From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – April 21, 2017

Good evening dear Thai citizens.

The annual Songkran Festival has concluded. This year, the government campaigned for more traditional celebrations, water conservation, and the reduction of road fatalities. We also have had policy to make the Songkran festival a world event.

To do so, we had organized several parades overseas to raise awareness of the festival, in addition to hosting the first “international Songkran pageant”.

I was delighted to see many of our foreign friends putting on Thai traditional dresses and greeting each other in Thai during the pageant. Held at Wat Patumwanaram, the pageant was joined by diplomats from 17 nations. We also hosted “ASEAN Songkran” events in the border provinces to strengthen ties with our neighbors, not to mention Songkran festivities in other cities like Los Angeles, Hamburg, and Sydney. I trust that the many tourists who enjoyed the water festival were also able to learn about Thai culture and traditions, which are unique and outstanding in their own way, especially how the locals celebrated the festival. These traditions deserve preserving and passing on to the next generation.

Success for the government during the festival this year, has been encouraging Thais to celebrate Songkran in a traditional manner, promoting cultural tourism, and strengthening the ‘family institution.’

Another important task of the government was to assist the public during this festival and to provide safety for Thai and foreigner travelers. Our safety mission was to facilitate the safe travelling of millions of citizens making their way home to their loved ones during the long holiday.

I do not wish to reiterate the number of casualties during this year’s celebration, because fatalities caused by accidents and recklessness can be prevented and even one fatality is unacceptable for me.

As such, I have compiled some useful statistics to be presented to various agencies for such issues as the enhancement of road surfaces, traffic lights, warning signs, intersections, turnarounds, bridges, crossroads, and roads that cut through rail tracks. Another issue concerns the promulgation of traffic laws that must be compatible with safety standards and the way of life of people in our society.

I understand that in order to live peacefully in this society, there are both customary laws as well as written laws. Customary laws involve guidelines and practices which have transpired over the years, based on the assumption that they are correct, even though actually may not be. However, when some issues cannot rely on customary practices to maintain peacefulness and orderliness, written laws then have to be applied.

We have reached the point where we need to review the laws and regulations for our society. Some regulations need to be modernized and made more relevant to real situations. The ultimate goal here is to allow everyone to co-exist peacefully.

Once we come to conclusions on them, we will then need to work together to raise the awareness about road safety, and foster discipline in driving and obeying traffic codes. This is to build a road safety culture in addition to strict law enforcement with citizens respecting the laws.

My fellow citizens, environmentally-friendly development is part of the country’s “Thailand 4.0” approach. In the past, our country was very focused on economic and social development while perhaps not committing enough to environmental preservation.

Today, I have seen some good developments during Songkran. Apart from enforcing traffic regulations, we were able to undertake several measures that promoted environmental conservation, especially in terms of waste management- an issue that the government has always emphasized and is a national agenda.

We were able to get rid of 20 million tons of waste out of 30 tons accumulated during the festivities. We designated 83 landfills as places for dangerous wastes, which allowed us to manage the waste straightforwardly and properly. Our waste reduction campaign has resulted in a 5% waste reduction or not more than 23 million tons a year.

Tomorrow, April 22, is recognized as Earth Day, a significant day reminding everyone of the damage to the environment as well as to natural disasters caused by humans, intentionally or unintentionally.

Let me take this opportunity to invite all Thais to help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. You may think that such an issue doesn’t directly concern you or assume that you are not the one releasing them. You may think that such responsibility lies solely with the government, which has to issue measures regulating emissions by factories and other related activities.

I would like to like to point a few things out as well as appeal for cooperation on this matter. One thing we need to know is that everyone is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. Our daily activities, driving, using tap water and electricity, all can cause greenhouse gases, directly or indirectly.

Power generation, goods production, and factories that use electricity are all responsible for greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere, which can then affect the probability of many disasters such as flooding, droughts, storms, excessive heat, and cold temperatures, as experienced in our everyday lives.

