount of water for agriculture. Please be reasonable about this. As I said before, all the water released from dams is used for agriculture. This creates an oversupply of crops in the market. Even when all your crops die, you keep on growing them.
I know that you are used to fixing problems the same way and keep thinking that the government will compensate for your loss. When are we going to improve? Today, problems must be addressed first. Rest assured that we already have a long term plan in place. Inner parts of the land are normally water scarce. Outer parts are also dry because the inner parts use all the water.
If everyone had listened and cooperated, everything would have been better. The government incorporated water management plans that covered all activities. These plans are now being implemented. New reservoirs are being constructed. Old reservoirs are too far away from agricultural zones. There were no effective irrigation systems. This sort of restructuring needs a large sum of money. Everything was not effective in the past.
We had an idea that we could add water in rivers into dams. But some people were against the idea. This is why we need to work together. The government does not wish to enforce the law or utilize Article 44 for every single issue. Thais have to take care of each other. The whole system must be overhauled. This ranges from production and processing, to marketing and exporting. This is how sustainability can be ensured. Should everything be fixed today, the country will be a lot more revenue. Same goes to other reform plans, these plans should clearly state the duties of responsible agencies, so that we have a clear guideline of what we are responsible for. These plans should go according to the government’s policies and strategies. All of these need to be stipulated in all reform plans. Now, it is up to the next administration whether these plans will continue.
There needs to be an understanding between related working groups of what the NCPO’s and the reform agenda’s roadmaps are. If there is no understanding, they can’t implement the policies. Today I want to report on the progress of tap water. There used to be 7-8 thousand locations that had no tap water. Today, the government has reduced that number to 4 thousand and will complete the project in 2017. This is what we’ve done. The digging of large wells needs to utilize new equipment instead of hiring manual labor. Otherwise you’ll only have enough to drink and consume but not enough for agriculture. However, if we dig too much, we will lose our underground water sources and will be forced to dig deeper next dear. We need to preserve the level of underground water. If we dig too fast, it will deplete quickly. Therefore we need to distinguish between water for consumption and for agriculture. We need to use land appropriately and be economic with the use of water. Other countries are using drip irrigation. Some countries have no source of water but are able to plant. They’ve been doing this for decades and have pioneered many ventures. They’ve done this through innovation, resilience, learning and utilizing technology. Most importantly, farmers and the authorities need to cooperate, be self-sufficient listen to the suggestions of the state. Whatever you can do on your own, the state will step in to help on at all stages.
We have revisited the entire plan by the committee on water management despite recent revisions. We revisited long term goals that aren’t being achieved at this time so that we can move forward with them now. Why do we do this? To accommodate the next rainy season and the planting season. It’s a problem if there is little water, but it will be an even bigger problem if there is no planning. Therefore we must create small water sources in all areas: digging canals and utilizing public resources and ponds. Perhaps we need to examine whether routes that are being constructed are blocking water shades that are trying to funnel water into reservoirs. We need to examine housing projects and roads. If they don’t have proper drainage systems or bridges, it can cause flooding and also block proper water funneling. All Ministries need to work together. Everyone needs to use water wisely in all activities, whether it is the public in its consumption or the agricultural sector. We also need to funnel out salt water; otherwise we won’t be able to plant anything. Also, if people at different parts of water streams fight for water, it may escalate into conflicts over water. It would then be problematic for the government to step in as force can also be problematic. Therefore, we can only warn that any new planting now can be ruined due to limited water supply. It takes 3-4 months and minimum to grow crops and more than 6 months sometimes. Therefore please consider this.
It is the government’s duty to care for the public and provide it with water. It is necessary at this time to conduct hybrid farming. The government will make revisions to water distribution, budgeting and will be more strategic by mobilizing soldiers along with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Natural Resources. We need to overhaul the country’s water management plan to coincide with existing supplies and adjust planting according to domestic and international demand for certain crops. Otherwise, the price of crops will fall. Hybrid farms can consist of various crops and livestock. His Majesty the King has had a Royal initiative on this a long time ago. If we don’t work together, it can be dangerous because of depleting water and lack of rain due to climate change. Lots of forest lands that retain water have been destroyed. The country is filled with treeless mountains. Water flows from the North but now the North is filled with treeless mountains. We need to accelerate our reforestation efforts. However, it takes up to 20-30 years to plant trees. Therefore, we need to, in the meantime, use less water and utilize new technologies. The government is ready to assist the public on these things, so please visit your local municipalities and learning centers to learn more about these new practices.
I’ve asked television and radio channels to broadcast the government’s policies, how it budgets for projects and how people can address problems in a sustainable way. Farmers who have listened to the government’s advice have adopted hybrid farming practices and now have multiple income sources. On the other hand, people who don’t take advice have continued to suffer. Information is being broadcasted through channel 11, 5 and Parliament Channel. Other channels that are about business or entertainment, I ask that you please also do some educating as well. If you don’t broadcast at all what the government is doing, what problems it is trying to solve and how the public can help and just air trivial content, how then can we live in balance? I ask that the media exercise ethical journalism for the citizens. Anyone who is met with hardship can watch channel 11, 5 or Parliament Channel. I say this because sometimes what I say isn’t aired. Instead, some channels air stories without identifying the problem. The government is addressing all these issues. Therefore, people need to contribute and be receptive to change.
