National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, September 23, 2016
MC: (Maj-Gen. Weerachon Sukhon-tapatipak)
Good evening, I’m Major General Weerachon Sukhon-tapatipak, deputy government spokesperson. Welcome to the “Returning Happiness to the People” program.
Today’s program is a special edition. I’m accompanying the Prime Minister to New York where he is taking part in the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Prime Minister is here with us now. Good evening sir.
Good evening all Thai citizens watching at home in Thailand and overseas.
Of course, while attending this year’s assembly, you have a lot of interesting things you want to share. Like the other weeks, Mr. Prime Minister, you normally start the program by congratulating some members of the public on their outstanding achievements. Do you have any particular group of people you would like to praise today?
PM: Yes, let’s start off with the 2016 Summer Paralympics. I watch our athletes whenever I can. I was informed of their achievements periodically until the last day of the event. We did very well, breaking our own record by clinching the most medals since we first attended this competition. Our goal was only 4 gold medals. In the end, we claimed 6 gold, 6 silver, and 6 bronze medals.
This great achievement brought happiness and pride to our nation. As I mentioned before, it is not only about winning medals or striving for accomplishments, but it is also about advancing and developing our potential. Thus, in this case, we can see how our disable athletes were able to improve their sports skills, not to mention the continuous support for our athletes by coaches, sponsors and other related agencies. The government will render full support. I would like to encourage the private sector to sponsor these athletes as well. They are a driving force of our nation.
MC: Not only has the government been offering support and other kinds of assistance to the disabled, there has also been assistance to people with visual impairments though the project “From Street to Stars”, giving the blind an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. Can you talk about this welfare service the government is offering to the disabled?
PM: Many assistance and measures were initiated by Mr. Montien Boonton. I’m now pushing for the “Wanipok” musical program to be internationally recognized more, so that such musicians can have more opportunities. This will involve registration for disabled persons, so that they can receive better government assistance. As for that programme, many companies are interested in the program.
The disabled registration system allows us to know that there are 1.6 million people with disabilities in Thailand, accounting for 2.43% of the population. Therefore, we must have an effective database and management system, so that we can turn data into information to be incorporated into our policies such as the e-Government policy. At present, there are three measures in place.
The first one is the disabled registration system like I said before. It links all data from different agencies tasked with providing welfare and job opportunities for the disabled.
The second one is the disability allowance through “PromptPay” system under the government’s strategic plan to develop the country’s electronic payment system.
The third one is career matching. This is done through an online platform under the Pracharat approach, which enables people with disabilities to seek employment faster. More information can be obtained from www.jobpwdthai.org
I want our families and communities to help the disabled. At least, tell them about these opportunities and the access they can have to services, so that they don’t feel left out. We don’t leave anyone behind.
This year, we have helped 34,601 people with disabilities to find jobs, in state offices and private companies, while asking employers to abide by the laws and improve conditions for the disabled. A total of 11,443 organizations are following this law, accounting for 97.07% of all companies employing more than 100 people with disabilities. These companies are required to hire a certain amount of people with disabilities.
Those companies which are unable to employ disabled persons due to job restrictions are required to finance the Fund for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities on an annual basis. The money will be used to fund projects for the employment of the disabled. 120 groups of disabled persons will benefit from this fund. The government is providing 50,000 baht to each group, with 3,015 people benefiting.
I can assure all that all human resources are valuable to the nation. This is why we need to empower them in the most constructive manner.
MC: Before we traveled to New York, USA, there was another important issue which is the enhancement of air transport in Thailand. Mr. Prime Minister, you attended two major events. Could you shed some light on this topic, please?
PM: When we talk about connectivity, we have to take many things into consideration. The first thing is physical connectivity such as linking airports, ports, and piers. Another kind of connectivity is linking people together. Before I came here, I inspected the progress of development projects at two locations,
one of which was Suvarnabhumi Airport. The project was approved in 2010. Despite problems, this government was able to spearhead the project. The project is aimed at increasing the capacity of the airport in light of the increasing numbers of passengers. This move was necessary and had to be pushed. Otherwise, we would lose the opportunity, especially when we hope to become a transportation hub of ASEAN. It is a part of our infrastructure development, and enhancing regional connectivity. We hope to link all modes of transport, be they air, water, land, or rail.
