From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – December 23, 2016

Good evening, dear Thai citizens.

As His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, King Rama X, had graciously granted an audience to a set of newly-appointed Cabinet ministers on December 20th at Amphorn Satharn Villa in Dusit Palace,

on this occasion, I have the honour to relay the Royal address of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, which contains an important and auspicious message for all us which we, therefore, should be most grateful for and adhering to in our daily lives.

The Royal remarks mentioned…”May you all take on the King’s Philosophy of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, by learning and studying His Majesty’s teachings over the past 70 years, as well as His Majesty’s Royal activities, four your endeavours in national administration and for carrying out your various responsibilities. This includes holding them as consummate examples for your conduct in your daily activities, which will be auspicious for you and a guiding light for the Thai people, as well as being in accordance with His Majesty’s aspirations for

the benefit and happiness of the Thai people. Nevertheless, in every endeavor, there will usually be obstacles and problems. May you consult one another, seek correct information, and implement your tasks with carefulness, with suitability to the situation at hand, and with prudence. Such problems and obstacles are tests and lessons you will endure, but they will improve your skills and abilities. Therefore, may you have the determination, patience, and keenness to study and learn from them while you carefully solve them. This will benefit the country as well as your own self.”

The King’s Philosophy can be seen as a “book of life” as it derives from the experiences of His Majesty’s work for the nation, which have successfully steered Thailand through various crises. I would, therefore, like to commend members of the press for presenting the King’s Philosophy in numerous forms, to the Thai people and especially the younger generation, so that they may be able to apply it to their daily lives.

As for the government, we have been progressing with work in protecting our natural resources such as forests, land, water, and wildlife, through the adoption of the King’s Philosophy to maintain ecological balance and attain sustainability. During the past two years, there has been more tangible results than in the past, such as:

1. In terms of forests, we have developed a strategy to increase forest areas by as many as 40 percent in the next 20 years. Measures we have in place include

1) the prevention of 102 million rai of abundant forests from encroachment. There will be no more attempts to encroach upon forests and this will be based on cooperation with the public to be vigilant of such matters,

2) enforcing laws against influential figures in reclaiming forests. At present 430,000 rai have been retrieved and transformed into sustainable land management,

3) Rehabilitating upstream rivers in 13 provinces and preventing future invasion into such areas,

4) establishing 4,000 community forests to allow locals to take care of and benefit from the forests,

5) promoting the development of ‘economically viable forests’ and opening online registration for lawful usage of forest areas,

and 6) solving problems for communities located on 6 million rai of conserved forest land. These problems have dragged on for more than 20 years. Solutions will be provided in accordance with the laws. The most important element is that the local people will be central to caring for and preserving forests, reforestation, making sufficient and effective use of such lands.

2. In terms of land allocation for low-income farmers, the government has drafted an act that will promote the development of your professions. More than 400,000 rai of land in 52 provinces will be allocated in 2017. So please form your own groups.

3. In terms of water resources, we will improve the irrigation system, and provide water to more than 1.4 million rai of farmlands, on top of 300,000 rai of groundwater farmlands. As for areas outside irrigation, we will construct 700 reservoir and water retention areas and 1,700 groundwater wells. In addition, we will improve the water treatment systems in more than 100 areas and will allow water consumers to manage their own supplies.

and 4. In terms of wildlife, we have deployed various measures that are based on international standards and have been acknowledged by international organizations. Feedback has been positive in the area of seahorse protection, where Thailand has been removed from a list of countries being considered for sanctions, and in the case of elephants, where Thailand has improved on the CITES list concerning the ivory trade.

The King’s Philosophy has taught us that sustainable development requires balance in the economy, society, and the environment. Another important aspect is to strengthen our foundations, which implies strengthening our local communities.  His Majesty King Rama IX had emphasized that “the first lesson is to let the local people be our teachers and for the people to be at the centre, by underscoring the importance of creating an innate will to develop, rather than relying on external influences.”

Takethe Ban Hua Ao community in Nakhon Pathom for example. It is a model organic community that has adopted the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to address its problems. The community used to be heavily reliant on conventional agriculture in which productivity was dependent on soil, weather, diseases, pests, and other factors. This led producers to use chemical substances, driving up production cost and lowering household income. Some families had to borrow money while some had to sell their farms. Chemical substances lead to diseases and destroyed immune systems while at the same time, damaged the land and natural resources.

