From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals September 15, 2017
Good evening dear Thai citizens.
On Friday, September 8th, 2017, Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha received an honourary doctorate from Wuhan University School of Law, the People’s Republic of China. The Princess is renowned for her legal knowledge and her international role concerning the international justice system.
For instance, with Her personal funds, Her Royal Highness initiated a campaign in 2006 to support young and female inmates. Since its inception, the campaign has expanded to several provinces throughout the country. Moreover, Her Royal Highness was a major initiator for the establishment of international standards on the treatment for female and young convicts.
And those established international standards later came to be known as the “Bangkok Declaration” adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 21st, 2010. Afterwards, the Thailand Institute of Justice was established to carry on the work and fulfill the aspirations of Her Royal Highness.
In addition, Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha was granted the highest honour by the United Nations in recognition of the Her international role in the promotion and protection of the rights of female inmates and victims of violence.
It is a matter of great pride for the Thai people that members of the Royal Family have taken on such noble causes and have become pioneers in the empowerment of the underprivileged. Thai people will always be grateful for the efforts the Princess has contributed. Long Live Her Royal Highness.
Wuhan University is a well-known university that has long established itself as a top university in China. The Wuhan University School of Law is known for its outstanding research and academic achievements, particularly pertaining to international law.
Wuhan University is the second higher education institution to confer HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha an honourary doctorate. The first one to do so was Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2012.
On that occasion, Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha gave a meaningful speech that I have the honour to quote today. Her Royal Highness remarked, “The rule of law is the foundation of sustainable development, and is correlated with the UN’s sustainable development goals.”
The Princess attaches great importance to an effective justice system that is accessible to everyone. Accessibility guarantees that everyone will benefit from development, be they the underprivileged, children, victims of crimes, war refugees, victims of natural disasters, and other vulnerable groups.
In Her speech, the Princess highlighted the word “equity,” which our society may be not able to distinguish from the word “equality.” The latter means treating everyone the same, for instance, everyone is entitled to the privilege of free bus and train rides, even though the policy is not cost-effective and therefore may contradict one of six principles of good governance.
Therefore, this government sees that it is important to uphold equity, which not only means being treated equally, but also that everyone should have the same level of accessibility. We must first understand that in order to achieve equality, there has to be equity first, which is essential for fairness in our society.
In this regard, most underprivileged should get the most help and support. Those who are more fortunate perhaps do not need support and may have to make some sacrifices for the less fortunate.
For instance, there is the government social welfare card, which is given to low-income earners that are most in need of support. Because the program does not cover everyone, it helps to cut down expenses and can provide funds for future use, such as for the idea to establish an ‘elderly fund’ to care for senior citizens who have low income.
And, if only 10% of senior citizens who are able to support themselves and their families gave up their privileges from this program, we would see as much as 4 billion more baht a year injected into the elderly fund for senior citizens with low incomes.
I would like everyone to understand this principle and the approach that this government employs, so that we can avoid distorted information that can stem from misunderstandings and mistrust.
My fellow citizens, in order to move Thailand past the middle-income trap, we must support and promote all sectors as well as adopt technology and innovations to create added-value and enhance the production sector, including agriculture, industries, and public services.
We often think that in order to create added-value, it will require a tremendous amount of money. The fact is, to create added-value to our products and services, we may not need a lot of money or large factories at all.
There is a traditional or ‘Thai’ way to do it as well. For example, farmers can turn their crops and fruits into processed foods. There are several ways for this, such as sun drying and oven drying, or using machines to pack and preserve foods. You can also increase the quantity, extend their shelf life, and generate income through online channels or mailing. These innovations and the use of digital technology can help to increase products’ values.
The 4.0 era is not far away because today’s lifestyles have a lot to do with digital and information technologies, such as smart phones that help you gain access to various kinds of information at the tip of your finger. Here, you are able to connect with people, businesses, and digital platforms on a consistent basis and with more efficiency.
All we need to do is understand how technologies can create opportunities, jobs, and better living standards. I would like to commend all the farmers who have successfully changed their farming methods and have worked with state offices for tangible results, especially by creating added-value to their crops. They truly are “smart farmers” who can now sell products online.
There have been several innovations that can make positive changes in the farming sector. People can now utilize the Agri-Map, which contains necessary information about soil, water, and crops, in addition to other information available that can be used for farming. Farmers can also use the knowledge from local wise men and officials from the Agriculture Ministry and apply what they learn to the production of their crops.
As for the promotion of large industries, I have mentioned this before. Thailand has to develop and make progress simultaneously on two aspects – domestically and internationally. We are becoming stronger domestically, and this will be supported by global factors. With this, Thai people will be able to improve their quality of life.
