National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, February 5, 2016
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
February 2nd is Inventors’ Day in Thailand. It is also a day for Thais to honour His Majesty the King, who is revered as ‘The Father of Thai invention’. His Majesty the King was granted a patent for the Chai Pattana water turbine or Chai Pattana aerator. His Majesty is the first King of Thailand and the first monarch to accomplish this feat.
I would like to encourage inventors, scientists, and our youth to follow their dreams of becoming researchers in the modern era who have the potential to initiate inventions, by taking His Majesty as an example and to be conscious of how His Majesty has constantly thought of new and creative inventions to solve the nation’s problems and help improve the quality of life of the Thai people. I will always continue to support you in your endeavours to invent products useful for our nation, so that we can consume our precious natural resources more sustainably and in a way that is friendly to the environment. The government is ready to turn such research work into tangible goods and services for the people.
This year, Inventors’ Day activities will be held between Feb 2 – 6 at Event Hall 102 – 103, Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC). It will feature inventions that actually yield knowledge, development, improved living standards, and sustainability. Interested people, particularly students and businesspersons, who are looking for inspiration are encouraged to visit the event. There will be a large number of creative innovations by Thai inventors and foreign inventors from 17 countries around the world.
I would like to discuss the major problems that the nation is dealing with at this moment. On our preparations for general elections, a public referendum for the constitution, we need to make many improvements and lay down a firm foundation for the country as soon as possible if we are to become a sustainably democratic country. For this, we must resolve the following:
1. Lingering political problems and a deficient democracy. I assume that everyone knows this problem.
2. Differences in terms of professions, income, education, etc.
3. Inequality in terms of living standards and wealth distribution
4. Social injustice and favoritism.
5. Failure to respect the law and the enforcement of the law for personal gains, especially among leaders and administrators, with some choosing not to accept the will of the majority or even attorneys’ verdicts, while asking for their rights not to be violated, even though they have committed a crime. Legal procedures are crucial and everyone has to respect them. Therefore it is essential for investigations to be carried out according to the law and within judicial procedures so that we can have peace and orderliness.
6. The Budgeting system, revenue, expenditure, and the country’s deficit. How can we earn more revenue and income in order to offset higher expenditures? We also need to prepare for an aging society and higher global competition, and we also need to improve health care and education.
7. Thailand’s income structure, taxation, import and exports, tariffs, tax imposition system, and the Customs Department. Everything has to be overhauled.
8. New economic system and the global economy. It focuses on connectivity, the single market, green growth, stability of SMEs and micro SMEs, regional formation, economic expansion of new communities, treaties and trade agreements such as TPP, RCEP, and FTA as well as other economic groups which have recently been formed.
9. National resilience. For this we need to take into consideration human resources, the law, social consciousness, orderliness, ethics, morality, and public administration based on good governance. Everything must be improved, especially our human resources.
Resilience must start within villages and communities. It also calls for cooperation from all sides starting from the bottom to the top, which is called the “state of the people” model – the government, the private sector, and the public.
The reason I have stressed cooperation to be far more important than conflict is because people shall have different viewpoints. But everyone should respect others’ opinions and find a way to work together. If no one compromises, there will not be mutual cooperation. Nothing will succeed, except conflicts.
10. Instability in the agricultural sector which stems from the climate change. As you can see, we have less water today due to a much lower frequency of rains. This year the rains didn’t come in season, causing a huge problem in Thailand and other countries where crops are grown. Thailand grows a lot of rice, rubber, fruits, and other crops that require water. Today, prices of agricultural produce are falling. The government has to step up and help the farmers by issuing a number of measures such as reducing production costs, changing farming techniques, encouraging processed goods, and creating added value. We are doing everything we can to help the farmers.
11. The country’s ability to compete must be enhanced. Our competitiveness must improve in all levels, starting with villages, communities, sub-districts, districts, provinces, regions, border areas, special economic zones, clusters, and super clusters. We must also seek partnership in the international arenas such as through the CLMV-T, ASEAN Community, superpowers, and international community.