After forming a collective of their own, from small groups into a large group under the Pracharat approach, they were able to form a network comprising civil servants, scholars, the private sector, and civil society. They started using less chemical substances and more of organic fertilizers and other organic methods. This has proved to be a successful move as it reduced production costs and saved 2,000-3,000 baht from farmer’s medical bills.

Afterwards, the farmers learnt how to maintain quality and rehabilitate soil, keep track of household spending, build connectivity between producers and consumers of organic products such as restaurants, penetrate new markets such as “Suk Jai” markets and the online market, get their organic produce certified to meet international standards, and set up a Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and New Agricultural Theory learning center in accordance with the ways advocated by our ‘Royal Father’. The center services people inside and outside the community and teaches about organic farming, fish farming, tree banks, community rice mills, and how to grow lime trees on water hyacinth.

The contributing factors to its success have included 1) the vision and being a good role model on part of community leaders, 2) the cooperation and commitment to duties and roles by each person, 3) public forums that seek participation and heed public input with an aim to assist the people, as well as the orderliness and abiding to the laws by the people, and 4) using activities as a tool to build strong relations between community members, regardless of gender and age.

From the example of the “organic community for sustainability”, another important quality of the people of Hua Aw village is their studiousness and their drive to better themselves by reading and using social media constructively. They also listen and respond to information with their opinions, creating a two-way dialogue.

Therefore, I would like to encourage Thai people to enjoy reading so as to enhance their analytical skills and decision making prowess for solving their problems, and ultimately, for cooperating and working with government in solving the country’s problems as well.

I would like to recommend a book called “Virtue, ethics and morality: from a philosophical view” by Dr Thinapan Nakata which talks about taking responsibility for one’s own actions and how to peacefully coexist as a society regardless of ethnicity, or religion.

Towards the end, the book talks about professional ethics, encompassing politicians, civil servants, judges, police officers, doctors, journalists, and teachers; all who play an important role in society.

Conducting oneself within shared social guidelines will create shared happiness and prosperity. Should one deviate from their course, ignore the interests of the collective, and infringe upon other people’s rights, they will eventually receive their dues in one form or another. Everyone in a society must live under the same laws. I encourage all to read this book.  Together we can be a country with comprehensive democracy with His Majesty the King as the Head of State, with a sustainable and secure future.

Dear Thai citizens,

I would like to underscore the importance of personal development for all citizens, especially the aspects of having principles and being able to think analytically, for instance, being able to reason how something would benefit themselves, someone else, or all parties.

We should consider how we can participate or be aware of matters surrounding us. In this day and age, we are surrounded by information that is good and correct, and that which is erroneous or distorted. A lot of people struggle to make the distinction because they don’t have enough information, and may thus resort to emotions and biases when making decisions.

If you listen to scrupulous persons and correct information, things will be of benefit.  But if you are swayed by people with ill intentions and ulterior motives, you can be led astray and lose opportunities for yourself and ways to contribute to society.

Today, we should consider what kinds of social pitfalls are affecting Thailand and why. For example,

1. being accustomed to disrespecting the laws and disregarding social orderliness, and taking short cuts or the ‘easy way’, such as driving in the wrong lane, not using pedestrian overpasses, or parking in no-parking zones. This sort of behavior leads to traffic congestion and accidents. One person’s selfishness can cause damage to multiple persons and serves as a bad role model to others.

2. intentionally breaking the law for personal gain and expedience, for example, bribing corrupt officials for expediency, or rewarding those who condone unscrupulous behavior, or condemn the system and ultimately, the country. Why must we reward those who turn a blind eye to misconduct? We must file complaints and press charges against such persons. Each of us has our own dignity and self respect to play by the rules, be patient, and have tolerance. Don’t complain about a broken system if you’re going to take it advantage of it as soon as you have a chance.

3. disparities in educational/learning foundations due to the lack of opportunity or lack of initiative despite having opportunities provided for you. As I said earlier, this includes listening and learning from others and knowledge that is given in the classroom, outside the classroom, at temples, in communities, from books, newspapers, television, radio, the internet, or social channels, while choosing to take information from credible and objective sources.

