National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, April 15, 2016

Good evening, I am Colonel Taksada Sangkachandra, assistant to the spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office. Tonight, I will be the host of the programme. Questions we will ask the prime minister tonight will be the questions sent to us by our audience.

Good evening, Mr. Prime Minister. Let me get straight to the first questions. Could you please give us some updates on positive developments t for Thailand?

12993553_572545366243222_6022181606963842177_nLet’s start off with good news about a badminton champion. Off course, Ratchanok Intanon or “Nong May” has just won two championships namely Yonex Sunrise India Open and Malaysia Super Series Premier. I admire her commitment and I understand well the pressure she was put under. She did not disappoint us. I really hope she will reclaim her number 2 seed back soon.
This is a great achievement that all Thais can share as we are celebrating the Thai New Year or the Songkran Festival. She is still young and has a bright future ahead of her, so let us all support her. She has many opportunities to win more trophies and medals. This shows that Thais are capable of anything if we out our minds to it. So we should always strive to do good things. We can be successful should we commit ourselves to what we set out to achieve, just like in the Story of Mahajanaka composed by His Majesty the King.

That is certainly something we can be happy about. The Songkran Festival is coming to an end soon. Do you have any concerns you would like to share with the public?

Its not only during Songkran that I have concerns about. But let’s talk about Songkran first. The festival is almost over and I have seen the stats over the numbers of deaths and injuries. The number of casualties is quite high. I have always highlighted this issue, as related authorities are working hard to tackle the issue. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all state officials, village headsmen, local officers, volunteers, and civilians for sacrificing their time to be help others on the road. They have been a great help for holiday makers traveling back and forth. These authorities and volunteers did not have a vacation. They could not go home to see their family as they were obligated by their duties to serve others. It was a great sacrifice that we all should be thankful.
Laws alone cannot be the only factor to ensure public safety, but all mechanisms must play their part. Everyone must lend a helping hand in order to raise awareness of road safety. If no cooperation is rendered and laws are not upheld, then lives will be at stake. Most accidents are caused by drunk driving. Accidents can also happen to public transport vehicles and motorcycles. With only two wheels, bike riders have higher risk of being in an accident, evidenced by the high number of casualties. So, it all depends on the drivers. Our society and the family should be a part of the solution. Checkpoints have been set up in various locations, covering all risk prone areas. Drivers must be more responsible. We should all celebrate the festival in a safe way.
I would like to apologize for the limited amount of water provided during the festival as Thailand is going through the dry season. Thank you to all agencies for encouraging members of the public to conserve water. Local people have also came out to urge everyone about water scarcity. Thanks to those people as well. Youngsters should understand the ongoing drought crisis Thailand is facing at the moment.
I’m also concerned about our children and youths. Parents and schools should foster a social conscience among these children and teach them to do virtuous deeds.
Another group of youngsters I would like to compliment is vocational students. The Education Ministry launched a campaign this year. The campaign is joined by more than 250,000 students and teachers from vocational institutions. They are offering vehicle inspections free of charge to all drivers from April 11th through the 17th, starting at 8:30 am to 12:30 am. Inspection booths are located along main and secondary roads. I really hope that this helps to reduce the number of road accidents. These students can also help drivers stay awake while on the road.
Don’t forget to thank them. They are helping you out for nothing in return. They also want to go out and celebrate the occasion; instead they are doing this as a favor for the Education Ministry. Please give them moral support, so that they can keep on doing this community service, which also keeps them away from brawls. This is a good start for everyone to live peacefully with one another. We cannot only regard “reconciliation” as just a word. We need to actually find a way to live peacefully and together on circumstances where everyone finds a common ground.
Again this year, traffic has not improved. I think one of the major reasons is the lack of effective infrastructure system. This includes the main and secondary roads. There is no connectivity between them. All modes of public transport – bus, rail, and electric rail – are not linked with each other. I have instructed the Ministry of Transport to draw up a solution. We will fix what we can now and the next government will carry on this project. Without any solutions, traffic will worsen, vehicles will be parked along the streets, and people will be speeding. It is very difficult for authorities to work if these problems are not resolved. We also need to give officers some support. They are enforcing the law, using jurisprudence and political principles, all of which are pivotal in public administration.
