From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – November 11, 2016
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
Today’s topics will be light, but important. It is about how to look after low-income earners as we move and invest towards the Thailand 4.0 era. This drive towards a more advanced economy is necessary but will not mean disregarding low income earners. It will be about creating more opportunities, alternatives and access for all, especially through the use of a digital platform such as through smartphones, etc. This will allow people to learn more about how to make a living, such as about trading and commerce ets. In the end, this will prove beneficial for everyone.
In the initial phase, farmers should form as professional groups in their own area as a way to opening up a new channel, controlling the quality of their crops, and thereby enhancing negotiating power. Of course, the government will not make this compulsory, especially in the world of free trade, but there is nevertheless a real need to change our farming practices in this day and age. Instead of farming individually, farmers are encouraged to work together through the “large scale” concept, so that resources can be pooled and shared more effectively. In this case water demand can be matched in accordance with water supply and there can be calculations and forecasting so as to allow farmers to grow appropriate crops at the right time, as well as crops that meet market demands in the country and overseas.
We should also think about how to reduce humidity levels in our crops, especially rice. Humidity in crops lowers prices. What do we need to do for the farmers to have their own equipment for their communities and cooperatives? The government will therefore engender the creation these farmer groups. Members of the public, farmers, civil servants, and community leaders can help gather information on this matter and help form these groups as well. Farmers should form groups of their own, register, and develop a database in order to support measures in administration and policy guidelines.
At the moment there are over 8,000 cooperatives in Thailand, 4,000 of which belong in agriculture and need support. If they can form together in an official capacity, the government will be able to allocate a budget to assist in their operations and help solve their problems in terms of high costs and machinery, be it milling machines or fumigators. The government will be able to better provide support to farmers as groups, rather than individually. Therefore, I ask our farmers to consider the government’s advice in this area, and we will continue to learn from each other.
As for government agencies that have adopted the King’s Philosophy, with more than 10,000 learning centers being set up countrywide for education on the SEP and the new agricultural theory and to help farmers enhance their production and knowledge of ICT – this is in order to create “smart farmers” for the new era, who are more resilient and skilled. As well, farmers should focus more on cooperating and sharing benefits with each other rather than on competing and undercutting each other in terms of prices. Moreover, if farmers don’t keep their own produce for future consumption or sales, and if they cannot form a professional group of their own, they will not have much negotiating power in the market. So for those that have yet to change – please look at others who have been successful. Many groups and villages have been successful by taking this approach and the Agriculture Ministry stands ready to inform you about this.
The government understands that if grassroots communities are strong, no one can monopolize the market. Once farmers are strong, traders will have to adjust, and mill operators will have to adjust, but all for the better. We are all Thais, so we need to work together for the benefit of the country in this way. So please help each other. This is how the whole cycle from production, processing, innovation, to marketing, can benefit. It creates a healthy chain and an adjustable market mechanism.
Let’s take the “Khaokwan Suphan” project for example. This project has adopted the King’s Philosophy to create an innate will to embrace development, whereby the KhaoKwan Foundation, Rice Mills Association, and the industrial sector have joined hands in improving a rice strain called “Khao Ta Klueb,” a popular rice product of Suphan Buri. The crop is grown without the use of chemical substances, which is good for farmers, consumers, and the environment. Here, farmers can also become partners of the project, turning themselves from only producers to sellers. This is how everyone has adjusted well in the rice cycle. This is also how everyone has lent a hand to improve the rice industry.
As for the overall target for the 2016/2017 rice farming season, it is expected that 57.86 million rai of farmland will be used for in-season rice farming. For land that may not be suitable for rice growing, the government will encourage farmers to replace rice with other crops and cattle, with 570,000 rai in total, where 420,000 rai will be for alternative farming and 150,000 for cattle raising. So far, we have had success in turning 200,000 rai into alternative crop farming zones and 100,000 rai into livestock fields.
As for off-season rice, there are 9.26 million rai of farmland, 2.5 million rai of which will be used for alternative crops and the remaining 6.74 million rai will be for paddies. As for the third cycle of farming, which involves 500,000 rai, farmers will be asked to defer farming for soil rehabilitation.