This includes cross-checking with various sources in order to reach sound conclusions, especially on matters that directly affect yourselves and the country. If we fail to do this, it will be hard to develop ourselves and create understanding among each other, and we can fall back into conflict. You may miss out on various benefits if you don’t take an active role in seeking out essential information.

4. paying attention to matters – people have different levels of focus, but what is worse is being totally indifferent to matters that aren’t of immediate concern. Not paying attention to events in the past, present, and the future, and not paying attention to matters of public interest or what a working democracy is – if we don’t seek to truly understand these issues, we may experience the pitfalls of democracy.

For instance, if we maintain a system where the people only demand for an elected government to deliver on their promises, while not taking any initiative to strengthen themselves, or their communities and society – this opens channels for “business politics” where politicians can come into power through elections only to reap the benefits of their positions. This is a shortcoming that I have highlighted in Thai society, so that we can develop ourselves and our democratic system.

So we should try to figure out issues together by finding the benefits of diverse opinions and build on what we’ve done right in the past, for example,

1. Developing Thailand’s stagnant railway system – In the past 60 years, there have been no additional routes, while in the past 40 years, there have been no new investments. This government has succeeded in procuring 115 new trains at a price that is 300 million baht cheaper than our initial budget. This first-class train service is now operational in the northern line and has been fully booked for the next 6 months.

This government has also conducted maintenance and refurbishment on 20 third-class trains and will eventually complete all 148 trains. This is to provide customers on a budget with quality service and improved safety standards, according to the government’s policy of reducing social inequalities and uplifting the public’s well-being.

What we are working on next is:

1. Developing over 2,500 kilometers of dual-track railways to account for 60 percent of railways in order to enhance the ease of travel.

2. Addressing over 1,000 railway crossroads across the country by constructing overpasses and installing traffic signals. (Many paths have led to many accidents between trains and vehicles.)

3. Developing 4 high-speed railway routes connecting Bangkok with major cities in 4 regions and extending to neighboring countries across the region. This involves complex negotiations before we are able to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of the country.

2. The government has focused on solving labour problems in the country by establishing 44 smart job centers, with an additional 43 to follow next year. These centers will be distributed across the country and will incorporate the latest technology to facilitate job applications, on the desktop computer as well as on mobile applications.

This includes improving on services to reduce procedures and enhance accessibility, while connecting to government and private job databases across the country. In the past 2 years, over 600,000 people have applied for jobs via this new system and up to 400,000 have been hired, generating approximately 90 billion baht in total income.

We are also supporting skills development centers across the country. People who have received higher education, have advanced technical skills at various levels can contact the center to undergo skill assessments and receive a certification. This can potentially enhance one’s income. If both skilled and unskilled people continuously develop their capabilities, they will be given higher rewards and will be able to support themselves instead of constantly having to rely on government assistance.

3. Under the conditions of the global economic slowdown, this government will make every effort and utilize the “Pracharat” model in moving forward with the Thailand 4.0 initiative.  These terms may still be unclear to many people. However, I believe that those who hope for the best for this nation will try to understand. Simply put, these ideas are what will encourage local investment in order to create jobs, increase salaries and improve technology. We will also endeavor to develop our human resources and focus on the sustainable use of raw materials.

What we have done so far has resulted in increased demands for investment promotion. In the first half of 2016, we managed to increase the amount of local investment by 3 trillion baht, 3 times as much compared to same period last year. The largest portion of this investment has been made within the 10 primary industrial sectors at 1.3 trillion baht. Another 7 billion baht went to the development of special economic zones. 17 billion baht went to the promotion of various clusters throughout the country. All these investments were brought about by government policies.  We are doing all we can to expedite these projects and create incentives. We ask for your trust and confidence at this time.

4. Establishing policies on the basis of a combination of statistical data and comprehensive information will form a chain. This chain will determine such things as the market for rice distribution as well as various support measures. These will serve to prevent market crashes, oversupply, as well as water shortages. Of course, this extends to other agricultural products as well. We can count ourselves lucky this year as many types of produce were sold at higher prices. However, it is important to be careful about oversupply. If we lessen the amount of rubber we produce, the demand and the price will increase.

This is because the market knows how much rubber there is. However, if people spread false information but then grow more on the side, what effectively happens is the supply will exceed the demand and the price will drop again. So I advise against taking on such false information, especially from those who claim wasted opportunities from felling their rubber trees. So please consider the information carefully.

