National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, January 29, 2016
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
Every February 3rd of each year marks “Veterans’ Day”. It is the day that we all commemorate the heroic acts of our soldiers standing in the front line who are always ready to make sacrifices. They are willing to sacrifice their lives to serve and protect their nation and the people. They make sacrifices so that we all could live peacefully. Although we are not at war, there are a large number of soldiers, police officers, security officers, and volunteers who are on duty in the field to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are away from their families and loved ones to protect us. They are fending off many threats to our security, both old and new, to uphold the sovereignty of the nation, while ensuring peace and order in our daily lives. Please send them your support and encouragement, and your best wishes for them to be safe.
I would like to invite all of us who living ‘behind this wall of security’ to express our appreciation and respect to all veterans by purchasing red remembrance poppies, which are an important symbol to recognize the sacrifices of our soldiers. You could also make donations to veterans or soldiers who have been injured or hospitalized. All donated money will be used to support veterans’ family. Some families have lost their loved ones to the call of duty. Let us remember and let us have the noble spirit represented by poppy flowers bloom in our hearts. Lets us come together also, to make the country that these veterans gave their lives for, a peaceful and prosperous nation.
The next issue is about national reform and building a resilient nation by the ‘state of the people’ model. I am confident this approach will bring sustainable solutions to our country’s challenges and will lay down strong fundamentals for Thailand. I would like to give you an example. Last week, I visited communities that have now developed to become strong communities through their own efforts.
The first community is located in Banphot Phisai District of Nakhon Sawan. I visited various exhibitions displaying farmers’ success in growing crops on a large plantation, which has then allowed the government to provide assistance to those farmers. If farmers can do this by themselves according to our advice, it would be easier for us to manage and assist you. For example, we can provide farming equipment. You can also form a group and grow similar crops and together turn those crops into valuable products through innovation as well as marketing. You can use some of your crops for consumption while the rest can be traded within and outside the community. Or you can process those crops and send them to factories for further production. This is how you create connectivity among businesses. We saw collaboration between officials, the private sector, and the public, together mobilizing government’s policies in all levels – villages and communities.
In this particular area, up to 268,000 rai of land was previously used to grow off-season rice. However, after the government had asked rice farmers to refrain from doing so in the wake of possible water scarcity, the farmers willingly complied with the government’s advice. They took our advice on top of the suggestion that they should grow crops on a large plantation. As of this year, the quantity of land used for off-season rice farming stands at 7,135 rai. Thank you very much for this. Most of the farmers turned to other crops such as green beans, maize, chilies, eggplants, and yard long beans. They are now able to make extra income as agents from the Thai Market travel to these plantations to buy the crops. This is an example of successful implementation and multi-sector concerted cooperation according to the government’s ‘state of the people’ approach.
If people heed the government’s advice, every process will go faster. It will be more effective. Many farmers have told me that they now earn more than they did in the past. However, the government also needs to control the quantity of crops being grown. We will help farmers find the right market, equipment, and technology. Technology needs to be adopted in order for the farmers to compete with the private sector. Renting agricultural equipment can cost a lot of money. This is why the government wants to support you, so that you can have steady income.
Communities will be strong if farmers are willing to heed government’s suggestions. It may be difficult in the early stage, as adapting to change can be hard, especially since the same kind of farming has been practiced since the time of your grandparents. Please be confident that the government considers all possible details when it comes to agricultural policy. The government can provide financial support in the form of BAAC loans, provide seedlings and knowledge about alternative farming, and teach farmers how to create added value. In addition, the private sector will look for markets where various crops can be traded. Many companies can help process crops so that we have diversity in our products. I have also asked the community to highlight the history of their products in a bid to showcase the uniqueness of those products. A well-explained history can help create added value to a product. Product knowledge can appeal to more consumers. Each place has different histories. I want every product to showcase the unique history that goes with them. Once the product is unique, its price will be more valuable. Other countries are also applying this strategy.
