National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, April 8, 2016
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
This week, many good things have taken place. First of all, I would like to congratulate Ratchanok Intanon or “Nong May” for winning the Yonex Sunrise India Open 2016. She is a fine role model for Thai youngsters, thanks to her incredible skills and athleticism, which has also brought recognition to our country. She is an inspiration to all of Thai children. I’d like to thank her coach and all those involved in this success. I do believe that the most important factor behind any success is ‘family’. Nong May is also competing in the 2016 Malaysia Super Series Premier taking place on April 5-10 in Malaysia. We hope she achieves her goals at this tournament, and this goes for all Thai athletes competing internationally. We send our support and congratulations to all those who have competed in the name of their country, such as:
The International Abilympics 2016 which took place in France, where Twelve Thai athletes were able to take home 8 medals, 1 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze. This shows the stamina and abilities of all our athletes who are considered valuable resources of the nation, possessing great potential. In this regard, the government has underscored the importance of providing opportunities for all, especially reducing social disparities through ensuring fairness and the support for skills-building for the disabled. I convey my full support and admiration for your perseverance and for making valuable contributions to our society. Therefore, through cooperation between the government and the private sector, I firmly believe that this sector can play a significant role in stimulating our economy as well.
In reference to Thailand receiving the Nuclear Industry Summit Awards during the 4th Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., I would like to reiterate that that is considered as a success for every Thai citizen. The award was presented to Thailand in recognition of our role in eradicating highly enriched uranium as well as our ability to control radioactive substances. Thailand is recognised for preventing nuclear materials and radioactive materials from having the chance to fall into the wrong hands. Thailand attaches great significance to maintaining and reinforcing nuclear security. We also look forward to a constructive role in regional and international security. Seventeen other countries also received the same award. I believe that this has further enhanced Thailand’s standing in the international community, thus enhancing international confidence in Thailand. This is echoed by the fact that Thailand has been appointed chair of G77 group, giving Thailand an important opportunity to strengthen global cooperation as well as our role in other international issues.
The government has been implementing national reforms and laying down the fundamentals for our future development. Certain things will need to be done incrementally and carefully as we know, and already the Thai people are able to see several positive changes, such as:
Reform of public services – for the creation of greater access to public services and thus the reduction of social disparities, the government has set up the Government Easy Contact Center (GECC), which provides convenient, fast, and easily accessible services to members of the public. People can be confident that at this center, they will be receiving up-to-standard services from government offices and state-enterprises. The setting up of such centers is in response to people’s complaints that in the past, they did not receive adequate services from government agencies. There were complications, delays, dereliction of duties. This is why it was important for the government to bring real reform to this sector, so that the work of government offices goes in line with the Licensing Facilitation Act, B.E. 2558 which took effect on July 21, 2015. I hope that this is a turning point and a step forward for the bureaucratic system in Thailand in order to ensure transparency as well as public services that are fast, productive, and most importantly, accessible to all. Other channels people can seek assistance from include the G-Channel, G-NEWS, and the One-Stop Service (OSS) center.
The next issue is about promoting resilience in supply chains through the “Pracharat Shop” project. Pracharat shops offer OTOP and SME products, while also providing useful information to tourists. This project is implemented under the “Pracharat” approach which seeks to make communities stronger. Pracharat shops are now open at 148 PTT petrol stations, two in each province, starting since April 1st. Songkran revelers can now stop at these shops and purchase locally-made products. This can help to strengthen local communities and generate income for local communities. The quality of these products will constantly be improved. I would also like to see food markets under the “Pracharat” policy.
The next issues is about establishing skill level standards for 20 professions in 5 industries, including electrical power and electronics, auto-parts, automotives, gems and jewelry, and logistics. This is to add value to our economic system. These standards are also used to determine wages of workers in the 20 professions as well as to protect their rights. As I have said before, everyone should enhance their own potential, so that skilled workers can enhance and make progress. Once such workers pass the skills test, they can present their qualifications to their employers so that the employers can adjust their wages according to workers’ skills and knowledge. This helps to promote the Thai working force and improve their skills to a level accepted by the international labour market. It also allows employers to recruit workers with higher skills who can then improve the standards of products. In addition, it also addresses the problem of labour shortages, as well as the country’s competitiveness.