Many of you may not know that there is an agency called “Germanwatch” which ranks Thailand among world’s top 10 countries to be severely impacted by global warming. Without taking action, preventing, or making behavioral changes, Thailand may have to face more severe disasters in the next 20 years.

Thailand is ranked 21 for releasing greenhouse gases. Although we are not number one on that list, we have a high tendency to unleash more in the future. This is an important issue that the government has taken seriously. Thailand made a pledge in 2015 at the Paris Meeting that we would reduce greenhouse gases by 20-25% by the year 2030, which is part of the global effort to lower the world’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius.

As a matter of fact, the problem of greenhouse gases was foreseen by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had raised the issue of global warming in many occasions since 1989. Greenhouse gases cause global warming and inclement weather, having direct and indirect effects on Thailand. Realizing this problem, His Majesty the late King had graciously bestowed the King’s Philosophy as well as initiated several Royal projects for the government and people to follow, so that we can all take responsibility in the prevention of global warming.

Given this, the government will be focusing on the sectors that release the largest amount of greenhouse gases, such as the transportation and energy sectors, by promoting alternative energies that are friendly to the environment, turning waste into energy, reducing road-based transport, and promoting rail transportation. The government will also improve the mass rapid transit system, promote hybrid and electric vehicles, and promote the use of biodiesel and ethanol in logistics.

In addition we have focused on promoting sustainable development in accordance with the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, which aims for economic growth that is compatible with environmental sustainability. At the same time, we will increase forest areas as trees can absorb greenhouse gases and thus prevent them from entering into the atmosphere. If we have more forests, we will be able to help reduce greenhouse gases. However, the government will not be able to achieve much without the help of every sector and our citizens through the Pracharat approach.

I’d like to take this opportunity to commend the Pa Deng Community in Pa Deng subdistrict of Kaeng Krachan District, Petchaburi. The community espouses the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy as a solution to greenhouse gases. The community didn’t have electricity, so they had to generate power from generators, which used a lot of fuel. They also used firewood to cook and sustain their living. They later formed a group called “Follow in Father’s Footsteps” network.

The agriculture-oriented community, which owns breeds of livestock and makes a living off farming activities, produces a lot of organic waste. The network is able to turn the organic waste into biogas for cooking and electricity generation. The community also uses solar energy to produce electricity from old solar panels. Today, Pa Deng Community doesn’t have to pay for electricity and is able to save on cooking gas.

At present, the “Follow in Father’s Footsteps” network has developed into a learning center for “sufficiency economy and alternative energy”, thus serving as a leading community centre that brings knowledge to other communities. They have been able to turn philosophy into practice. They are a good example of a community that doesn’t have to depend on the government’s budget. They are a sustainable community and have been successful in adopting the King’s Philosophy with tangible results.

My fellow citizens, the problem of global warming and greenhouse gases is not only an environmental concern, they also relate to the development of the nation in many areas including energy, transportation, industry, agriculture, waste management, and forest protection.

Therefore, this matter is one of the 27 national reform agendas and is part of the 20-year National Strategy that the government has emphasized. In this case families and educational institutions have important roles to play in raising awareness about the protection of our precious environment and natural resources.

Communities and villages should also play a bigger role in this effort. Lead the change for our children. If we all take this matter seriously, I believe we will be able to address the issue of global warming and greenhouse gases in an effective and sustainable way.

Even though protecting the environment and natural resources is very important, it should not hamper us from continuing with development projects. I think we can maintain a decent balance between economic and social development and environmental conservation, so that our country and the people have sustainable prosperity. Large, medium, and small businesses will have to develop together, thereby reducing social disparities while allowing us to compete with other nations in a constantly changing world.

Please consider the technologies that can change our lives, and prepare us for the upcoming aging society. We also need to think about the possible effects of political conflicts around the world that can potentially spread across regions. These changes make us realize that we cannot stay still, but we have to be ready for changes that may come in the future. These changes can be unexpected. This is why the government has undertaken many measures in order to lay down a strong foundation for our future, through adherence to the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy as the key strategy for other development strategies.