The next example is a reservoir construction project with an area of 400 rai in Nong Mamong District, Chai Nat. At first, I asked DPM Gen Prawit Wongsuwan to inspect the area. During his visit, he listened to the locals’ complaints. These complaints were about a shallow reservoir that cannot be used to store water effectively. Gen Prawit then allocated a sum of money to construct a reservoir. The construction received full cooperation from the public and the private sector. Residents and the private sector donated the land to build a reservoir, with support from the government. Today, the reservoir stores a large amount of water. The reservoir can also help to prevent flooding and according to reports, the flooding can be severe sometimes. Not only we can use the reservoir to prevent floods, it also helps to prevent drought. Even without rains, the reservoir is half full already. The depth is between 4-6 meters.
If we lift the sluice gate higher, we will be able to store more water. This is a great example of how the government pays heed to the real needs of the people. We go by -What is useful? What needs more understanding? This is what we call real cooperation. Not only in one area, but all areas must be connected. When it is impossible to construct a reservoir in a certain area, it shall be constructed in another location where water can be transported to needed areas. This is how benefits can be shared. Therefore, water management requires cooperation from all sides – the government, the private sector, and the public. In the meantime, I am still concerned that water scarcity will affect everyday lives of the people.
If we use too much water for agriculture, given that fact that we have limited amount, we will not have enough water for consumption. On top of that, we also need fresh water to prevent salt water incursion. This is the problem we are facing at the moment. Please render us your cooperation. If we see more rains next year, we should not have this problem. We have prepared many measures concerning water management so far.
At Nong Mamong District, more than 900 households have benefited from this project. This then allows the government to use some funds which would have been spent on addressing this issue, to support other projects. Given this, should more reservoirs be constructed? If local people are able to better manage their own water resources like this, then our problems will be solved more efficiently and state funds can then be used for something else.
These are two good examples of concerted cooperation as a’ state of the people’. The goal was achieved thanks to the cooperation between the public, the government, and the private sector. Every individual plays a vital role in development of the economy. If communities are strong and able to stand on their own feet, they won’t have to rely on anyone else. If communities learn to be strong like this, the government will be able to spend the money on something else to benefit the community. The government needs to make many larges scale investments now. But this will be hampered if the government needs to keep on fixing the same problems which should have been fixed a long time ago. Accordingly, we will prioritize our missions during this pivotal moment of reform.
Another important area that needs to be reformed is our national competitiveness. A higher ability to compete ultimately translates to higher revenue for the nation regardless of a global economic slowdown. Our ability to compete must be improved. How do we become a trade and investment hub?
Infrastructure development and innovation will be the keys to our success.
As for the government, civil servants must earn trust of the people by getting to know them and meeting them on a regular basis. We cannot have the public accuse civil servants of being ignorant or not empathetic. Government officials must work together in order to help the people. I would like to compliment all civil servants who contribute and make sacrifices. The government and I will always support you.
The next matter is about building our nation through effective reforms. We must find a way for our country to make progress promptly. Otherwise, we won’t be able to catch up with others. Therefore, the government places high priority on human resources development and community development. We must pay heed to His Majesty the King’s wisdom. His Majesty has said that ‘every initiative must develop from within’, meaning we must have the determination to develop and make progress for our families and our communities first so that they are ready to absorb forthcoming development on a larger scale.
We have to create willingness for development as well as for cooperation. But the government cannot do this by itself. In the mean time, there must be considerations about social balance. We understand that with low incomes, some people may not be able to take advantage of technology. Stability must start within villages before it happens in communities, then provinces, then border areas, and so on. Today, the government is using this strategy, coupled with the ‘state of the people’ model, so that all sides can lend a helping hand. People must understand their needs. The government will then assess how matters in a particular area can be related to matters in other areas. This is what the system should look like. We will make assessments at the upstream, midstream and downstream.
Once all sectors have the readiness, it will be easier for the government to provide you with support, assisting you with knowledge, technology, and a budget. In addition, educational institutions should take part in the process, because education is the foundation of all development, especially human resources development. Education can help produce workers the country needs. Therefore, you should support activities in all ministries and private companies. This is how you should look at it. You have several tasks at hand. You should be able to supply all sectors with potential work forces. The education sector should produce more teachers, service providers, technicians, scientists, researchers, developers, and mathematicians.