As for rice growing conditions in 2016-2017, we are projecting a need of 70 million rai of land. These will be rotated with the first 58 million rai producing 25 million tons of rice, and then in the 2nd round we will focus on 10 million rai of land with 9.8 million devoted to growing rice, which will result in 6 million tons. The remaining land will be used for growing other crops. The 3rd round will require an estimated 500,000 rai of land in order to improve soil quality. We are campaigning for farmers to practice crop rotation to restore fertility to the soil. If all the parties involved are able to receive all the information they need and work together with the government, we can avoid some of the problems we have had in the past.

5. We need to give more attention to the application of digital technology in accordance with the new digital economy policy. This applies to the administration of the country as well as to public services through such projects as prompt pay – for transactions at the public level, and GAC, a center for government apps. Recently, an ASEAN language app was released to teach vocabulary and support the education of the public. The app will help users in the areas of language and culture of our fellow ASEAN members.

And 6. The development of our human resources in the area of sports. The mindset is that “sport builds people, and people build nations”. We have seen many of these projects succeed in their first steps like Sayfon Rattanapanu, a Thai Muslim boy from Yala who is now the champion Poon Seu boxer. He trained at the southern administrative center. By promoting sports in our society, we also encourage young people away from drugs and violence as is already being seen in the 3 southern provinces.

The government has a policy in reforming our approach to sports including 1. Establishing a national sports university by upgrading 17 institutes of physical education across the country. This will start in Chonburi in August next year and will partner with an additional 13 sports schools in creating a strong curriculum and foundation to train 4,500 people a year.

And 2. Pushing for the development of sports over a 5 year period from 2017-2021 – this will not only benefit the health of the Thai people, but also will help foster our best athletes so that they can compete at the international level. We aim to become a hub for sports within ASEAN, both for professional athletes and for professional venues. We hope to expand the sports industry by 3 times the GDP in 2014, a value of 80 billion baht.

These things may not have been well noticed before. However, we need to pay attention to them and we can make them happen if we work together. The government wants to achieve a brighter future for the country through these initiatives, even while ever changing external circumstances, both good and bad, continue to affect our country and our lives.

So, I ask that all of us try to pay attention to our surroundings. If we do this, we can better understand the concepts and practices that are being applied. We can prepare ourselves to solve problems and move forward together. It is imperative that we aren’t selfish and do things for the greater good and for others. If we could do this, our country will have a future and the people will happier altogether.

Dear Thai people,

If you are still looking for a good New Year’s gift, I’d like to recommend something traditional and based on local wisdom. Specifically, I’d like to extend an invitation to all of you to attend the OTOP CITY 2016 exhibition from December 18-26 where you can purchase a nice gift from one of the 30,000 international quality OTOP products at the classic, 4 star, and 5 star levels.

You can also pick up OTOP premium products that are marked for export as well as OTOP Best Sellers which have been the most popular for the last 5 years. These products come from 76 provinces and are all available at one convenient location. In addition, you can also get a tax deduction invoice for these products. These OTOP products will also be made available for purchase on board flights.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with advice for looking after your health this winter. You can help keep warm by

(1) eating freshly prepared food, and

(2), eating and drinking Thai herbal remedies like chili, ginger, lemon grass, kaffir lime, galangal, basil, thyme, coriander, garlic, and shallots. These will improve blood flow and improve circulation to your extremities like your hands and feet.

(3) Eating plenty of citrus fruits and vegetables like limes, chamuang, pink mempat, pineapple, tamarind, and thoodhuvalai (mawang), which all contain properties that prevent coughing and are also very refreshing. Please do your research on proper types of food and be sure to buy the kinds with inspection labels and follow the advice written there.

Other than all that, we all should eat according to the 5 food groups, exercise regularly, and get enough rest. It’s very important to stay warm so don’t forget your jackets. You can also stay warm with blankets and hot water bottles. Avoid drinking alcohol to warm yourself as that is just a temporary fix and will actually make you colder in the end, and if you are not strong to begin with, you may be even more and susceptible to getting sick or developing heart problems.

We have seen this happen many times already, but I would like to reiterate that we should avoid starting fires for warmth unless absolutely necessary. They can endanger lives and property. Please be careful.

Thank you very much. I hope everyone has a happy weekend. Sawasdee Krub.