From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals June 23, 2017
Good evening dear Thai citizens.
As His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun has expressed concern and care for the well-being of the people, especially with regards to the heavy rainfall in Bangkok for the past two weeks, His Majesty has instructed the Ratcha Wallop Royal Guards to lead teams of government officials, members of the public,
and volunteers to inspect and unclog canals and waterways by removing waste, water hyacinth, and other unwanted aquatic plants from Bangkok canals namely Khlong Suea Noi, Khlong Lan Tanod, Khlong Nawong Pracha Pattana, Khlong Mon Thong, and Khlong Ta Sum. This will accelerate water drainage and thereby prevents flooding in addition to improving the landscape and the environment. It also reduces mosquito breeding grounds and health problems in nearby communities.
The government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will carry on with these operations, according to His Majesty’s intentions, and will work with other sectors to prepare communities, including those in other provinces, for future inundation. For this, the government asks members of the public to keep canals, waterways, and drains clean and unclogged. In the meantime, government agencies will continue to accelerate water discharge operations while looking into more ways to prepare communities to deal with flood related problems.
My fellow citizens. Thailand needs reforms in many dimensions to make progress, including:
1) Security issues – we need to increase public participation on this matter. People should be vigilant and help security officers to prevent harmful incidents in their local areas. This matter concerns internal security to protect the lives and properties of all citizens. In addition, the country must have an effective defence capability to maintain our territorial sovereignty along our borders, and protect our interests as well as human and natural resources. When the country is secure and has stability, the economy will consequently improve.
2) In terms of the economy, we have to compare and contrast economic growth in Thailand and other countries over the past 30 years. What are some similarities and differences? How has prosperity been distributed to all levels? What mechanisms were used to do this? Was it enough for other sectors to rely on the government?
To consider all this, we first have to look at the grassroots problems before addressing the problems in other sectors. We have to look at how we can build resilience through knowledge, technology, and skills enhancement. This relates to how the government spends its money, particularly to reduce social inequalities and to create connectivity and resilience throughout all the sectors of the economy.
Some people earn less than 100 baht a day, according to the recent registration for low-income earners. Most of these people are farmers and freelancers who carry debts. Some situations can be solved through legal means, some through cooperation by the Pracharat model, and some by understanding. How can we help each other out more? How can we free ourselves from favoring only the interests of financiers, or monopolisation? These matters are not about social class distinction.
Instead, we need to see the reality of how each investment differs. Bigger investments can have bigger risks as well as bigger yields. The private sector has to take care of workers and all stakeholders involved in the process. This is normal in the business world. We also have to look at the benefits that come with investments. Workers have to be treated fairly and properly. They have to receive the welfare they are entitled to. Their rights must be respected. This is beneficial and constructive for society.
3) In terms of social issues, we have make Thailand a quality society. Thai people must have quality education that allows them live in today’s society and thrive in their careers through learning and analytical skills, including an understanding of Thai culture and traditions and how Western and eastern cultures can be usefully blended.
After graduation, people should have jobs, which should also meet the demands of the workforce market. Whether it is civil servants or workers in other sectors, we must have sustainable human resources development that cater to the needs of Thailand.
For instance, the sectors that need more workers are STEM and research and development, in accordance with the Thailand 4.0 policy that focuses on innovation and the 10-targeted industries. Importantly we must develop our citizens to have moral and ethical standards. Once people have a social conscience, organizations will have good governance, and the nation will be stronger. We have to train new generations of Thais to have a vision, to have the ability to foresee, plan, and implement their work systematically. They should also value cooperation over conflict, so that common ground can be found with civility, despite having different opinions. So, whether it is the problem of street bikers, student brawls, prostitution, human trafficking, and other crimes, we have to solve these problems together so that our society remains peaceful.
Social problems can either stem from contradictions in the law itself, a lack of trust in the justice system, ineffective law enforcement, and political issues at the national and regional levels.
We must focus on virtuous and beneficial deeds while we solve problematic undertakings. Some matters can be fixed quickly while some require more time. We have to understand this fact and help each other. The government cannot do all this by itself nor can we resolve all problems without cooperation from the public.