We need to promote mega projects along with the development of smaller sectors, from one community to another and from one group to another. The promotion of the industrial sector, agriculture, and the service industry must be realized concurrently and with balance.
The government has approved a series of measures to boost the production and service sectors with robotics and automation. This aims to increase productivity in the production sector as well as increase competitiveness by cutting production costs. These measures include tax incentives, like 50% corporate tax reduction for companies using robotics and automation technology.
It is hoped that this incentive will attract 12 billion baht in investments in robotics in the first year. The number is expected to exceed 200 billion baht in the next 5 years, and Thailand will then import fewer machines by 30%. This is important as the trade deficit from machinery imports account for 130 billion baht a year.
Moreover, the government is determined to offer support through the SME fund under the Pracharat approach, and will sponsor state agencies for the purchase of robotics and automation technologies. We have to figure out how to create balance and mobilize each sector using modern technologies. However, manual labor remains a driving force in the production sector as well; therefore, it is crucial that workforces increase their professional skills.
We have to admit that hard labor is not the preferred choice for workers, which is one of the reasons why a number of employers hire migrant workers. We must not forget that once their countries become more developed, alien workers will travel back to their hometowns, and Thailand will likely face labor shortages. Therefore, Thai workers must improve themselves for opportunities at higher positions, and have to adopt modern technologies and earn higher incomes. Most people are in the tourism and hospitality industries. The number may be too many in the future and this may lead to oversupply and fewer jobs.
Therefore, it is important for everyone to be prepared. However, I do not want our workers to become worried, but it is important that everyone adjust and enhance their skills and abilities. For instance, hard laborers can become machine controllers. The task may not be too difficult with commitment and through acquiring new knowledge and skills. It is common that when wages rise, skills and knowledge must be improved accordingly. Workers must increasingly use their knowledge, wisdom, and skills.
The government has already approved, in principle, the organization of skills training for 1,500 people within 5 years, the creation of cooperation networks to exchange knowledge, and the hosting of international academic seminars. This is something we have to prepare for, in case we ever have to face a labor shortage.
The Ministry of Industry and related agencies will be cooperating with international entities and industrialized countries, especially the nations who have expertise in robotics and automation like Japan, China, Germany, and USA. Thailand will try to acquire knowledge in this field from these nations, and apply what we learn to expand development across different industries.
This is the new economic infrastructure that will be developed along with the existing one. Please do not worry that there will be fewer jobs, as long as Thailand is the strategic hub of the region. We have a lot of potential. However, we have to improve ourselves, create jobs, and build a network and a value chain connecting jobs and employment, and incomes, as well as the value chain for production, processing, and markets. The government is doing everything it can at the moment.
Before last week’s Cabinet meeting, I had an opportunity to see YuMi, a robotic coffee maker, a prototype robot for the 4.0 industry. With its ability to be compatible with humans, these robots can be safe, precise, dynamic, and can perform a number of tasks using different setups.
After seeing such an advancement, I would like to invite members of the public, students, civil servants, state officers, business owners, SME and startup operators, and other interested personnel to visit the Digital Thailand Big Bang 2017 event, the largest international digital exhibition in Southeast Asian region. As you can see, once the country is at peace, events of such magnitude can take place and many more will come in the future.
The event is being held from September 21 to 24 at Challenger Hall 1-2, Impact Muangthong Thani, in Nonthaburi Province. Held under the slogan “Digital Transformation.” Entry is free of charge. For those interested, additional information is now appearing on your screen.
Everyone is interconnected now. People who have skills need to use their skills. Those who wish to improve their skills have to learn more, such as how to use equipment and machinery. This will help increase their incomes in the end. Unskilled workers cannot just expect the wages to rise, but they have to enhance their abilities accordingly.
There is no need to worry about losing jobs, as robots and machines will be used for high-risk jobs, with high safety standards, even for household purposes such as in the kitchen. They can be used to care for the elderly. Those that can afford them are welcome to buy. Those that cannot will have to rely on workers, who will also need to enhance their skills.
I ask that our workers in the services and hospitality industries adapt and learn new skills to do with these technologies. This is to ensure your employment in the future. I would like media outlets to report on this exhibition, about the experience of the exhibitions and what sort of knowledge the event offers to the visitors. The public should know about this important event. It is a national event and I would like the investment to be worthwhile.
The event is not only for Bangkokians, but 65 million people across the country should be able to learn from this event through the media and state agencies. We ask for cooperation from the media to present the event for the benefit of all.
Activities included in the exhibition are useful and answer the needs for Thailand to become a 4.0 nation. We shall not forget those in the 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 sectors either and how they can adapt to the new environment.