For all the plantation areas, the government has proposed to assist farmers in terms of cost reduction, crop seedlings, fertilizers, rent, quality control, cooperatives, large-scale farming, technological training, new rice farming practices, certification, water management, irrigation, machinery, and agricultural equipment.
With cooperation from the public and the farmers under the Pracharat approach, the government has successfully converted 600 plots of farmland into large-scale plantations, benefiting more than 97,000 producers nationwide, covering more than 1.5 million ria of agricultural zones. Millions more remain unchanged, so if farmers can form into groups as mentioned, the government can then allot budgets according to the needs of each area.
If the government instead took the approach of trying to look after every individual farmer, we will simple not have enough money to do so. Therefore, not only does forming into groups make the farmers stronger, it also allows the government to cater to their needs more effectively. For example, rice producers will be able to increase production by 13% while reducing the cost by 19%. Furthermore, we can also educate the farmers on crop management, access to financial loans, processing, adding value to products, and marketing.
The government is aiming to turn 400 more plots into large-scale plantations within this year, so that farmers have more alternatives. More importantly, this is in accordance with His Majesty the King’s guiding principles, in which He aspired for His people to be united when it came to solving community problems, which is an important foundation for self-improvement, especially the creation of cooperatives. Everywhere His Majesty travelled to in the country, royal projects were initiated to help the people. His Majesty always stressed the importance of the “group” in addressing problems faced by the community. This is to allow community members to cooperate in the most productive way. As you can see, many successful cooperatives under His Majesty’s projects were formed by small groups of people.
As for the use of digital and online technologies, the aim is not to create market access for any particular group, but rather to introduce new channels and networks for all in order to connect with new customers, such as consumers of organic produce. At the same time, farmers should adapt and become stronger to be able to set fairer crop prices. As for the realization of Thailand 4.0 era, we need to build a system with innovation that allows us to make use of new technologies.
Another example is a group of 24 farmers in Uttaradit. In their 270-rai plantation, they produce 150 tons of rice per year and sell it at 50,000 baht per ton. They have been operating under the “Petch Kho Rum” program and the King’s Philosophy for 14 years, forming a community rice center that promotes organic farming, with products high in nutrition and in market demand. They can also produce rice strains and fertilizers. They have also passed on their knowledge to other farmers and have helped others build their own brands. They also sell their crops online. Those buying from the group can resell the crops at 50 baht per kilogram to retailers and 70 baht per kilogram to end consumers.
Because farming relies on water, we need to understand the basic information about water management both inside and outside irrigation zones. At present, only 20% or 30 million rai of farmlands are inside the irrigation zones. Most of agricultural plantations, 80% or 120 million rai, are outside irrigation zones. Although the government cannot cater to every farm, it can ensure a sufficient amount of water for all types of consumption such as household use, agriculture, production, the industrial sector, and the eco-system.
If we are unable to contain water, or if people oppose the construction of necessary dams or irrigation canals, we will not be able to implement flood management measures effectively. We also need a means to store sufficient amounts of water for the drought season.
Therefore, regardless of the amount of water, the government must implement water management policies to disperse water evenly. We will need to plant crops in accordance to water availability in various areas or according to the correct season. We will examine the crop type, geographical profile, water availability and markets using our Agri Map application in conjunction with advice from relevant government agencies in order to swiftly tackle issues.
The government assures you that we will implement agricultural policies in concurrence with environmental conservation efforts while maintaining an equal distribution of development efforts across various sectors and occupations. Thailand is not only comprised of farmers. Therefore, the government must care for all occupations.
The country’s water supply flows from the north to the central region through the Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan Rivers, passing through the Bhumibol and Sirikit Dams. These water sources all converge into the Chao Phraya River. Currently, we are without a large reservoir that can retain all of the water flowing from the north.
Therefore, if we lack an adequate irrigation system, we will always be confronted with floods and inundation. If we do not effectively implement the King’s Philosophy of Kaem-Ling dams, or fail to construct more dams in strategic areas, we won’t be able to store enough water for the drought seasons.
The challenges we still face stem from opposition from some local communities and environmental impact concerns. We must, therefore, find a way to implement our plans in a way that is environmentally friendly. Otherwise, we will be distressed with the same problems and fail to create sustainable solutions if we merely let all this water flow into the sea.