I’m trying to fix this issue now as well. There are 3 motorway construction projects which must be launched. The country has limited amount of funds to spend on this but I have asked my officials to find a way to implement those projects or at least push for an initial phase. All of this will not be completed in a short period of time and it requires a large sum of money. It will take some time and procedure, such as the environmental impact assessment (EIA). We need to expedite these projects while we can. What we are doing now will yield beneficial results in the next 3-5 years, in line with the 5-year strategic plan.
Another plan I have in mind is building more parking garages. Roads are getting smaller and smaller everyday with more vehicles. We are now looking into the possibility of building underground parking garages, but the budget will be off the chart. The government might invest on some part of the project and will join hands with the private sector as the project moves on. We should think about places suitable for underground garages. This is only one of my thoughts. I don’t know if you’ll agree. I’m thinking about doing this on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. Ratchadamnoen Road is a beautiful place. It will be a good idea to have an underground parking garage there.
I also want Thailand to have more beautiful streets. Ratchadamnoen Avenue has always been the most beautiful street in Bangkok. The only problem is that there are no parking garages. There are a lot of beautiful antiquities on this road admired by foreigners and the locals. The problem on this road is the traffic. I suggested that an underground parking lot be built for this road. I proposed this to the cabinet and asked the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Transport, and the BMA to find a way. If we have parking garages along Ratchadamnoen, the road will not be so congested. People driving to work can park their cars underground. They will then walk to their workplaces – the Government House or the Ministry of Education. The street will then be showcase again. It will also be a good tourist attraction. We can also turn it into a walking street when the sun goes down. Ratchadamnoen Road runs to Sanam Luang, making both sides of the road even more beautiful. You can walk through Phan Fa Lilat Bridge and Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge. I think this project is very plausible. The government could do this by itself, but it will take a huge sum of money. We can also do it under the public-private partnership or have the private sector implement the project. They will receive appropriate amount of returns. When this project is done, we will launch the same project in other parts of the country, especially places with a lot of congestion. I believe it can help alleviate the congestion.
I’m also thinking about economic zones where malls and stores are located. These places need underground parking garages. People can park under there and walk to their destinations. These garages might need to be close to the rail system. Our country will be more beautiful if we can do this.
Many provinces have asked the government to fund their tram projects. The tram is a rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets. This tram project is plausible. We can use allocated budgets, coupled with the help from local private companies. We are considering giving the green light to a couple of provinces making this proposal. This is how we can address the problem of traffic jams. When fuel prices are high, people will resort to public transport. When fuel prices are low, people want to drive their own cars, thinking that they no longer need to save on gas. I suggest that people think about saving money despite decreasing prices of oil. You can also carpool when going to the same direction. When people drive their own cars, roads become congested. There is nothing we can do if the number of vehicles keeps increasing. Beautiful canals have been turned into transportation routes.  So when the water comes, the city is flooded. This is what happens when the problem is not fixed from upstream to downstream. All I can do is to get people to think more long term.
Every chance I travel abroad, I take extra interest in the things I see that can be good for Thailand. I don’t get to go often and every time I go, it’s usually for work. In my trips I saw how cities in other countries are clean and are without traffic. They park their vehicles underground. They all use electric rail as main transport. They have an effective and complete rail system. Our railroads are not connected like they are supposed to. It is not complete.

Mr. Prime Minister, you just talked about the transportation system and traffic. Now, we would like to know the current economic situation and the government’s measures to improve living standards of the people. Could you please shed some light on this issue?