All this complements the government’s efforts to further improve the 10 First S-curve industries whose potential and abilities are already there, including the modern automotive industry, the intelligent electronics industry, health tourism industry, agro and biotechnology industry, processed food industry, and other New S-curve industries including industrial robotics, aviation industry, logistics industry, biofuel industry, industrial biochemistry, digital industry, and the comprehensive medical industry. These industries are expected to drive Thailand’s economy forward. The new labour standards will be a major factor contributing to the mobilization of the industrial sector. These standards will be on par with the highest international standards and will create international confidence for Thai products and human resources. The government, therefore, will place its focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM education. STEM education will allow Thailand to build more researchers, innovators and developers who have the ability to improve the country’s production sector. We need to be able to plan, produce, and find potential markets, so that we can compete with other nations. Industrial products are very valuable to the growth of our country.
Next week will be the week of Songkran. I have several matters to talk to you about which I think are very important.
1) April 13th of every year marks Songkran Day as well as the National Day for the Elderly. The White Cheesewood plant is the symbol of the National Day for the Elderly. April 14th is Family Day in Thailand. It is when people travel back to their hometown to be with their family, pay homage to their ancestors, perform “Rot Nam Dam Hua” ceremony, and pay respects to elderly relatives. This is especially important for some people have to go find jobs in other towns and don’t get to see their family very often. These ceremonies have long been part of our traditions.
Our neighboring countries – Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Cambodia – also have similar celebrations in their own ways. Therefore, the government has a plan to organize several activities to promote and strengthen our cultural relations.
It is also essential that we maintain our cultural heritage through genuine traditional activities, such as pouring water on Buddha statues and Rod Nam Dam Hua. You can also dress in traditional costumes. But please be more careful in celebrating this event and refrain from harassing others or dressing indecently in public places. There are laws governing indecent exposure, which will be enforced. You should celebrate in a polite way as there will be people of all ages joining in. Many parents have made complaints to me, asking why improper celebrations were allowed, not to mention improper attire, and excessive alcohol consumption among others. This is embarrassing, in particular for many foreigners. We should welcome our guests with a true expression of the warmth of Thai culture. Let’s impress them with the uniqueness of our country. I sincerely hope for this.
The next issue concerns the establishment of public safety service centers. We will set up these centers under cooperation of civil service officers, police, volunteers, and the military to ensure public safety. They will assist people travelling on roads as well as in preventing accidents. They will enforce strict traffic regulations, inspect traffic signs, and provide other assistance at rest stops. There will be emergency response teams. Drunk drivers will have their vehicles impounded. All this is to ensure that Thailand’s road safety standards are up to par under the concept “Safety Thailand”. The most important thing is we need to raise public awareness and a social conscience about road safety and good behavior while on the road. Please share the road and not be reckless. Always have your seatbelts and helmets on. No drinking and driving and take good rests. Be physically ready and capable and have your vehicles inspected. Also, you must obey the traffic laws at all times, which will help reduce accidents and casualties in the end.
Don’t expect that all you need is the law to keep you safe. It all depends on everyone’s conscience, be they drivers or passengers. I had heard complaints about visitors driving recklessly in Thailand, especially in tourist places. So I instructed the Ministry of Interior to look in to the matter. It turns out that many foreigners said traffic regulations in their countries are very strict whereas leniency is exercised in Thailand, and that’s why they drove the way they did. I was very embarrassed to hear that statement. This is why we need to be role models in road safety and etiquette. For instance, we cannot overtake every car on the road. A large number of bikers lose their lives every year as a result of this. Riders need to be more careful and always abide by the law. You have enough wisdom to understand what is right. Your family will be devastated if something happens to you.
This year, the government, in cooperation with insurance companies, is coming with a special package for the people. Each person will be entitled to higher insurance coverage, for instance, medical coverage of 50,000 baht will be increased to 80,000 baht per person.
And compensation for death will increase from 200,000 baht to 300,000 baht per person.
Everyone will be entitled to this benefit without having to pay a higher premium. The program has already started since April 1st, for both existing and new insurance policies.