You should be able to prepare Thai work forces and then classify them into groups. There must be a target as to how many workers in this sector should be produced by 2017. How will it be continued? Who will coordinate the effort? How to seek cooperation from the private sector? Thailand is in need of skilled labor. We have much work to do, because many foreign companies will be investing here in the next 2 years. This means you have limited time and so you should consider joining hands with the Labour Ministry, the Education Ministry, and other ministries. Once the country earns higher revenue, labourers should also earn higher income.
It is impossible to increase everyone’s earnings all at the same time. The increase must go according to individuals’ skills. Everyone should improve themselves and learn to improve their skills at learning centers. I have instructed the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Interior, and related agencies to find out how many workers we actually need in each sector, how many migrants workers are working in the country, how many skilled workers Thailand possesses, and what type of workers should we send abroad. All of this is included in our preparation plan prior to the formation of the ASEAN Community. I will talk about this matter later.
Then, we will be able to overhaul our system and change the way we work as a team which comprises civil servants, the private sector, and the public. As I’ve said it before, we must proceed with our reform under the policy “Thailand Startup”, meaning we must move forward and kick-off with a good start. We need to start doing things that will make our country stronger. Our startup strategies are as follows.
We have established the National Startup Center to connect innovations that are registered in various Ministries and develop a Start Up registry. This system provides entrepreneurs on the registry with the ability to access sources of funding from state and private banks. This source of fund creates stability in business operations and the opportunity to exchange know-how between businesses and educational institutions such as universities. Remember our pledge of growing stronger together. We need to increase our income together according to our capabilities. The government will take care of those who aren’t able to realize their full potential. We will provide financial support but you also need to develop your know-how. Small businesses and medium businesses should consider branching out. This is what I call connectivity.
The second matter is how to bring the agricultural sector into prosperity. This is an issue for all countries. For us, we’ve come up with the “1 sub district, 1 SME” project implemented in the first phase, which includes the reform of the agricultural sector to boost incomes, product value, and access to know-how (so as to solve existing problems in a sustainable manner). This policy to support local industries is the first step for agricultural farmers. If we can succeed in this first step, it will be good progress. If it is successful, the government will consider providing adequate support based on your real potentials. I would like to ask for the cooperation from various businesses on this. Therefore, the first step is to move forward with various agencies. The challenge here is to create and ensure understanding within all stakeholders and to see if we are ready to accept development and the need to make progress. However if people do not see this because you continue to revert back to the same old practices, then your children and the next generation will not be ready for development and cooperation to make progress. Today we’ve prepared to make progress according to the 1st phase of the reform roadmap. We need to enhance the quality of our products. In addition, the people who produce the products must be innovative as well. I’ve informed the Ministry of Education about this. This is one of our hardest challenges. Therefore please empathize with the government as the bureaucracy is trying to implement its policies. Right now, we’re considering how to support Thai innovation and how it can present itself in a unique way that also coincides with the country’s natural resources. We shall also emphasize branding, whether it be ASEAN branding or Thai branding that we call “Made in Thailand.” The other day, I called for a meeting to prepare for ASEAN readiness. This ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) involves several important economic matters. I will continue to discuss ASEAN policies later.
The next matter regards the promotion of technology startups, in which we have sought cooperation with the industrial, agricultural, digital technology and service industries to come up with various innovations from small, medium to large products, which can create employment and income. Based on the distribution of sales and services of new industries both domestic and abroad, this is a good opportunity to expand businesses to other markets in the future and to increase revenue for the country, not to mention national competitiveness. This is something that we’ve designated as a national agenda.