The second phase entails the construction of the east terminal, a concourse, and other public facilities. The project is expected to be completed in November 2019 or in three years. The airport will be able to accommodate up to 60 million passengers a year.
The second place I went to was Phuket to attend the opening of a terminal at Phuket Airport. The construction was carried out under the 2010-2014 budget. The goals were to renovate the main terminal, improve the standards of building structure, expand the airport apron, and improve other facilities. This is to allow the airport to increase traffic flow and accommodate more flights, intending to become a transport hub of the region. This project will increase the capacity of Phuket Airport from 6.5 million passengers to 12.5 million passengers per year.
This is also part of the government’s policies to boost the tourism industry, to encourage tourism activities in Phuket, as well as other parts of the country. We want to expand and access new market segments, as well as countries looking to do business with us.
I have also instructed responsible agencies to speed up the development of other airports such as U-Tapao, and Don Mueang among others. All the projects will be implemented transparently under the CoST system, just like any other project. This is to prevent corruption.
These two projects are for the enhancement of the country’s basic infrastructure. We must also connect ourselves with other nations. We need to reorganize what we have in the country first, then reach out to the CLMV region and other parts of the world via land, rail, water, and air transport. It allows people to commute more conveniently. It also enhances people’s well-being. With more tourists coming in, the expected numbers are 12 and 6.5 million people,
we also have to ask ourselves whether we can be ready to host them. The need to accommodate these people pushes us to develop many tourist destinations, creating jobs and the value chain. This is why investments are necessary. Investments bring jobs and income to local people. We must prepare ourselves, in terms of food services and the convenience of access to places such as historical sites.
At the same time, such investments should not disrupt the local communities. This is why I asked what people would get from airport development? This is the reason why the effort must be coordinated between different agencies and not only the Ministry of Transport. All people’s benefits must be considered. This is how we improve our economy.
This is also to improve the country’s competitive edge.
To improve competitiveness means if we have a well-structured logistics system, investors will want to do business with us. They will want to be associated with us. Competitiveness increases attractiveness. As for Thai entrepreneurs, they will be able to produce and transport goods by different modes of transport from their production plants to desired destinations. This reduces delivery time and cost.
MC: At Phuket, Mr. Prime Minister, apart from opening the newly-renovated terminal, there were two other important events including “Startup Thailand & Digital Thailand”. Why was Phuket chosen to be the host? And how can we make Phuket a ‘smart city’?
PM: As we all know, Phuket is an island city, the biggest island in Thailand. It is dubbed as the pearl of the Andaman Sea, thanks to the beauty of its nature, way of life, culture and traditions, unique architecture, and a wide variety of local cuisine. Phuket is known worldwide. Phuket is also recognized by UNESCO as “City of Gastronomy”. We first have to look at all the ten ‘smart citie’ and what they represent, their strengths. Phuket is filled with delicious food, attractive destinations, and growth potential in terms of a digital economy. We thus had to focus on the city’s strengths. However, we cannot simultaneously implement the same project in 10 cities. We must first start with the places with most potential.
Phuket is one of the first two cities with the highest possibility of becoming a super cluster. Chiang Mai is the other choice. Khon Kaen is also on the list. However, they require different amounts of investment budget. We will do it all. All provinces in Thailand will be introduced to this smart city project. Thailand will be stronger and our capacity will increase. To be successful, I think the Pracharat approach is key to mobilizing the country to the Thailand 4.0 policy. Our country has experienced different eras – 4.0, 3.0, 2.0, and 1.0. How can we turn 3.0 cities into 4.0 cities? Phuket has what it takes. We only need to give it a push, turning it into a ‘smart city’ in accordance with the government’s development policy.
Phuket’s strengths are also in public services, with cooperation from the civic sector, the people, and the private sector, or so called “Pracharat,” approach, with concrete results in creating added-value. For instance, Phuket is famous for passion fruit, goats milk, prawns, and batik fabric. In terms of tourism, they have community based tourism.
When more tourists come in, there might not be enough hotel rooms. So I discussed an idea to build guest houses in local communities, or so called “homestays.” This is to encourage a sense of local ownership for development and growth within communities. This is also in line with His Majesty the King’s teachings. It allows us to work more integrally. Every ministry and department is required to work in unison, together with members of the public, taking all factors into consideration from upstream to downstream. With public participation, stability will start from the roots, then expand. This creates a value chain and innovation.
