From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – May 12, 2017

Good evening dear Thai citizens.

Today is Royal Ploughing Day which is another important day for Thai people, especially our farmers who are the backbone of the nation and a pillar of our economy, thus it also marks Farmers’ Day in Thailand.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony that took place this morning is an ancient Thai ritual that involves a Buddhist ceremony to help protect plant seeds from diseases and to help them grow. There was also a Brahmin ceremony, which is the ploughing ceremony during which rice seeds are scattered on the ground, marking the inauguration of the farming season.

For this, the Department of Rice had been growing rice in an experimental field at the Royal Chitralada project for the 2016 season and has been granted with 11 rice strains used in the ploughing ceremony. The combined weight of ceremonial rice was 2,865 kilograms.

The rice was packed and distributed to members of the general public and all farmers around the country.  This is for auspiciousness and to lift their spirits so that they can carry on their professions according to the traditions passed down from our ancestors, and according to Royal aspirations.

This government has been fully committed to supporting rice farmers and would like to take this opportunity to offer them moral support as they begin seasonal rice farming. The government will continue to support the farmers to the best of its ability for the stability, sustainability, and continued income security of fellow farmers.

Solving problems in the agricultural sector and lending a hand to rice farmers, horticulturists, and other types of farmers can depend partly on the wisdom and experience of our ancestors. This is part of our culture and traditions. However, we have to also consider how to improve our ways for greater benefits. Given this, it is necessary that we take into account the weather, the environment, market demand, and other variables. Each area is different.

There must be a precise analysis of which crops should be grown inside and/or outside irrigation zones; if there is sufficient water supply; and if there is a water distribution system in place. Even the water distribution system encounters difficulties sometimes, as some areas get enough water while others don’t.

Then we need to look at how machinery will play a part in the production process, and how technologies will be adopted.  These variables determine the cost and the ability of the crops to enter the market as well as the security of producers’ incomes. This is what the government is focused on.

The government has spent the last 3 years restructuring the agricultural sector while at the same time constantly communicating with the agriculturists. We have not merely told farmers what to do nor have we forced them to do anything as some people have claimed. Instead we have informed them of price trends, how to prepare themselves in times of ample water and in times of drought, when they should brace for natural hazards,

which areas will be affected, and which crops should be planted. This is to inform the farmers about proper farming methods while helping them make the right adjustments so as to factor in future risks in their decisions. This is so that farmers can maintain stable incomes and sustain their livelihoods.

Problem solving has to be done at all stages – upstream, midstream, and downstream – for successful planting, processing, distributing, and innovating. As well, every step of the way has to be in line with the water resource management policy which seeks to create a balance between production and fertility of the crops.

However, there remain a number of farmers who have not embraced change and may not be familiar with new practices or new variables. Most farmers hire somebody else to harvest rice, because their children have moved to metro cities. Thus there are more parents and older people growing crops in rural provinces. Perhaps they have not been able to adjust yet.

In some cases, they would own land for crop farming, but didn’t use any technology or innovation in the process, thus causing the land to deteriorate and yield lower productivity, in addition to natural disasters and the use of chemical substances which causes soil deterioration. All of this then leads to debts, which in turn changes such farmers from being land owners into land renters.

When they are unable to make ends meet, they have to borrow more money on top of the existing debts, both from formal and informal sources. This is why many of them can’t get out of debts. It has been an ongoing cycle. I am describing all this because I want you to see the complete picture so that we can embrace change for the better. So please consider listening to others so that you can make use of new information and knowledge for your own benefit.  It is not too difficult if we take it step by step. If you are able to change more quickly, you will be able to increase your earnings more quickly as well.

My fellow citizens, we all know that many countries are investing in rice production domestically and overseas. Many countries are looking to purchase quality rice at lower prices for domestic consumption. The competition has been fierce with different prices as well. Rice buying in the futures market has cause speculation and concern over the variables that will impact rice prices and production. Prices in the futures market tend to fluctuate

while the system with middleman/traders can be unfair due to price differences. These are complicated matters that farmers have been facing. The government is committed to addressing these problems in a sustainable fashion, and to helping the farmers get through obstacles and adapt to new variables in the long run.