12. We must encourage domestic investments, overseas investments, and FDIs. But more importantly, we must improve our human resources, education, and skilled labor. This will prepare us for future investments and the passing on of technological knowledge. We also need to emphasize on R&D, so that our country will grow stronger.
In terms of infrastructure, although Thailand has a decent infrastructure system, there are certain things that we are lacking. I want Thailand to connect to this whole region and other regions. I also want us to focus on border trade which should be on the main route and then move onto provinces, creating connectivity between regions. We can then go deeper into each district, sub-district, and village. Connectivity must happen at all levels. We can no longer quit half way. There shall be a clear guideline as to which area should be implemented first and which should follow. However, it must not cause dilemmas for the local people.
In terms of transportation, telecommunications, water management, electricity and power, it is a must that we build stability and connectivity, so that our country can grow strong in the future. Utilities must reach people, businesses, and industrial zones. Everything must be ready.
In terms of innovation, I have mentioned this before. The problem is that prices of our products are too low. If we focus on innovation and come up with new ideas or products that are unique or locally made, our products can be sold at a much higher price. We are now trying to sell these products in various places such as by selling OTOP products on airplanes or at duty free shops. The matter is being discussed now.
In terms of people’s resilience, we must join hands. The more we are separated, the weaker our country becomes. There must be community enterprises. Community businesses and cooperatives will need to be uplifted for the benefit of the community. This also includes forming groups of farmers to increase the communities’ productivity. Farmers should work together and grow crops on the same plot of land. This is how we create connectivity. The value of products can be created at upstream, midstream and downstream. At upstream, we have farmers. At midstream, we have representatives who transport produce to factories. At downstream, we have sellers in various locations throughout Thailand and even overseas market.
13. Water management. We must take into consideration water for agriculture, water for consumption, and water for the balancing of ecosystem. Therefore, agricultural zoning is crucial in Thailand. Crop cultivation and irrigation must be compatible, meaning farmers should grow crops according to the water situation. We are now drafting a water management plan. The plan will be in accordance with the cultivation schedule. Demand and supply must be in balance and in line with the amount of water we possess, so that our crops can be sold at better prices. Farmers will be able to support their families.
As I mentioned before, it doesn’t matter how well your cultivation plan is, you will be faced with huge problems if you don’t take into account the amount of water you can use for your crops, the restoration system, or the water distribution system. All of this has been initiated before by His Majesty the King. This concept should, therefore, be adopted in all farming zones. If not, the same problem will keep recurring.
It is important to grow crops according to the water management plan. You must understand that water cannot reach certain areas. The irrigation system does not reach every part of Thailand due to different levels of land. It is difficult to transport water from lowland to highland or plateaus. As a result, farmers should adjust their farming techniques with focus on drought-tolerant crops. Crops that need a lot of water shall be grown in irrigation zones or in places water can reach.
There are a lot of details on this. We must be well prepared. I don’t want to force any farming techniques on anyone. If you are learning from the information provided by the state and complying with other assistance measures which help you acquire additional jobs while reducing problematic farming, then you will not have to undergo such hardships and the country will be able to overcome such difficulties.
14. We also have the problem of unrestricted and illegal use of natural resources, lacking the proper management. It causes imbalance for nature. This includes tourist destinations and the rehabilitation and restoration of natural resources. Land and forests have been encroached upon while some are even destroyed, be they dry land or coastal zones. It then reduced the level of ground humidity and thus less frequent rains. Thailand mainly acquires water from rainfall. Once forests and humidity are gone, there will be no rains. Without humidity, we won’t even be able to make artificial rain. As you see, everything in the system relates to one another. Please be mindful of this
In terms of land management, I can say that a lot of people have demanded the government to give out land. This is a concern. The government has been attempting to solve the problem and help those who are landless. How can we best utilize the land? We need to abide by the law as well as be mindful about all precious resources that we have. Forests must account for at least 40% of the total area in Thailand.
