National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, June 3, 2016
Good evening and welcome to then programme. I am Lt. Priya Natevichien and I will be your host for today. Each week, the government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) initiates, continues, and completes several assignments. Thus, it is necessary that the public know about this work which mainly focuses on resolving the country’s problems. Every Friday, we are honoured to welcome the prime minister and head of the NCPO to the program. Good evening, Mr. Prime Minister. Mr. Prime Minister, this year is a very special year for Thai people.
Yes, it marks two auspicious occasions. The first one is the 70th anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the throne. The celebrations for this will be held from 9 June 2016 to 9 June 2017. I would like to invite all Thai people to undertake a virtuous deed as a tribute to His Majesty the King. Please join the celebrations and display the special Royal flags for this event. Another special occasion is the 84th Birthday Anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen. This is very special for the country and the Thai people. The celebrations for this occasion will be organized from August 12th onwards. All Thai citizens are, therefore, encouraged to make merit and commit themselves to a virtuous deed to honour this special celebration.
Next week will be the beginning of Ramadan which marks the holy month in the Muslim calendar. I would like to sincerely send my best wishes to all Muslims living in Thailand. I hope that everyone will be able to make merit during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. I wish that everyone can achieve their goals and that everyone shall find peace and happiness in life. I hope that everyone will be safe during the holy month.
As for security measures in the southern provinces, I would like to call on all security units including police officers and the military to do their best in protecting the lives of the people. At the same time, citizens should also be attentive to events and developments in order to have a peaceful Ramadan month.
Authorities and the locals will need to work together. Now let us talk about the well-being of the people on which the government has always emphasized. An international organization has put Thailand on its rankings. Could you shed some light on this?
Another issue is about Thai athletes. 2016 is the golden year for Thai sports. Thai athletes have brought recognition to the country by winning several international competitions. The first person is “Nong May” or Ratchanok Intanon, followed by “Pro May” or Ariya Jutanugarn. Both athletes won 3 championships. Another athlete did not compete with others, but against herself. She has a strong physique and an iron will. Her name is Napassaporn Chumnarnsit or “Dr. Im” who is the first Thai woman to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. We must congratulate them for their outstanding achievements.
What is the next topic?
The next topic is about the ranking of Thailand’s competitiveness. I believe the ranking has been better for Thailand.
About the ranking of Thailand’s competitiveness. To my knowledge, we received a better ranking this year according to the International Institute for Management Development (IMD). IMD conducts such a survey on a yearly basis, ranking countries by their competitive advantage. We’ve talked about how Thailand will compete with others. An independent body like IMD is the one putting together such a list. In 2015, we were placed at number 30. But this year, Thailand moved up 2 notches to number 28. This is not easy given that many activities are factored in. Many adjustments had to be made. Among the 5 ASEAN countries, Thailand is the only one climbing up the table. We should be proud of this. Amidst global economic uncertainty, Thailand is still able to maintain its competitive edge, linking economic activities with the government’s Pracharat approach.
There are 4 criteria taken into consideration including economic performance, the ability of the government, the ability of the private sector, and infrastructure. Could you please assess these factors and elaborate how successful the country has been and what needs to improve?
The first one is economic performance. Although the overall economy potential of the country remains constant, domestic consumption, foreign trade, and FDIs have increased. Growth has not come quickly; instead, the economy has recovered gradually. We, therefore, should focus on self-reliance and building stability from inside and in parallel with foreign trade expansion. IMD indications tell a lot about our country. Foreign investors are now more confident in us. This is why we need to make our domestic economy strong as well as our trade relations with others. With the help of the survey, Thailand will be able to make a step further.
The second factor is the government’s efforts. This individual ranking moved up 4 notches. Many sub-factors have improved, including business legislation, a stable financial and monetary status, financial policies, government funds, and government spending. The government is disciplined when it comes to financial and monetary policies. The government is most careful when spending. We don’t create artificial demand. Artificial demand is when consumers make purchases on products they cannot afford in the first place. To make matters worse, businesses ‘artificially’ grow in line with this fake demand. This fake demand often involves unreal numbers. The government cannot allow fake demand to emerge. We need to make people stronger and more secure economically so that they will be able to pay off their debts. Economic measures must be carefully thought through. We also need to bring reforms to the current bureaucratic system. Authorities shall improve themselves and abilities, and bring together cooperation from all units, which is a difficult task. Bureaucratic reform is taking place now. We have revised laws and regulations to eliminate conflicts between agencies. Some tasks require cross-agency cooperation and involve different departments. I have told them to fix this problem at the very beginning. It will also make the cabinet’s job a lot easier.