Should water flow from the north past the Chao Phraya Dam in Chai Nat Province at a rate faster than 2 billion cubic meters per second, and should we fail implement effective irrigation measures, Bangkok and the central region will be flooded and crops will be destroyed. We must, therefore, manage how much water we irrigate and retain at each time depending on current conditions.
At this rate, the government views that areas susceptible to flooding will increase from 1.66 million Rai to 4.12 million Rai, which could result in increased damages worth up 25 billion baht to from 150 billion baht per year.
These issues are the product of the country’s annual cycle of floods and droughts. Keep in mind that in order to effectively tackle these issues, the public will need to understand their nature and thus cooperate with water management policies, otherwise it will affect all of us and we will need to use even more government funds for assistance and rehabilitation.
I affirm that this government will never forfeit its responsibility towards water management, but it also needs help through the public’s cooperation. I also ask NGOs to please understand the context of what the government is trying to do. It is noble to focus on environmental conservation and human rights protection, but consideration also needs to be given to the plight of the poor, the situation of our farmers and the need for development.
Holding the government accountable for its actions is something we understand, but for this particular matter, we cannot control how much rain will fall in a given season. Deforestation has also amplified the impacts of climate change, worsening the affects of flooding which can’t be contained by our existing dams. This excess water will then flow into the central region, causing damage and destruction as I have highlighted earlier.
Therefore, our country is always at risk from both too much and too little rain. These extreme weather patterns are due to changing climate conditions that affect all countries in this world.
His Majesty King Bhumibol has already detailed a water management plan in which we have partially implemented in certain areas. In some areas, we are confronted by opposition from the locals and NGOs. Some areas are still using the same method of temporary assistance that is only short-term and fails to address the root cause. This does not promote sustainability and is continuously drains resources.
I also welcome any suggestions to a plan that may be better than that plan that I have outlined. I also ask for cooperation from locals. Otherwise we will not be able to implement such proposals. This administration welcomes suggestions from all sides. However, cooperation is vital to the successful implementation of long-term and sustainable solutions.
The government is responsible for finding water supplies, markets, as well as ensuring that products are sold at a reasonable price. It is what we must do to alleviate the distress endured by many. However, policies cannot only addresses the symptoms of a problem. We all know the cause of our problems and, therefore, we must concentrate our efforts towards comprehensive, long-term solutions.
I assure you that short-term solutions will never make the problem go away, regardless of the administration. The government is doing what it can to implement long-term solutions in areas where there is no resistance. However, a comprehensive solution requires that we implement our policies in all areas, as they are all connected to the problem.
Solutions must take into consideration all aspects of an issue, whether it be agricultural cycles, seasonality, retaining water with dams, or irrigating water to suitable areas. Without considering all these aspects, we will not be able to decisively tackle the issue.
I also would like to thank those who have given their cooperation in areas that have seen successful constructions of Kaem Ling dams. These areas may need to bear the burden of holding up water for a while. I ask that others contribute by cooperating as well.
Today, the Cabinet has approved the principles of a disaster mitigation plan in the lower Chao Phraya region and has included it in an integrated water management plan, which details an operation plan for the two sides of the Chao Phraya River, as follows:
(1) Irrigation on the west side will include improving the irrigation efficiency of the Tha Chin River at 23 water bends. The project will improve the efficiency of narrow points for a total of 105 kilometers. It will also create 4 bypasses which will reduce the distance of the water stream from 50 kilometers to 10 kilometers, similar to the Khlong Lat Pho project. This includes improving on irrigation from Maha Sawat Canal to the sea.
(2) Irrigation in the east side includes improvements and expansions to irrigation systems which will increase irrigation capacity from 200 to 400 cubic meters per second. Improvements to Chainat-Pasak Canal will increase irrigation efficiency by 4 times. Other projects include improvements to water retention sites along the Chao Phraya River.
This plan will reduce water overflow from the Chao Phraya and Rama XI dams by 1,000 cubic meters per second and help irrigate water from the Chao Phraya and Tha Chin River by 3,100 cubic meters per second. The project will increase water retention capacities by 200 million cubic meters and reduce flooding in 3.58 million Rai in 14 provinces.