We must look at the global economy. We need to understand why the world economy is going down. I have said this many times. It is because of current conflicts, natural disasters, and climate change. Today, we are faced with the drought crisis. Each country has different income levels. There is a gap in this aspect, between developing and developed countries. All of these problems must be put in perspective.
There are many economic communities in this world. There are many treaties, many agreements, and many regulations. Countries form a group to become a common market or economy . Then, they use connectivity in an attempt to get closer with each other. What can happen afterwards is that low-income countries lose out, because they don’t have enough connection with any common markets or economies. They would have to build more roads and rail routes. Where will they get the money to do that? Keep in mind that Thailand is an agro-industrial country. 70% of the country’s revenue comes from exporting agricultural products, most of which are raw materials. The rest comes from taxes, trade, and corporate income taxes. There are many factors behind the reason why Thailand doesn’t have more income. When people have low income, the government cannot increase taxes. So I urge that everyone pay their taxes and that all entrepreneurs pay their taxes.
Another reason is that there remain a high number of low-income earners in Thailand. The number is very high because most of them are farmers. 30-40 million people work in agriculture. Some are farmers. Some are self-employed. These people don’t have stable or enough income to support themselves. They cannot catch up with new technologies, communication, nor can they afford to buy a car. This is because they don’t earn enough money. Not everyone can afford luxury cars or new smartphones and society should not set this tendency or goal for our youth. But children sometimes don’t understand what their parents can or cannot afford. So the parents go out there and struggle, trying to make that money for such high-end items, which then puts them in debt. This is how household debt occurs. Most debts come from items that undergo value decreases in the future. But it would be more practical if your debts involve household items that can retain their value. We must be able to distinguish household debts from other debts. Invaluable debts happen when you borrow money and cannot turn it into something valuable. But household debts, such as houses,  are valuable and their values increase as time goes by. It can also be inheritance. This is a different kind of debt. But it falls into the same category as household debt.
Some countries have a lot of debts, but they have the will to move forward and make progress nevetheless. We must do the same. How can we cope with the world economic slump? We hold talks with other nations in different international arenas. We form groups and communities and discuss how we can improve economic connectivity in terms of upstream, midstream, and downstream. We could co-invest in certain countries.
We could share profits. We could achieve the PPP agreement. The current government is trying to sort all these things out. Many countries and many companies have expressed keen interest about this issue. They have come and talked to me. They were all open discussions as related ministers were also invited. We have listened to their proposals. But what they wanted, we have not been able to achieve for the past decades, even though Thailand has always tried to improve its economy. 30 years ago, Japanese firms made Thailand their production hub. Since then, more and more countries have come to Thailand. But the thing that started 30 years ago has not made any significant improvement as our products have not reached their potential as prices remain somewhat lower.
This is why the government is pushing hard for the promotion of 5 existing products and 5 new products such as those goods that require creativity and technologies. Old and new products must develop in the same direction. We shall enhance the quality of old products, so that we will be able to compete with others. We could also lower the prices for higher competitiveness in the world market. This is why I kept emphasizing on ‘innovation’. Today, we are able to compete with other nations in many aspects. I told related officials to look into research work we have done and turn them into something useful. There are many good research works on agriculture that I wish they continue. These must go into production as soon as possible.
State offices have been asked to buy researchers’  products. Laws will be amended to allow these agencies to be able to spend on innovation, especially during this trial period. Once the products pass the test, we will be able to certify them. We need to figure out a way to spend money on innovation products. The government is trying to achieve this. This is how we can put ourselves out there in the world market and be successful.
The world economy is divided into many communities. I hold bilateral discussions with other leaders whenever I get a chance to. I have talked to the European Union, western countries, Muslim countries, African countries, Island countries, CLMV countries, and ASEAN countries. Now we have to match ourselves with these countries, find a common ground from upstream to downstream, from cultivation to production and innovation. It doesn’t matter where the system happens, it creates a circle. When we are in the circle, our people are in the circle. In the future, if farmers cannot grow crops, they can do something else instead. So that they can earn money to support their family.