Social problems are serious matters especially in this globalized world, where the reliance on modern technologies has had the effect of our societies ‘thinking less’ while making more hasty decisions that may not be as careful. Sometimes technologies are used for the wrong purposes such as for corruption or to break the law. To counter this, we need to make our society and the nation stronger by espousing the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.
For this, we have to focus on education and lifelong learning while promoting better understanding and cooperation. Once everyone respects the law, there will be no violations of rights and society will be better off. In order to make Thailand a peaceful society, we have to reform ourselves, whether it is civil servants, older generations, or future generations. Now is the time.
4) As for legislation and the justice system, this matter is not as difficult if people pay attention to the law and learn about our laws, such as how some old laws might be problematic and need to me improved.
Without the knowledge of the law, you will be less able to protect your own rights. If everyone abides with the laws, law enforcement will be more effective and the justice system will be trusted by the people.
There will be less unscrupulous authorities asking for bribes if people refuse to be involved in corruption activities. Everyone should be vigilant and report corrupt practices upon encountering them. We will provide you with protection. Everyone has access to the justice system equally and cases are made based on evidence, without accusations of a scapegoat being used or the saying that “only the poor are imprisoned while the rich walk free” or “prisons are only for the poor.” This is not correct. It a matter of how the law is enforced and how people respect and follow the law.
These things have to be achieved. The government has already set up a justice fund. Although this is a good scheme, we still have to understand the law and study what the law provides and forbids. We have to study the law and understand it. There is right and there wrong as stated by the law. It is not too difficult to understand.
Compliance with law is also based international principles. Members of the media can help the public better understand the law. What the media present should be educational and informative. The purpose is to alert the people as opposed to giving them personal details about individuals in the story. Too much personal detail might violate the rights of the alleged and even the victims and their families.
The government is responsible for making sure that the justice system has internationally acknowledged procedures, is credible and can be trusted. The accused, no matter what background, will get a fair chance to defend themselves. Through this, the justice system will be accepted by all.
5) In terms of the environment, it is crucial that we protect our natural resources by using them wisely and efficiently. We have to be able to preserve and replenish them, whether it concerns our water sources, reservoirs inside and outside irrigation zones, alternative energies and reforestation. People have to co-exist with the nature, protect forests, and grow more trees, especially in urban areas.
In the past, we tended to ignore the problem and leave it only to government responsibility. It is this government’s policy to get the public involved in the protection of our natural resources and environment. Trees are being now grown around all government office, not only the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment or the Royal Forest Department. We all have to think about ecological balance and environmental preservation.
We have to ask ourselves how we can make our natural resources last, especially for the development our country. We also have to reduce global warming, pollution in our communities, and health problems.
We cannot deny development and modernisation, but we can choose to practice sustainable development in agriculture and the industrial sector. This is why we have to work together. If we work together and find sustainable solutions, things will improve.
There are many products in the agricultural sector. When problems surface, we have first to look at demand and supply. Some crops are being grown in unauthorized areas. In this case, if you produce more than the market needs, there will be an oversupply, prices then fall. But then some come asking for help from the government. Please understand that your action was illegal from the beginning. However, when we enforce the law, you say the government is bullying the poor.
There are many dimensions involved, such as human rights, society, the economy, and the law. Several construction projects that benefit the country as a whole, have not progressed completely, and resulted in smaller projects.
The benefits for smaller projects are limited. They often do not provide comprehensive and sustainable solution to problems. We are not forcing any solutions on the people, but without proper projects, your areas will continue to face major problems such as floods or droughts. We cannot help you if you do not allow us to do so. Problems will not be resolved completely.
Here, the majority will not benefit even though only a few do. Consequently, if the majority loses, the minority also loses in the end. Some projects that cannot be undertaken include the construction of dams, reservoirs, monkey’s cheeks, and water distribution and irrigation systems. Sometimes, those opposing these projects are politically motivated and are using the law to benefit a particular group, while not thinking about how the rest has to deal with the consequences of natural disasters, flooding, and drought.
Currently, the government places importance on promoting human rights in the business sector with a focus on protection, respect, and rehabilitation. All sectors, government and private sector, must respect the rights of every individual.
