National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, April 22, 2016
Good evening, welcome to programme . I am Lt. Priya Natevichien . It is my honor to host this show today. As usual, every Friday, the Prime Minister and Head of the NCPO Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha will be talking to us. He will be informing you of the government’s and the NCPO’s work as well as his concerns for the people. He is here with us now. Good evening, Prime Minister.
The Songkran Festival has just ended. This year, we encouraged people to celebrate in a way that helps to conserve water due to the ongoing drought. We received good cooperation from many areas. There were also many positive developments during the festival. Could you share those with us please?
There was a revival of Thai culture and traditions in celebration on Songkran. Many areas celebrated the occasion in a traditional way. Before this year, it could be said that our genuine culture of Songkran was fading away. Celebrations were only about having fun while everyone forgot what the Songkran tradition was really about. This year, I have to thank officials and the public for preserving our cultural celebrations. People were seen donning traditional dresses and performing traditional ceremonies. Most importantly, everyone helped save the water. I have thus designated 2016 as the year of Thai cultural conservation. We shall also be working with our ASEAN partners in this effort. I have also heard that there will be several performances to celebrate the 234th anniversary of the Bangkok city pillar. There will also be a play called “Ramayana” which will be joined by representatives from many countries.
Another positive story is about “Nong May” or Ratchanok Intanon. I think everyone in the country is happy about this. Those who were watching her would understand how difficult it was to win 3 championships. Now she is world’s number one seed, according to the Badminton World Federation (BWF). 3 championships came within 3 weeks. It is very difficult to achieve that within that timeframe. I met Nong May the other day. I advised her to find the time to rest and then continue her usual training schedule. We shouldn’t put pressure on her. She told me that she would do her best. Win or lose, she will always be admired and encouraged by her supporters. She appreciated that. The other issue we discussed was her education and how her studies will continue to play an important part of her life.
There is another thing that really impressed me about Nong May – that she made the Thai gesture of “wai” to her opponent. She also was very courteous to the referee, helped stadium staff, and thanked her fans on the bleachers. She is a fine role model and I ask that all Thais give her full support as she brings recognition to our country. The next Olympics are coming up in a few months and they will be held in Brazil. She will also have to defend her title on April 26-27 and we hope that Nong May will do her best. The Thai people will always support her.
Prime Minister, you also had a chance to play badminton with Nong May who is officially world’s number one.
Let’s move to another topic. This past week, there have been deadly earthquakes which took place in Ecuador and Japan. You expressed your concern for the Thai people and the local people in these areas and you have reiterated to the international community that we should be ‘stronger together’. As these two countries are our friends, what would you like to say about this?
Firstly, on behalf of the Royal Thai Government and the Thai people, I wish to convey my deepest sympathies to the governments and peoples afflicted by this disaster. There were many deaths, injuries and mass destruction. I would like to send my best wishes and prayers to our friends in Japan and Ecuador. The Thai government is ready to lend a hand in all aspects. We have already donated some money. Thailand will offer to provide humanitarian aid and other assistance to these countries. We have already contacted them. I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Thai Embassy and other responsible agencies for helping Thai nationals travelling and residing in quake-hit regions. This is a good example of well prepared government agencies taking action. There must be an effective plan when it comes to unexpected occurrence. We also need a plan that people can understand. Thailand is lucky not to be prone to this kind of natural disaster. We have droughts, landslides, flooding, and storms. I consider Thailand fortunate for not having to deal with earthquakes. Given this, we need to use this opportunity to show our solidarity and care. We also need to learn from these experiences and prepare ourselves for this kind of disaster. Earthquakes can happen anywhere. We must be ready. Effectively dealing with them is about preparation and measures to reduce risks. Today, we must prepare for upcoming summer storms. The rains are also coming. There will be strong winds and so street signs and roofs should be inspected. I have already told officials to prepare for this.