At time same time, we should ask ourselves why does this government have to build irrigation system in 7,000 villages? Why do we have to fix 20,000 reservoirs after they were transferred to oversight of the Department of Local Administration? This is not to point fingers at anyone, but the government has to follow up on allocated funds, process, and solutions if any project cannot be implemented. This is what we are looking into. We’ve had some problems in the past. In the meantime, we have to speed up the construction of incomplete water distribution systems. This is what we didn’t do in the past. We didn’t do enough of it. We didn’t have enough reservoirs. Water is the engine driving the production of all types of farming.

As you can see, this government is addressing all problems, while looking at them from all dimensions. Many projects have made significant progress and the government is committed to sustainable and systematic solutions, with the cooperation of all sectors, whether it is farmers, financiers, traders, factories, and academics.

At the same time, we must have a common understanding while we discuss problems and solutions, as we together solve the problems along the way. Instead of only making demands, I would like everyone to brainstorm and come up with solutions. How can we work together or support each other? Problems are not easy to fix as we know, and you can see how the government has been trying its best.

In order to increase the productivity per rai, we must apply comprehensive solutions as I said before. We have to focus on all the steps, starting with improving the quality of the strains, protecting and developing soil, and using organic fertilizers that don’t damage the soil. This will allow the farmers to grow crops more sustainably.

We also need to learn to ‘give and take’ with the soil. Soil is the source of food and income. It gives us quality crops, status, and credibility. We have to use innovation in our production and seek new markets so that we can continue to make profitable incomes.

Many farmers are still using chemical fertilizers to accelerate the harvest. The quality is usually low as a result. This method is focused on quantity as opposed to quality. Without quality, it is then hard to sell. It is difficult for the government to help them sell the products as well. And if farmers elect to sell such crops themselves, they will not get the breakeven price.

All this leads to more damages, which then takes more time to solve. If the same mistake is allowed to happen again, we won’t be able to fix it the second time. Therefore, once we understand the problem, we must do what we can to solve it, from the immediate problems at hand to changing the way we grow crops in the long run.
Today, I’d like to give you an example of what the government has been doing to help fellow farmers, in particular by implementing a policy to promote rice farming in a sustainable fashion. 2017 has been designated as the year of quality agriculture for higher produce value and sustainable incomes.

For rice, 3 projects will be spearheaded, including
1) the large-scale farming project, 2) the promotion of high quality Hom Mali rice,
3) the organic rice project.

Each project will last 5 years, with a total budget of 25.871 billion baht.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative is promoting the large-scale farming concept in 750 plots, an increase of 0.75 million rai, in addition to the promotion of high quality Hom Mali rice in 21 provinces covering 300,000 rai. We will increase the plantations for organic rice to 1 million rai in 3 years,

with 66,000 farmers benefiting from the project. Last year, as a result of government efforts, 425 plots of land covering 1 million rai were turned into large-scale plantations. Producers in 47 provinces have been certified for organic rice grown in 5,362 plots or 60,000 rai of farmland.

In addition, government agencies are working collaboratively to improve the value of produce by bringing in innovations and technologies into the development and the production of rice, especially technologies derived from Thai research  by the Ministry of Science and Technology

that are centered around actual demand, so that we can cater to the needs of the consumers. We then have to find a market for crops grown under the large-scale farming concept, that offer competitive prices, so as to enable  farmers to make extra income and be more independent. Such practice are in accordance with the King’s Philosophy of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej

who once uttered that “helping people in their careers and helping them to have sufficient earnings is pivotal because people who have stable jobs and are independent can create prosperity.” This is the core of our national reforms and development to reduce income disparities and improve the quality of life forThai citizens.

In order to increase farm product values, increase sales channels, build organic farming networks, and ensure sustainable incomes for farmers, the Ministry of Commerce is implementing a policy to promote organic agriculture. This is to increase the value of crops, penetrate new markets, create farmer networks, and bring stable incomes to the farmers.

