National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, July 15, 2016
Good evening dear Thai citizens.
As next week will mark Asalha Puja Day, a very important Buddhist occasion where all Buddhists will venerate the Lord Buddha and the onset of Buddhist Lent, I would like to invite all Buddhist Thais to carry out virtuous deeds and uphold the five Buddhist precepts as a tribute to Their Majesties on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of His Majesty the King’s accession to the throne as well as Her Majesty the Queen’s 7th Cycle Anniversary this year. On this occasion, I ask that all Buddhist temples and Thai Buddhists offer their highest felicitations to Their Majesties with a special blessing called “Bot chant ChalermpraKiart” in celebration of Their Majesties.
During this religious festival, I have some particular things to share and put forth to the Thai people.
The first thing is refraining from drinking alcohol during the Buddhist lent season, which lasts 3 months of every year. This will benefit yourself and your family, and while doing so, reducing or quiting smoking would also be a good thing.
The second issue concerns recreational activities that are part of religious activities at the temple during this season. The candle ceremony for Buddhist Lent is a tradition that is enjoyed by many, but there have been cases where inappropriate behavior has been carried out, such as provocative shows and even gambling. Therefore, I ask that we think about being good role models for the younger generation and refrain from corrupting this religious festival with such inappropriate conduct.
The Pavarana Ceremony is a 2,000-year-old ritual which allows monks to discuss, caution and advise, or ask questions of each other. It marks the end of the 3 lunar months of Buddhist Lent. I think this is a useful exercise as it advocates constructive discourse, which is a basis for a democratic society. We can make use of this approach in our society, so that we have more opportunities to listen to each other and to different opinions, with explanations based on reason, rather than arguments only to win over each other, so that we can all peacefully coexist.
I would like to congratulate and commend a group of 21 young singers aged between 12 and 21, who recently won gold medals from two international competitions they took part in, including the ninth World Choir Games in Sochi, the Russian Federation. The group sang a song called “Kham Laew” which was composed by His Majesty the King. It was very thoughtful of the team to perform a song composed by His Majesty the King for an international audience. On behalf of all Thai citizens I send them our support and encouragement, and this also goes to every member of every team representing our nation abroad at the moment.
At the 2016 ASEAN University Games in Singapore, I have seen in our athletes unity and solidarity, pride in our nation, and teamwork, which happens when everyone works together to achieve a common goal, through performing their own tasks to the best of their abilities, while also helping each other out. In general, these are the essential elements for our ability to cooperate and work together in the 21st century and what our country is in need of at the moment.
Moving towards the Thailand 4.0 era is a transformation of our country’s development efforts. Instead of introducing short term solutions like we did in the past, we must find mechanisms and implement policies that create sustainability, with clear policy frameworks in line with global development trends and that of the United Nations. Thailand and our CLMV neighbours form a part of ASEAN and we should become ‘stronger together’. Thailand should, therefore, use its geographical advantage and readiness to play a leading role to become a hub for the following:
1. To make Thailand transportation and logistics hub – where the government has been bringing about the 1-meter dual rail project, which has 6 routes and a combined length of 905 kilometers, to be completed in 2020. The project must be transparent and open to scrutiny. As for phase 2, seven routes will be constructed, with a total distance of 1,600 kilometers. Phases 3 and 4 span 800 kilometers long. All of these projects will be open for service in 2022.
This government will start laying the foundations so that Thailand can one day have connectivity between all regions of the country, and connectivity with our neighboring counties. For instance, Lao PDR is constructing a high-speed train. I have talked to the Prime Minister of Lao PDR. He said if Thailand did not plan to build one, there would be no connection for the system in his country, so there will need to be this link between Thai land and Laos PDR. We have to talk to other involved countries as well, so that this project can happen. The aim is to link sister cities like NongKhai and Vientiane, for example.
We are also implementing a project to build four 1.435-meter dual tracks. Negotiations will be held to discuss on the model of cooperation, how investments will be made, and how to protect the country’s best interest.