Summer storms are very common in the north and northeast. Another topic is about the well-being of the people. You have always stressed how important this is, evidenced by the fact that you have instructed all 6 deputy prime ministers to pay visits to local communities and make sure they are all taken care off. You will also visit people on your regular schedule. The government and the NCPO have also set up Damrongtham centers which have been operating for almost two years. Could you please discuss how these centers have been received by the public?
First I asked myself how can we really learn about the people’s problems. There have been several complaints lodged by the public at radio stations, TV stations, and on newspapers. But I wanted to open a direct channel to the government and to the Prime Minister in order to allow people to lodge their complaints. I already knew about the Damrongtham centers but I wanted them to do something more. Therefore, I wanted to make Damrongtham a one-stop service center where tourists and local people can seek help from. It has been almost two years since their development. We also have the 24-hour Hotline 1567. Now, there are two channels people can go to. They can either call the number or go to the center. Damrongtham centers are located across the country. From July 2014 to March 2016 (1 year and 7 months), more than 2.6 million people sought help from Damrongtham centers. 97% of assistance requests were met. It has been a success. We encountered some problems along the way. These problems mostly concerned legal affairs but as we know, law amendments can take time. I would like the public to be more patient on this aspect. Some laws do not allow us to change certain things such as land allocation. Sometimes, we reach a dead end because of the law but we cannot do things in violation of the law.
During the 9-day Songkran holiday (10-18 April 2016), more than 130,000 people requested for assistance. These numbers reflect the peoples and tourists’ confidence towards government officials and services. The only thing I was worried about was people’s safety on the road. It doesn’t matter how strict the law is or how many officers we have enforcing the law; the problem will go away if people don’t have the conscience to obey the laws. Everyone should cooperate in this aspect, starting from families. Parents should teach their children to be more careful on the road. The government shall spare no expense to ensure public safety. But this also requires public cooperation. A social conscience is the most important factor. Currently, we have another problem which is street racing. This problem was gone for a while, but now it has returned. We have given so many warnings. If street bikers don’t listen, punishments will be harsher. When punishments are harsher, people tend to be more stubborn. In the past, the law was not strictly enforced for whatever reason. We are fixing it today. The laws must be respected.
From a thinker and practitioner’s perspective, what sort of improvement do you think the government and the NCPO should apply to public services in the future?
This is something that I and the Thai people hope will happen. I forgot to mention one thing. Apart from the Damrongtham centers which offer public services as people are able to get in touch with governors and local authorities, we also have to look at it from an economic perspective. We have also set up One-Stop Service (OSS) centers to assist businesspersons who need information about investment or any related services. This information pertains to the special economic zones and new regulations. This is in terms of business facilitation.
In terms of services, we need to make known of what the government is providing. The government has developed a system called “Application SPOND” which allows the state sector to better provide assistance to the public. The application can be downloaded from App Store on iOS and Google Play on Andriod. The public can send messages and live chat directly with officials who are on standby for assistance request. Please do not call authorities for nonsense or make a prank calls. You are wasting their valuable time. This application has already been launched. Please try it and make use of it.
Thai people are very familiar with technology and given this, “GovChannel” is the latest technology launched by the government. The idea is that people can contact officials from their phones and other devices. Could you give us a brief explanation on this matter and the government’s future development plans?
Let’s talk about the statistics for phone users first. 92 million is the number of phone service accounts. There are 77 million people in Thailand. In other words, the number of mobile accounts is 135% higher than the number of Thai citizens. Now we need to figure out how these accounts can help the country. 56 million is the number of people using internet on their phones. And 50% of all mobile phones in Thailand are smartphones. Now we need to figure out how 96 million phones or 30 million users can benefit. The first thing is for personal use. They can use it for whatever they want. Phones can also be used to foster stronger communities, especially through social media. Social media has its pitfalls, but used for the right purpose, it can benefit us all. Used for the wrong purposes, it can cause a lot of confusion and chaos in society.