The third factor concerns the business sector. Overall, it isn’t as good as we expected. So what can we do to make it better? This rating takes into account imports, exports, production, and productivity. We must first look at problems around the world economy to see how it has affected us. Markets with problems cannot perform. Without growth, production will fall. With low production, fewer raw materials will be bought. For example, when rice is grown while the market cannot perform, farmers will struggle to sell the crop. This is what we need to consider in connecting all the dots. I have heard many businessmen express their views about the economy. I have talked to the Thai Chamber of Commerce and a number of economic agencies. It is important to understand that in this age, no company will remain wealthy all the time as long as that company is in the circle of production, processing, and marketing. If the market under performs, the production will be sluggish. It will be followed by a slowdown in the logistics sector. Without buyers, products will not be delivered. If you look at the statistics, production went down, processing went down, and logistics also went down. This is very common. The business sector must be patient as we are restructuring the economic fundamentals. Some businessmen on a radio show recently made damaging comments. I urge you, that if you have a problem, please come forward and discuss the matter. There are many channels you can go to. I have always adhered to agreements. I know your intentions are good, but you need to use an appropriate approach. Investors will not make investments with such false anxieties. Therefore, we must emphasize on efficiency, productivity, and skilled labor. Workers must improve their abilities. In the past, Thailand did not give enough importance to human resources development, be they workers in agriculture or in the industrial sector. Thailand still lacks skilled workers. The production sector requires a large number of skilled workers such as technicians and engineers. Most skilled workers are in other industries such as education. This doesn’t answer the question of demand in the labor market. Thailand needs to build economic stability in order to make businesses grow. Skilled workers are not produced to supply the true market demand at the moment. The ASEAN Community is here now, what we are to do when foreigners are hired to do most of our jobs? Thai people will be unemployed. This is why we need to reform the education system, survey the labor market with the help of the private sector, and move forward together. The government cannot achieve this on its own. The most important thing is that all sectors should cooperate for mutual benefit. We can no longer only look after our own interests. You cannot go at full capacity when the market is not ready. Some companies are overstaffed but foreign companies don’t fire their employees, instead, they offer a pay cut. Please help make your employees feel that they are a part of the company.
Businesses must make adjustments according to different circumstances.
The next factor is the basic infrastructure. As a matter of fact, we are accelerating every development method. Some prominent development areas include technological foundations, health and environment, innovation, the green industry, public utilities, mega projects, and education, which will take some time. We must be patient. We have had to revise certain laws and regulations in order to move to the next step. Each law had to go through 3 sittings. I don’t want to exercise Article 44 all the time or without good reason. We also don’t want to fix one thing and create more problems in other areas. Some investments cannot be made because of public disapproval or possible negative environmental impact. Sometimes the problem is about encroachment. Now we must look back at what caused the problems in the first place and when the problem actually occurred. How can we solve this problem? Do we have to always enforce the law in these situations? Every citizen must respect the laws and the government will find a way to accommodate your predicament by relocating you to another location.
As for the Official Information Act and the Licensing Facilitation Act, Thai and foreign business operators should take efforts to understand them. Before 2014, no progress had been made on this. We now have One Stop Service centers and Damrongtham centers.
Mr. Prime Minister, let’s now talk about economic issues. There are many problems that are affecting the people. However, there also remain a number of foreseeable challenges. Is there anything else you would like to stress in terms of the economy?
PM: What I talked about earlier was about foreign and domestic investments and how everyone can work together to balance out all sectors from upstream, midstream, to downstream. We now take a look at microeconomic economy. The government hopes to address the matter of high living expenses. We understand that people have low income while prices of crops are constantly dropping. This is why we need to control people’s living costs. Then the drought has come. I have told the Ministry of Commerce to closely monitor prices of consumer goods and make sure that all necessities are affordable. Make sure products are sold at prices they’re supposed to be sold. However some items are always expensive while some items can cost more when the dry season hits. This year is worse given the circumstances of severe drought. Everything will get better once the rain comes. Please only buy products you can afford. Thailand is a democratic country and adheres to free trade, so no one can single-handedly control anything. We cannot let this happen. We have to look at it in different perspectives. If the macroeconomic sector isn’t performing, the grassroots economy will not perform as well either while people earn less income. We cannot assume that prices of gas and fuel are the only factor, because we also need to look at the weather and the abundance of nature. Crop productivity relies on these elements as well. Entrepreneurs and middlemen must be more careful. They should empathize for their consumers and other sectors. It is common that the numbers are different from time to time. When buyers lose their purchasing power, crops will not be produced as much. This is how it works. Companies may see some profit and some loss.
Household spending has increased by 2.3 percent, thanks to higher consumer confidence. Some professions have surely seen growth such as the gem and jewelry industry or the gold industry. Thanks to these sectors, the percentage of household spending went up.
However, another matter that concerns the public is household debt. Household debt is currently high. Why is it high? When did it get high? And what caused this household debt? At the end of February 2014, household debt in the country was as high as 5.5 trillion baht, accounting for 46.1% of the GDP. It was very high. Almost at 50%. At the end of February 2016, household debt is accounting for 42.8D% of the GDP. There are two debts – public debt and household debt. These two debts certainly have influence to the economy.
Before 22 May 2014, household debt was already high. This is why we had to spend money wisely. We wanted debts to be viable and stable debts that occur when people purchase useful things, not luxury items. This is how artificial demand is created. Household debt was already high when we came in. Some people have said what the government is doing is useless. But who allowed you to borrow money and put you in this situation in the first place? We will not point fingers now as we need to focus on the problem at hand. The government already has adjusted down the interest rates, taxes, and other expenses. Some people have even suggested that debts be withdrawn. If debts are withdrawn, what will financial institutions do? They have to reserve some money from the interest collected regardless of the amount they can collect. This is to make sure that their businesses will run as usual when they have non-performing loans. This is how they run business. Some people claim that the BACC issues high interest loans, but they have not thought of how many debts have been cancelled or how many payments have been postponed. If banks didn’t prepare, their operations would collapse.
Next is about people’s incomes. How can people’s income be higher when the world economy is under performing? People have less purchasing power because they earn less income. Insufficient income happens when people spend more than they actually have. Some people go and pawn their stuff and this then causes the system to go be disrupted. So we have to look at the whole circle. The solution is to fix the problem in a sustainable manner, build stability, increase competitiveness, and enhance the agricultural sector and other professions. This will take time. It is impossible to have everything done this instance due to insufficient funds. The government doesn’t have enough for every single issue. We will spend it carefully. We will spend it according to our capacity. Everyone has to share the benefits. There are many sectors that need help. The government cannot place all focus on just the farmers.