Today, let me bring up the example of an issue that is important for our future – our people. People have to be prepared for challenges that may face our country. We must therefore give our children the knowledge and support they need. The Cabinet has recently approved the construction of an innovation center called “Futurium” in Khlong Luang District of Pathum Thani. It will serve as a learning center for children and the public.

Visitors will be able to improve their analytical skills and problem solving abilities, thereby giving them encouragement to create new innovations that can cater to the needs of the nation and the world in the areas of transportation, robotics, alternative energies, and nanotechnologies.

We will also make use of research findings in the private sector, and create an atmosphere conducive to producing more scientific-based professions. Meanwhile, children and youth will be able to figure out their natural aptitudes and improve their skills according to their motivation and career paths. Private firms will then have superior skilled workers who can add value to their products.

The construction for this project is expected to be completed in 2021 and it will run for 31 years. Futurium will then be turned into a museum with the ability to adjust itself to the changing world through the adoption of science, technology, and innovation, in the way that meets the needs of the public and the private sectors. Futurium will be a complete learning center.

The construction will be made possible under joint cooperation between the National Science Museum Organization and the private sector. Many private organizations have expressed their willingness to work with the government to inspire our children. This is to prepare our human resources and equip them with the essential skills that will steer Thailand past the “middle income trap,” turning the country into a high-income economy and improving the lives of all citizens.

The Futurium project is a part of the 20-year National Strategy which focuses on human resource development and encourages the enhancement of STEM education. The idea is to integrate 4 sectors of education into a developing sector comprising science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The framework of the Futurium project will help Thai students understand these four subjects better and allow them to have first-hand experience, so that they can apply this knowledge to their daily lives, or turn it into new innovations that will benefit the nation and their own careers in the 21st century. Many developed and industrialized countries have long adopted STEM education and found that STEM students are more creative. The faster we can lay down such system, the more skills and potential our children will have.

Thailand has begun incorporating “STEM” curriculum since 2016, a progressive effort between the Ministry of Education and the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology.

In addition to covering all education districts, the ministry has also established centers for STEM studies as well as training programs for teachers. I would like to extend my support to those involved for bringing this program to fruition, to ensure that the next generation is able to develop their skills to their fullest potential for the benefit of the country.

In this case, the government remains committed to supporting infrastructure that serves as a foundation for our future development. Yesterday, I chaired the meeting with the Committee on Digital society and Economy, which reported the progress of the program to ensure internet connectivity to an additional 74,965 villages across the country. This is to ensure that everyone is able to access the Internet as part of our Thailand 4.0 agenda.

This past February 4 marked the inauguration of the expansion of internet connectivity to 99 villages, with the aim of expanding to an additional 24,700 villages within this year, in order to enable access to useful information that would elevate the well-being of local communities.

In addition, there is the digital community program which enables villages to access e-commerce platforms to serve as new revenue earning streams, through the Pracharat mechanism and with the support of the Thai Postal Service that has branches across the country.

This would give buyers and sellers the ability to make online transactions, make product shipments, and guarantee delivery to prevent fraud. The government is also implementing a quality assurance mechanism in order to build trust among buyers and sellers.

Another aspect of our agenda for developing our digital infrastructure is the setting up of a special economic zone for digital innovation, called “Digital Park Thailand” in Chonburi’s Si Racha District that connects with to the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

This digital park will be host to the country’s innovative programs, collaborating with various universities to provide specialists according to market demand and to raise the standards of local enterprise. It will also see the expansion of a data centre in order to be a data hub for the ASEAN region. This program will receive support from CAT Telecom in the form of land and network connectivity.

This digital park would help attract foreign investors and create opportunities for Thai startups. I would like to commend the efforts by related agencies in bringing about this program, as it will serve as a key factor in enhancing the country’s competitiveness in the long run.