Let’s go back to the digital economy. We need to streamline the government’s work by becoming more of an e-government which can provide more electronic services. There are many channels. These channels are ready to assist people with information. I was worried that people would not know enough about what the government does or provides in terms of services. But now people can understand more with GovChannel in place. It is a service center that assists people in need. People can access all information through this channel. I have asked them to put all the information into categories, so that it is easier for people to search. Farmers and other professions will have access to GovChannel and with this, they will understand more about the work of each ministry. The channel can be found on the internet, mobile applications, and kiosks. These services will soon be offered in every province.
Another system is called the Government Application Center or GAC and the G-News system which has been launched for a while already. Today, a key issue in Thai society trust and transparency. This is why the current government and the NCPO are doing our best to gain people’s trust through transparency. The newly-launched system about taxes will allow you to understand how much money the government really has and what the government spends its money on. It also gives out information about projects and budget allocation. It allows people to be a part of the monitoring process. It will also benefit those seeking to enter an auction or bidding for government’s projects. This system helps stamp out corruption and is in line with the Licensing Facilitation Act 2015 issued by this government. We are completely open to scrutiny.
To use the “Government Kiosk”, it only requires an ID card. The kiosk offers necessary information about health checkups and doctor appointments. Please try to use it. There might be some technical difficulties at first, because a lot of people are using it. Thailand is a large country and houses a large number of people. Smaller countries will be ahead of us in this aspect because of the volume difference. But this is what we need to address quickly. We need to empower people through these channels we have provided.
Kiosks are being set up in certain locations, but in the future they will be country-wide?
People can use their phones anywhere. The new system can now be used on Andriod, but iPhone users may need to wait a little while longer, possibly no later than this month.
As a civil servant, I’ve seen in other countries how state agencies have a specific channel through which they can communicate without risking national security. Thailand doesn’t have this yet so officials can only use what the private sector provides, which can pose a threat to national security. Could you please comment on this?
This is already happening. The government has initiated a system called “G-Chat” which has been designed for the purpose of secure online communication between government agencies. Every state agency can contact each other through this system. G-Chat has a system that protects all information passing through this app. Video or long-distance conferences can also be conducted through this application. This will help state agencies to work with each other more effectively. They will be able to work on the same assignment such as water management and public utilities. When we talk about roads for example, we must take into consideration land management, city planning, among others. It will need cooperation from many agencies. In the past, each ministry was working independently and spending its own budget. That system has to be changed. Communication will be done on smartphones like the application “Line”, but it has far better information security system. There will also be a personal chat room or a group chat through which messages, photos, and videos can be sent. The Electronic Government Agency (Public Organisation) or EGA developed the system and I have instructed all state agencies to use this system.
This is a dream come true for civil servants in Thailand. The application is now ready for use. Let’s move on to economic issues. There has been a meeting recently which took place last Monday. The meeting was held between the government and the private sector. The meeting resolved to introduce a term which I think is not very familiar with the public just yet. I believe people will be saying it more. The word is “Thailand 4.0”. Could you please explain the meaning of it?