As well, we will make preparations to use more marine transport, for instance overhauling the Sattahip Commercial Port to develop the shipbuilding industry and ferry ports, including the possibility to cross over from this side to HuaHin in the future. As for air transport, we will improve the capacity of U-Tapao Airport to 5 million passengers a year. The capacity will increase to 3 million next year. We will also enhance Thailand’s aircraft maintenance centers.
Given this, many countries see the importance of the CLMVT nations, as we are considered the supply chain of ASEAN. Therefore, the CLMVT countries should develop joint strategies to strengthen our region. We must focus on building connectivity in terms of roads, bridges, rail, water, and air. This is to connect ASEAN members and other countries like China and India and the Eurasian region.
2. To make Thailand a tourism hub, the government will be promoting tourism in local communities. This will be incorporated into the provincial economic development 4.0 policy. We will then connect with neighboring countries in accordance with the “Stronger Together” concept in order to make ASEAN strong. The tourism promotion campaign is called Thailand +1 in the form of a Joint Tourism Package and 2 Countries 1 Destination package. The campaign is expected to bring development to border areas as well. This will benefit ASEAN altogether.
According to a recent survey, Thailand will see up to 34 million visitors next year, 2 million higher than the previous year. This will involve expected revenue of more than 2.84 trillion baht. We must make sure that our country has stability and is safe and secure, and address all existing problems such as corruption and crime. Everyone has to help take care of our tourists. Please make our country safe for visitors. We must refrain from conflicting and confronting with each other, and the economy will improve. Another interesting survey shows that more than 8 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand in 2015. The number of Chinese tourists has a tendency to reach 25 million in the next decade.
Therefore, we must be ready and have particular measures in place such as tour guides, safe transportation, and guides with Chinese language skills. Thais and Chinese go back a long way in terms of history and ancestry. We must be able to maintain balance in the ecosystem and the rehabilitation of natural attractions and tourist venues. We cannot only focus on the revenue but must look after every sector, especially local communities who will be increasingly exposed to mass tourism, such as in the case of Noppharatthara Beach-Pee Pee Islands National Park, where through the Pracharat approach, we have successfully managed to raise awareness of natural conservation and sustainable tourism. Thanks to this policy implementation, the park’s income rose from 20 million in 2015 to 300 million baht during the first 6 months of 2016. If other places implement the same policy, they should be able to earn more income as well.
In addition, we also have health centers and crop processing centers. The government has many measures to promote these sectors, such as the establishment of “Food Innopolis” which aims to excel R&D and innovation in the food industry. This can also help enhance Startups and SMEs. Believe it or not, according to latest data, the cosmetics industry has not been affected by the current fluctuations in the economy. The industry has great potential. Many Thai cosmetics companies are named after Japanese or Korean words. They were thought up in Thailand, but were partnered up with other countries for production through business matching. So we need to think more about producing these items at home, such as, cosmetics made with Japanese tomato extract and snails.
The reason why I gave these examples was because I wanted to stress the importance of research and development. Research and development institutes that we are supporting should take into consideration market demands, both domestic and abroad. Innovation must be certified by the Thai Industrial Standards Institute or the Food and Drug Administration. I also ask you to study the market and businesses rather than over-compete and flood markets with the same products. Any investments should be made prudently and with risk assessments, as according to the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy of His Majesty the King. Otherwise, prices will fall due to oversupply as has been the case with agricultural products. A business must examine all production stages, which means assessing market demands and having a plan – from where to get finances to where to start and how to further develop the product should it do well in the market, etc. For this, the government has various funds that support businesses with potential.
Therefore, the government has supported OTOP products through the Pracharat OTOP programs. This OTOP Pracharat approach seeks to enhance the quality of such products by introducing rankings, ranging from OTOP Classic 4-5 stars, to OTOP Premium and OTOP International. These products will be sold on airplanes, airports, the 148 Pracharat shops at PTT gas stations, as well as e-commerce websites. There are currently 40,000 producers participating in the Pracharat OTOP program, approximately 600 of which are SMEs, with a registered capital under 10 million baht. There are a total of 80,000 products which, in turn, is worth approximately 100 billion baht in income per year.