It is also in line with the government’s special economic zone development project in the form of clusters. This case can be called part of the “food services” cluster. Tourism has great potential. It will be mobilized under the digital society policy, pushing for the implementation of many development projects, namely in infrastructure and the environment. This is to gear Thailand towards the “7-dimensional city” concept, which
Includes the economy, tourism, security, environment, public health, and education and good governance. The newly-established Ministry of Digital Economy and Society will be the core agency in driving the ‘smart city’ policy in parallel with the nation’s digital development plan. A digital platform can reduce costs at an unimaginable level.
With digital technologies, we are able to access information on infrastructure, processing, agriculture, and innovation. Without these technologies, prices of crops will remain low, etc. We will work with the BOI in getting the private sector involved in investment projects.
Mr. Prime Minster, you earlier mentioned about economic clusters. Right now, our focus is on Phuket. Other provinces may have questions if they will benefit from this project or one day become a smart city like Phuket. How can development expand to other provinces?
I don’t want you to think of it this way. Thailand has 76 provinces and a capital city, Bangkok. Like I said, growth will be realized regionally. For example, special economic zones in the southern region will serve as the main economic drivers. Phuket is the core driver of the five-province region comprising Phuket, Phang Nga, Ranong, Krabi, and Trang. A recent meeting discussed ways to strengthen this five-province region, which is a part of the entire southern region. There are many provincial groups in southern Thailand and Thailand is composed of 4 different regions. There are 18 provincial groups. We need to first find the core province or region that will expand to other regions. The logistics system will be better connected.
The meeting also discussed the improvement of spa-cities, with saline hot springs as the main attractions. There are only two of these places in the world. It is believed that these hot springs can treat several illnesses. This has been supported by scientific research. This can help to promote health tourism and boost local businesses.
We then look at the logistics system. We have the Andaman Romantic Road. The distance is around 40 kilometers.
We also have a 30-kilometer cycling track. If successful, it will increase tourism revenue from 40 million to 2.5 billion baht per year in the future. But we must improve the whole system first.
The third one is to increase roads for tourism to the Andaman, to four lanes. There are many roads that fall into this category such as Petchakasem Road linking Ranong, Ratchakrud, Takua Pa and Khao Lak, with a combined distance of 270 kilometers. We also have Road 4027 running 13 kilometers. These are the main roads that have to be connected, which will enable the country to accommodate more tourists. This helps to ease worries of metropolitan people and alleviate traffic congestion in big cities. Tourism, transportation, agriculture, and the connection of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand
were presented to the meeting, which agreed in principle to spearhead the project. Now I will have to calculate the budget. I told responsible agencies to look into the details and formulate a budget plan. I asked them to incorporate these projects into other development plans. If we have enough from the central reserve, we can allot it. It will take some time.
As for Phang Nga, there is a road that must be coated to prevent accidents. The surface is not up to standard. The Ministry of Transport will work Roads number 4 and 4311. It will be included in the 2017 fiscal budget allocation plan. Next is the construction of road and a bridge on Koh Kho Khao, Takua Pa district. An environmental impact assessment is now underway. We also need to look at the worthiness of the project due to the amount of money we will have to spend.
In Krabi province, a plan to build Lanta Bridge was proposed. The initial phase will be a study of the bridge straddling between Ban Hin and Ban Khlong Mak.
As for Chumphon province, we will look into the possibility of building a rail track running Chumphon and Ranong deep sea port.
As for Trang province, an airport renovation project was proposed. I instructed related officials to draft the budget plan and conduct a feasibility study. We have to be able to forecast if the investment will yield profits.
MC: I’d like to ask you about your participation at the 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York. You had attended numerous meetings, including a special meeting on refugees. Could you please talk about Thailand’s role in the global refugee issue, the policies we’ve implemented, why we were invited to attend the meeting, and what was said there?
PM: I had informed the meeting of what Thailand has done so far. Many countries may view Thailand as a small country, but we have adhered to all international obligations. Of the 65 million migrants in the world, over 21 million are doing so reluctantly under irregular circumstances such as conflict or poverty. They then become a concern to the regions that they are traveling to, as well as countries they are passing through. Thailand is one of these intermediary countries and has been so for over 40 years.