When people’s purchasing power is low, it is because they cannot afford it or are unwilling to buy. The problem lies in the entire structure while the world economy is sluggish. Thailand did not prepare itself for this kind of situation as I said. This has caused a number of problems in the country. This is why we need innovation and new products that can attract buyers. With technology, we will be able to build that value chain which will help to uplift living standards of the people.
What about domestic and overseas investments?
As for overseas investments, the outlook is very bright. Investments supported by the BOI and investment deals between the Thai government and investors abroad have had some positive outcomes. DPM Somkid Jatusripitak is currently in Japan. The investment sector has grown by 4.7 percent. Foreign investors always look at the stability of the country they are investing in. They always look ahead into the future and make analysis. They make investments today, knowing the profit will be realized in the next 20 years. In the next 50 years, they will be thinking about relocating. This is a pivotal moment. If Thais continue to fight amongst each other, investors will leave. Although everything has improved, a lot depends on investors’ decisions. Nothing is certain until the first product is produced. The statistics show a higher percentage. What we need to do is maintain peacefulness in the nation and assure investors of the government’s stability. This is how you get them to start a project. It is all about confidence. This is a good sign, evidenced by the IMD ranking. We have to make Thailand a peaceful country. After the NCPO has allowed politicians to travel abroad, I have heard that they are taking part in conferences and meetings where they verbally attack their own nation. So, I am not for certain if these people want peace and reconciliation. I have thus instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to create an understanding in all arenas. I would like to thank the ministry for being able to answer all questions to the world community. Some politicians have attacked the government on various issues, such as about the economy and the prosecution of offenders. But these are based on legal charges and officers would be charged for dereliction of duty if they didn’t prosecute such culprits. How can we condone impunity for law breakers? Please think about this.
The world economy goes up and down. It fluctuates very often. Growth of overseas investments also depends on the growth of the host country. Once investors registered for an investment project, they will analyze all possibilities as well as the country and the company’s potential. If you look at the US economy, you will see that its current economic growth is recorded the lowest in the past 8 quarters. In the meantime, the economy in the Euro zone expanded by only 1.6%. Japan has seen a slow growth while China is facing economic recession, accounting for the lowest growth in 7 years. New economies including Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and ASEAN are on the decline. We have seen both positive and negative numbers in Thailand. The overall picture may be positive or negative in the future. It all rests upon the world economic situation. Today, we have to penetrate new markets like in island countries or Eurasian countries. We must focus on high-end markets as well. This is why we must seek new or even smaller markets. We could also penetrate markets that demand premium products such as organic rice. Everyone has to make some adjustments. White rice must have high quality and be certified; otherwise, Thai rice will not be able to compete with others in the market.
What you are saying is that we need to make Thai rice unique and attractive.
We have more than 100 strains of rice. The other day, I met with 300 rice growers from across the country. They seemed very satisfied and commended the work of the government. However, there were certain matters we viewed differently. This is why we need to keep advising them. They have not had anyone to help them out in the past. Farmers must be more open to others and the world. It’s the era of digital economy. There will be education centers. There are 882 agricultural learning centers nationwide where farmers can learn new farming techniques. In addition, the Ministry of Interior has set up more than 2,000 learning centers, plus we also have community centers established by the ICT Ministry. These centers will help entrepreneurs sell products online. Take Buriram province for instance. People in Buriram have been earning extra income because they can sell their products online. Buyers can browse the website and shop. However, these products must be certified and up to standard. If we didn’t adopt this approach, businesses will not flourish. Growth comes with technology and the digital system.
However, many areas are still suffering from the drought which is a direct effect on the local economy.
The drought is due to climate change. It’s also due to deforestation and treeless mountains. We need to manage our reforestation efforts so that there is enough moisture for the new trees to survive. As for treeless mountains, we can create ladders to slowdown the water from the wash-off as well as plant acacia trees to make way for smaller trees underneath it.
Trees must be over 2 meters high in order for them to survive on their own. We can’t manually water the trees but we can create weirs according to His Majesty the King’s method of water retention in forests and mountains.
Even though we have had rain, not all areas have had precipitation. Many dams have been able to replenish their supplies in the millions of cubic meters. However, Bhumibol Dam, one of the most significant dams for farmers and residents, is still at low capacitiy.
Farmers are still requesting for rainmaking. However, there is not enough moisture in the atmosphere to prompt rainfall at times.
But the rain will come. But I don’t want it to rain too much in Bangkok as there will be traffic jams. It often rains in areas that don’t need rain. Bangkok has had enough rain already.
Farmers are waiting to see whether July would be a more suitable month for planting rice.
We must examine whether our existing water reserves coupled with the additional rainfall is sufficient. If there is enough water to accommodate rice farming, then we should definitely invest our efforts. We shouldn’t just go ahead and hope that it rains later. If the drought persists, crops will be devastated and our efforts will be wasted.
Farmers must learn from the database provided by the Ministry of Agriculture regarding adequate water supplies for rice farming. I also urge farmers to study the agri-map that this administration has created. This map will define areas that are suitable for hybrid farming and areas that are suitable for single crop farming.
However, farmers must rely on themselves and create resilience through unions and cooperatives. In the future, we will connect these with provincial Pracharat corporations. The cooperatives can supply the products and the Pracharat corporations will act as middlemen in finding markets for the products. Provincial farmers can also step up to run these provincial Pracharat corporations so that the business is run within the province.