The Cabinet most recently implemented a policy to assist communities through a program where purchases of OTOP products can be tax deductible up to 15,000 baht, beginning August 1-31. The Government may lose some of its revenues through this programme, but we view this to be worthwhile, given the benefits that communities will receive. We want to see these businesses thriving. This comprehensive approach, which considers linkages in the production chain, value creation, along with effective tax measures and other incentives, will be worth it in the long run. As estimated 10 billion baht that will be earned by communities throughout the promotional month. Therefore I would like to invite all citizens to support local products through the venues that I’ve just mentioned as well as at the upcoming OTOP Silpachip Fair from August 12-20 at Impact, Muang Thong Thani.
As for being a hub in other dimensions, there are many areas, such as for regional export. This can be achieved by persuading large international corporations to consider Thailand as a regional headquarter, or to be a production base, especially within the government’s 10 targeted industries. For example, major automobile manufacturers have expressed interest in investing in hybrid production lines and a 20 billion baht investment budget has been quoted. This will also require research and development, technology transfer, etc, with other countries, such as on electrical motors and batteries.
All This would require negotiations regarding incentives for the establishment of factories, tax benefits as well as other incentives. All countries provide incentives for investment, but we must also take into consideration potential environmental repercussions, as well as how the public and communities will be able to benefit from such investments. We must work together and think about this matter. The most important issues are political stability, peacefulness and orderliness in our society, as well as clear national policies. For stability, the government deems it necessary to establish a 20 year national strategic plan that complements the national economic and social development plan. This will all coincide with the suggestions presented by the National Reform Steering Assembly. Investors require assurances and the government must provide long-term confidence.
The most recent reports show that Japanese businesses remain confident in Thailand and have expressed interest in continued investments, and not only in areas where Japanese investors already possess expertise and strong production lines in Thailand, such as within the automobile, electronics and electrical appliance industries. They also plan on introducing more advanced technology in the production lines as well as expanding to emerging industries as well as the service sector. These investments include.
1. Investments in research and development for supporting existing businesses.
2. Establishing international headquarters.
3. Establishing international trading centers, which coincides with the policy by the Board of Investment (BOI) to support investments in new industries.
In the past 5 months, the BOI has agreed to support a total of 121 programs by Japanese investors, with a total worth of over 20 billion baht.
In order for Thailand to serve as a leading country among ASEAN countries, as well as the region’s hub for various sectors, we need to enhance our competitiveness in management and in product standards, while also establishing infrastructural networks, both in logistics and in information and communications technology.
The government has thus invested, in this first phase for 2016, 15 billion baht on a high-speed internet program with them aim to cover all households. In the second phase in 2017, 5 billion baht will be invested in increasing internet connectivity with other countries. High-speed internet is an important medium for transferring know-how to communities and educational institutions. It can also make products, services and transactions available to remote communities in all regions, resulting in a fully operational online business network. For the transportation of people, goods and services, all of these have to be connected, including the country’s special economic zones, ports, industrial cities and clusters.
This includes elevating digital community centers to serve as distance learning centers, where the public and farmers can learn ways to establish and support businesses, as well as ways to establish e-commerce shops to accommodate global market trends. Transactions can then occur frequently through mobile devices, followed by online networks and cloud technology.
Therefore, SMEs need to modernise and adopt e-commerce technology. I would also like you to make sure that the disabled receive access to these resources and services as well. Thus I’ve instructed the ICT Ministry to provide more care for the disabled through the use of digital technology. The goal of establishing digital community centers is to incubate 1,500 tech startups, SMEs and micro SMEs within a year and a half, to develop approximately 300 products and at least 10,000 community e-commerce shops. Another goal is to produce 1,600 “smart farmers” who incorporate digital know-how, focusing on organic products such as rice, vegetables and fruit. This goal also aims to incubate SMEs, create 15,000 e-commerce shops and feature 100,000 high quality products. All these have been implemented and will need to be expedited.
Various community markets have also been organized under this administration and must be continually expanded. This administration supports the establishment of markets to serve as alternatives to middlemen and the predicament of having to sell products in far-out locations. Most importantly, markets selling organic products are in high demand and serve as good alternatives for consumers. We need to increase the amounts of such markets across the country. Today, many farmers are in trouble because they need to travel far to sell their products, while some have had to sell only to middlemen, resulting in lowered prices. Today, we need to utilize such venues to buy and trade community products and Pracharat OTOP products in order to maintain control of prices according to real market conditions.