ASEAN is very important. Our economy grows because of the ASEAN Economic Community formation. We trade with each other. Thai products are very popular among ASEAN nations. However, we need to share this profit with our neighbors. It is impossible to only sell. We are not a single community and members of this community shall move forward together. We promise not to leave anybody behind. Therefore, each country must find its strengths and work together. In the future, we might need to focus more on geographical indication products. In the future, there will be more agreements that concern GI products. They will be asking for the origin of those products. We must be well-prepared about this. We never thought of this in the past. We should be thinking about it now. Civil servants wanted to push for it, but nobody cared enough to heed their voices. We have to do it before it’s too late.
Those who already had a breakthrough in the international stage should come help others as well. We must build a chain where everyone gets to share the profit. Now we talk about producers. Producers normally don’t have a lot of choices. What they produce is always sold to middlemen who determine the market price. We need to take a closer look whether the problem lies in the production costs. Rice farming has high production costs. The cost is as high as 5,000 baht. But the selling price is 7,000 baht. How will the farmers cope? They will not be able to pay back the money they borrowed for the production. They won’t be able to support their family. But their children want expensive phones, expensive bikes. And this leads to social problems. Now, the government is looking at ways to strengthen the people by supporting their business. If they are producers, we need to help them process their producucts. For instance, they can turn loincloth into woven bags or wearable clothes. This is how you create value to these products. Then, they will be able to find a potential market. Not everyone can produce the same product.
This is why I said the government needs to restructure its budget management. Money should be spent on what the country actually needs and in line with development agendas we have come up with. We can no longer stick to the old plan as nothing will improve. We have to look at a bigger picture and understand what is more important, such as where the main road should be constructed, where tunnels should be built, and where bridges should be built. There are 18 targeted provinces we will emphasize on. We will listen to their needs. Each region has different skills and potentials. They will need to work together and with the people, putting themselves into the same circle. This is how a strong country is build. Just like the teachings of His Majesty say. Our strengths must come from within. This is why I said we must look at the big picture before moving to details.
This is what we are doing at the moment. Today, we find potential markets for producers, making sure they’ll be able to sell their goods. They can no longer rely solely on middlemen. We have set up more than 130 community stores in many locations. OTOP products can be displayed in these stores. I also told them to display agricultural products at these stores too if possible. Or we could display seafood products as well. This will lead to tourism growth. People will now want quality products. Each producer and each region must find its strengths. The government will always give you support. This is what it’s supposed to be. The government cannot keep funding those without real potential, as the money is usually used to pay off debts in this case. They won’t be able to make the best use of the allocated budget. We need to make sure the money can help the locals build their own businesses. In the future, there will be more start-up businesses, SMEs, and micro SMEs. The government is thinking this way. Other countries have also shifted their focus on the SME sector. We also need to focus on this sector. We will put forth all efforts as much as we can. It will take some time because there are nearly 2 million SMEs in Thailand. Almost 90% of businesses are SMEs. Government officials should help SMEs grow. We will improve their abilities, provide funds, and give training. I told related officials to find ways to help SMEs the best we can, resulting in a better quality of Thai products. We want to be able to sell these products.
Another problem we are encountering at the moment is water scarcity. We also want everyone to stay employed. We also need more investments. We will ask investors to use labour instead of machinery, especially for small-scale construction companies. It is better for small construction projects to use the labour force in replacement of machines. Those companies winning contracts are required to resort to labour force before machinery.  Many provinces and locations will benefit from this. This sort of construction project should take place in agricultural provinces where crops are not yielding. They are struggling to make a living. I feel for them. When I travel on a helicopter, I always look at each roof on the ground. I always want to know how they (households) live, how are they making a living, what do they eat on a daily basis, and why their children have to go into big cities to find jobs. We cannot let this dependency go on without a sustainable solution. It is time we did something. That era has come to an end.
Since September 2015, the government has approved a number of development projects. First is the 5 million baht per Tambon project, with 7,000 Tambons participating. More than 100,000 projects have been endorsed, totaling 36 billion baht, 98% of which has been allocated. The reason for the delay is that we had to be thorough and careful.