However, people also need to learn business skills such as accounting, marketing and management. The Pracharat corporation will act primarily in gathering products of the province and finding market channels. The corporation will draw on the strengths of each area and disseminate the products to various markets.
All of this will be documented through the corporations account books so that information is transparent and encourages growth.
Social issues are a good indicator of economic issues. Today we are happier and many say that there is more peace. However, what are some of the lingering social problems that could potential lead to conflict that you’re still concerned about?
One issue is how our society views education. We don’t place much importance to what we’ve learned and forget about it after our schooling is done. Many say that reconciliation can be achieved by instilling self-consciousness. If you using the metaphor of planting a tree, self-conciousness is a tree that takes time to take root and grow.
Can 70 million Thais have an equal sense of self-consciousness? It depends on your family, schooling or lineage.
This is why we have a policy of reducing class time and increasing learning time in order to focus more on ethics. When people have high morals, there will be less conflict and more sharing in our society. This is an aspect that Thai society needs to work on.
When the quality of one’s education is poor, they can become unemployed or have low income. This leads to poverty, other family issues and alienation. When parents neglect their offspring because of work, children run the risk of fraternizing with the wrong crowd or get addicted to drugs.
Issues start at the family level. When parents don’t have time for their children and they then revert to just studying, children can be deprived of being taught good social conduct and a social conscience. What kind of affect will this have on Thai society and its history?
Today, we are in the 21st century. However, our schooling system is still stuck in the 19th century. What do students need in the 21st century? They need the 4 main STEM subjects as well as the ability to think critically.
If people are reasonable, know how to analyze and are erudite, our society will be stronger and we will have a future of high income earners according to the Thailand 4.0 agenda. This agenda coincides with the “Sustainable Development Goals” set by the UN in the next 15 years. The goals consist of accommodating changes in the labor market and an aging society. The government has incorporated these agendas into its policies.
I am distressed by what I see in the news about the degree of crimes. There is even controversy in Buddhism because of a few monks are violating the law. If they agreed to settle disputes in the courts, it would have been over by now. People cannot be above the law. Only in failed states can the masses overthrow the rule of law.
All the laws have been enforced during this administration, not just a few. In the past, various issues have been left unsolved because no one has been enforcing all the laws that apply. The public has more confidence in this area, as the laws are being applied equally now.
We need to make the public feel that they are not being bullied and make sure that we are not violating international laws. I’ve have been accused of abusing human rights, conducting unwarranted arrests and torturing. Why would I torture anyone? We’re all Thais. These accusations that I’m bullying people are false and always being boasted in other countries.
Are you concerned about the increasing number of channels whereby the public can receive information?
If you are talking in military terms, the issues on social media right now are called cyber warfare. In the past, armies sought to take control of the communication channels of the enemy in order to gain the upper-hand. Cyber warfare today deals with members of the public committing hate speeches by defaming another person without due cause.
They also distort information regarding the policies of the government and the NCPO. Their motives are to escalate conflict.
The government cannot write false information on social media channels. It must speak the truth in what it does. However, the public chooses what it believes. Some people are motivated by fame and say things to garner more likes and followers.
They don’t realize that that fueling hate leads to destruction and conflict. However, when we pass laws to regulate this, people claim that it is a violation of human rights. Is that really so?
If people just want it their way, then let’s not have me or any government, or an election for that matter and let’s just live in anarchy. What’s important is instilling self-consciousness among children and adults alike. People need to contribute in solving problems with the government, instead of denouncing the government just because they don’t get what they want.
None of our issues will be solved if there is no sense of awareness. The same goes for the civil servants as well. People need to conduct themselves according to our 12 core Thai values. People may neglect certain values or pay more attention to one over another. It is our job just to remind them to conduct themselves.
One side may want something but the other side may say that it is unjust or unfair. We need to settle disputes according to the law. If something is in violation of a law, then we will let the justice system handle it. Otherwise, there will be no justice and we will be mired in conflict.
When there is less conflict, the authorities will be able to conduct their duties more effectively. However, if there is no sense of social consciousness among society, there will be no resolution of conflict, no matter how many laws we pass. We can look at road accidents, for example. We pass new laws every year and there are still numerous deaths every year.
Can you please talk about the public’s welfare and quality of living?
People may think that civil servants have benefits that the public doesn’t have. However, the public has more opportunities. Civil servants need to work on their primary duty and have one salary. They must adhere to the system and pay full taxes.
For those who are unemployed, they can see what they can do with their time. If they are diligent and make use of their time, they can make more money than civil servants. The public and the bureaucracy must coexist in support of each other.
The government collects less than 10 million Baht in taxes from personal income. There are also taxes associated with trade. However, many businesses aren’t registered or find ways to avoid taxes. The government is trying to settle these tax issues in 2016 so that it can create a more effective welfare system. This consists of free healthcare, education and transportation. Today, newborn babies will receive 400 Baht for milk.
Stipends for children in impoverished conditions have been increased from 400 to 600 Baht. We’ve also increased it for the disabled from 500 to 800 Baht. The combined total of this increase is a large sum of money. Stipends for the elderly are laddered up every 10 years from 600 to 1,000 Baht. Some people are asking for 3,000 but there isn’t enough money at the moment.
We also support savings through the National Savings Fund. We can look into how a person can contribute to savings during and after their work life. This may require amendments to laws.