Thailand has always provided humanitarian assistance. Of the million or so stateless migrants, some of them have been nationalized as Thai citizens. We have also provided shelter for around 100,000 refugees fleeing conflict along the borders. These people are the remnants of the 5 million refugees that have come to Thailand over the past 30 years, most of whom have either returned to their countries or moved on to other countries. This number doesn’t include the 3 million irregular migrants as well as an additional 3 million alien workers. These irregular migrants will become a responsibility to our country should they remain here for longer periods of time.
Thailand has had to allocate approximately 180 million dollars per year, or around 0.05 percent of the country’s GPD, for various medical and welfare assistance for these migrants. This includes education and job training for refugees so that they have the means to attaining a secure and prosperous life when they return to their homes.
In addition, related laws will require amendments and enforcement, such as the issuance of birth certificates for those born in the refugee camps, in order to prevent the issue statelessness. We are also deliberating on a bill against torture and forced disappearances, a piece of legislation that many countries are focusing on.
We will also need to reconsider our immigration laws. In order to send illegal immigrants back to their countries, we must have a clear system of verifying nationalities in order to prevent unintended consequences. The committee that is drafting this piece of legislation is taking into consideration the various impacts of immigration laws.
In addition to policymaking, we also need to standardize our screening mechanisms. Most importantly, we must not separate families, as this will increase the likelihood that they can fall victim to human trafficking. We also must enable human trafficking victims who are witnesses of crimes to stay in the country until the case is concluded. We will give extensions for up to 2 years in order to expedite the cases they are associated with.
We will also negotiate with the country we are sending our refugees to, for the acceptance of a first round of 100 refugees who wish to move on to another country. In fact, the remaining 100,000 or so in our country want to return to their homes. We have provided them with employment and income so that they could continue their work in their home countries, rather than being stuck in refugee camps.
Our policy is whoever sets foot in Thailand, we must not leave anyone behind and treat them according to the principles of human rights. The international refugee crisis must be solved at the root causes, which is the country of origin. We must solve these crises by ending conflict and creating safety zones within those countries where the people can go on living while other countries provide them with necessary assistance.
Countries must also turn their attention to the intermediary countries such as Thailand and examine whether they’re taking on an overwhelming responsibility. There should also be assistance to these intermediary countries, including those in Europe. These intermediary countries must have an effective screening and assistance mechanism, which in turn means high financial burdens. These countries must also prevent and suppress human trafficking, as places where refugees remain for extended periods of time are prone to such criminal activities. Thailand has continued to tackle its human trafficking issues.
As for countries that are the destination for taking these refugees, it is commendable that many have expressed their willingness to take in even more refugees than previously agreed on. Therefore, we should increase our financial assistance to countries that have doubled their commitments.
I proposed that the meeting tend to the financial needs of countries throughout the entire immigration route. However, we must also solve the issue at the root cause, which is to reduce the need for migration by reducing conflicts and supporting various development programs to prevent conflicts in the future.
Most conflicts are due to poverty. If we address the root cause, irregular migration can eventually be prevented. I proposed these measures to the assembly and many countries have expressed agreement.
MC: We can see that this was a topic of much importance this year, as it was the first time the issue was raised. In addition, the person who raised this issue was US President Barack Obama himself.
PM: It was indeed his intention to bring up the issue. The US has seen Thailand’s efforts to accommodate refugees and has honoured Thailand by inviting it to attend the meeting on irregular migration.
The US had conveyed its appreciation, through Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russell, to Thailand regarding 3 key issues: our handing of refugees and our participation in the Summit, our efforts to tackle illegal fishing activities or IUU, and our efforts in global climate change with regards to the Paris Agreement. I believe these commitments by our part serve as an important step towards building cooperation and trust.
Another important matter is the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which calls for commitment on a global scale. This isn’t an issue where each country can address in its own respective ways. There needs to be a stage for discussing concerted efforts in tackling the root cause. No group wants to be driven out of their homeland under irregular or violent circumstances.
We must swiftly tackle the issue at its root cause in order to reduce the number of refugees. As for existing refugees, we must provide them with better assistance while minimizing the burden of countries that are accommodating such refugees on a temporary basis. This is a responsibility that all countries must bear. We are committed to leaving no one behind.
MC: In addition to the issue of irregular migration, the UN General Assembly has also focused on the agenda of health, in particular the high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance. Could you talk about Thailand’s role in this issue?
PM: This is also the responsibility of the G77 countries. I would like to thank the Thai Ambassador for mobilizing efforts on this matter within the G77 group.