6) In terms of foreign relations, we all know that there are many groups in the world, and there are many conflicts that eventually could lead to wars. Industrialized, developing, and under-developed nations all have to protect their own interests.
We, as a global citizen, should come up ways to cooperate and support each other without leaving anyone behind while becoming stronger together through bilateral, trilateral, and multi-lateral cooperation or with strategic partnerships with other nations in order to enhance our potential as well as our competitiveness.
We have to accelerate development and become a donor country while reducing disparities in our own country, as we also promote connectivity and cooperation in all aspects – political, economy, and social. We also have to focus our attention on human resource development and sustainable development,
which is an issue of interest for the global community. We also need to build new areas of cooperation such as under the “SEP for SGD 2030” initiative, which is the government’s approach for espousing the King’s Philosophy and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in order to achieve the UN’s goals in the next 15 years.
Foreign relations have important influences on current and future investments. Every nation is a friend and we can all share in mutual benefits and make progress together.
7) As for human resource development, it is the key issue that every government must focus on, starting from kindergarten all the way to the vocational level or the tertiary level. This government has tried to reorganize the system for better connectivity between the education system, the jobs market, and the production sector.
Education must be useful and allow people to thrive in their lives and careers, with a vision, ideals and a social conscience. It should also raise awareness of social responsibilities as well as rights.
We have to create a new generation as well as develop our knowledge about technology. We must also think about how can we develop human resources into qualified professionals in the government sector, the business sector, SMEs, and startups.
With that said, there are many things that have to be done, and the government has employed the Pracharat approach to mobilise them. The government cannot do it alone as I said before. Without the private sector and public participation, there is no ‘strength’. Farmers and low-income earners have to have access to new knowledge, technologies, and methods, so they can improve their lives. The government has to serve as a coordinator that builds networks and creates better understanding among the public.
For instance, a problem that is caused by the dis-connectivity between education, the economy, the society, the law, and national policies is our research and development. We need to conduct research in order to understand what we lack and what we need. For instance, we must have a clear target for labor production, research funds, and clear objectives for future studies. People should be able to work in their hometown so they can be with their families.
We have to think about what research we need, and what our priorities are. We have the potential in many areas and should expand on our strengths. This will be more beneficial than not using the research that was done.
An important goal is to buy less from abroad and use the material we can find domestically, especially raw materials from the agricultural sector. People should be able to afford these products or have the ability to produce the products by themselves for household consumption. Then value can be added to the products.
I do not want you to spend all the research money for purpose of rankings. Research by government agencies, the private sector, and educational institutions should reflect the country’s needs. We may need to prioritize what we need while making sure that the research can be effective. We also have to understand the timeframe and the objective of our studies.
We may have to categorize topics into clusters such as agriculture, industry, environment, and energy. These studies can be done by governmental agencies, private organizations, and educational institutions.
They should also be categorized into groups so that it is easier for them to be registered. Then it will be easier for them to be funded and awarded certificates from the Thai Industrial Standards Institute and the FDA. The government is accelerating this process.
There have to be a clear research frameworks, mechanisms, and funds according to the level urgency. We must also have a clear operational plan and patent our research and innovations, and use them in commerce or in the government sector. There are many studies that can be useful in many ways.
In the past, not a lot of products from research were supported, which prompted questions like “Are there any good Thai researchers?” In fact, Thailand has a large number of useful studies, but we need to put them in groups, so that they can benefit all sectors of society. We will then use the results of these studies in the production sector and test them to make sure that they are safe. This will benefit the people and the nation.
If we provide researchers with the adequate support that they need, they will be encouraged by the rewards instead of leaving the country to work abroad. Many of our researchers are working either abroad or for the private sector. We must therefore bring together these brilliant minds. Thailand is just as capable as any other country.
There are certain areas where we genuinely lack experience and must learn and bring in technologies from abroad. We must acknowledge the fact that there are areas that we lack specialization and expertise and must therefore invite foreign experts to assist us in the early stages.
There must be a passing on of technical skills and technologies, whether it be in construction, infrastructure, or some other fields, so that we are able to rely on ourselves in the future. We must all keep an open mind and welcome expertise from abroad. If we were good at everything, we would not be stuck in the middle-income trap that we are in now.