Therefore we can see that our starting point is the development of research and innovation. This is the key to success that will allow the country to earn more income and increase our ability to export. Regarding our successful industries such as those in the agricultural sector, our potential is already high but what is important is the restructuring of our existing system, which must now involve cooperation among all agencies during the production process. We need to build on our successes otherwise we will just stay where we are. What we don’t know we must learn and implement. There are plenty of models to learn from so as long as you don’t break any copyright laws. Regarding the laws, what’s important is the protection of intellectual property. Each country has its own laws that protect the interest of innovators. Therefore we must ready ourselves for the future because various research and developments must lead to patents. Otherwise we will not be able to fully realize our potential and those that exploit other people’s inventions will profit at the expense of the innovator. Therefore we must create new innovations and support the drafting of laws that adhere to international laws as well as various treaties or memorandums of understanding between countries. Therefore we need to take these things into consideration in our economic and social development cooperation frameworks with various countries. As for the enhancement of product value in the service, industrial and agricultural sectors, these things need to go together because Thailand is a producer. There are plenty of products from the agricultural sector such as rice and rubber in which value can be added. We can implement industrial agriculture practices which can enhance the value of income and extend opportunities to farmers. If we do not employ science and technology, progress will not be possible. I have been looking into the observation that says in the next few years, the world will undergo an economic revolution where the global economy will further take advantage of complex technological advances, particularly the use of robotics. Today, we need to prepare ourselves as well for this. Robotics is one of the new industries that we are supporting in order to prepare ourselves for the future. In the meantime, we need to prepare ourselves for an increase in robotics technology in industrial equipment. There will be less need for manual labor as a result. However we still need to use both because we need to care for those with low incomes. Not only that, our population is steadily on the rise. Today, Thailand has almost 70 million people. Therefore, we must focus on the latest technological innovations as well as on providing real opportunities for those with low income. This is what we need to think of in order to avoid several problems in the future. We cannot violate other people’s intellectual property and we wouldn’t want other people to infringe upon our intellectual property as well. Let’s figure out what we can do together. I’ve urged the authorities to crack down on such violations. I don’t understand how fake goods can be so popular. Is it a reflection of character? This also extends to the downloading of pirated movies which is still very prevalent. The authorities must not overlook this as well. Authorities must also not employ double standards on their enforcement and refrain from corrupt practices. Otherwise this will result in further damage. Pirated goods can cause significant damage. For instance, I understand that pirated movies are low quality and can be damaging to the eyes. Children nowadays are already damaging their eye sight because they keep staring at the computer.
Intellectual property covers the interests of yourself and the inventor. This is a matter of ethics that needs to be reinforced in the trade and investment front. The most competitive countries will be assessed based on what they do well and not well, what they copy and don’t copy as well as whether they violate laws. This creates credibility at the international stage. There will be more laws drafted. I’ve talked about the issue of strengthening the national economy so many times that you have perhaps forgotten about these things. Please pay attention to the details and try to draw the connection between various issues. I’ve been working this way myself and that’s why I’ve been able to keep track of what’s been going on. Only waiting to receive the benefits of the outcome is not the best course of action to take. We need to be cautious. We need to also examine the implications of various agreements such as the WTO or FTO in which we have signed up with. Should we violate these agreements, we could be disqualified from their benefits such as tax breaks. Keep in mind that we are a moderate country in terms of income. Should we get disqualified from these tax cuts, it could affect our GDP. At the same time, we also need to see how much of our population is really in the middle income group? About 40 million people are faced with low income and in this group there are about 30 million farmers. We have a population of about 67 million so let’s ask ourselves if we have a lot of poor people. Does it account for over 50% percent of the population? We need to help each other.
In terms of our medical profession, I believe that our innovations are most admirable. Our doctors and public health facilities can be considered the best in ASEAN. Today there is news that, Phramongkutklao Hospital, which is hospital under the army medical department, worked together with the Faculty of Engineering from Chulalongkorn University and was able to successfully implant an artificial metacarpal bone made from titanium created using 3D printing technology. This is another good example of what we can accomplish when the public and private sectors cooperate. The artificial bone was used to replace a bone in a thumb that was removed due to a malignant bone tumor. This is a proud moment for all of us as this is the first time this procedure has ever been done. Therefore, this is something we should look to continuously develop. Those who have lost fingers, or larger limbs working in factories can look forward to the day when our technology is able to restore their capabilities so that they can work normally again. Of course, this may come at a cost. So what are we going to do about that? We’ll have to start with the organizations involved. The hospitals and the Ministry of Health have to take the lead. Maybe, we’ll consider this a charity venture on behalf of the Ministry of Health for now. This is intellectual property of Thailand, so we should get it patented as soon as possible. So let’s follow this up and make sure that we don’t just send it in and forget about it.