We need to support know-how, whether it is regarding accounting or the use of computers. Information and communications technology can be used to manage traffic, parking spots, waste management and public services. People in local areas also need to take more initiative in addition to the government’s support. You do not have to wait for the government to take action. The benefits are for you to have. We also need to be more innovative in running our businesses. The government and civil servants, meanwhile, must also service the public by considering an entrepreneurial mindset when trying to find solutions. Through the Pracharat approach, we should establishment community boards that can help create sustainability and from there, we can have additional projects such as business matching, exhibitions, seminars, or even cultural performances.
Today, the government has already begun a “model plan” at the Krung Kasem Canal Market next to Government House. Now, we are developing it further into a floating market whenever the water level will allow for it. We are also introducing water transportation in the area. The Ministry of Interior has already done this in cooperation with the BMA. In other provinces, we have opened 2,039 community markets. The government has brought together farmers, OTOP Pracharat operators, civil servants, businesspersons, and blue flag product deals, resulting in sales of over 5,600 billion baht. The end goal will be moving towards a “District Market”, and a “Tambon Market”. For now, we shall start things to promote tourism and connect to each community. Large projects that require substantial budgets take time to complete. However cooperation from the people will be decisive in making such projects precede quicker.
Another important issue is that of labor or human resources. This matter is very important for this government. Currently, we have a workforce made up of type 1.0 who only do manual labor, type 2.0 who use small tools and equipment, and type 3.0 who use small, medium and large equipment. There are many issues that that need to be addressed before we achieve the 4.0 status at once. The workforce must adapt. The workplaces must adapt. We must upgrade ourselves and teach ourselves to use modern technology. In the future, we will see more machinery and intelligent devices being used. In particular, we will see this in the 10 target industries. I have already asked the Ministry of Labor and the other related agencies to conduct a study to find out what work force will be required in the future, so that a work force database can be created. The next step will be introducing measures to promote knowledge and skills in order to accommodate developments in the future.
There are some interesting statistics. The estimated demand for labor in the next 10 years, from 2016-2025 will increase by 2 million people to 39.4 million in 2025. This can be divided up into:
(1) Labor in the logistics industry which will require an increase of almost 200,000 people in the next 5 years. This includes 150,000 workers, and 8,000 technicians. As an example, once the national rail transport project is complete, Thailand will require a labor force to keep the system running. Between 2017 and 2021, this will require 25,000 workers made up of 4,500 engineers, 9,000 technicians, and over 10,000 others like drivers, artisans, and station employees.
(2) Labor in the automotive industry. Manufacturers of auto parts will require an estimated additional 70,000 people within the next 5 years. And (3), Labor in the tourism and services industry. It is projected that we will require over 600,000 people in the next 5 years.
This data has been discussed in a recent Cabinet meeting and I have instructed each relevant ministry to use these figures to develop policies and strategies for tangible results.
So far, the government has made progress in the management of the national workforce in many dimensions including: (1) the creation of jobs and incomes through “Smart Job Center” that has resulted in 440,000 people finding work, and has generated more than 62 billion baht in income.
(2) The export of workers to other countries – This has accounted for 80,000 workers who have earned a combined total of 66 billion baht in remittances.
(3) The promotion of careers for unregistered workers through offering funds, which has seen the emergence of 280 groups who work from home.
(4) wage rate setting for an additional 20 jobs with workers earning up to 550 baht per day depending on the skill level.
(5) The employment of over 7,000 disabled persons, which we will need to continue to increase into the future.
(6) The development of labor skills in Thailand for over 2.7 million people.
(7) Increasing labor productivity. We have reduced production costs by over 400 million baht.
(8) Introducing tax breaks for employee training costs. Per year, this accounts for 2 billion baht.
And (9) The development of over 30,000 workers for special economic zones and for the southern border provinces.
In terms of changing our system of management for foreign workers, we have accommodated becoming a part of the ASEAN Economic Community. In particular, within the CLMV countries, we now have a shared responsibility in all aspects which includes everything from sending workers abroad, to bringing them back, and looking after them throughout the process to ensure that they are treated fairly. Currently, we have moved forward with the following:
(1) Imported more than 300,000 workers in accordance with the MOUs.