We must ask ourselves why we have yet to transition into a high-income country. I also do not want anyone to think that this administration is favouring foreigners. That is not the case. We do not want foreigners to take jobs away from Thai citizens. We will employ Thai people in fields where we have specialization and will not allow our country to miss opportunities.
I ask that you place your confidence in this administration in overseeing and resolving any concerns while ensuring that Thailand reaps the optimal benefits from these programs. We set the parameters for foreign investment projects. Whether it be TORs or contracts, we are the ones who draft them up ourselves. Therefore, we will not be doing anything without a strategy, as many people have expressed concern about. We have moved forward in all areas by holding discussions and conducting studies both domestic and abroad. This fact may not be as widely known and has, therefore, raised some questions. I welcome all inquiries.
What I have addressed may be a repeat of what I have already said in the past. I do this in order to create further understanding and to inform people of the connections between one issue and another. Therefore, if we do not change the way we think and do, we will not be able to solve any of our problems. If we do what we have always done in the past, which is addressing each issue separately, there will not be decisive approaches and solutions will not be comprehensive and sustainable.
This administration has incorporated an integrated approach towards budgeting, personnel allocation, and planning in order to address various issues at the same time in a congruent manner. It may be difficult because this approach has not often been undertaken in the past.
But if we address problems by coordinated planning and detailed discussions from start to end to identify obstacles, risks, and responsibilities while sharing information instead of arguing, participation will be beneficial towards coming up with a viable solution. Most importantly, if we place the interests of the nation and the people at the forefront, it will lead to sustainable solutions.
My fellow Thai citizens, The reason why I presented the “ 4 questions to the public” and the “50 issues we must address” is not because I am not confident in the work of the government and the NCPO these past three years. On the contrary, I am very confident that we are able to achieve many of our agendas. We are successfu in some areas, while some areas require further work and some areas require time, cooperation, and legislative assistance.
Please reflect on how we can work together based on the roles, responsibilities, and potential of each group and individual. Please do not let contentious issues come to thwart our progress; otherwise our country would not be able to move forward.
This administration does not want anyone to distort information about its performance. I know well what we have done. Many things may not have an effect at the individual level but they do have a positive impact on our long-term policies. Furthermore, this administration is not trying to retain power or delay elections. I have never thought of that and have always welcomed constructive criticism.
I would like to clarify again the Thai-Chinese railroad project. The cooperation between Thailand and China is a government-to-government framework that has happened throughout many governments. This administration is continuing with this cooperation as an investment in the future.
There have been many development projects with many major-power countries that are interconnected. We must enhance our competitiveness, distribute wealth to our various regions, and connect with the global community. Therefore, there are many things that must be considered. They include:
1. The rail infrastructure investment project, the traffic control system, and the signaling system – the entire root must satisfy all three agendas. Therefore, Thailand has decided to invest in infrastructure and has been negotiating an investment budget of around 170 billion baht. There have been continuous negotiations and price comparisons both at the domestic and international level.
We will then have an tendering for the construction contract for Thai companies or joint investments with entities with Thai stakeholders. Therefore, Thailand will be responsible for the construction costs and management, the result of up to 18 rounds of negotiations.
2. This joint investment is based on a shared benefits system. They will be hired for construction. China will utilize its construction technology and standards, which are already employed and acknowledged in many countries, including in ASEAN.
Thailand was able to decide on the the concession and investment. We have chosen to invest on our own accord. Given this, we must also consider how we can compensate for our decreased revenue in the beginning, as revenue from commerce may not be sufficient at first. This is the case for other countries as well.
3. If Thailand owns the project, we will be able to develop the 2 sides of the track into businesses large and small, residences for communities, or other purposes. I have instructed the Ministry of Transport and the Transport and Traffic Policy Plan Office to devise a development plan from today onwards. Most importantly, investing in the project would yield much higher returns than merely contracting it, in which our country and future generations will forego this opportunity and be left with no better alternatives in the future.
4. Legally, we must consider how we can revise our laws so that land owned by the State Railway of Thailand can be used for commercial purposes. We must do this by ourselves, either as a public–private partnership or by another framework. You can see that in the past, land alongside railways and highways could not be utilized because it is owned by the Ministry of Transport. We must examine this issue today so that we do not miss other commercial benefits.