Provincial offices will promote the quality of organic farm produce to the highest international standards. Currently, farmers in 30 provinces have adopted the organic farming concept. In 2016, the trade of organic farm products was valued at 4 billion baht, 2.4 billion baht or 60% of the number came from exports.

In 2017, the organic produce market is expected to grow 10% year on year, partly due to rice, vegetables, and fruits. Many Thai farmers have adopted standardized organic practices.

However, there remain many organic producers who have to further develop their organic farming methods. The quality of their products must be uplifted, so that they have better and more sales channels. They will need consultants in terms of processing, branding, and getting their products certified for the international market.

For this reason, the Commerce Ministry has launched a training program for organic producers. It is called “Organic Training Program” under which provincial commerce officers and responsible personnel can help develop organic products and educate  farmers about the market and value-adding methods,

in addition to building networks of organic entrepreneurs who can share knowledge of organic farming to other farmers in their respective areas, be it marketing strategies, product history, product designs, branding, and getting organic products certified for the overseas market.

Furthermore, we will take part in international exhibitions and launch a 3-day organic training program which is scheduled to take place between May 18 and 20, 2017. This will allow farmers and provincial commerce officers to learn about organic farming. They will be trained in famous organic plantations which have already been internationally  certified by the IFOAM

such as the Ban Hua Ao or Sam Phran Model community in Nakhon Pathom and the Plook Rak Farm in Ratchaburi. The training teaches participants the concept of organic farming, marketing plans, digital marketing, and network building. I’d like to encourage interested farmers to contact provincial commerce offices for more information. We need to create more networks and acquire new knowledge along the process.

All of the government’s efforts mentioned earlier, which includes the allocation of funds through state-run banks such as the BAAC and the Government Savings Bank, are meant to alleviate the hardships of Thai farmers and introduce sustainable solutions.

I’d like to take the opportunity to create better understanding with the Thai people, as there have been several groups, be they politicians, former politicians, civil servants, businessmen, and many others who have come to say that the NCPO and the government haven’t done anything.

I want the people to judge for themselves. Each of us have a responsibility and the five ‘rivers of reform’ have been working closely and there are no conflicts of interest as alleged. However, to better inform the public, the Committee for National Reform, National Strategy and Reconciliation has been appointed. It serves as a coordinator between the ‘five rivers of reform’.

Everyone is doing a good job at what they are supposed to be doing. But is important to see what the government and the NCPO have achieved, in particular what the government has done for the 6 farming sectors. Please don’t just say that “farmers are struggling and the government is not helping them.” Let me affirm that the government has helped rice, rubber, cassava, corn, palm, and sugarcane farmers. Moreover, we have laid down an effective water management plan. Everything needs cooperation and understanding, otherwise, there will be more conflicts resulting from misunderstanding.

My fellow citizens, this past Friday, the Cabinet Ministers and I visited Mahidol University and I gave a speech on “The Role of Thai Universities in the Era of Thailand 4.0,” in relation to Thailand 4.0 model in the dimension of building an environment conducive to businesses based on innovations that also contribute to society, creating a research network between educational institutions, and becoming an innovation hub for medicine and public health.

After the speech, Cabinet Ministers and I visited an exhibition at Mahidol University, showcasing science, and engineering technologies. Mahidol University has adopted the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy for social and community development. We saw the potential of the university to become a research center for: vaccines,  herbal remedies in the production value chain,

food development for the elderly and the sick, and research on seafood and marine animals for exports. Furthermore, teachers and students of the engineering faculty showcased their assistive robotics for autistic, medication dispensers, and medical equipment, all of which are important steps and innovations for the country’s public health sector.

In addition, there were innovations that will be valuable in the commercial world. Mahidol University students have already registered many startup businesses and there are many interesting innovations such as a pillow that analyzes the quality of people’s sleep, especially those who snore.

The pillow sends real-time data to a computer or a mobile phone. Other features of the exhibition include food supplements and a headband that keeps drivers awake. These are good examples of Thailand 4.0 students who can make use of innovations which can answer the needs of the market.

In the afternoon, the Cabinet Ministers and I traveled to Siam Bioscience Co., Ltd. whose existence was made possible by Mahidol University and Ladawan Co., Ltd. a firm under the Crown Property Bureau. This company is a Thailand-based firm that produces biopharmaceutical products.