(2) Introduced registration for over 160,000 foreign workers in the fishing industry and sea aquaculture.
(3) Introduced new registration for over 70,000 workers whose original licenses expired.
(4) Checked the work of over 80,000 foreign workers.
And (5) Proceeded with over 3000 cases of employers and workers who have violated the law. This is one measure in which the government is using to prevent and combat human trafficking.
In addition, within the international community we have placed great importance on the protection of workers to promote their general welfare and safety standards. This government has submitted its ratification for the ILO convention (which has been neglected for the last 10 years) in the areas of:
(1) The ratification of the convention for maritime workers so that Thai crews, workers and ship owners will be protected under international standards.
(2) The ratification of the convention for the framework to promote the implementation of occupational health and safety measures. This will ensure that Thailand will adhere to international standards and the development and the improvement of labor laws including:
(1) Issuing ministerial regulations that prohibit certain employers from hiring people under the age of 18 to prevent human trafficking.
(2) The preparation of a database for young labor force. This is part of a plan to tackle the problems of child labor in accordance with international standards. Other than this, we have also reformed social security. We have enhanced and expanded the rights of workers who can now enjoy compensation for childbirth, child allowance, compensation for loss of income for life and from disability, as well as coverage for agriculture and fisheries.
All this must be done as a system based on international standards. This will serve to support progress towards the Thailand 4.0 status in the future. All these things will require a budget and increased revenue, and for this, expanding commerce and investment in the country is needed. If we cannot increase our income and stick to the same methods, things will not make progress as everyone anticipates.
One important thing about the development of human resources is learning. I have spoken on this before. (1) We need to promote lifelong learning skills. This begins in the development of young children in pre-school. They will be our future in the next 20 years. That’s why these are essential skills for them.
(2) Second is education that can lead to reducing social disparities – as the differences in our society remain very high. There are big differences in income levels, based on careers. Therefore proceeding towards Thailand 4.0, will also be a way of increasing our national GDP. However, we are still concerned about the labor force, the 1.0 group who only use manual labor, the 2.0 group who use small equipment, and the 3.0 group who use small and large equipment. These groups are still essential but we must develop them to use more technology. However, we must also be careful so that the increase in our use of technology will not lead to a drastic reduction of jobs in these fields. Otherwise, we’ll have people out of work. What would they do then? This has been addressed by many companies already. We must develop the skill sets and the craft of these workers to meet modern requirements.
The government places a lot of importance on this group. This also includes farmers. We must help, and support each other. We can’t leave anyone behind. We must be strong together. We must solve these problems in our labor force, especially in our factories. We must bring them into the new era. I have already discussed possible measures that can lead to the development of skills, but it is also up to workers to do the training and develop themselves accordingly. Those who don’t have work may need to turn to agriculture, and the government will need to render support for these cases. Those that are unemployed, if they choose to produce something, it must be something of value in order for you to earn a living. This is an important issue for me. So please do not assume that the government is favoring big business, as we have put our focus on uplifting SMEs and assisting those in need, etc. Large corporations contribute by bringing substantial revenue for the country.
Finally, during the period of July 14th to 16th 2016, I am traveling to attend the 11th annual ASEM meeting in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. There, the leaders from the 51 ASEM member countries will discuss cooperation in various areas including sustainability, climate change, promoting maritime security, as well as setting a vision for our third decade of inter-regional cooperation between Asia and Europe under this framework.
Next week, I will come back and tell you about the results of this meeting. During the upcoming long holiday, I wish that everyone will spend valuable time with their families. I hope everyone travels safely, and avoids drinking and driving, and speeding. There is no law in place that can help you if you have injured yourself in that way. You are responsible for that. Please remember that it’s up to you to protect yourself and the ones you love. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the police, the army, the civilians and the volunteers who will take the time to oversee public safety over this holiday. I would also like to offer my support to those in the southern border provinces who will have to look after the people and protect themselves as well, while creating peace in the area.
Thank you very much. I wish happiness to you all. SawasdeeKrub.