I will have to go back to 1.0. Thailand has passed through 3 eras of development. Thailand was considered as an agricultural society decades ago. Physical work was the main occupation for most Thais in this era as farmers had to use their physical abilities. In the era of Thailand 2.0, industries started to grow. Machines started to become more common in the agricultural sector. Thailand 3.0 is when big industries started to come into the country. Foreign investments poured in. Thailand has been in this stage for a very long time or at least 20 years. We never adjusted or evolved, never prepared any risk reduction measures for external risks such as the global economic slowdown. We were not strong enough, because we were stuck in the era of Thailand 3.0. We now need to take a step forward and become Thailand 4.0. The 3.0 era only focused a lot on economic development. Social development was not prominent in that era. There was no balance in terms of natural resources and environmental sustainability. We must rethink and move towards 4.0. We must figure out how we can move from a middle-income country to a high-income country. Although some people are in the middle-class, there remain a number of people making low income. The poor are the victims of social inequality and unsustainable growth, meaning growth that only occurs in a short period of time. Stability must be maintained. Today, we shall readjust the country’s economic structure. We will call it the “New Economy Model”. We will also adopt His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy philosophy for this. We must be rational in our endeavors. We must develop a strength or immunity against the many risks, with knowledge and ethics. I have said this many times. We have to always be mindful of our actions. This means being careful when making investments or when spending. This doesn’t mean that you should be stingy about spending. Saving money is different from spending on necessities or spending sufficiently. We need to keep in mind His Majesty’s teachings. The process to improve the country under the Thailand 4.0 concept must be in accordance with the 20-year strategic plan. This is why it is so important. Development can then be realized in the next 20 years. The first three phases of development took several decades. And now we are stuck at 3. Now, we have to understand that the new era will endure for the next two decades. This will start today. The government’s effort to mobilize the domestic market will be achieved through the “Pracharat” approach. In the past, the government was the one to give, which made people too dependent because people were used to receiving help. But today, Thai people must be able to stand on their own feet. The task will be difficult, but as a nation, we must be persistent. This comes as no surprise as more than 40 million people are low-income earners. Some countries only have 4-5 million people or 10 million people. The richest country in ASEAN only has 4-5 million people. Thailand has about 70 million people. That is a huge difference. Our whole economic structure must therefore be reformed. The business sector, the agricultural sector, self-employed people, and other sectors must be reformed. It coincides with education, labor, among others. This is why we must be ready in all aspects. Otherwise, we won’t be able to move forward.
What are new engines of growth? The engines that will drive economic growth in the future, especially in the 21st century.
We have to look at the world situation first. How did other countries become strong? Where did their income come from? Most of their income has come from exports of products with high quality. Our products are crops. We need to add value to them. Farmers must have alternative ways to generate extra income. Then come domestic and foreign investments. Our plan is to invest in basic infrastructure, linking road and rail together. It will be a long conversation if I get into this.
Anyway, there are 10 industries that we want to put our focus on, 5 of which already hold vast potential. We need to introduce new technologies to these industries. I’ve said this many times. We then need to promote startup businesses and improve the other 5 industries such as the robot industry, STEM education, mathematics, science, research and development, and construction. We must invest in rail development. The Thai people have tended to avoid the subjects of mathematics and science. The government will need to do more about this. We want you to have a career. Students must be able to get a job after they’ve graduated.
We hope everything will go in line with the 20-year strategic plan and the development plan by the NESDB. With more highly educated personnel, Thailand will be in the 4.0 era. Of course, this cannot be done in one year, thus such efforts should be continued. There must be innovation in various sectors such as food and agriculture. Innovation about re-doing and re-thinking. It is to improve something we already have. For example, we can no longer sell only loincloths. But we need to turn these loincloths into other products such as handbags and dresses. This is only one example. There are many other products. We also need to make OTOP products more unique.
We already have the materials while the production process in each area is different. We only need to modernize our OTOP products and create added value. Almost 100 OTOP products are now sold on airplanes. The Airports of Thailand and the Thai Airways are now responding to this idea. We have to make sure that the local wisdom is also preserved. We must produce more researchers and developers. New innovative products are produced and now displayed at Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem Market. Some people call it the prime ministers market. It is not my market. It belongs to everyone. People should first understand how the country can benefit from them showcasing their indigenous wisdom. The government’s job is, therefore, to support you in this aspect. So as producers, you need to truly understand your nature and potential so that you can be more certain of the direction you are heading. If this can be engendered throughout the country, the government can then focus on other sectors with high potential, sectors that have the right chemistry, the right materials. Many people have asked for funding but this will require a true understanding of the scope of research first. We have more than a thousand cases of research work that we can really make use of. So some findings are already being put into production.
I believe that we already have industries with high potential. These industries are driving the country’s economic growth. Could you elaborate on this?