I asked that television and social media channels consider how you can contribute to your country. Please create understanding and educate the public. Why isn’t the public better off? Because past governments have not implemented multilateral reform and don’t offer sustainable solutions. We need to growth public capacity through knowledge, support and understanding. If you don’t help me, many agendas may not be realized.
Today, many agricultural groups are mobilizing and preparing their demands. Some have already submitted petitions. With the rubber price issue, there have been so many demands. If we fix something, they demand something else again. Also, please don’t manipulate people with low income. There’s been demand for a rubber committee. Why? Because you don’t have friends in the current committee? I don’t know. There isn’t even a consensus among groups over what kind of committee they want.
This is Thailand’s problem. There are internal struggles for self-interest. This is a national issue. Let’s consider how we can instead cooperate as a state of the people. Please give the government and the NCPO another year and a half to do its work. Most importantly, this is a time to help reform the country. Some people say nothing has been done. If you join in, you will see what has been done and what else can be done. These things take time and haven’t been done before. We’re in the 1st phase of reform and which will be followed by a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th for the next 20 years. The 5th phase is after 20 years.
I also ask for cooperation on national reform. Please understand that phase 1 of reform started since the NCPO. It will then be followed by more 5 year plans. Therefore, reform must coincide with the 4 phases lasting for a total of 20 years. This is the national strategic plan that we have. It also coincides with our economic development model.
I will cite a phrase that you all are familiar with: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Thailand will be strong and incomes will increase. Inequality and conflict will be reduced. The country will enhance its competitiveness. These things don’t happen in a few years. When starting, there needs to be a lot of support for the groundwork and building blocks of the foundation. The most important ingredient to the foundation is generosity. It is the generosity to cooperate and to make sacrifices, and not blaming the NCPO for wasted potential, not opposing every move. I’m thinking for the benefit of the public. The people are at the center. The future rests with the next generation.
Students at the Prathom 6 and Mathayom 3 and 6 are currently studying for the O-NET exam. A lot of people are complaining that the O-NET and G-NET tests are too much. The Ministry of Education is looking into this. However, some things are necessary. We need to figure out how not to make it a burden and how students can be motivated. I remember when I was a student, I liked to read and study. My grades were pretty good. During tests, I would study because I wanted good scores. I’m not bragging, but I never scored less than 80%. Why? Because I was determined and wanted to test myself. Do people today take tests for self-assessment? Most take tests in order to qualify for this and that. Try to challenge and best yourself. If you can best yourself, you’ll be able to move on to better things.
However, if you don’t care about yourself and don’t want to do anything and lack motivation, you won’t gain anything. Our education system need a lot of change. It is also because of a lack of understanding. Therefore, the Ministry of Education must create an understanding of this and how to motivate people to want to take tests, to want to compete, to want to read. This is what educational institutions need to do. This includes scholars and high-level administrators. Please don’t teach people to cause conflict. You teach about democracy and a few human rights topics without teaching about civility, citizenship and the rule of law.
Remember that the act of climbing up requires intensity and determination. It isn’t smooth. You are your own caretaker. Therefore, the role of the teacher is very important in being a guiding force and to help parents. We have entrusted our kids to schools because we want them to have a good education. Therefore we must have quality teachers. There have been calls to decrease class time and increase learning time. 3-4 thousand schools have adopted this model. Those that haven’t been successful need to examine why they aren’t. Are there enough teachers? Are teachers flexible and developing themselves? Some teachers have other obligations as well.
However, a teacher’s main priority is with his or her class. This is more important than any other assessment technique. Let’s see how it goes. Everyone needs to help each other. All agencies that use the government’s money must be assessed at the C10 and C11 level in all Ministries.
Lower level assessments need to be conducted in accordance to the upper level model, not through more meetings. Also be aware of assessments. If you don’t pass assessments or if the assessments are inaccurate, then redo it. Right now the authorities will be conducting assessments. Otherwise if you just keep on nominating new positions for me to approve of all the time and your work isn’t actually effective, I don’t know what to do other than assess you more.
During all tests, please everyone try to develop themselves. Don’t be hostile towards the problem and blame the test for being either too easy or too difficult. However, neither tests nor degrees are the only pinnacle of success. Having sufficient income and being able to take care of your family is. Success is also the implementation of knowledge and critical thinking skills. These are the things that make the country develop. Human personnel are the most important resource that will propel the country forward.
Many countries have met with me. I host guests, ambassadors, leaders, commissioners, businesses and organizations from across the world. They are coming here during this administration. They are thankful that this administration has revised various mechanisms and laws on doing businesses. They say there has now been more facilitation and more ease of doing business with shortened timeframes of procedures. We are developing everything. We also need to assess ourselves based on international indicators because this is the lens in which the world will look through to examine us. Based on these indicators, many are turned off by many problematic indicators. I’ve taken these issues seriously. It isn’t easy, but we will do our best to solve all issues. I ask for cooperation from all sides. Address problems according to the established procedure. Today we need to look forward into how we are going to be and how we can develop a future for the next generation.
Thank you. Sawasdee Krub