The second issue concerns urgent projects which aim to help farmers and the poor. This is to create employment. Around 4,000 projects have received a green light, with a combined value of 32 billion baht. 85% of the budget has been handed out. Please use the money wisely and efficiently. Responsible committees need to monitor the spending.
Another project seeks to procure agricultural equipment in a bid to help farmers reduce production costs. Costs can refer to the rent of land, the rent of machineries, organic fertilizers, chemical fertilizers, and other necessary equipment.
Because of these, some farmers will not be able to see any profits. Sometimes the moisture content in paddy is not at the appropriate level. They can only sell it at 7,000 baht while the cost is 5,000 baht. The difference is only 2,000 baht.
We need to think of a way to maximize that 2,000 baht. Recently, the minister for agriculture visited a green bean plantation. Farmers told him that they used to earn 2,500 baht per rai, but now they earn 35,000 baht per rai per month. Some farmers didn’t believe us. I’m not forbidding farmers to grow rice. You can grow rice at the amount appropriate to the water supply. But you cannot expect to grow rice for only sale. If your rice crop dies, you will ask for compensation. The government would rather spend on machineries.  So when you have a problem, you come see state authorities. Please listen to their advice. The government has endorsed 250 million baht worth of 421 equipment items to 21 provinces. This is to help local farmers. They won’t have to rent these items from private companies anymore.
When the crop is not fruitful, how will the farmers pay their rent? Farmers will then be in debt again. When water is scarce for 4-5 years, farmers’ debts will be 5 times higher. Without the ability to pay rent, farmers will be in distress. The government will have to keep fixing the same problem over and over. The government has allocated plots of land to needy farmers. However, they cannot claim ownership of the land.
Around 90 percent of the projects have been implemented. The next matter is the government’s small investment policies which consist of over 4,000 projects with a total budget of over 2 billion Baht. We’ve followed up on the progress of all projects and troubleshooted problematic projects accordingly. We often dispatch officials from the central government to aid local officials. Sometimes it’s a lack of readiness and when we add more projects to the mix, it creates more problems and delays.
However, these things will get better because we are determined. Today we need gain more expertise and create a working  network which serves as a mechanism for implementing policies that takes into consideration the interests of the people at heart. This is what we call Pracharat.
As for the agricultural sector, local administrations and the private sector need to help each other out in this Pracharat model. The government can’t do this by itself. We need to all work together. This is because each agency has its own budget and if they all do whatever they want, we won’t be able to have any concerted effort. If this doesn’t happen, we won’t be able to enhance cooperation with our CLMV countries and then ASEAN will not be successful. Today we are starting in all regions in cooperation with committees from the private sector which has worked with the government. Many businesses have helped us because we are fellow Thais and therefore, help each other out. Maybe next week I will invite some of them to talk about what they have done with us.
Our aim is to accelerate the process of strengthening communities by stimulating monetary circulation. These projects will allow people in communities to come in contact with each other and discuss various things. Today they will be able to get together and work on various community projects. Things have already gotten better. I’ve not only heard reports from officials, I’ve also spoken to the locals as well as those that have come to work in Bangkok. They say that things have gotten better because they haven’t had to listen to people who incited conflict. They used to be angry and they used to fight because they believed in different things. We must have solidarity and share common ground in moving the country forward with care for each other, not dividing ourselves into factions like what we’ve done.
If we can stimulate the grassroots economy, we will be able to strengthen entire communities, which will lead to districts, provinces, regions and into ASEAN and other economic blocs.
We have helped locals create more income, helped with manpower, with fixing public facilities, job training, built infrastructure and water resources. All these things have complemented the Royal Projects of Their Majesties the King and Queen. This year, His Majesty the King will mark the auspicious occasion of the 70th year of accession to the Throne. This year also is the 84th Birthday Anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen. The Thai people will do these projects in honour of Their Majesties, who have worked tirelessly for years.
If we are unable to develop the quality of the lives of the people, then it will all be for nothing. We need to instill a sense of cooperation for the long term in order to create a cycle of progress.
People need to also understand that economic policies do take time as we need to deal with existing problems. In the past, only some groups have benefitted from economic development while other groups remain deprived.