First of all, Thailand is a car production hub. I have discussed this matter with several foreign companies. They said they were willing to continue investing in Thailand, be they rail projects, biodiesel, or research and development. This is why we need to revise some regulations. It is not true that all profits will go to foreign investors. But we must amend regulations regarding taxes, investments, and incentives in order to attract more investors. This is like a promotion campaign. Without promotion, people will not want to buy. When you want to sell something, you need good packaging. This is why the government has to invest in what it can. Rest assured that the government is not giving out land to foreigners. As a democratic country, we must also accept free trade and free competition. The government is here to ensure fairness as opposed to taking advantage of situations. This is about car production. Next is about agricultural crops. We have rice, rubber, palm, and sugar cane. Sometimes, demand and supply for these crops do not coincide, so when adjustments are made, farmers will suffer. We need to make our products more valuable. This is why the government is building the “rubber city”. This also relates to car production and biodiesel (B15 and B20).
Now we look at the possibility of using palm oil as fuel. It is impossible to make a change at the expense of other sectors. Gradual adjustments should be made in all sectors. This is how we create value in response to the problem of high production costs. Rice production needs a lot of water, driving up the production costs to 5,000 baht while the crop can only be sold at 7,000 baht. Farmers wait 4-6 months before they can harvest their paddies. This is why farmers must turn paddies into quality products such as organic rice or other supplements. Recently, we have seen a lot of these products. Now we must not overlook the possibility of oversupply. We have started to ship these products overseas. A Rubber city is being constructed in Songkhla. Many countries are willing to co-invest. Rubber that factories bought from producers will be used as raw materials. Then, we need to revise some regulations in each ministry. All these tasks must go in the same direction. This is what we call connectivity. If we continue with the same old practices, the production will not grow and oversupply of materials will occur again and again, also leaving markets disconnected and slow progress innovation. So this restructuring is an enormous but necessary task and the government will try its best to achieve it. There will be progress along the way.
What about the tourism industry? This is a major driver of the Thai economy.
Even though there is a lot of influx of tourism at the moment, we are still not satisfied. This is because our neighbors aren’t enjoying this growth as well. Many countries have asked Thailand about sharing our experiences in this sector. I have therefore suggested that if we can create 4-5 tourism clusters, consisting of maybe healthcare, archeology, and nature and then separate these clusters into each expertise. Right now the Ministry of Tourism is doing this.
After this, more people should visit Thailand. I then suggest that we create packages. For example, they can come to Thailand and then also visit neighboring countries as part of the package. This will create connectivity. I’ve talked to Latin American countries about this idea as well. We can create channels of tourism and create networks between countries while also increasing flights. These systematic developments can lead to mutual growth.
Today, the health of our economy also depends on whether the people have money to spend. The money that comes into our country via tourism is a considerable amount. In 2015, we’ve invested 1.2 billion but made 2.23 billion Baht. This was a 19% increase from the year 2014 because people didn’t want to come here during the political crisis then. The money we made in tourism in 2015 accounts for 16% of the country’s entire GDP.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization revealed that tourism to Thailand has increased to 30 million people in 2015, a 20 percent increase. This puts us at 11th place in the world. Income from tourists in Thailand has increased to 1.57 trillion Baht, a 22 percent increase which puts us at 6th place in the world.
The Global Economy Tourism Forum had forecasted in 2015 that the number of tourists coming to Thailand will be the 4th largest group in the world. We need to seek cooperation with others while also ensuring safety and solving issues of scams and corruption. These things are hard but we must work even harder to gain trust.
During the meeting with the Provincial Administration Organization Council of Thailand, I disclosed that l will try to allocate money for them to manage local tourism as well as for the development of tourism infrastructure. If we can cooperate in the form of the Pracharat model which includes collaboration from all sectors in all regions, if the public also cooperates as well, we will be successful.
Is there a particular example of a successful local project that was done in the Pracharat model that you would like to mention?
There are many successes in the Pracharat model. I’d like to talk about how we’ve given 1 million to 5 million Baht in funds to various districts. With this, 300-400 villages have been able to create water management plans. Now they are able to manage their own irrigation with the help of the local people of that community. They’ve joined in on finding water sources with pipes and damns. This is a good start and they were able to handle it.