Also, this administration’s new integrated water management plan has incorporated many advanced developments compared to the plan for the years 1987-2015. This government has implemented many water management policies according to Royal initiatives, such as,
(1) Past plans lacked plans to find and supply ground water. Since 2015, this administration has drilled over 2,500 wells to produce over 100 million cubic meters of water for 157,000 Rai
(2) In the past 27 years, ground water has only supplied 1,300 farming sites. This administration has supplied ground water to 2,300 sites in the past 2 years at a total of 122,000 Rai.
(3)In the past 27 years, the government has supplied ground water for over 12,000 villages. This government has supplied ground water to over 5,700 villages in 2 years.
(4) The agenda of preventing soil erosion has never been addressed. This administration has sought to this agenda in over 670,000 Rai in the past 2 years.This administration will continue its efforts in all fronts.
As for the issue of forest encroachments, we will need to stop deforestation and prevent any new encroachments. We will also need to implemented forest restoration efforts in conjunction with providing residence and a source of living in the form of community forests for the locals.
The administration has defined forest areas that have been encroached and will reclaim these areas. We will also provide assistance to people who have been displaced. However, we will not support those who are behind deliberate and organized efforts in these encroachments. Today, we will strictly enforce the rule of law and ensure that we mitigate the consequences as best as possible.
The government will take into consideration the legal, political and economic implications of the issue. What many may see are people with low income being displaced. We are trying our best to provide assistance. Keep in mind that there may be people that stand to gain from these encroachments that are using the images of these poor people as an argument against forest reclamation efforts.
Today, everyone should adapt. Whether they be people with low incomes or rich beneficiaries, all must respect and come under the rule of law. This government aims to restore the sanctity of the rule of law. Otherwise, there will be no justice in our society and problems cannot be solved.
As for “reforestation”, I wish to commend Pol. Maj. Wichai Suriyut, who followed the initiative of His Majesty the King under the “Land of Righteousness” project. He began planting with his own 2 hands for over 30 years under his own initiative, without minding what society thought or criticized about him. However, the 3 million trees that he planted have become an inspiration to youths and the Thai people. This is a shining example of how you can do something to benefit society and the country; and pay tribute to His Majesty. I also wish to commend the many other conservation and reforestation groups.
Turning to the issue of car registration, parking and traffic flow, and the matter of sellers on the sidewalk and at the side of the street, which is illegal, in actuality, this is not a typical way of life or a traditional culture of Thailand. This came about as a result of neglect over many years and thus grew into a habit. Not only has this led to disorder in public space, but it has also been a channel for corruption by some officials. In the end, this has infringed upon the rights of members of the public who are entitled to convenience in public space. This is not just.
I must ask for cooperation in this regard. It’s not that we’re trying to chase away low income earners; but the laws cannot be violated. Everyone should understand that government is doing what it can. We are providing designated retail areas with parking to alleviate congestion. This will help both the buyers and the sellers. I understand that it might take a bit of time to get used to, but I believe this will benefit all of us in the long run. Please be understanding of the work we are doing. We will try to fix this problem with minimal distress to those involved, no matter what your income level might be. We will maintain clear guidelines and regulations in this regard.
I hope that you all can see that it cannot be denied that the many problems within this country stem from issues of our education system and learning process. Whether these are societal, economic or political problems, and when considering our drive towards the Thailand 4.0 era, we must focus on the development of our “human resources” and the reform of our education system.
Currently, a key issue in this regard is the many small schools, of which we have more than 15,000. 900 of these schools have less than 20 students. Some of them only have 15 students but have 3 teachers. In spite of this, the government must still provide funding for them in order to provide all the learning materials. Another issue is that we don’t have enough teachers, which means that many of our students may not receive a quality education. These issues have accumulated for a long time and have had far reaching effects into society, politics, and our economy but have not yet been resolved.
This government has started taking steps to fix these management problems in our small schools by conducting a dialogue with the local community. In this way, a larger, regional school may be established. In this way, the school could accommodate more students and provide a higher quality of education through appropriate staffing and facilities. For those schools which may need to shut down, we will let the communities decide what to do with them. We might convert them into learning centers, daycares, or vocational training centers. In any case, the government is standing by to provide full support.