What was the other topic that you were going to ask me about?

Prime Minister, you have already talked about economic issues. Products from the fishing industry are a crucial part of Thailand’s economy. Right now we are in the hatching season of fish eggs. What policies does the government have regarding this?

Thailand’s fishing industry has had longstanding problems that haven’t been solved such as law enforcement, outdated laws, IUU fishing and human trafficking. Today, we’ve passed many laws and have worked to create credibility for Thailand among foreign nations. We are a country with high potential in the fishing industry with huge amounts of income coming from this sector. It’s one of our main sources of revenue. Therefore we need to have adequate rules and regulations on managing marine wildlife while adhering to international standards. We need to preserve our marine ecosystem, otherwise there will be no fish stocks left in our waters.
Today, I need to seek cooperation from other countries on opening fishing zones and vessel regulation. We need to address multiple issues at once. There will be a reaction from fishermen because of what they’ve been able to get away with in the past. They need to realize that we need to adhere to international regulations and admit to our violations. Enforcing the law will definitely affect many but people need to realize that they need to make some sacrifices for the long term. If we don’t allow fish ample time to breed, there won’t be any fish left in the future. This is only one 3-month period during the year where there will be controlled fishing. This controlled zone spans across 4 provinces consisting of Phuket, Phang-Nga, Krabi and Trang. Regulations in this zone consist of forbidding of use of various fishing equipment that would adversely affect the breeding of fish. There are regulations regarding the size of fish that can be caught in order to preserve smaller fish. Bigger fish can be caught while smaller fish must be allowed to grow. The marine ecosystem serves as a place for these fish to flourish.
We aim to fix this problem by having fishing boats use the right kinds of fishing equipment so as to spare the smaller fish. You can see that many laws have been passed since 2015 that pertains to the regulations in the kind of equipment used for fishing. These laws stipulate fines between 5,000 to 30 million Baht or 5 times the value of the illegal catch. People cannot claim that they don’t know the laws. These are regulations that the world has been using. This cannot be used as an excuse. Everyone must stay up to date with the latest laws.
Some fishing equipment and nets are still allowed because the net isn’t as fine.  Fishermen still use these things as the larger nets will allow smaller fish to swim through and give them a chance to grow. I ask for cooperation from all fishermen.
I’m also concerned about fishermen with low income. However, these people have also used fishing equipment that is banned. We’ve tried to be lenient on these people because we know that fishing is the main source of income of many impoverished families and because they haven’t caused that much damage. But we need to implement these changes in regulations while still looking out for the poor. Fishermen need to also be sympathetic to the preservation marine wildlife which is the source of livelihood for many. People need to realize that their means of income will be lost should there be no more marine wildlife.

As a Prime Minister who has also been the Commander in chief of the Royal Thai Army, what do you think is the importance of the military draft?

We must first talk about why we need to have a draft. The first reason is that we want to develop the principle of discipline within people. All Thai males must be drafted, but nowadays, that is not the case. Out of 10 people, only 2 will be drafted. This is a rough estimate. However, the problem is that some people become so saddened when they learn that they need to be drafted.
However, what’s important is that we create a sense of discipline. We also need to realize that our education system right now doesn’t cover all skills. Getting drafted teaches skills, discipline and combat tactics. Right now, full-time soldiers make up for 75 percent of our required number. We can’t employ all soldiers because it will require lot of money.
Once drafted, they will be stationed at communities to develop themselves as well as the stability of communities. They will also know of public security measures.
Today, about 80 percent sign up each year and only 20 percent have to draw the red and black cards. These people who voluntarily sign up can move on to officer training and some can move on to becoming military doctors.
I’ve asked the Royal Thai Police to do this restructuring so that part of their new recruits are from formerly drafted applicants. We need to give people incentives by giving them the opportunity to enroll as police officers. I think the police will agree on the qualifications of these people as some have already seen combat in the south.
Don’t confuse this issue with the recent lawsuit that occurred. I have already ordered heavy punishment. The army commander in chief will see to it. This way of reprimanding within the ranks  is inexcusable. There can’t be death and suffering. It’s too much. I cannot accept that. In my day, we disallowed it. Today, we have to look after them safely. We have to make sure they are better taken care of. Their sleeping quarters as well as their food need to be good.
Their monthly allowances have been increased so at least they are higher than minimum wage. You see many people these days with no jobs. So many people enlist and are happier. They even send money back to their parents because they won’t be going on vacations and spending it.
Today, the most important thing I want you to ponder about is that you shouldn’t think that being a soldier is not important because of not having to go to war. Today, the cost of protecting a country in ASEAN has increased for every country due to the nature of threats and the strategic positioning of each country.
A reserve force is important. Just working soldiers are not enough. If we really needed to engage in large scale combat, we would need other military agencies. Currently, we are using them in the south. They are patrolling the borders, using new techniques to find drugs and terrorists as well as being on hand to deal with natural disasters like floods, rains, and forest fires. They are there to help with all of that. The veterans helped the villagers because they had the training. For example.
The huge floods we had in 2011 and the tsunami in 2003. The first group of people who went in to help was the soldiers.  Through the draft, the soldiers who were from that area as well as the disbanded reserve force knew what they had to do: How to look after people; Knowing who needed priority; Setting up parameters. They did these things.