Antimicrobial resistance is a challenge that many in the world take for granted. People rely on antibiotics for quick fixes to their illnesses. In truth, this is an emerging threat that requires cooperation between countries. If we can’t tackle this issue, it could pose a threat to the wellbeing of the people of this world in the future.
This will be important to achieving global development sustainability, and the differences in development and income between various countries which have led to an imbalance in the capacity to manage each country’s healthcare systems and access to drugs and services. We must therefore create awareness among the citizens of the world regarding the urgency of addressing antimicrobial resistance. That is why this meeting took place.
The UN’s Secretary-General has shown full commitment in raising awareness among the 134 member nations on this issue leading up to this meeting.
MC: Thailand has also led discussions on the matter within the G77 group. Am I correct?
PM: Yes, we’ve reached much progress in discussions at the G77 level. If we don’t control drug-resistance, we will continuously need to use stronger and more expensive drugs. A lot of patients also fail to complete their prescribed antibiotics regimens. Incomplete regimens can result in the bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotics, making future regimens ineffective.
Thailand spends over 10 billion baht per year on antibiotics. We would be able to free up a lot of money if we reduce our antibiotics dependence, as more potent versions become more and more expensive due to high production costs. This reliance would lead to an unsustainable spiral of higher costs for more potent drugs, eventually rendering our current drugs ineffective against resilient bacteria.
When that happens, people who are sick today can’t afford to wait for new drugs to be developed, resulting in potentially higher death rates. Many diseases that have long been under control could make a comeback due to their resilience to current drugs and could mutate their resistant genes into new strains of diseases that are also drug-resistant.
Therefore, what we need to do today is refraining from buying over-the-counter antibiotics, only using them when prescribed by a doctor. Patients need to also complete their prescribed antibiotics regimens. Some sicknesses, such as the common cold, don’t require medication. Rest, exercise and a healthy diet are sufficient to recovering. Also, those trying to self-medicate must be cautions of erroneous information available on the internet.
It is important to provide adequate information to the public. People who attempt to self-medicate using information found in articles or commercials can spend a lot of money taking in drugs and vitamins that are unnecessary for their bodies. I ask everyone to be cautious of this.
This extends to plants and animals as well. As we are all in the same ecological food chain, we are susceptible to contracting diseases from each other. Today, we have organized a healthcare system which guarantees access to medicine, vaccines, herbal medicine, diagnostics tools, and basic public health services at an affordable price.
However, our country takes in little in revenue, but we must continuously fulfill our obligation to care for our population, which is rising each year. With people living longer, our financial burdens will increase every year. Therefore, we will need to enhance our effectiveness in preventing diseases while supporting research and domestic drug manufacturing.
MC: This is an important issue. People may rely on Google for diagnosing their illnesses and self-medicating. This behavior can potentially fuel this antimicrobial threat that you’ve been talking about.
Adding to what we’ve been discussing, another important topic this year at the United Nations General Assembly is the issue of global climate change. Could you please tell us of Thailand’s role in tackling the issue as well as the details of the recent Paris climate agreement?
PM: This is an issue that has been of importance for many countries for a while now. However, not all countries have participated in this Paris agreement. Thailand has had the privilege and honour to take part in this agreement. In the G77 summits, Thailand has introduced solutions to climate change by incorporating His Majesty’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.
Each country differs in its geographical conditions. Some are more prone to floods, heavy rainfall and mudslides, especially island nations. Over 20 countries have taken advance from the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, most of which are island nations.
The Paris agreement is in accordance to the UN’s agenda for 2015-2030 for reducing the average global temperature by 2 degrees celsius.
Once we have taken part in this agreement, we must contribute to the reduction of global temperatures. This requires a concerted effort between various countries and within ASEAN as well. Thailand has promised to contribute to the reduction of global temperatures by the year 2030.
This entails utilizing green technologies in the automobile industry and factories to reduce carbon emissions. Our goal of reducing carbon output by 20-30 percent within 30 years requires a multifaceted approach in multiple sectors. This means changing automobile engines, using biodiesel and gasohol-fueled engines. These technologies are expensive today but we must do our best.
Today, China and the United States, the world’s top emitters of greenhouse has, have taken part in the Paris agreement, in addition to 60 countries across the world, including Laos. These countries account for 47.76 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Thailand pledged to this agreement on September 21, sharing the responsibility with the rest of the world with its commitment towards being a “low-carbon society”.