5. We must have a high-speed railway track because it will connect with other countries such as Laos, China, Pakistan, and Eastern Europe. We must create connections with other continents in addition to normal roads. We have created highways before so today we must construct railway tracks. Some people may ask why we do not also construct State Railway lines as well. We must do both.
These projects also depend on whether they pass through land that has been encroached or forest land, or whether they need to undergo public hearings first. If we are able to foster understanding, these projects would be able to happen sooner and we will be able to connect with the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative. Today, Laos is also in the process of constructing a high-speed railway that will connect with us. We must therefore begin our operations.
6. We must revise many pieces of legislation based on appropriateness and on our relations with the 64 countries in the One Belt, One Road Initiative.
7. Contracts for the portions where Thailand is investing will be done by Thais, whether it be the auction, contracting company, laborers, or materials. However, Chinese engineers will design and oversee the construction project, which will be done by a Thai company. We must ensure efficiency and adherence to standards as well.
8. Considerations for cost-effectiveness and value for money – no country only considers the number of passengers. Every country that I have visited, whether it be South Korea or Japan, lost revenue in the beginning, but today they have enormous benefits because of the land alongside the railway tracks. We must, therefore, consider how we can plan this out and look at the project’s long-term benefits. If we keep on opposing the project in its entirety, none of these businesses will be able to happen. The benefits of this program will be dispersed through the areas that the route passes, as it results in employment, revenue, and residences, which will develop the quality of the life for the people in these areas.
9. Passing on construction technology – thai engineers will be part of planning and overseeing. This is included in the agreement that we have been continuously negotiating.
10. Experience – although something like this has never been undertaken, I have faith in the potential of Thai engineers and their ability to learn of new techniques and gain experience from this project. In the beginning, we must study new technologies and apply them in other fields in an efficient manner. Technology is an important component.
11. Other routes that may happen in the future such as the north – south and east – west lines will undergo consideration in another time. We must encourage competition among various countries that want to have a part in these projects. There are many steps that must happen before a project takes place. Let us focus on one route first and then have improvements, auctions, and transferring of technological expertise. We will be able to enter into joint investments with other countries in the future.
12. Construction techniques must be in accordance to international standards. There are credible people who are responsible for this. In the mandate, we must ensure that we are able to connect with future projects, no matter which country it came from. We will do this to ensure safety, continuity, and efficiency.
13. The pricing of this project was the result of detailed discussions and negotiations that compared construction costs, materials, and equipment. Today, we have estimated approximately 170 billion baht for the project, which is a considerable discount from what China had originally proposed. We have carefully studied and compared similar construction projects and others countries within the same budget range. Therefore, every step of the project prioritizes the national interest and is in accordance to our financial capabilities.
14. In this G2G agreement, Thailand has operated through the Ministry of Transport and the State Railway of Thailand, while China has operated through its responsible agency, which is its economic council. They certify the company that will be undertaking the construction project with Thailand and therefore share the responsibility of quality assurance.
15. I ask that all groups consider the broader picture. The public, civil society, academics, and engineers should consider the future benefits of the project. I have always respected your opinions. We must find ways to seek out business opportunities, transfer technology, and stimulate economic activity through employment, revenue generation, skills development, labor development, transferring of technology, and developing our education system to coincide with demands.
16. I have also emphasized transparency and the prevention of corruption among government agencies and the construction companies. Thai businesses must act in accordance to transparency, efficiency, and compliance to standards.
17. The high-speed railway project is only one of the many cooperative efforts between Thailand and China. There have been many programs that were jointly undertaken from past to present, including with other countries as well. Therefore, good relations and joint investments will help develop our connectivity and grow our economy in a sustainable manner.
I ask that everyone integrate their efforts at all levels, whether it be the government, the NCPO, the Ministry of Transport, government agencies, and the private sector. The government and the NCPO has used its powers under Article 44 in order to implement the results of almost 20 rounds of negotiations. There have been developments in the past but they have been met with some obstacles. We have therefore looked at the details of past negotiations and moved forward with the most recent acceptable version. If we are slow to act, we will miss this opportunity to be a connecting hub in the region.