On to the next issue: In this day and age, both the media and social media have great importance to the general public.  They can influence the way people think. What do you think about this Mr. Prime Minister?

I have actually come across this issue internationally as well. I have asked about it in many different countries. Is there a problem? The answer is yes. It is a problem everywhere. Social media has a huge influence on the public and with so much information, people can be more susceptible. We are currently discussing what parameters affect everyone, not only Thailand. This is why I asked other nations. They said it was an issue that affects national stability. The public does not understand and says we meddle and hide the truth. Well, the real truth is that this is not the case at all. The companies that offer these services need to take responsibility if, through them, a country is harmed through false information. Not everything goes through me or though the government. It does go through these companies. These companies that offer all these services both nationally and internationally. Everyone needs to understand that today, whether you are an ASEAN country, or a country elsewhere in the world, you’ll be exposed to Youtube and Google. We can’t stop that.

With your permission I would like to ask you about something else. Mr. Prime Minister, you are a modern person. The public looks at you as someone with their best interests at heart. You like watching soap operas. You’ve even recommended some Korean shows in the past. I’d like to ask if you have any Thai soap operas you’d like to recommend to us in this time?

Let me stop you there for a second. I don’t like watching soap operas. I don’t have that kind of time. Sometimes I leave my TV turned on to keep me company while I think, write or read. However, once in a while, I might catch something that will make me look up. The other day, I turned on the TV and saw a Korean show. I watched a little bit of it and thought it was pretty good. Therefore, when I recommended it, I wasn’t saying that you should go out and rent it, or buy the rights to show it on Thai TV.  No. I said you should think like them. And why do they think about things the way they do? How do they come up with those stories? Look at how we think. I heard news that there was someone who went and bought the rights to the show and will be showing it on Thai TV. You don’t have to do that for me. Now Thai people will misunderstand. The Koreans are our friends, our old friends.  Ever since the Korean War. They have remained our good friends ever since. The president of Korea and I have met each other many times during meetings. Our two countries cooperate on many things together.
Today, our economy is moving forward. So are our investments. Korea, Japan. Who else? Many countries. Russia, India. I really don’t mind. If you want to buy the show, then buy it. However, I would like to see our own shows improved too, from story lines to risqué moments, etc. Some of them are over the top and get a bit ridiculous. Look at our event organization, whether that is a motor show or something else. Children attend these events, so we should bear in what is right and what is wrong. Back in the day, women wouldn’t dress so provocatively or so revealing. They would dress tastefully. We have a saying: “The things we say are more important than the face we say them with.”  The world has changed a lot.
Every Monday and Tuesday, all of you have an hour of free time? I don’t want to inconvenience you. I thought it was Friday but it turned out it was Monday and Tuesday. At 8 pm, you’ll be with me again on Friday. I’m sure I’ll get it from all of you again then. I’d like to recommend that all of you watch Thai programming on TV. A series perhaps. These are Thai shows made by Thais. There is a series called ‘Tales of Chao Weha’. I saw the commercials for it briefly so I figured I’d give it a watch. If I get some free time maybe I can fit in 3 episodes. They actually summarized the first few episodes for me so I could talk about them. The series is split into 3 episodes. Chao Weha looks interesting. You can see it for yourself on TRUE For You on channel 24. It’s a show that is really creative. I’d like to thank the producers, the director, the actors and the team who made this quality show for the eyes of the Thai public. I’d like to see more of these. Patriotism, sacrifice, endurance and honesty are all qualities we need to foster in the hearts and minds of the Thai people, in particular, in the young children.