If laws are broken, there will surely be corruption. Authorities and the people will be distressed as a result. In the end, perpetrators will be prosecuted. But without any choice, some people will go ahead and break the law. Then they will face legal charges. Cooperation must be sought between responsible agencies including the Interior Ministry, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, and the public.
To address this matter the government is considering the fundamentals of law and political science to derive sustainable solutions. This effort will be spearheaded by a committee formed by the government.
15. The next problem is the corrosion of a Thai society. Thai people used to live peacefully in the past. But in recent years, our society has seen some tremendous conflicts, segregation, and use of violence, all of which are orchestrated by ill-intended people trying to distort information for person gains, ‘experts’ who pontificate about conflict rather than cooperation, some members of the press who lack ethics and morality, and social media that slanders and fosters hatred. We must think of the society as a whole. This conflict and the vulgarity that comes with it is not a good example for our children. This is not the path we want Thailand to continue on. Therefore, we must seek a democratic system that is suitable for our ideals as Thais. We will come up with a way to make this work.
Today, we are studying the first draft of the permanent constitution. We must be more careful to prevent politicians who fail to practice good governance from controlling the administration. All of this has changed Thailand. We used to be happier society, but today this is fading away, especially before May 22nd, 2014. We saw how people used emotions more than reason and how many were driven by hatred and not logic. This is not good for our future. Therefore, we all need to work together to bring that happiness back.
The next topic is about the constitution. I would like to reiterate that this is a very important matter. This is the most important mechanism to run a country. It is the principle all democratic countries uphold. The constitution is not a special medicine or a fixed formula for the country’s problems. I want everyone to carefully study the draft first and avoid paying heed to people who did not draft the constitution or do not really study it; otherwise, you will be confused. I will personally study the draft myself as a citizen and as government official.
I will take a look at each provision. There are many provisions in the draft. I will put marks on chapters that I may not understand. I will also compare and contrast this draft with 1997 Constitution, 2007 Constitution, and other charters. Some clauses are similar but phrases may be different. Despite that, the core principles remain the same.
From there on we need to analyze various factors and try to examine the events before May of 2014. This includes the issue of social conflict, the issue of a government that shouldn’t have absolute power. How can we solve these issues? How can the current draft constitution address these things? Also, we need to consider what needs to be stipulated differently because we are undergoing national reforms while progressing towards a stronger democracy.
If we still lack order, disrespect the law and social norms, fail to address inequality and injustice, fail to clearly plan our future, I think Thailand’s democracy will end up where it was: social conflict that can get even worse than before. Therefore, don’t worry too much about the constitution because it’s up to the will of the people. Is reform necessary for the country then? I want to ask the people of Thailand this question.
Everyone knows the problem well but we still don’t really know the solution. Whoever you choose to run the country is up to you, but that person should respect the principle that we have to go through national reforms and the 20 year strategic reform plan. Why is this necessary? Because we also have budget issues among other things and what previous administrations have been doing has lacked consistency and connectivity. Therefore we haven’t seen results in many areas. There are also agendas regarding stability, economics, equality and justice.
Most important is the issue of budgeting. If we don’t determine a 20 year strategy, many things will not be connected. Like a human body, there must be main arteries and capillaries flowing to all parts of the body. Whether it is agriculture, jobs, housing, if we don’t have a 20 year plan for these things, how will the next generation live? We need to plan for them today. That is why we need a strategic national plan in advance which takes into consideration domestic and global factors.
Regarding budgeting, let’s see if there is adequate funding while also seeing if we’re being efficient with spending. Should the project managers or fiscal policies be changed or revised to reduce inefficiency? Political parties can have their own policies and agendas, but the government’s policy must also relate to the 20 year strategy for economic development and connectivity. One of the most damaging policy approaches to the budget is populist policies.