The second matter is strengthening villages to be drought resilient. There is not one single solution to this problem as there are many aspects involved. But this year, we hope that there will be more rain in May to June but it may also come late at around September to October. In this regard many people’s efforts to dig ditches and catchment areas to absorb the rain are an example of Pracharat cooperation. The government only provided guidelines.
That means they understand the problem?
They do at varying levels. We need to move forward with projects that we are capable of doing now such as certain road projects. The next time that a budget is passed, the government must look into providing funds accordingly to suit the needs of each area and their expenses. This budgeting coincides with the annual budget of all ministries. Depending on the agenda, districts can be granted between 1-3 million Baht. Villages can be given up to 300,000 Baht. Villages can come up with various projects and conduct the work amongst themselves. Each village may have their own issue such as labuor or water shortages. We can provide them with funding.
As for tourism, what’s been rather successful right now is cooperation in developing several tourist attractions. For this there has been a strict enforcement of laws that monitor the use of budget and the destruction of natural resources. I good example is the Phi Phi Islands where we’ve used a pilot model to boost income from October, 2015, to Songkran to 300 million Baht. This was a 200 million Baht increase from last year. If everyone collaborates this way, it is a Pracharat model. We also included the help from the private sector. I’ve also held meetings with businesses on how they can help the people this way. They stand ready to work with us and there are 12 groups now.
If some areas have been so successful, what about other areas?
They will be successful as well but it must take time. For instance, some areas are out of reach from irrigation channel and some might be located in areas that are too high or have infertile land. They key is to empower these communities with knowledge and information. So today I’ve called for the creation of guides for the Public Relations Department to hand out, which talks about success stories in agriculture and tested methodologies by farmers. This should motivated people and educate.
They should learn from these experiences. Sometimes people don’t listen to government suggestions. For instance, the government advised not to rice farm this season, due to the water situation. In spite of this, some persisted and suffered as a result. Hence, I wish for the people to be more resilient. His Majesty the King has said that we must ignite their will to make progress. Whatever they need, the government will guide them and support them in what they do. This way they will be stronger eventually.
The most important issue here is the drought and lack of water. This can cause quarrels and conflict in society.
The government is undertaking many agendas at the moment. Are there any agendas that, if progress is delayed, would create damage to the image of the country?
Let’s stick to domestic issues first. The most severe issue is the drought. From 30 affected provinces, we’ve now reduced that number to 27, consisting of 4,911 villages which represent 6.55 percent of all villages. In 2015, there were 34 provinces that were being severely affected by the drought. We have thus given priority to artificial rainmaking and there have been various surveys on feasibility. There were a total of 537 survey flights and 77 percent of those flights resulted in rain in 41 provinces. We gained around 50 million cubic meters which was considerable help for villages. However, there were a lot of areas that were unable to reap the benefits due to terrain and logistics. We also need to dig more ditches and catchment areas to store water. We’ve dug around 2-3 thousand sites so far.
When the situation in the country is good, people will come to our country and enjoy its beauty, when things are lush and there are no water shortages, I mean. This is one aspect of the country’s image which is important. We also need to solve the issue of forest encroachment. Apart from our traditions, culture, natural beauty and our people, another important thing about the country’s image is the stability of the government. If we are still in a state of conflict, still have a winner takes all approach, and try to justify impunity in society, how can other countries have faith in us? In talking with other countries, they have expressed confidence in the progress that we have made so far and they are willing to cooperate with us, and expect us to have an elected government. They are almost fully committed to us but just that issue remains. I’m trying to take us all there.
For forest management, we need to look at the state of our forests at all levels, then the matter of land management for the public. This is an effort that involves the Ministries of Interior, Agriculture and Education. We need to further implement the initiatives of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen regarding forests. We need to create understanding among agencies and protect our forests while restoring the ecosystem. We also need to develop occupations that coincide with forest conditions. We also need to support relief efforts, such as during tropical storms.