In the past, governments haven’t given much importance to welfare as they should have. We recently passed a welfare legislation that was 10 years in the waiting. We need to continue with this work.
Welfare is an important matter. People are more satisfied when they don’t have to pay for public services. However, these services are costly to the government. Buses and trains must run on gas. There is also repair and maintenance costs.
The government must find ways to find these programs. We need more revenue in order to pay for the billions of Baht in welfare services each year. We have an annual budget of 250-270 billion to allocate to various programs.
In the past two or three years, we have had a budget deficit because we haven’t been able to collect as much in taxes. However, certain programs are necessary and we must resort to borrowing money to compensate for this deficit.
We need to build strength from within by creating a cycle of business between the public, private sector and the state if we don’t want to borrow more money.
The other day, you met with representatives of farmers to discuss raising the standards of living of farmers and empowering them.
There are existing agricultural cooperatives. We need to push for large hybrid farms in place of single crop farms. Farmers need to learn to plant other crops apart from rice. Yes, we must empower them by helping manage their planting.
The representatives asked for the government to provide farmers with small rice mills. However, the government will not be able to supply small mills worth 50,000 Baht to all rice farms.
The government could, however, provide mills to groups or cooperatives and they manage the use of it amongst themselves.
We also need to consider farmers of other products such as cassava. If they can organize into cooperatives according to the Pracharat model, the government can provide these groups with assistance and equipment.
If farmers groups are able to grow, process and market their products through a Pracharat corporation, they will be able to grow into larger businesses and this will then be the case for all provinces.
They asked whether Pracharat corporations will be redundant with cooperatives. I told them that they will connect with cooperatives. 76 percent of the entire Pracharat corporation’s holdings are composed of the 76 provinces. We are creating connectivity, not taking over. The private sector is also managing the remaining 24 percent and, in the future, the public will eventually manage 100 percent.
These are the facts, unlike what people hear from sources who falsely say that the government only favors the rich.
The government must work according to its strategic policies. Otherwise, there will be no end to the demands from various sides and people will just keep protesting and making demands.
I don’t want people to hold any grudges against my government or the next government. There is much opposition today already. Does this mean that the political situation will revert back to where it was previously?
This government must solve social and economic issues. This requires money. Otherwise, the country will be damaged.
Let’s now talk about public administration because there have been issues of delays in policies because there are certain issues affecting the public now that need to be address quickly.
State administration reform has always been a difficult issue at all structural levels. In the past, government agencies have always been difficult to establish and difficult to abolish. It is also difficult to demote officials.
Today, I’m tasking the Office of the Civil Service Commission to think of a new system where agencies can be easily established and abolished so that we can quickly establish ad-hoc agencies to address specific issues. We can then find experts to address various issues.
We don’t have to employ new people as civil servants yet. We can contract people for specific purposes and, if they prove to be useful, we can take eventually them in as civil servants.
We need to examine the internal management, chain of command and work in various sectors. We may have to establish agencies to reform and connect various agencies together. Another matter is how to prevent other people such as politicians from influencing/manipulating agencies. This will damage an organization because the order of progression within an organization is tampered with.
We need to reform work efficiency and restructure organizations. I’ve only been able to implement the first phase of reform due to my limited time here. We’ve established NCPO super boards, mobilization committees and management committees to follow up on the progress.
However, what will happen when this administration finishes? We must ensure that reform mechanisms are permanent. If we are able to empower the bureaucracy and encourage them to think progressively and make suggestions, they will be more efficient and take pride in their work.
Today, we must ask people to make changes because we must get things started towards the new direction of reform. I must also first acquaint myself with the context of their work in order to make adjustments accordingly. However, we must give them the opportunity to do their job instead of just following orders.
Can various services to the public be expedited?
Today, the public can submit petitions to Damrongdharma centers. If that is too slow, they can contact their provincial governors or chief district officers.
I have given a lot of authority to the governors of every province. The ministries will also have to help these governors. The provincial commerce and agricultural sectors will also be integrated into the jurisdiction of the province. There will also be a Pracharat mechanism introduced as well right? There are also a number of cooperation centers all over. The important thing here is to get things done quickly. Some problems can be dealt with before they are formally brought up. So deal with those. It’s your job. It’s your responsibility. Wherever there is a problem, you need to fix it. One of our main issues is that we are slow. We don’t pay enough attention to the public. We make promises and get nothing done. Today, I will not let this go on. If someone brought something up 2 or 3 times, of course I’d have to have a word with the governor in charge. I’ve given them time to fix these things. How many times have I already had to do this? There are many Damrongdharma centers. They have solved 90%, maybe even 97-98% of problems. This is just in the last 2 years. Their purpose has always been to get things done but they didn’t use to. Now they are far more productive. They accomplish many tasks.
They need to know what the problem is, and then solve it. They send work groups here and there. The governor also acts while NCPO negotiates. In the past they didn’t have anyone pushing them and so they don’t do it. Now we’ve taken out some of the steps. We’ve made things faster and we fix things quicker. The small problems should be fixed immediately. If they are ignored then they become larger problems. In the future, this is something we will have to address. We can’t delay. What else is there? The legislation for ease of access, contacting an official, making a new ID card, making a driver’s license. All this has to be done quickly. Therefore, the officials need to keep this in mind. The legislation is out. We heard you, and we’ve made things better.