Currently working with Cuba, the company produces biopharmaceutical products whose quality is on par with international standards. I also visited a production line and a laboratory where bacteria for making medicines for kidney diseases were kept, as well as the medicines to prevent complications.

The production of drugs by Siam Bioscience Co., Ltd. will help reduce the cost of pharmaceutical medicine by up to 50%, and cut the government’s budget by approximately 3 billion baht. Currently, the company is expanding to producing medicine for treating cancer and allergies. This means that Thai citizens will be able obtain these drugs at more affordable prices.

I wish to see a stronger cooperation between public and private universities in supporting research and innovations that contribute towards achieving our Thailand’s 4.0 agenda, especially in enhancing our export capabilities and improving the quality of our lives.

My visit to Mahidol University this past week, as with my visit to Kasetsart University, has given me more confidence in the possibility of realizing our goals. I have also visited many other universities, such as Mae Fah Luang University in the north, and was thoroughly impressed with what I saw. I believe in the capabilities of the researchers at our universities and the Cabinet is ready to support the country’s educational institutions in all necessary aspects, as part of the government’s agenda of education reform.

My fellow Thai citizens, the government hopes that the Eastern Economic Corridor will become a prominent industrial zone for innovation, transportation, and aviation, making Thailand a hub in the region for the facilitation of economic growth.

In addition, the EEC will serve as a strategic location to accommodate production, transportation, and connectivity for the “One Belt One Road” policy of Chinese President Xi Jinping. This is why Thailand must develop its infrastructure to better connect with China and why this government places great importance to the development of the EEC as a center for attracting foreign investors.

The “One Belt One Road” plan is a policy by the Chinese government to create connectivity with 64 countries across the world, from Asia, Europe, and Africa, encompassing up to 4.5 billion people and accounting for 23 trillion US dollars in GDP. China is currently trying to strengthen connectivity on 3 of the silk routes on land and 2 of the silk routes by sea.

This will connect the ASEAN region with Asia, Africa, and Europe, and promote collaboration in various areas such as trade and investment policy and monetary cooperation. If Thailand takes part in this “One Belt One Road” vision, it would mean connecting  to a substantial  global market. I hope that everyone follows up on the developments of this agenda and contribute towards its fruition.

This “One Belt One Road” vision coincides with Thailand’s trade policy which places great importance in regional connectivity in order to make Thailand’s a strategic club in the ASEAN region. This administration has supported connectivity between Thailand and our prominent trade partners and has contributed towards enhancing long-term competitiveness with the following policies,

1) The Thailand 4.0 agenda which coincides with China’s Made in China 2025 agenda, which emphasizes products manufactured using advanced technologies and the latest innovation.
2) The EEC project that I had described earlier to attract foreign investors and being a hub for product distributions to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and other countries on the silk road.

At the same time, Thailand has consulted with the US and with President Trump about increasing  trade and investment between Thailand and ASEAN and the US. We have also been in consultation with Russia, the European Union, and other major trading partners.

As for the development of large, medium, and small economies or micro SMEs (mSMEX), the situation has improved and the government has addressed the relevant issues and provided assistance in the form of capital, know-how, technology, market development, and business facilitation. As a result, more new startups are being created by the younger generation which would result in increased employment in the future.

I urge all sectors to cooperate according to the Pracharat model and provide assistance to each other by taking into consideration the overall benefits that the country will receive. I understand that investors and shareholders are looking to maximize their profits, but don’t forget that we must attend to the needs of the consumers and small businesses also if we wish to grow stronger together.
As a result, the public will benefit more and consumers will have higher purchasing power which will eventually result in more profits. We will also benefit from an increase in foreign investments. Today, many countries are undergoing economic reforms, whether it is the United States, in Europe, in the Middle East, or in ASEAN.

As a member of ASEAN and hub in the region, we must participate in the region’s policies and refrain from the notion that taking a stance on a particular issue entails taking sides. The government has always been mindful of the importance of mutual benefits for all.