The most urgent international issue we face now is IUU.
This has been a longstanding problem, manifested over many years – too many boats, unregistered vessels, all these matters. These things have been neglected for a long time, but I am not blaming anyone in particular here. It is also not an easy problem to solve because it affects many people who have been making a living out of this for a very long time. The issue is that other countries won’t buy our fished goods if we engage in IUU. So all those involved will need to make adjustments in order to comply with international laws.
We’ve established the Command Center for Combating Illegal Fishing (CCCIF) and have tasked the Ministries with taking care of this. The Ministry of Agriculture and its departments are currently directly in charge. We’ve also had to pass over 90 pieces of legislation while restructuring the organization of several agencies. We’ve had to increase our monitoring systems such as introducing GPS in order to track the whereabouts of boats. We also need to strictly enforce our existing laws. All stakeholders are urged to cooperate on this issue.
The next matter is international cooperation according to the ICAO for the aviation industry. Today, we have tasked the Ministry of Transport to address this issue with the help of the Royal Thai Air Force. These two parties will be responsible.
As for the situation in the southern border provinces, how concerned are you about this?
I’ve always been very concerned and for a very long time, since I was Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army and even before, since when it started in 2004. Afterwards we have continuously tried to solve this crisis. This is a complex issue between people of different religious groups and people using religion as tools to make claims. We must admit that at the time there was much inequality. Today we are trying to develop the area but there are lingering security issues. When safety can’t be fully guaranteed, investment projects are reluctant to take hold. We therefore need to first maintain peace.
We have done 3 things which are: 1. Law enforcement based on criminality and not on terrorism. Here, it is about fellow Thais who have committed a crime. Therefore those accused will have a chance to go through the normal justice system. So please do not use weapons with the authorities. The authorities are also concerned for their safety. It is also easy to misunderstand each other in this situation.
2. Development in education, whether it is the curriculum or sports or other matters. The education system in the south must be adjusted to advocate more understanding.
3. Peaceful dialogue. Many problematic issues stem from conflicts that have a long history. Some people have exploited this to create further conflict. We need to learn from our history in order to prevent these conflicts. We need to learn and make a better future. These are the 3 things we need to do.
I want everyone to understand that the government does not want to use force. Nevertheless, it must enforce the law, otherwise there will be no peace and development. Should that be the case, there will be no economic development. People are fearful of visiting the clear and sandy beaches in the south because of safety reasons. If this changes, there will be many improvements in the region. So we must help each other and embrace the justice system.
Another issue is human trafficking which is connected to IUU fishing. The new laws prescribe strict punishments on violators, and complicit officials. These laws have been carefully deliberated and passed as they have much bearing on the general public.
Another matter that other countries believe in us is our digital economy. With this technology, we can communicate much faster.
As for special economic zones, we will wait and see how each region will develop because of different natural resources, demographics and demand. We need to create diversity among the regions and then break it down to diversity in the provincial, district and the community level. We must examine these unique qualities and add value to them in order to find new markets. There can also be exchange of materials and expertise between regions and provinces. This is called adding value through innovation and cooperation.
For example, some businesses are now focusing on agriculture in Phuket and bringing pineapples up north to Chiang Mai. This also includes seafood. We need to also create social enterprises which will strengthen business cooperation the same way as traditional cooperatives and unions that work based on mutual benefit and profits.
The other day I attended an ease of doing business meeting where in the past, Thailand wasn’t ranked that well. However in the past 2 years, we have improved consistently. Given this we should use this as a guide to see where else we can improve. If we fix issues regarding operations, licenses, taxation, utilities and labour, we will be in much better shape. Some countries have indicated that they’ve spent up to 2 years before they could set anything up. This is why we now have an OSS center with a database. We must then transition to automated services instead of business prospects having to run between various agencies and departments. We need to utilize online technology to improve ease of doing business.
Another matter that must take a lot of time and understanding is the election. We all hope that one will take place in the near future. People often say that democracy is defined by elections. Is Thailand ready to become a complete democracy after the election?