Another problem is structure. Everyone wants to change this, but how come it isn’t changed? It’s not that easy. That’s why I have let the OCSC go in and study the details of this. What is the status of the civilians, the police and the military? If we reduce manpower then how must we increase technology? What is the budget? Before we lower manpower or change anything we also have to look at the laws. We also look at the current system and decide if we can put some things on hold. If we can’t, then we can’t move forward. Then we need to compromise. Both the people within the organization and the people who want change have to find a balance. I have ordered this to be taken cared of many times. I believe the officials are currently taking care of it. I have seen the reform plan, the first stage and the second. It might not be fully in line with the NRSA or the public but that’s what compromise is about. You have to see the benefits in the big picture. Go back and look at what the original problem was and how it was that it needed to be fixed. Can it be fixed immediately? So what do we have to do ? We need to look at the problem and pick out the corrupt areas. We fix those areas first. If we try to see results right away we might do a lot of damage or something along those lines. This could result in a criminal case for both the police and the briber. They are asking for change because you are doing something wrong. If you weren’t there wouldn’t be a problem. If they are coercing or threatening you that’s a different situation. Report them to the courts. File a report. We can fix corruption but it won’t work if everyone tries to benefit. You say police are promoted through corruption. Go find me the proof. Just the other day, there was an arrest in the customs department. People were claiming connections to General Prawit, asking for this and that. That was suspicious, and inquiries were made. It turns out that they were caught trying to swindle officials . Things like this are happening all the time. Don’t believe that you can’t file claims. Many people say soldiers are taking bribes. This doesn’t happen. I won’t allow it.
Mr. Prime Minister, what about issues of security? Currently, the government and the NCPO have been looking after this country for 2 years. You have built trust, back to the Thai people. However, we can’t forget about internal security.
Who is responsible for this? The public? The politicians? Today, I haven’t seen anyone complain as much as the politicians. I ask you: did they cause troubles like this before? If they were always doing the right thing, I would not stop them. However, the things they are doing now are the same things that got us into this mess. They ask me to reconcile. What does this mean exactly? What do you want from me? Forgiveness probably or pardoning everyone. Even those in other countries. People in this country are asking for this. What do you want me to do? Release everyone from jail? Of course I can’t do that. If you don’t break the law, the law can do nothing to you. If you want to prove your innocence and go home, then go through the justice system. That’s how you’ll get home. Use your bail rights. Fight it in court. Our country is held together by people. But, how will we be successful if they don’t respect the laws? It doesn’t work like that. I ask the public to think about this. I didn’t want to be in this position. But I do these things to bring in a better government. I pay my taxes, just like you. I haven’t force you to do anything. I do these things so you will have a brighter, more prosperous future. I just hope that the public understands me. If you think you can do a better job by starting over, then be my guest. Today, I choose to do things this way because it is under a framework. This framework is not for me or for gaining power.
Some have accused me of otherwise, I’m sure you know who they are, plu they prefer to excite matters abroad. But use your discretion. This is how they get a platform and spread more instigating messages. How can I compete? Our country has already been through many problems; we don’t need it to get any worse. Why can’t we invest in our country to make it better? We need to build a better future. We must have peace within the country and trust from abroad. We must be a nation that draws long term investment and confidence. This isn’t just a 5 year, 10, or even 20 year commitment. Someday their relatives will come and set up businesses in Thailand and their message will continue to spread.
You’re building trust Mr. Prime Minister.
It’s very difficult. You have to do it for both sides at once.
Now we come to matter of reform. Mr. Prime Minister, you have mentioned many times the reform must begin with ourselves. People listen, and put their hopes with this government and the NCPO. In your opinion, what legacies of this reform will we be able to pass down to posterity?
Well the first thing we need to look at is what we really want to achieve. Before now, we were left with a lot of legacies. They weren’t very good though. We didn’t make ourselves strong. We didn’t work hard enough. We did just enough to get by. The officials didn’t really care. Today, we have complete initial aspects of reform. Listen to our advise, and you’ll be able to reform yourself. Education must also be reformed. The public doesn’t require too many things to be reformed you say. Well I ask you: is reforming education easy? What is the first step? Just for starters we have had to introduce section 44. That’s what makes this so difficult. When I ask teachers for something, I have to ask 500,000 people. We’ve had to bring in a lot of new legislation and so we put it all under the banner of section 44. We had to do all this. Remember? Reforming the economy….how many laws are there? How many sectors? Now, we’ve had many issues with this new rule that private security officers must graduate from grade 9. It started a lot of complaining because a lot of them haven’t graduated from grade 9. I have to say that if we kept things the same way these people wouldn’t make enough to eat. They say this is too difficult. Go ask the ministry of education. Take a look at these required non-formal education certificates. Can we expedite them? That’s what we need to do to fix this problem.
Once they go back they can resume work as normal.
There should be measures put in place where they are able to retain their jobs instead of being fired right away. If that happened, they wouldn’t be able to feed their families. This isn’t a good solution. The rule was introduced to enhance quality. With a grade 9 education, a security guard can now work at a large company. This was the ministry of education’s idea. The certificates were already a requirement. What we can do is expedite the process. Many soldiers managed to go from grade 9 to grade 12 in just 2 years. If time is tight, we can still get it done. Currently, some people who can’t even read were able to finish grade school. This is something we need to fix. We need to improve the quality of our education, our police, and our children’s. The government will take care of government affairs. They do what I ask. If you want me to use my power I ask that you first reform yourselves too. Help me. If you try to block me all the time, how will I be able to bring about reform? Who are the people who want me to reform everything anyway? It’s for the country.