I would like to urge internet idols or youtubers who usually share experiences and present various content to their followers, many of whom are youths, to present viewpoints that are beneficial to the youth.
I ask these people to use their talents and initiatives towards creating material that is beneficial to society and the country, because you are also part of the Pracharat mechanism. I believe this would inspire many to enter the digital, robotics, and machine learning sectors in the future.
I would also like people to pay more attention to technologies that will become more widespread in the days to come. Thailand is already one of the top smartphone-using country’s in ASEAN, with approximately 50 million people using smartphone devices. I hope people would make good use of this technology.
My fellow Thai citizens, this past week Thailand welcomed a delegation of up to 600 investors from Japan, led by the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), H.E. Mr. Hiroshige Seko, following from an invitation extended by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak during his visit to attend a meeting in Japan this past June.
Thailand and Japan have long maintained cordial diplomatic relations, and have close relations between our Monarchies, governments, and our peoples. We have been exchanging visits and share a history of relations that date back to 130 years, which will be commemorated on September 26 this year. Japan has continuously played a key role in Thailand’s development.
In the area of trade, Japan has always been one of Thailand’s top trade partners. This past year, imports from Japan account for 15.8 percent of all imports while our export value to Japan is the 3rd highest following the United States and China, accounting for approximately 9.5 percent of all exports.
During the economic recoveries of both countries, trade value has also increased as well. When compared to other ASEAN countries, Thailand remains Japan’s most important market for exports. In terms of investments, Japan has played a key role in Thailand’s economic development, accounting for one-fifth of all foreign investments,
especially in the production industry as well as SMEs. Japanese companies have also used Thailand as an investment base that extends to our neighboring countries, which correlates to the government’s Thailand+1 policy.
During my meeting with the delegation of Japanese investors, they expressed their interest in the government’s investment support policies and wished to further study various investment channels and the development of Thailand’s 10 target industries.
I had informed them of the government’s economic, social, and political developments that would boost confidence in doing business in Thailand. I also stressed Thailand’s commitment to improving the ease of doing business through various policies. One policy is the establishment of one-stop service centers (OSS)
that would enable faster processing of various transactions and licenses, without having to deal with 6 to 7 ministries and agencies as before, which had been a major obstacle towards investment initiatives.
In addition, I explained about government policy supporting investment activity and the industries we wish to promote in the future, particularly the establishment of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a joint effort between the government and the private sector according to the Pracharat model, to be the highest quality and most modern special economic zone in the ASEAN region.
The EEC aims to serve as a place for advances in technology and innovation, and become a strategic area that will connect with China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative, both in the transportation and technological sectors. The government will ready the EEC in all industries and build upon our success in creating the Eastern Seaboard by making Thailand a destination for large-scale investment operations and connect with businesses at all levels.
The EEC will be equipped with transportation infrastructure on land, railway, sea, and air through locations such as Laem Chabang Commercial Port, Map Ta Phut Industrial Port, U-Tapao International Airport, and the dual track and high-speed railways.
Raising the standards of government services and national administration is a matter of great importance. Therefore, this government has pushed for the EEC Act to be a key measure for mobilizing the EEC initiative, and to demonstrate our commitment towards supporting investment in this project, in order for it to become a strategic area for long-term development.
Clear policies and information from the government will be beneficial for Japanese investors in making decisions to invest in Thailand in the future.
It is of utmost importance to build confidence among investors; as such large scale projects that come with risks and involve large sums of money require a stable production base. This administration has therefore implemented many measures to boost confidence among investors.
In addition, I have stressed the importance of creating economic and political stability through national administration according to a clear Roadmap to progress Thailand towards a healthy democracy that correlates with the country’s contexts and does not contradict international practices.
Once the legal processes are ready, all sides cooperate, and there is reconciliation, we will hold general elections next year. Also, the adoption of a 20-year National Strategy will demonstrate the continuity and stability of Thailand’s social and economic policies.
Having national reform agendas in all areas shows that the country is transitioning towards better conditions. In addition, policies are in place to mobilize Thailand into the 4.0 era of becoming an innovation-driven economy that emphasizes production processes by using innovation and advanced technologies.
The country has also made preparations in terms of human resources development, policies supporting innovation, and the adjustment of regulations to become more investment-friendly. The Japanese government and the private sector will play a key role in developing expertise and transferring know-how for creating highly skilled technical workers that will be crucial for 4.0 industries. Japan would then be able to use Thailand as a base for human resource development in the region through cooperation and the exchange of knowledge and personnel, well into in the future.