I ask that people study and understand the details of this project and consider its necessity. The government has taken steps to ensure transparency and will pursue legal action against any case of corruption, whether it be by a government agency, private sector, or the public.
Fellow Thai citizens, my concern is how we can bring about new things that will be beneficial for the country and the people, while also addressing existing issues. What is important at this time is,
1) The use of land owned by the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) for energy purposes. We must address (1) problematic operations that have been underway before this administration and (2) utilizing land in addition to what is defined by ALRO-related law. The responsibility for amending these ministerial laws has been delegated to the ALRO committee. We must first tackle existing problems and then examine legislation when enacting new solutions.
Everything must be in accordance with our strategic framework. If it does not benefit the locals, it must be used for its original purpose, which is allocating land for occupation and residency for farmers. We must find ways to address issues and prevent damages in the future because it is connected to our national interests as well as the recipients of each allocation. If we stop our efforts, people will be in distress. New approaches must be in accordance to proper procedures and must not have adverse consequences in the future.
We affirm that ALRO land must still be directed towards maximum benefit for communities. Benefits for the nation should be considered if they are in accordance to our strategy and acceptance by the locals.
All this has been lingering for a long time and they can no longer be ignored. However, issues may not be widely understood. We must help each other by using our knowledge and sincerity to carry on.
Our investments, concessions, our construction of additional power plants and public utilities – there have been many misunderstandings about them. The government also has to obtain more information on such matters. We must therefore look at the broader picture while also addressing specific issues through fair law enforcement and adherence to the King’s Philosophy, not mention legal parameters and political principles.
2) The same goes with urban planning. I would like to commend the Ministry of Interior for its efforts in creating an urban map for all 76 provinces. This has long been delayed during which time, dwellings and residences have moved around. Therefore, any urban planning policy may not reflect current conditions as people have failed to adhere to regulations. As a result, addressing flooding and droughts has become problematic in many areas.
I would like to ask for cooperation from low-income earners or anyone who has violated urban planning laws, as you will be directly affected. Do not forget that other people are affected when you violate the rules by building houses and blocking water pathways. Please have empathy for others who will be affected.
If we need to enforce the law on you, it could be perceived as harassment and bullying. Instead, we should cooperate and refrain from taking advantage of situations at the expense of the community. People who have violated urban planning laws will definitely be affected by law enforcement at this time, as it is something that should have been carried out a long time ago. Please help contribute and cooperate, otherwise we will remain stagnant and not make progress.
I ask that people consider these two matters with the mindset that everyone is a citizen of the nation, because this country belongs to all the people. Therefore, the people must address these issues themselves, while the government assists and facilitates to ensure orderliness.
Today, there have been many volunteers and participants in the Pracharat model. However, many other structural problems require more assistance. The government has already moved forward with what it can do, especially on water management, public utilities, and social orderliness. We cannot examine these issues by only taking our own perspectives, but we must consider the viewpoints of others in an attempt to reduce disputes.
If we fail to do this today, future governments would not be able to achieve this as well because it would then require law enforcement, which would be a detriment to the country’s image.
On the occasion of the Islamic religious holiday Eid al-Fitr, I would like to extend my prayers and well wishes to all Thai Muslims and wish everyone peace, prosperity, and good health.
Finally, I would like to inform everyone that the government has designated each year’s Buddhist Lent as “National Alcohol Abstinence Day” which coincides on July 9 this year. Lent is an important day when Buddhists begin their 3-month period of practicing virtuous deeds. Abstaining from alcohol is a virtuous act, given that if you violate one of the five precepts, you are likely to violate other precepts as well. I would like to leave with you this year’s alcohol abstinence motto of “Staying away from alcohol, the people in happiness and safety for the country’s prosperity.”
This is because alcohol affects the consumer, our families, communities, society, and the country. Alcohol consumption often leads to many ailments that then hinders human resource, social, and economic development. Therefore, I would like to invite everyone to reduce or abstain from alcohol while also preventing our youth from consuming alcohol. The Ministry of Public Health has organized campaigns to support alcohol abstinence during Buddhist Lent as merit-making for His Majesty the late King Rama IX on this important year.
Thank you, and I wish everyone happiness during the weekend. Sawasdee Krub.