We will need to draft a low-carbon road map that includes related ministries, such as the ministries of Transport, Natural Resources and Environment, and Industry. We will need to reduce our carbon emissions by 20-25 percent by 2030. We must therefore increase our utilization of renewable energy at a ratio of 60 percent from traditional sources and 40 percent from renewable sources. Other issues to consider include productions costs and the stability of these new sources of energy. We will address these as we go.
Waste-to-energy plans can only be constructed in certain areas, taking into consideration local support and the amount of waste in the area that can be utilized.
PM: The use of electricity generated from waste is only suited for specific areas. Some places don’t have the required types of waste and so aren’t suitable for a plant of that nature.
We must also reduce our use of plastic bags. Today, we have managed to reduce our use each month by over a million tons by encouraging cloth bags on certain days. I have spoken with the Ministry of Property and they have said we can increase that number many times as much by pushing for more of these days.
We could also have a policy where people who don’t use cloth bags have to pay a small fee for plastic bags.
Moderator: A lot of other countries are doing this as well.
PM: We should have this. It’s a viable solution. If you have a cloth bag at home, then you can just bring it with you. Give it a try. Using plastic bags is bad for the environment because plastic don’t biodegrade. Also, plastic garbage is often eaten by animals, which can then die from it. This needs to stop. From this month on, we should try to use less. Maybe we can offer discounts to people who bring cloth bags. If not, then some other incentive.
Another issue is forest encroachment. Fires are lit in the forest quite often, which causes a lot of smoke. Air quality is a real problem for the ASEAN region. To fix this, we’re going to have to try and reduce road transport because it creates a lot of CO2. We should encourage more transport by rail.
Rail transport has seen a lot of development. There are new rail lines which make it cheaper than conventional road transport. The only issue is speed. If we start building double rail lines, we can mitigate this. The time between trains will be a lot less as they won’t have to wait to pass. Of course, we can’t just build it all at once. We have focused on 5 main areas for now in line with our long term strategy. The next government will have to continue where we leave off. The most important thing is that we follow the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy of His Majesty the King’s.
Today, we need to focus on development along with promoting sustainability. In the past 30 years, we have transitioned from a agricultural country to one that focuses on industrial agriculture. New industries have become abundant and unfortunately some of them have forgotten about the environment. We need to change that.
This will comply with our “Thailand 4.0” goal. We will aim for sustainability in all aspects. In industry we must push for new “green” endeavors.
MC: This is yet another measure that shows to the international community Thailand’s commitment to the environment. This is a very important topic and no doubt will be discussed further at the 71rst United Nations General Assembly. What do you think stands out as the highest priority items?
PM: The first thing we will need to consider is that we are approaching many key changes to the international system. These include the UN Secretary-General and the President of the United States, both of whom will be replaced this year.
The second thing is that Thailand is a member of the G77. In addition, we hold the chairmanship position, which gives us an important platform.
The third thing is that Thailand has been a member of the United Nations for 70 years now and this is the first year that we have started to take the lead with many global issues. We have taken measures to reduce the risk of natural disasters. We have signed the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. We have also joined the Sustainable Development Agenda which has become an international effort. Therefore, we must take concrete steps towards to improving our country; in line with these UN endeavors, in order to bring our nation into a stable, prosperous and sustainable future.
On the topic of sustainable development, I think it is very important that we meet this UN agenda. I believe we can also take it one step further and go above and beyond with regards to the three pillars. These are security, human rights, and peace. From that, we must also look at the issue of illegal immigrants. A lot of them don’t necessarily want to come to Thailand, but are simply passing through. This is an example of how we must uphold these 3 pillars. If we don’t have security, everything else can fall apart. Security must begin with the people. We all need to look after one another and we all have our own part to play.
This is an issue that every country should work together on. If one country doesn’t comply it will have consequences for all their neighbors as well. It is a borderless world. I would like to remind the various media about spreading rumors and twisted truths about this matter. If other countries were to misunderstand, it might be damaging to our country. They will just assume what they read is correct whether that is about unrest in the South etc. These are real issues that we must address but there is no need to exaggerate things out of proportion. This isn’t how we are going to improve our economy. This situation will affect a great number of us and this issue is the root of many of our problems.