Recently, we have already shut down 286 small schools and we plan to shut down a further 309 over the next school year. This will affect almost 2,000 teachers who will be reassigned to our new 310 regional schools. Essentially, this plan will see 6 additional teachers per school. Upon evaluation, we have seen a positive response from both the students and their parents. I thank all of them for their understanding and their cooperation. We know that your children are most important to you, and we will do our best to look after them by providing a good education. Eventually, we would like the education in these rural areas to be comparable to that in the cities or in the very large schools.
Developing basic education is an important key to the success of the government’s education development work. The Pracharat Project on basic education and leadership development has been operating according to an important principle: child-centered learning. In the end, we want the children to be able to analyze things and take initiative on their own accord. This will foster an understanding of societal responsibility and instill them with morality and ethics. It is also important they learn how to use all the latest technologies through ICT systems.
His Majesty the King once said “Technology is not alive, it has no spirit. Entrusting technology alone to teach is problematic. Nothing can compare to people teaching people and learning from a book.” This indicates how important our teachers and professors are in the education of our children. They can teach them about values in addition to their education. The government places great importance on all educational staff as well as those who continue to work together to improve education in their local communities.
The Pracharat mechanism has yielded results on the development of our basic education. Under the CONNEXT-ED project, the government has been able to provide support to 3,342 schools. This number will increase to 7,424 schools in 2017. These schools will become “Pracharat” schools nationwide. They will focus on producing tomorrow’s leaders. The faculty at each school may decide how they will approach this. This project will also benefit from the support of 12 major NGOs who will provide each school with 500,000-1,000,000 baht.
In order to raise the level of our basic education to international standards, we will set up a research fund to promote and enhance the development of excellence in our education, and technology. There are 4 main areas of technology we will be focusing on: bio, nano, robotics, and digital. We will support new innovations from our upcoming leaders and support regional study centers to comply with the Thailand 4.0 initiative. We will produce “skilled workers” to enter the 10 target industries. We will also enhance national competitiveness within through our own Thai innovation.
I must reiterate that success in this regard requires cooperation from all sectors. In order to build a better future for this country and develop the capacities of Thai people in every region through equitable educational opportunities, we must ask for cooperation from teachers, students, and parents. We are all stakeholders in this endeavor.
The last thing I would like to touch on is volunteer work in every region in honor and tribute to His Majesty the King. You have shown great care for one another. The people who have come from far to pay their respects to the Late King at Sanam Luang and the Grand Palace have joined forces to alleviate their sorrow by being compassionate and cooperative towards each other. I believe this is an exemplary virtuous deed by the Thai people to honour and pay tribute to His Majesty.
In the last 10 years we have not had much focus on making progress together, because of our lack of unity, conflicts, and selfish ways, thus preventing us from reaching our full potential and systematically building a stronger society together.
Given this, if we let things remain the way they are, we may not be able to keep up with the rest of the world. So, we must take action. If we refuse to change; if we continue to value doing things the easy way rather doing things correctly, under laws, and for the good of the nation, we cannot move forward. I’m sure you know what is right and what is wrong. I hope that you will seize this opportunity for change and come together with unity and kindness in honor of His Majesty the King.
On Monday November 14, it will have been 30 days since the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great. The government, during this time of paying homage for His Majesty’s benevolence, and while moving the country forward with stability, will allow for all sectors to resume their activities. At the same time, we also ask for your consideration for appropriateness in reflection of the current public sentiment.
In particular, this includes the “Loy Krathong” ceremony. Those involved should continue this beautiful Thai tradition while maintaining orderliness and safety. In particular, this applies to all the commuters, as well as the participants in the festivals activities. Please be cautious. I ask that the government agencies do all they can to facilitate the public. An important area will be the ferries around the Poh piers and areas where krathongs will be released. I also ask that the Thai people use biodegradable materials in the construction of your krathongs. Finally, I hope that you will be able to share the true meaning of this holiday with your children. It’s not just for fun, but also in honor of Gangha the river goddess.
Thank you very much. I wish you all happiness. Sawasdee Krub.