To live up to our aspirations requires hard work. Reform is difficult as I’ve said. Today we look at the economy and other issues. We can solve these problems through the Pracharat model. But what’s important is the understanding right? We must look 20 years into the future. Today, you have to ask yourself what you need in order to carry out plans 5 years ahead. Today, we look for overseas investment, we change our economy, and we earn more revenue for Thailand. From the 5 original goals, we’ve added 5 more. We’re working towards Thailand 4.0. This is economic integration and connectivity between our country and others. This is reform of our agriculture, our rice, cassavas, and sugarcane. Just bringing about reform in the case of wage is already difficult. To reform an entire system, let alone an entire country, that’s more difficult. Look at it this way: We divide up a reform map, and we put year 60 on the one end. We’ve been here since year 57, so we have 57-58, 58-59, and 59-60. That’s 3 years. What can we do in that time? Let me make this clearer. I’ll summarize these 2 years for you and draw a picture so you can see what I’ve done in terms of reform and how it will affect the following 5 years. The next government will then take it up. Whether they continue it or not is up to them and to the public. Reform isn’t something that gets done right away. This is a long process and it needs to be done from the bottom up.
On the topic of labor, we need to look at specific categories. We need to develop and train people so they can fit the market demand. How many issues have there been? Everything is inter-related. This is something we need to do continuously. Tomorrow we need to do things in conjunction with our 20 year strategy so we can have every political party move in the same technocratic direction. We need to work together. We need to do this for our future. The other things you can do according to your party policies. You need to so you differ from one another. Whatever you do to win confidence from the public is your prerogative, but don’t do things at the cost our nation, or our national budget. Don’t be corrupt. That’s it. Why is that so hard?
Building on a strong foundation basically right Mr. Prime Minister, We’re now coming up to the end of our segment. I have a number of questions here from members of the public. The first is on the topic of this source of natural gas in the gulf of Thailand that will see it’s concession expire in the year 2565-2566
This is probably referring to the Bonkot – Erawan, an important source of natural gas for this country. There isn’t a lot of it though. We’re running out. We’re using it up too fast. If we do use it all up, the concession ends, and we don’t continue it, we won’t have people there anymore. On the other hand, if we don’t use it all up before the concession expires, it comes down to whether or not we can extend our concession. You don’t seem to want an auction, so maybe you should just go and dig it yourself? There isn’t even a company that will do it. You don’t even have the machinery to do it. If there was a private company who had tools to do it, and would oversee it themselves, that would be great. But we really can’t. The second thing to look at is that many people have suggested that we use a different technique entirely. There are acts in place that are trying to deal with this. The problem is that while the acts are ready, the people aren’t ready, or the machinery, and so we can’t do anything until that’s sorted out. Also, if the concession is not extended, it won’t work either because we don’t have anyone to invest. I ask you: If we suddenly lost 2 trillion basketballs you would notice right? In terms of gas, this is something we use in this country. So what do we do? We buy it from other countries. Today, many countries are closing their pipes. They are preparing for the day when they will sell less. What will we do then? Where will we get our power? Think about it like this and you’ll see. If we are capable of digging for this ourselves, using it, and pricing it, does this not need to be controlled? What about the price on the world market? What about other countries? The price fluctuates on how far away they have to export the gas. So they subsidize it and put money into it. So what about now? They’re running out. They buy gas at the same price we do. You keep mentioning that they used to be cheaper. Go look at it. They subsidize it. They are still taking out the same amount. In fact, they are more expensive than us even though they might have more.
You say that we have a lot of gas. How do we have a lot? Do you know this? Can you see this? If we had as much as they say, we would have dug for it a long time ago. We could have just sat back and foreign energy companies would have come. They have world wide data on where and how much there is. I speak frankly, take a look at their statistics. In Thailand, our natural gas and oil is only found in small pockets. To dig it up would be very costly. It would be a huge investment to fund each extraction site. Sometimes you can dig down and find nothing. Even if you dig for 10 or 20 years you still have to take concessions into account. If you find something every time you dig, then we wouldn’t need them. We must understand one another on this matter. You say we won’t have a dialogue about extending the concession and we simply hold an auction. I’d like to raise another point. What do I have to do? Once I know what I have to do I’ll announce it the next day? If I can’t do it, I will tell you. They should take responsibility over the Longkot and the Erawan sources. The public should push them on this because they are the ones who are responsible for making you pay more for your gas. This is because they have to buy more of it from overseas. We only have 1 year where they will invest or not. I ask you: can you set up a business in that time? Can you set up an oil rig? Do you have enough technicians? Maybe you were right because maybe we just don’t have the natural resources. Look at it like this. Please understand.
Many people need water, but can’t build a dam. Many people need gas, but don’t know how to dig for it. Many people need clean energy, but they don’t let us build the system. Many people want cleanliness and to eliminate garbage, but they won’t let us build garbage dumps. So now what? Blame the government for never getting anything done? Where does this misunderstanding come from? Information. Right Lots of reasons. There are also a lot of people out there who would like to see us fall.
There are also issues of politics that the people have expressed interest about.
Isn’t this against the law? Let’s talk about law for a moment. When there are issues, there is unrest. When there is unrest, we have to turn to the law. When we use the law, you say it’s not fair, or that we are taking advantage of people. How is this correct? If you want peace, then don’t incite strife. Politics is not life or death today. Do your homework first. You worry about the politics but it was the politics that brought us here in the first place. You have to look at it like this. I ask that you don’t give them a platform to instigate further disputes. Yes, politics will be important in the future. What we have to do today is to figure out how to improve the system so that it works. At the same time, politics must remain stable. This is why we have to take responsibility. Even if we do all the things I have talked about, if everyone constantly moves against each other, and fight amongst one another, what can we possibly do? We can’t waste time apprehending all of these people. I have said it is not necessary. The ones who are currently apprehended will be released accordingly. I ask that the public pay attention to how much resources this takes. If everyone works against me just for the sake of opposing me, then you have to take responsibility if things go wrong again. I am doing what I can for you, and this is all I ask. Communicating with me you find hard, but denouncing me openly you find easy. I am simply communicating even in the cases where they are called in. You are making this into a bigger deal than you have to. It’s the same old problem.