We must learn to be both givers and receivers and adjust ourselves according to changes in the world. Projects that have applied for investment support from the Board of Investment totaled 5,341 programs in the past 3 years, valued at to 2.4 trillion baht. Of this over 1.62 trillion has been invested with more applications constantly being processed. The BOI considers these applications according to perceived long-term benefits and these numbers may vary each quarter.

This year’s first quarter, the BOI supported investment programs totaling 60 billion baht, an amount that meets with our expectations. In the future, there will be more programs relating to the EEC, and the “One Belt One Road” vision that I had mentioned, as well as IMT-GT which is a program to enhance connectivity between Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Another piece of good news is the recent assessment made by WEF which reported that Thailand has been the ASEAN region’s most progressive country in terms of economic development.

This is a reflection of the continuous hard work of the economic sector and the government, and I would like all Thai people to continue to help maintain peacefulness and stability, whether it is regarding our political environment or our national security, so that we are able to seize the various opportunities that come before us for a better future.

As for the grassroots economy, the government has continued to provide support to low income citizens, whether they are farmers, freelance workers, or laborers. Those who have successfully improved on their occupations and continuously worked hard will be able to take advantage of various opportunities. It would not be realistic to rely solely on government handouts forever.

Do not fall victim to distorted rhetoric or information, regardless of its source or the intentions. There may be some who spread false information in order to gain from a sense of instability. We are in the process of reform according to our National Strategy and we must continue to mobilize our reform agendas which require appropriate time, funding, and implementation.

The government is able to make necessary adjustments along the way while remaining in the proper framework. Most importantly, our country must maintain its state of safety, peacefulness and orderliness. We are still confronted by numerous issues, whether it is poverty, overpricing, crime, social divides, diseases, climate change, droughts, and flooding among others. Why then do we have to conflict with each other? Our democracy and our politics is also an important aspect of our security.

We must take into consideration democracy, the constitution, law, justice, politics, freedom, participation, respect for the law, cooperation according to the Pracharat model in all dimensions, anti-corruption efforts, solving traffic problems, solving social problems, integrated agricultural and water management, growing the economy as a whole, land management, forest encroachment, natural resource destruction, public health improvement, education reform, preparing for an elderly society, caring for low income people, as well as solutions to the problems in the south. These are all important manners.

We must ask ourselves how we can tackle all these issues together at the same time in order for the country and our people to have balance in economic development and harmony with our natural environment. This will not work if people continue to focus only on their own matters, demand things that will only benefit them, fail to participate in our efforts to generate prosperity for all, refuse to embrace new ways of thinking, or refuse to cooperate.

I’m not forcing everyone to the think same way. People have differing opinions but we must come together in order to find a common solution. This is an issue that we have faced for decades. If we fail to understand that we must help each other by each doing our own part while also caring for others, we will remain divided and abuse the laws and the Constitution as tools for achieving our own motives. As a result, laws will not be respected as their interpretations have been distorted from their original purposes.

The overall purpose of each law is to create a peaceful society that promotes justice and reduces disparities. However, there are many who use the law for their own gain. You can see who they are.

How will we be able to move forward with our reform agendas and reach a better outcome if we continue to oppose each other and refuse to cooperate? Many policies and proposals are the result of thorough analysis and research, yet they are still opposed by some. I think all of us must contribute by cooperating,

whether it be political parties, democracy or human rights or other groups. I want everyone to think about the benefits of the Thai people, the country as a whole, and Thailand’s standing in the world stage. Perhaps many of you do not think about this that much, about how the conflicts and disagreements we have are perceived by the international community.

As the Prime Minister and head of the government, I would like to remind everyone about the importance of having the nation’s and the peoples’ interests at heart in whatever you do. Our country must have peacefulness and stability, and our people must have safety in their lives and property, with a strong economy and sufficiency in all levels.

As for the most recent incident of violence in Pattani Province, I would like to express my condolences to those who have been injured or have had their property damaged as a result. I also would like to commend local officials for their speedy response which led to the arrest of one of the four suspects.

However, I would like to ask everyone to refrain from sharing photographs and video footage of the incident, especially on social media channels.