We also need to correctly categorize policies. I’ve already explained the difference between populism versus a state of the people approach. I disagree with populism in that it only spends money and damages the country’s budget as the money is just spent and is gone. As for a state of the people approach, we seek a way of cooperation between the state and the private sector. For example, we’re pushing for public-private partnership investments and are amending legislation regarding joint investments. What can be done during this administration should be done during this time. Think about what is good and come up with a plan.
Meanwhile, also look at the constitution and laws that are being approved. This constitution must be unique in how it addresses our problems and allows the country to make progress, reduces conflict, and stipulates reform and a 20 year strategic plan. There needs to be a few changes to our democratic system so that we can avoid another transitional period like now as well as the deadlocks before May 22, 2014.
The next issue is how we will determine Thailand’s future at the international stage. We must examine after 20 years or every 5 years where the country is positioned at the global level. We must set our standards and act upon them to create sustainability. We need to look forward 20 years and reexamine progress made every 5 years according to the plan that we’ve stipulated. There are also phases 2, 3, 4 and 5. Right now we’re on phase 1 going onto phase 2.
Regarding the constitution and all laws, if we see them as possible remedies to all our problems, then we should reconsider whether they can really solve our problems. Severe problems will result in severe conflict. The authorities will not be able to implement laws if people lack faith or trust. Therefore everything must be balanced. There needs to be justice and we should take a look at what other countries have done.
I think the drafters of the constitution are doing their best. I see them working under demanding conditions because they’re trying to do what hasn’t been done. How can we address difficult issues such as conflict, corruption, violence, stability or competitiveness?
If can go through the public referendum and can hold a successful election, a government will be formed. If not, there will be more trouble and violence like in the past. This can’t happen. Therefore we need to think of how we can stop these things from happening. Don’t think that things will be okay just because there is peace and order right now.
I’ve said that during these peaceful times, the challenge is in confronting longstanding issues, such as a ‘winner takes all’ attitude. This confuses people and keeps them divided. Please don’t let this happen again. After the election, will people respect the results of the election? If not, this will cause further troubles.
I say we must learn to accept each other through social norms and international norms. An election is an election. The results must be accepted by the opposition unlike what has happened in past elections. If there is more conflict, how can we resolve this? If you don’t want to designate someone to resolve conflict, then it must rest with whether the people of the country can resolve issues themselves.
The next matter regards administrative laws and organic laws. These laws are different in their uses and some aren’t written in the constitution yet. Some are included in organic laws while some must be in transitional provisions, otherwise they will be conflicting. Please study these laws carefully and understand them before you decide whether to oppose them.
In Thai politics, we all want to empower the people. But with what kind of power? The role of the public is to select representatives, vote in referendums and elect members of the house of representatives. This is usually considered a complete democracy and you will have your government with its strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, let’s focus on our problems and we will know how to change and reform. This is an important transitional period.
I personally have been a bit stressed at this moment, with the many problems we have and with preparing for reforms, the public referendum and the constitution drafting. The 5 main bodies of reform need to address a lot of administrative issues as well. Today we need to consider whether we need various mechanisms in place to ensure that the country can make progress. This is where there can be differences.
I’d like to ask the people to focus and consider the constitution and not merely the intent to find out areas of dispute or conflicts of interest. If you have valid arguments then put them forth, but you must think of the benefit of the country as a whole. Look at our problems objectively. I am no one’s enemy. The law and justice system will be the judge of what’s right. We need to learn to how live together harmoniously, despite our differences, and become a peaceful society like we used to be.
As for farmers, I want to let you all know that the government is not being idle about addressing your problems. Problematic issues such as water, rice and rubber are being continuously addressed while we are also trying to create sustainability. If we only provide just short-term relief, these problems will occur next year. It will be a bit tough as these problems are occurring simultaneously. I’ve called for the establishment of a committee to draft a “comprehensive rice scheme” which will include related agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Commerce as well as the private sector such as associations of farmers, rice mills, rice traders and exporters.