If you ask me, I want this to happen. There is no one that doesn’t want this to happen. We cannot deny democracy. And every knows how I came into this position and how I’m here to solve a conflict. What would have happened to us if we didn’t take action? It is important to look back at the events that transpired before and the reasons why things have happened. If there wasn’t a political crisis in the first place, I would not be here. Now we are trying to create a stronger democracy that shall be acknowledged internationally. People have said that there must be elections in order to have democracy. So I ask, in the past, we were really a democracy? With all the conflicts and chaos and the problems caused by previous government that we are still fixing now, have our elections have really resulted in a working democracy? There has been lots of conflict and I’ve had to come in and solve it. People demand that I quickly solve problems and then hold elections. I’m doing all of this according to the road map. If I’m indeed selfish or power-hungry, I will not follow the roadmap. I’m doing this for our country and for all Thai’s. Today there is peacefulness and orderliness in the country. However, there is still some resistance to progress and lingering tensions that could bring us back to where we were. That’s why I said don’t just look at the elections, and I’m also not obstructing them in any way. If they can take place, they will. But we can’t have them if we don’t have a referendum. I’m doing my best but you all must do your part for the country too.
Therefore, we also need to consider the other essentials of democracy such as:
1. Respect for others and the ability to listen to differing views, instead of only ones own views or selfish interests. I listen to the views of everyone but some other people don’t even bother to listen to differing viewpoints. People should respect and strive for reason and logical sense. Today, are we ready for this?
2. The ability to compromise. In the past, there were many sides who argued over differences, whether it was the government, or the opposition. How can there be cooperation or civility? It will only lead to conflict, which is why I’m here today. If you can understand that and compromise on positions can be made and they are all legal and in accordance with the laws, then there can be ways to solve our common problems. For instance you can try to work on the things that each side agrees on and move forward with those things first.
We need to resort to nonviolence. In other countries, when there is an election, some may be displeased with the results, but I don’t see them causing violence or firing weapons like we do. I will never allow this to happen again. Today, there are differences in opinion expressed by several groups. Some groups even want to go back to the way things were. This is how they differ with me. What are their real motivations then? I am doing all this for them as well. When there is an election, they can come back and manage the country, prosper and ensure the people’s happiness. And the future generations will benefit from our efforts now too.
Another important issue is the respect for the rule of law and orderliness. The law must be something that is sacred and cannot be disregarded. Today, many sides have tried to pressure us to conclude court cases for their own political benefits. But I have said many times that these issues must follow the rule of law. If people don’t break the laws, the government will not prosecute them. However, some use their freedoms in ways that infringe upon other peoples freedoms. Please have the interests of the people at heart, look and see how the Thai are now getting on with their lives. Those who are still trying to instigate conflicts – please don’t be so selfish and be aware of your responsibility to the common good and how the country’s strategic plan needs to move forward.
Whether it is an election, democracy or political system, I will not interfere, but I ask that it is a political system based on honesty and good governance. This is all I ask for. As for the impending referendum, the constitution – these things that we have managed to bring forth for the Thai people, I would like to ask if we may need to think about the merits of certain provisions that are important for our stability and to ensure that things don’t revert back to how they were in the past. Given this, we may need to look at a period of 5 years with such special provisions. I think these 5 years could make things much better. I hope that everyone can cooperate, so that we can have elections and the referendum. If you use reasoning, the principles of democracy, and sound judgement, you will understand what I’m trying to do. I’m here to solve problems, problems that weren’t mine to begin with. This is for our children. I’m doing this for our future, everyone’s future.
I would like to thank you, Mr Prime Minister, for your time
The various agendas that the government and the NCPO are undertaking would definitely require the cooperation from the people in ensuring the country’s prosperity, stability and sustainability. We look into the future for the sake of our children. And this is our show for today. Thank you very much for tuning in. Myself and the Prime Minister will be signing off for tonight. Sawasdee Ka.