In addition, the government has a policy to encourage people to purchase personal and family accident insurance during the Songkran Festival. This is a micro-insurance accident policy for Songkran, with a premium of only 100 baht. It comes with coverage of up to 100,000 baht in a span of 1 year. This insurance can be purchased from now until April 30th, 2016 at insurance companies joining the program, counter services, seven eleven, Government Savings Bank branches, and post offices nationwide. For more information, please call 1186. Despite that, I wish you will never have to claim it.
The next issue is the economy. The government has introduced tax incentives to stimulate the economy during April 9-17. Expenses on food, traveling, and hotels of no higher than 15,000 combined can be tax deductible. Not only will this trigger the tourism industry, it will also create income for hotels, restaurants, and producers. However, please spend your money wisely. Those who have more can spend more. Those with less money should spend less. The country’s revenue will increase as the tax imposition process will be more thorough. Companies avoiding taxes or filing taxes under the wrong category will be probed.
It is very important to me to promote the value of the family for every Thai citizen. I encourage all to spend time with your family during the Songkran celebrations, so that you can foster love and warmth, which is the very foundation of a strong society. It also reduces conflicts in our society.
As for environmental concerns, I would like those that will be celebrating the Songkran festival to also be mindful of the drought that is happening this year. This crisis represents an opportunity for everyone to learn about the importance of efficient water use, as this is the most valuable natural resource and a vital element for the food chain and the ecosystem. I would like to urge all Songkran revelers to use water sparingly while a engaging in a Thai tradition that has been around for generations. I also urge all citizens to think of how they can contribute to the implementation of the Sufficiency Economy philosophy of His Majesty the King’s, regarding water management. Civil servants and agencies need to be proactive in their data collection for future water management policies, as well as mindful of weather conditions and the conditions of the irrigation system in the area.
All agencies should be drafting a water management plan for the upcoming rainy season so as to mitigate the drought effects in the future. I urge agencies to also study the water management model as presented by the government on Channel 11 and Channel 5. I myself have also read international research and reports on water management, such as from Israel. Israel is a country that mainly consists of deserts and therefore they have been developing water management plans for over 70 years. Today, they are the leaders in effective water management and in making best use of existing water sources. They’ve also been able to reuse up to 85 percent of water for agricultural purposes. They’ve also built water treatment facilities that process approximately 121 cubic meters of sea water into consumable water per year with very low principal cost at 0.60 US dollars per cubic meter.
As for Thailand, we only charge for the use of tap water. I’ve talked with many countries and they say that drinking water in Thailand is still considered cheap. They say that water in their countries can cost up to 100-200 Baht per bottle and they needed to conserve water. Israel has said that water is the most valuable commodity in the world. But we in Thailand tend to take it for granted. We need to make the best use out of every drop of water and be determined in reusing as much water as possible. We also need to use water for the right purposes, whether it is for agriculture or for consumption or the preservation of the ecosystem.
Every year, more salt water seeps into our country and our dams are not able push the salt water out either. Some areas that do fisheries bring in salt water, which then seeps into the ecosystem. Please don’t overlook this issue. We need to also be proactive in our use of technology to aid us in water management to better preserve water for the future.
Our water management policies are divided into the large scale for the country and the region, and then the smaller scales for communities and villages. There has been considerable success in water management policies for the community level this year. I also would like government agencies to be more proactive in dredging, especially along the Chao Phraya River as requested by various communities. However, please be mindful so that dredging activities do not tamper with the ecosystem. Please look into the feasibility of each project and make project decisions accordingly.
Regarding the government’s approach to national administration, we want to instill a mindset and working system that is based on integration among the agencies, whether it is regarding funds, personnel and know-how. All these things need to be connected from the central level to the regional levels and project budgets must be coherent throughout all levels. For instance, for the Songkran festival, we must find sustainable solutions according to the Pracharat model.
Another issue I’d like to touch upon is the situation in the Southern provinces. The other day, one of the deputy prime ministers had visited this area. I wish go someday and will find the chance. In the meantime, I’ve stressed to all agencies to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.