Therefore, we need to ask how we can achieve sustainable development under His Majesty’s of Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and in line with the UN SDGs. We must act as a bridge to connect others. No country will be able to stand alone on this issue. We must stand united. We must set aside our differences and leave no one behind. Through this, we can all develop together and we can achieve success together as well. We can no longer have a system where some benefit and others fail.
Therefore, this global linking is very important. I am very proud that we are chairing the G77 this year as well as taking part in the G20 meeting for the very first time. Thailand now has the opportunity to share its viewpoints on the international stage and become a part of the driving force towards the SDGs of 2030. WE are now part of what is called a strategic partnership.
In our unique position, we can connect the gaps between G77 and G20 for the first time. We can utilize the Pracharat model in order to promote sustainable development within Thailand.
This is a very important government effort. We will use this opportunity to exchange ideas and take advantage of the knowledge now available to us so that Thailand with the rest of the world, can work towards a common goal: a better future for all of us.
MC: Mr. Prime Minister, it seems as though in these past 2 years, in particular this previous year, we have seen Thailand take on important roles on the international stage. In this sense, we have also taken on new, important responsibilities. How did all of this come about?
PM: I have mentioned this before both in our country and abroad. Whether we are talking about the land, the sea, in the end, it doesn’t belong to anyone country, but to the entire world. Therefore, we need to give importance to such matters because they affect all of us. Therefore, in important matters like water management, something that Thailand is rather fortunate about, we have been able to mitigate the effect of drought in these last 2 years through proper planning.
Every year, we spend a lot of money on water management to make sure we all have enough. In 2016, we have needed to effectively manage rain water. We took many steps to deal with this. In some areas we got too much rain and then we had to find ways to drain it out towards reservoirs so that we could make use of the water later when we needed it.
We addressed the needs of the public through proper planning and through the hard work of everyone involved. Soldiers from all over the country went out to aid flood victims by delivering food, medicine, and drinking water. They also helped in rebuilding, and restoring properties damaged by the floods. Everyone needs to work together. If we see someone in trouble, we should all offer to help. Many hands make for quick work.
Turning to other matters, you may have heard about Jirapat Thongchum, or Gigi, the girl who went missing on the 18th of September 6 years ago. We are of the assumption that she was kidnapped.
Child disappearance is a very important issue in Thailand. We need to be vigilant and careful. The ones most at risk are children between the ages of 4 and 8 years of age. Therefore, one way we can tackle this problem is to make sure that parents never leave their young children alone or let them stray too far away. These children don’t know any better so it’s up to us to educate them about the outside world and how not to take things from strangers. This is imperative. We should also give our children tags with their address written on them when going far from home.
For older children, we must also take steps. 95% of the children who go missing at this age are actually runaways. This is often times the result of domestic violence. We need to make sure that they receive the love and attention that they deserve. It can also be very difficult for many parents who have to spend all their time earning enough money to take care of their family.
These problems are a contributing factor to human trafficking. I ask that both children and adults to keep vigilant for situations like this. If so, please report it. This includes child beggars, or missing children. We can get these children off the streets and into schools. We have centers for these children in Thunyaburi. If you see something, please call 1300. It is available 24 hours a day.
The story of Gigi makes me very sad. I sympathize with her family. I wish that all of the children who went missing could be returned to their families.
All relevant agencies will do everything they can to put an end to this. Please give them all the help you can so we can bring these children home. Some of them may no longer even remember their own families and my heart goes out to them. Please be careful. Don’t abandon your children.
Another issue I must address was the recent boat tragedy where a ferry capsized killing 28 people. This kind of thing needs to stop. This was something we could have prevented. The ferry was over capacity and the water was very turbulent. The ferry struck a pillar which caused a 9.6 meter puncture which resulted in the boat capsizing and sinking. Those who were still in the belly of the boat drowned. Many of these people were on their way to an event together. I understand that the listed capacity was 100 people but they loaded over 200 on to the boat which was very negligent. From here on out, all these companies must take responsibility for this. They must make sure that people follow the safety rules and that there is sufficient safety equipment on board at all times. No matter how much someone might offer, you need to put safety first.
MC: Are you tired Mr. Prime Minister? You’ve addressed many topics.
PM: Normally, I might have said yes, but today, I’m not. In these past 2 years, I haven’t felt very tired at all because I have something important to work for: the Thai people. I see the hope in the eyes of everyone I meet, and I leave my well wishes with them. I am constantly touched by their kindness and generosity and so I will do everything I can to help them.