An example of developing the country’s production capabilities is the setting up of a new center for technological learning, as part of a program by the Ministry of Industry, which will unveil itself in the third quarter of this year. The center will focus on educating the public on electric vehicle technologies and charging stations.

The center will also serve as a data center to accommodate the expansion of the country’s electric vehicle industry. This is because we realize the potential of the electric vehicle industry, as the country is now on its way to producing approximately 2 million vehicles this year – 800,000 of which are used domestically and the remaining 1.2 million are exported.

In the past, the government has supported the country’s automobile industry through various excise tax adjustments. For example, “eco cars” that produce less CO2 and meet safety standards will have their excise rates marked down, while the measure to support electric-powered vehicles by the Board of Investment will help the country proceed in its course of becoming a producer of electric vehicles. This industry, however, requires a considerable amount of time to gain expertise, which is why we must start today and develop our capabilities to remain as the leader in automobile production in the region.

In order to lay the foundations for future industries, the Ministry of Industry has drafted a 20-year strategy on Thailand 4.0 industries, which coincides with the country’s 12th NESDB strategy, with major agendas such as,

1. “Making Thailand a high income country by mobilizing target industries, whether it be enhancing the capabilities of the 5 major traditional industries, or supporting investments in 5 major new industries.”

The aim of this agenda is to make Thailand a production hub in the ASEAN region, one of the world’s top exporters in food, and a center for producing new types of vehicles as I’ve outlined earlier.

Currently, the government is in the process of preparing up to 180,000 Rai (288 million square meters) of land for new investments in the Eastern Economic Corridor and we expect no less than 1.5 trillion baht worth of investment value to occur within the next five years.

2. “Reducing economic inequalities by developing potential SMEs into innovative businesses, bringing research findings to the commercial market, and supporting the use of digital technology in businesses.”

We will support the grassroots economy through the SME fund, including developing creative communities in order to bring local products to the consumer market, as well as promote tourism.

3. “Creating a balance between environmental conservation and industrial development.”  This is an agenda that all sides must participate, while businesses must be certified as green industries. Cities must also have in urban plan for ecological and industrial harmony. Currently 15 provinces and 59 industrial zones have pioneered this model.

In addition, to coincide with the three agendas, the Ministry of Industry has a plan to reorganize the roles and responsibilities of its departments and 11 affiliated groups to emphasize developing S-curve industries and SMEs according to the 20-year National Strategy for supporting the industrial sector. The agenda of this strategy is to promote a strong domestic economy that is able to grow according to changes in the global environment, according to our agenda of stability, prosperity, and sustainability.

My fellow Thai citizens, to mobilize the industrial agendas that I have outlined earlier, I would like to announce that a survey of industrial businesses would be done across the country from April 1 to July 31, to interview entrepreneurs and gather information about such issues as industry and product category, the number of laborers and their compensation, etc.

The data that we gather will be used in drafting our policy on industrial development, updating various indexes on economic well-being and business operations such as the country’s gross domestic product, and creating an analysis on ways to support small to medium enterprises.

I would, therefore, like to ask for cooperation from businesses in providing thorough and accurate information for these surveys. I guarantee that the information you provide will not be leaked and will not be tied to various legal and tax implications.

Today, I also have more good news to share. Thailand’s economic confidence index for the month of March has improved for the fourth consecutive month, reaching its highest in two years. In addition, agricultural commodities such as para rubber, palm oil, and sugarcane have improved. This would help to improve the purchasing power of farmers. Export numbers are also seeing a marked improvement.

These positive developments would mean that Thai people would be able to spend and travel more. When such economic activity picks up, I am positive that the economy will continue to grow stronger and generate more income for the Thai people in all groups and occupations. The government will closely monitor the country’s economic and financial situation in order to ensure that growth can be sustained.

Another piece of good news is Thailand’s ranking in the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network list of happiest countries, where we rank second in ASEAN and third in Asia.