What is important is our cooperation in solving the problems in the three southern border provinces. I urge agencies to cooperate in ensuring peace and safety in the area. We need to first find areas where we can cooperate with each other now and move forward accordingly.
The other matter is that all officials and law enforcement officers need to exercise their duties with clarity, thoroughness and good judgment. I empathize with officials who risk their lives every day to maintain peace and orderliness in the area. Residents should also be sympathetic to the officials’ right to defend themselves as well. When perpetrators of violence use force or firearms against officials, they will need to defend themselves accordingly.
With regards to development efforts, I have also called for relevant activities in all dimensions to take place. The other day, I stressed the importance of following through with various road building projects as well as investments and tourism businesses. A challenge to all of this is whether we can ensure safety for the people in the area. It also rests with the residents of the South whether they can help each other ensure peace and safety so that development and prosperity can follow suit. The perpetrators of violence should also realize that to uplift the community and their area, that conflict is not a solution.
As for education and the development of human personnel, especially in the Southern regions, there may be some additional challenges due to extra curriculums. Nevertheless we must eventually work together and move forward with national development efforts. I’ve tasked the Ministry of Education to oversee the implementation of sports and activities in schools while ensuring that students are learning Thai along with other local languages.
As for the matter of ensuring equal access to the judicial system, I’ve called on all agencies to ensure public confidence in the country’s justice system. This goes for all regions in the country, not just the South. I’ve urged them to make the necessary adjustments.
Another issue is to make sure that people don’t take advantage of armed officials by giving false tip-offs, claiming that certain groups are planning violent attacks, even though in truth, it is about a dispute between influential groups exacting revenge on each other. Officials must be careful not to believe false tip-offs.
Another important issue is my order to the relevant agencies to continue making progress on political as well security issues. Military operations to maintain security and development efforts need to work hand in hand. When locals see a joint effort by the military and development projects, they will see how real efforts are being taken. These tasks have historically been done separately as they are under different agencies. I’ve tried my best to have these two aspects work in tandem. I would like to thank everyone for efforts that have already been successful in creating understanding and development in these areas.
As for a dialogue on peacefulness, I know that everyone has expectations for discussions to be fruitful. On our side, we are ready to engage in discussions about maintaining peacefulness and peaceful processes, and the matter of suppressing criminal activities as part of our normal duties. There are several ways to settle disputes and enhance public safety, either through the justice system or by other programmes, such as the one about escorting locals home. I’ve also called for a judicial committee to ensure fairness for all criminal cases and examine whether certain cases can have sentences reduced due to good behavior in prison. All these things serve as opportunities for peace and reconciliation. If we don’t do this now, we run the risk of remaining in conflict, thus further hampering our development efforts.
Everyone needs to help each other according to the Pracharat model in order to be successful, while also refraining from instigating more disputes.
As for reports or notifications, officials are ready to listen to the public. If there are no reports or notifications, officials cannot respond.
Another matter is about listening to different opinions. I’ve called for the establishment of a committee that will take in the input and opinions of all sides in order to work out differences as there are several groups and stakeholders in this issue. We’ve coordinated with many groups, including some that aren’t able to unite and talk as one. We can divide our committee into subcommittees to hear the views of various sides. I would like to say that we are ready for dialogue and will listen to the views of all groups. I say that we are ready on all fronts – politically, military and the judicial system. Together we are the Thai nation, and citizens can worship in any religion in peaceful coexistence, acceptance, and the understanding of having different opinions.
As for collaborative farms, I thank everyone involved in getting together in over 300 collaborative farms, which consist of hundreds or thousands of Rai per farm. This is an example of progress through collaborative efforts. As for projects that have yet to reach fruition, you can discuss with local authorities. In addition, these farms should also be efficient in their use of water.
Various local administrations have discussed with the central government and they have affirmed to me that they will not lead this country into entrenched conflict again. I consider this a promise from all local offices who have met with me the other day.
For other matters, please stay updated otherwise you will not be aware of the latest developments. Please look into matters in detail and be mindful of those who distort information. I believe that most people understand what is going on.
I’d like to thank everyone and I would like to wish everyone safe travels in their journeys to and from their hometowns. I wish everyone happiness and safety and for you to spend valuable time with your family and loved ones. Thank you.