Not only would this serve to amplify the intended negative sensation that the perpetrators had tried to create, the sharing of information may inadvertently keep the other suspects wary, and come to affect the morale of the locals in the area who are trying to resolve this problem, not to mention the level of confidence in the southern border economies as well as our economic development programs in the area.

Therefore, the government and security officials have worked tirelessly to maintain peace and order in the region. This requires a multidimensional approach, involving security, development, law enforcement, and new economic mechanisms. This is to achieve our goals of stability and sustainability in the energy sector, as well as the rubber and Halal food industries to name a few. I ask you not to create more conflict between each other by fixating too much on any particular issue.

The government, the NCPO, military officials and law enforcement personnel are acting according to the law. And we are always careful not to cause further conflict with our actions. We must elicit more cooperation and be more rigorous in our inspection of vehicles and public areas. This may cause inconveniences but I ask everyone to cooperate with security officials.

Another approach is the implementation of HM King Rama IX’s principles of “understanding, reaching out, and developing”. This principle can be used in creating more cooperation between the locals and officials. If there is suspicious activity, please report it in order to prevent violence in their communities.

This includes other crimes that prompt us to remain vigilant, such as drugs, transnational crime, influential figures, or smuggling. The public is encouraged to report any activity that is suspected of falling into these categories and the perpetrators will be prosecuted decisively according to the law.

However, please be mindful not to exaggerate these issues to the point of trivializing them. This could compromise witness protection or the judicial process itself. Therefore, please make sure to present constructive and factual news that is pertinent to investigations within the appropriate time frames.

So I ask that you contribute to our state of peacefulness and create understanding on various issues. Presenting only violent incidents on the news will make people become jaded to these matters and see them as commonplace.

We have our own identity. We must address our issues with our unique cultural contexts and traditions. Our societal, gender, and age considerations are cultural contexts that have defined this country and has enabled its people to live a happy life. Today, there are many changes in various sectors and societal groups and we must therefore examine these issues carefully.

Today, I would also like to congratulate Thailand’s Taekwondo team for winning 6 gold medals, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes in the WTF World Taekwondo Beach Championships.  I would like to also commend the instructors, sponsors, and staff of Thailand’s Taekwondo federation for their exemplary work.

Congratulations to Miss Penkanya Paisankiatikul for winning 3 gold medals. Everyone involved has contributed towards bringing recognition to the country and to making our people happy and proud. I hope that everyone continues to work hard to maintain this state of excellence.

I urged the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to apply the coaching methods and mindsets of successful athletes with other sports. This is in order to enhance competitiveness the country’s sports teams against other international players. I would also like to thank people who have volunteered their efforts to improving our athletes.

As for the government sector, this administration has incorporated this mentality in the training of civil servants as well in order to produce a new breed of officials who are leaders of change. All this starts with determination and decisive action.

Finally, due to changing weather patterns at this time, the government would like to advise people to be aware of summer storms during this time. Please take good care of yourselves and your children and listen to the suggestions made by the Meteorological Department such as avoiding open areas, or unstable trees and billboards during times of lightning and heavy winds.

I have instructed all agencies to ready their emergency response protocols to swiftly assist those who may be affected by any flooding. The government will closely monitor weather patterns and make necessary announcements. Please be sure to follow the latest updates and announcements.

Another measure is our policy to reduce incidents at flood prone areas. There may still be problematic zones in Bangkok and other areas. I hope that all agencies stand ready at this time.

As for agricultural areas that are currently suffering from water shortages, I encourage you to implement measures to use water efficiently, such as digging canals and wells to store water. We must also prepare ourselves now for the next drought season and for constantly changing weather conditions.

Another issue that comes with frequent rainfall is slippery roads and speeding during storms. Please drive carefully and absolutely refrain from consuming alcohol. I urge everyone to drive safely and share the road.

I’m troubled by some incidents that I see, such as incidents of road rage that have led to violence. These images have become disturbing for Thais and foreigners alike. I also encourage everyone to take care of their health and be particularly wary of respiratory diseases.

Thank you and I wish everyone happiness during the long weekend. Sawasdee Krub

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