The ranking factored in GDP, average population age, freedom in lifestyle and work, social generosity, and transparency among various other factors. Thailand moved up one point this year, affirming our recent ranking of being the least miserable country.

I know that we must not remain satisfied by this good news, as we still have the potential to work together through the Pracharat way to further improve our country. This requires that we reconcile our differences for the sake of everyone’s happiness and the sustainability of the country. We must welcome different opinions and seek to understand one another as a way of overcoming obstacles and solving problems.

We must all contribute to making our society a better place. This all starts at the individual level, by knowing our roles as a good citizen and treating others with generosity and fairness. If we are able to do this, these rankings will no longer be important as we will all be inherently happy together.

I cannot claim that myself, this government or the NCPO, have done things better than any other person or government. I leave this to the people to make an assessment. However, I would like to summarize some things I have during my time here, which have not been done previously, such as 1. Creating the foundations of a sustainable future

2. Enforcing necessary laws.

3. Bringing important matters into the justice system in order to ensure credibility in our system

4. Improving numerous laws, pertaining to citizens, trade and investment, economic competitiveness, as well as laws designed to provide low-income citizens with access to the justice system through a special justice fund.

5.  Creating a blueprint for land management, addressing forest encroachment, and restructuring our water management plan. We may have been able to address the issue of drought to a certain degree, but success takes a considerable amount of time and budget.

6. Solving the issue of deforestation in a sustainable manner. We must all contribute towards addressing this problem, as the state cannot be the sole party responsible and because the well-being of our forests is a responsibility that all must take on.

7.  Addressing issues in the agricultural industry. We must make changes to our mechanisms and adjust our farming practices to enhance outputs and revenue. We must learn to be economically self-sufficient.

The government will need to allocate its budget towards short-term solutions in the form of loans and assistance funds. However, we must also focus on long-term solutions in order ensure that our solutions aren’t short-lived.

8.  Ensuring public health for an aging society. This is a very essential matter because we must spend time to study our public health program in order to reform it for maximum benefit. We must also be careful about using our budget. This is why this administration has sought ways to increase state revenue in order to fund welfare programs.

9.  Solving public transportation issues. Past programs may have been unorganized and incomplete, resulting in many traffic issues. Today we have started to examine these issues and we have made considerable progress towards something that would take years to address. In the past, infrastructure programs have been delayed, whether it be for roads, electric trains, trains, airports, and piers. We are doing what we are able to do now which is implementing the first phase.

10.  Creating new economic zones to create income sources and boost competitiveness, such as the EEC and other special economic zones.

11.  Education reform is something that I have talked about numerous times because it is issue that has many layers. Tangible progress in this agenda may not be evident at this time. This is because it is a problem that has festered for a long time and we are still in the first phase of addressing these problems. Everyone, as well as the Ministry of Education, has worked hard in reorganizing and reforming themselves.

12.  Integrating the state, general public, private sector, and civil society in participating in national administration through the Pracharat approach. We have stressed the importance of an inclusive and people-centered system which takes into consideration the public’s feedback through government centers, the press, and social media channels.

13. The agenda of strategic national administration is now being deliberated by the National Legislative Assembly in order to ensure that the government has a clear and appropriate framework for governance in the future, taking into consideration global changes and external factors.

There are many other things that I have not been able to touch upon today, as they involve more detail.  I can, however, assure you that these matters are being addressed – whether they regard our budget, our financial system, corruption, , these are all matters of importance.

Most importantly is creating security and stability, which involves addressing crime and corruption. The enforcement of laws is important during this time of reform in order to bring our country towards stability, prosperity, and sustainability in the future.

I asked that the Thai people continue to place their confidence in the work of this government and the NCPO. We will do our best to address the country’s various problems and overcome various obstacles. If we all commit towards the security of the country and happiness of the people, I’m sure that will be able to turn conflict into cooperation effectively.

Thank you, and I wish everyone a happy weekend. Sawasdee Krub.