This rice scheme is the government’s effort to plant rice according to real demands in order to reduce excess crops. Right now, I’ve been notified that the committee has assessed the country’s demand for rice to be at 25 million tons. They have therefore started allocating zones for balanced planting.
Of course there needs to be certain areas that need to reduce or refrain from planting rice and plant other crops. I don’t want to force people to plant a certain way because that would just incur more difficulties. But if you plant crops and there is no water, it will all be wasted and farmers will be at a loss. I ask farmers to please understand and to willingly cooperate with the authorities. Also please adhere to studies and openly receive suggestions. I know it’s difficult because it’s something you’ve been doing since your grandparent’s time. However, you need to adapt if you want to relieve yourselves from debts.
In the near future, should people cooperate like today; I think all our commercial crops will be successful. The Ministry of Commerce has found markets for alternative crops that replace the planting of rice. There needs to be more of these alternative crops and new markets need to be found for them. Therefore, visit your provincial administration or district office or commerce office for suggestions. People who go can be representatives of farmers and village headsmen who bring the issues of the people to the attention of the authorities. The government can’t go into all areas so we must also rely on this mechanism for the authorities and the public in the form of a state of the people way of cooperation. Therefore, we must not create new problems but solve existing problems such as reducing the amount of rice we plant to avoid oversupply and plant other crops instead.
Regarding the suggestions by the farmer’s association on sustainable assistance measures for farmers, I’ve forwarded these suggestions to the related committee and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is considering them and will reach a conclusion soon. I know people are having financial difficulties but if solutions are implemented too hastily, problems can arise again.
I would like to commend modern farmers in many areas. I sincerely commend you because your suggestions will create sustainability and coincide with the government’s policy of large community farms.
I hope that this comprehensive rice scheme will be beneficial. The committee is almost finished with the details. This will be a demonstration of cooperation between the state, the private sector and the people in creating economic and social resilience for farmers in a sustainable manner. This will also bring the bureaucracy into assisting all stages of production to ensure quality and for the private sector to benefit from the end product.
As for rubber, the government is gradually assisting this sector. The prices are currently not that high but we are entering a period of concluding rubber tapping activities. We need to ready ourselves for production and utilization which will take some time.
I cannot expect the government to purchase all the rubber produced. It isn’t possible. We’ve bought some to raise prices a bit. However, what’s important is the utilization of this rubber, which will take time. We will now bring the rubber to processing factories as well as to laboratories to conduct research in order to find sustainable uses.
The government and I are concerned about the well-being of farmers, the public as well as those conducting freelance occupations. When the economy is suffering, all sectors are affected. Transportation is affected and income for taxi cars and motorcycle taxis are also affected. If people continue to work hard and also continue to travel, they will be able to contribute in ways which can make a difference. The government can’t solve all problems at once and we are dealing with many of problems at the moment the best we can.
Finally, the Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem Market will host the” land of smiles” event from February 1 to 26 which is arranged by the Ministry of Culture. The event aims to support the traditions and culture that are unique to various regions and feature unique products to increase income for local communities. This will develop products and support the local economies as well as introduce producers to buyers. The event will alternate themes to attract visitors and encourage consumer spending.
February 1-7 features the prosperity market to coincide with the Chinese New Year. February 8-14 will be the theme of love in preparation for Valentine’s Day. February 15-21 will be a theme of joy and February 22-26 will be a theme of merit-making as it coincides with the week of Makha Bucha Day. I would like to thank the Ministry of Culture and related agencies for organizing the market to coincide with various festivities. I invite everyone to visit and feel free to purchase goods as you wish.
Whatever is good about Thailand and for the Thai people, I invite you to please tell people from other countries of these things. Please don’t create new conflicts, distort facts or escalate old disputes. I would like to thank the responsible media for their ethical behavior for the sake of our country.
Thank you. Sawasdee Krub