If fact in whatever we do, if we start it, then we must start it properly, which entails setting-up as well as management. This covers all the various duties involved as well. We need to have a plan, and budget it accordingly. This is important when we have many people working together. If there is overlap, then there can be redundancy, which is counterproductive and eats into the budget. We need to take all the information we have into account when we evaluate over time. The satisfaction of the public is our number one priority. We need to ask ourselves if what we are doing lines up with what the public needs. If they don’t understand, then we need to help explain our process. If they don’t agree, then sometimes we need to let it go. Quarrelling about it all the time won’t help. Whatever the public needs, we have to take responsibility. Sometimes the government needs to undertake projects that involve many links between the areas of our country. For example if the government didn’t do its part to facilitate all these areas, regions, and provinces and address issues of water shortage, starting with the source of the problem, and then following it all the way to how it affects the end product, which is our crops, then all the singular efforts taken in each area might not bear fruit. If everybody is only thinking about solving the problem locally, we can experience a lot of that redundancy again. We all need to share the load. Whatever local knowledge we have should be put towards coming up with solutions for everyone. What project do we have today? We have that first 5 million project right? We’re giving up to five hundred thousand baht to each of over 79,000 villages. They’ll be able to use this money to do things that will benefit them in the long run. This money is not intended merely as a form of welfare. This money is meant to add value. Whether this is improving a factory, a reservoir, roads, walkways, food storage, or local banks which could include seed banks or agricultural banks. These are the things that should be focused on. The 5 million and the 500,000 should be combined. This money will give the public the funds to take their own initiatives and address the things they need. As far as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Interior are concerned, we need to work faster to make this happen. Otherwise, it will be hard to make use of these funds even after we’ve already announced them. On the other hand, we need to understand that the bureaucratic system can be difficult sometimes. Sometimes we can’t just change whatever we want because it could mean that our process is no longer transparent. Back in the day, things might have gotten done faster but that was probably because they didn’t take all the consequences into account.
Today, I’d like to express my support for the “Don’t Buy, Use, or Sell Counterfeit” campaign. I’d like to ask for everyone’s cooperation in this matter. I believe that not buying, using or selling these items is the correct approach to this problem. His Majesty the King’s philosophy on a Sufficiency Economy does not mean that we must be frugal, but rather that we need to use our money prudently. If you have a lot, then you can use a lot. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t. Those with less should be more careful and think wisely about their spending. You should also have reasoning and employ moderation. If you want to spend a lot, you need to ask yourself: how long will this be viable? It’s about preparing an appropriate spending plan. This is something we all need to do. We also need to show kindness and support one another. But if no one spends any money, and simply waits for the government to lower taxes, and lower costs, our economy won’t grow. Producers can’t keep producing if there is no demand. With no sales, there’s no money. With no money, the government won’t have any revenue from taxes. You have to think like this, and understand the full process. Today, we must be a nation that is reliable, especially through a creative economy.
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to speak for the Thai people and express my congratulations to the recipients of the “Prince Mahidol Award” which was graciously bestowed by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. The first among the awardees is a Professor of Medicine, Dr. Morton M. Mower from the United States, who was one of the co-inventors of the Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator or AICD, as well as the inventor of the Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy or CRT. The second recipient is Sir Michael Gideon Marmot from the United Kingdom, for his epidemiological research, which focuses on the health, and equality of all people regardless of race, religion and social status. This research has helped to establish a number of healthcare practices and policies that are used worldwide. Both these individuals have made valuable contributions to humanity. I’d like to praise the virtues and efforts of these two distinguished doctors. It takes a long time to accomplish what you have done and achieve this level of success. I’d also like to offer my support for all researchers, both medical and otherwise, for your creativity and innovations that have contributed to humanity and to our better future.
Thank you and Good Evening.