Other than that, I think I have already answered all the questions regarding the stability of our nation. However, the questions that you wanted to ask I have prepared answers for already. We’ve prepared the personnel, the equipment, and the technology to deal with situations. Of course, this is based on the budget allowed to us as well as the development of our military. It’s not like we can just buy whatever we want as soon as we need it. That’s not how a 10 year plan works. If we did that, we wouldn’t have any more for 5 years. Then the new generation comes along and we can’t help them. When that happens, everything will go to waste. Things will just keep getting more expensive.  We don’t need the very best or the most expensive. We can use the standard things. Other countries use them. If you don’t have a lot, then don’t spend a lot. If everyone around you has something, you still don’t need to compete with them. Sometimes we can’t compete. We aren’t ready yet. But we can do our best to get as close as we can.
Looking at social issues, or to be specific, education, we have to teach people to develop their intellectual prowess, to have vision, to employ logic and reasoning in addressing problems. We talk about this often, about the importance of knowledge and academia. When I decide to do something, I can usually figure it out. But I’m not as talented as you. If you set your mind to it, and turn your training and know-how to the problem, you can all help me. For instance when you consider the things that 10 people talk about. If these 10 people have common 3 issues, then these 3 issues are the ones that should be addressed first. It’s like reform. Today, we’re dealing with over 100 reform issues. Therefore, whatever we can fix right away we do first. Anything that we can’t agree on, we can’t force it to happen. That would just cause more conflict. Do we have to use the law to force issues all the time? Even with laws, there are still some you continue to break them and do they have the nation’s interests at heart? Who are they? You’ll have to go see for yourselves.
In matters of laws, we’ve come up with a lot of new ones; laws governing stability and laws governing fairness in society. You can read up on all of them. We have a justice fund and new laws for dealing with ivory poaching, and human trafficking. The IUU and ICAO problems previously weren’t seriously looked into by former administrations. I’m not sure why. They just let the authorities handle it. They didn’t care whether they succeeded or failed. If something went wrong they would just blame the government officials. That’s very disheartening. That’s why today I’d like to say that I’d like to give the officials my support.
Turning to foreign affairs, I’ve often thought about how other countries understand and acknowledge Thailand. I am able to address this to a certain extent. They have accepted that we are developing, and that our country is going through reform. Many foreign leaders have given me their encouragement. They have seen the steps that our government has taken in many issues. That’s why they have supported us. They also know it isn’t easy.  This is what they have told me. They’ve seen what I’ve done and they have told me that they have seen real progress, and that we should try to keep stability in the government and protect the stability of our nation by maintaining a peaceful process. Once this is accomplished we can look to holding elections and establish a new and effective government. They hope, just like we do. I’ve explained that we’ve tried to hold a peaceful dialogue but some people won’t cooperate. They said that was very strange. Many of the stories that I have told them about us, in this very room, are indeed strange.  They asked if these things still happened. They couldn’t understand how they happened in the first place, how people would use M16s and bombs, or burns down shrines, or disrupt ASEAN meetings. These things do not happen anymore. But the people who were responsible said it was the opposing side. It went back and forth and then weapons were used, and then the other side needed more weapons to protect themselves. Both sides wound up escalating the problem.
In just a few days it’s going to be the end of Songkran. I’d like to send my best wishes to the public. I think about them all the time. I’m even thinking about work every day. I think about it so much and issue instructions, that some people are very bored of me already. Even some government officials are bored. But I ask that they do it for the public.
Thank you everyone. I know you’re tired and it’s Songkran. I’d like to thank the government officials both for today and for the future. I ask for your cooperation, and I would like to wish everyone a good new year full of happiness, prosperity, safety, and unity. May the blessings of the Triple Gems and all things sacred as well as the benevolence of Their Majesties be bestowed upon us all for our happiness, progress, peace, and safety in our lives.  Thank you very much.
I’d like to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister I hope that the issues today will help the public better understand what we are trying to do. Thank you very much.