The delegation of Japanese investors has also expressed interest in exchanging information and has held joint meetings, seminars, including various negotiations. It has also visited the industrial estates in Laem Chabang, Hemaraj, and other areas in the EEC.
The Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, who led the delegation, expressed his satisfaction with Thailand’s commitment towards working with Japan under the Thailand 4.0 development framework. He acknowledged our commitment and understood Thailand’s investment support policies, affirming that Japanese companies in Thailand will continue to expand their operations.
I would like to thank the Japanese companies for not relocating their operations during the past floods, but instead continued to conduct repairs and make improvements. This reflects Japan’s kinship towards Thailand and its commitment towards doing business in the country. Therefore, we will facilitate them and every other country that invests in Thailand.
We expect there to be more Japanese investors who are confident in conducting business in Thailand.
In addition, we discussed clean coal power plants with tried and tested methodologies that are modern, efficient, high quality, cost-effective, and safe for the community. We must continue to study these potential projects.
Japan has expressed its readiness to cooperate in exchanging and transferring such technologies to Thailand and is cooperating with the new automobile sector, and also welcomes cooperation with Thailand to elevate us to becoming a base for producing electric cars for the region. They have also discussed technologies after electric cars, such as hydrogen energy.
Regarding the medical sector, the Japanese minister led a group of Japanese companies and government agencies in the medical sector to meet with their Thai counterparts, to introduce to them high quality Japanese medical equipment, which would lead to substantial development in the medical equipment industries of both countries.
This most recent visit by the delegation of Japanese investors has led to the signing of 7 MOU’s and MOI’s between Thai and Japanese businesses. This marks a key step towards stronger relations in trade and investment support between the two countries.
Thailand acknowledges the importance of joint projects between all countries in areas that complement each other’s goals and potentials.
My fellow Thai citizens, on September 18-19 the cabinet and I will conduct another visit to the provinces.
This time, the cabinet will meet with people in Suphan Buri and Ayutthaya with each minister traveling to different locations in order to oversee their ministry’s respective policies. This is because the government’s policies require follow-up and assessments in accordance to the principles of good governance.
The government, therefore, is ready to listen to additional feedback and complaints from the people. I have called for the establishment of local centers for receiving complaints and suggestions. This government recognizes that the subdistrict-community-village levels are strategic points of national development.
If we are able to strengthen communities at the grassroots level, it would serve as a foundation for national stability, prosperity, and sustainability.
There are many projects being undertaken currently and scheduled for next year according to the central region development plan. The government has mapped out a development plan for all six regions, in order to appropriately allocate its budget for various projects.
My visit to the provinces is to follow up on the progress and take on issues that have risen and bring them to Cabinet meeting so that directives can be expedited that will enhance the potential of the agricultural, industrial, trade and investment sectors as well as border trade.
This includes large-scale special projects such as the herbal city initiative, water management, eco-and historical tourism, and, most importantly, social development in order to raise the quality of people’s lives.
I am also glad to be meeting people in their own communities instead of having people coming to me. As the time of our visits are limited, we may not be able to meet with people from all areas. I therefore would like all agencies and ministers to plan their trips well in order to maximize the impact of their visits.
Government agencies need not burden the public by organizing large receptions, but should instead prepare reports on how we can best serve people of all groups, without creating misunderstandings or distortions of information as has previously happened.
The government and the NCPO wishes to learn of the problems in each area in order to implement solutions, not to garner popularity or votes as some people are currently criticizing us for doing. What we are doing is different and many say that there are currently no MPs to listen to the people’s problems.
Today we have established Damrongdhama centers in districts across the country that serve a similar function to MPs. These centers have received millions of requests and complaints from all groups across the country, with up to 90 percent of cases resolved.
Cases that are more complex or require legal solutions may take additional time. There are numerous problems in this country of 70 million people, 14 million of whom make less than 30,000 baht and are mostly in the agricultural sector. I will deliver a report of my visits in my next weekly address.
Finally, I am an avid reader, whether it be government documents, books from abroad or general reports from Cabinet meetings. I would like to share with you the general principles of a book that I read called “The Speed of Trust.”
This is a book that I had tasked my Cabinet members with reading in order to reflect upon how they can better conduct themselves in a way that is beneficial to the country and its people.
In summary, one important principle that cannot be missing when we attempt to succeed at our work or at interpersonal relationships at the community, family, or friendship level is the principle of trust. It is a principle that cannot be forced upon, but must be earned through empathy and by proving ourselves.
I hope that the sincerity I have demonstrated towards the country and the people will be able to build trust among us all, and lead to understanding and cooperation that would help us bring this country to overcome its obstacles and keep moving forward in a sustainable manner.
Thank you and I wish everyone a joyful weekend. Sawasdee Krub.