The people are also worried about problems concerning corruption. Has the recent crackdown improved this problem?
It has gotten better. Corruption has decreased a lot. But it will not be 100% solved if people aren’t invested in finding a solution. It’s as I’ve told you, people try to hide from the issue and point the finger at other people and organizations. When they are found out, they are apprehended. However, there are still those who speak out about this, such as police who are promoted for monetary gain. Whatever the reason, please tell me. I have never given an order to promote this kind of behavior. I have never tried to profit from my position. I want people to work honestly. These multi million baht projects that I have introduced are for the nation. These are not meant to support corruption and deceit. Using the projects to put money into our pockets, this is not the case, I have never done such a thing my entire life. I would not allow my people to do this either. In this economy, how could you do such a thing? From now on, corruption at the state and the private level will be dealt with according to the law. There is also the anti-corruption agency to deal with the private sector. You can see that this process maybe slow but this is because it is something that we must carefully regulate. In summary, I don’t know how many investigations we have yet to do so I don’t know how much budget I have to allocate.
If you find evidence of corruption. Tell us. We’ll stop it. We have to stop them from starting again. But often when one person is stopped, another takes their place. It’s an endless cycle. If this isn’t fixed, it’ll stay the same. How many years has it been? If we want to find a solution we must stop it at the source with evidence, with action, and by punishing those in the wrong. We need to bring in new people instead of bring the process to a halt. Sometimes they can take 10 years. Look at what we’ve accomplished so far. It’s important that we instil a sense of what is right and wrong in the younger generation in our schools. We need to teach children that cheating people is wrong. They might also tell their parents to stop because they would be embarrassed and made fun of for having a corrupt parent. Some people might not be embarrassed though. I don’t know. Money does things to people.
So you instill this in them while they are young but it’s important that adults don’t forget as well.
They should not forget. If they learn it at childhood they won’t forget it when they are adults. They just have to pay attention. If they don’t they won’t remember. We need to teach our kids properly. When we were kids, did we have money? No. We had to survive on monthly wages. When I graduated, my wage was only 1,900 baht.
Last of all, I’d like to ask you about the constitution. Now, there is concern over expressing opinion that is distorted and issues regarding intimidation, whether this is in the form of verbal abuse or disrespect. There was also the recent issue of the ombudsman and the constitutional court ruling of paragraph 61, line 2 on the temporary constitution operation in the year 57 B.E.
Let’s put it this way: Regarding paragraph 61, line 2. Firstly, let’s look at the first part of your question about the distorted communication and verbal abuse. What is wrong about it when it’s written that you cannot spread distorted information, or practice verbal abuse and indecipherable misinformation? You don’t see it? You say we have wronged people. You can’t just say whatever you want without being liable. Otherwise we wouldn’t need the law. This is wrong. The EC is paying attention. It is the police’s duty to enforce the laws. What’s wrong is wrong. If you haven’t done anything wrong then everything is fine. However, the point is, if you act out against the constitution, break paragraph 61 line 2, and then take it to court or even the ombudsman, I have already talked with Professor Wissanu, it won’t stop the referendum. If they say it’s neither wrong nor right, they will immediately throw it out. They’ll take out that bit in paragraph 61 line 2 that stops you from spreading distorted information. The rest of it is still there though. So don’t keep fighting each other. This is all I ask. If the constitution is not passed that’s another issue. It’s always been like this in Thailand. We must understand that no matter what the court decides, don’t think that you can topple the constitution because you have gotten paragraph 61 removed. You can’t do that. That’s what is stipulated by the law. There are actually 2 issues here. The other one was about education right? This 14 year, 12 year periods that I guaranteed would remain the same until grade 12.
And you’ll start this when they are young right?
We can start with young children. I’d like to reiterate this. I have done nothing against the constitution. I let them study the same things, and I allocate the same budget. There are an increased number of students. The other issue I’m touching on has to do with religion. I’m including aspects of Buddhist teachings as I’ve been listening to monks. Professor Meechai has told me there were no issues with this.
Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister.
I had meant to stay calm today but it didn’t happen. I don’t want to ruin this peaceful atmosphere. There were good things that our athletes have brought back to us. The other day, I thanked all those farmers. I’d like to thank them again. They worked with me and helped to get things done. You do not need to thank me at all because that is my job. Even if you don’t ask me to do it, It is still my duty. They grow rice to feed the people, so I have to take care of them. Think about it like this, so you will take the initiative to help others. I think about this all day and every day. Those who work are tired. This is normal. So I apologise. I follow up on every issue that I have started.
I’d like to thank the Prime Minister as well as the leader of the NCPO for being with us tonight. Thank you.
To all the viewers at home, there have been many stories that give us hope. Our government and the NCPO are doing their best. There are still many issues that need to be addressed. These things can take a while to fix but it’ll be worth it because we will have a stronger, more sustainable country. Today, I’d like to thank all of you for tuning in and listening to what we have to say on returning happiness to the people. So from the Prime Minister, the head of the NCPO and myself, good night.