To say something is truly solved, we need to make sure that we have addressed the root of the problem. We need to keep moving forward and make sure that mistakes don’t happen again. If we lay a strong foundation for Thailand, we can build a future that is more stable, sustainable and prosperous for us all. We can do this for Thailand and for the United Nations as well. This is why I am not tired. Stressed sometimes, but never tired. I think this is normal for people though.
MC: Mr. Prime Minister, this visit to the UN and United States seems to show that Thailand has a more positive international image than before. What would you attribute this to?
PM: I believe that this is the result of a normal situation in the country. From my meeting with other leaders, many of whom I’m becoming increasingly familiar with, I am very touched that the first thing they would ask me about is how His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen are doing. To this, I reply that Their Majesties are getting on in years and therefore make seldom public engagements. They are receiving the very best care, and are still doing what they can through Their various organizations for the people of Thailand. Under our constitutional monarchy system, HM the King’s royal prerogative has been exercised in governance through the 3 branches of government. Their Majesties have always aspired for the happiness of the Thai people. We therefore should all do our best for Their Majesty’s happiness.
Another thing the leaders say is that they are always impressed with the friendly personalities, reflected in the smiles and expressions of warmth, of the Thai people.
Another thing that they have always commended us for is our food. Today, I flew Lufthansa airlines. I saw they served chicken tom kah. The taste was slightly different but it was good.
But back to the question at hand, what I think has changed for us is that our country is at peace. We no longer have riots. Everyone can travel anywhere in the country easily without trepidation. We must be patient because Thailand has been in a fluctuating state of unrest for a long time over political disagreements. If we don’t overcome our differences, we can’t hope to fully solve this problem, people will be unhappy and the economy won’t improve. This is something important we must keep in mind.
MC: Other than policies overseen by the government being put into practice, how would you ensure that our other practices comply with the United Nations?
PM: I think many countries are the same way in this matter. We look at all of our problems in a big pile. When we do this, we are able to see things differently and we are able to identify the overlapping issues. From there we can see what our end goals are more easily. More importantly, we can see the body of the process. This includes our solutions, which in turn draw on a number of various policies and laws. I think if you were able to view this in the same way, you would see clearly what important issues this government has been able to tackle over these past 2 years. Some things we’ve been able to address faster than others but it’s definitely an ongoing process.
The first step is to put a stop to the conflict at hand. Then by addressing the root causes, we can move on to implement legal and other measures to prevent it from continuing. From there, we need to make sure that the public is satisfied with our solutions.
I must thank many people today. The Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in New York City who has prepared so much work for this endeavor, the officials of the Foreign Ministry based here and in Bangkok, and most importantly, the Thai people who came out to greet us as we arrived. They show real concern for our country even though they don’t even currently reside in it. They shared this concern with me and I will gladly listen. I always say to them that we can no longer live in conflict.
I must also thank our Embassy in Washington who undertook a lot of preparation for this event. This is the second time I have attended this meeting. I have been to both Washington and New York on 4 occasions and there was also a trip trip to California earlier in the year. I was very well received each time. President Obama also had his close colleague, Mr. Daniel Russell, convey his appreciation for Thailand and what we have accomplished in terms of dealing with refugees and attending the Global Refugee Summit, our part in the Paris agreement, and our efforts to tackle IUU fishing. President Obama conveyed his appreciation to me and to Thailand, and my response was that it was an effort by all Thai people, and that this government will honour all of its international obligations as a responsible member of the international community.
Even if the Thai people are experiencing difficulties on some fronts, I think that they will come to understand things and then things will get better, especially for our fishermen. It can be distressing at first for them, given such a problem has been allowed to fester for such a long time. It had gotten to the point where many didn’t even know what the laws were, which ultimately made them difficult to enforce. This government has, therefore, genuinely tried to correct this problem It has been the same with forest encroachment. We’ve let these things go on for too long in the past. This doesn’t just mean we will immediately evict everyone who has made a life for themselves on the edge of these forests, but that we will definitely have to think outside the box to find a solution that works for all of us.
MC: I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Prime Minister for taking the time to share all this important information with us. I’d also like to thank everyone at home for tuning in.
PM: Thank you very much. Sawasdee Krup.