From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals February 23, 2018

A very good evening to you.

This Thursday, March 1st marks Magha Puja Day. The Government is inviting Buddhist families to go to temples and monasteries in their communities to take part in merit making ceremonies and religious activities such as alms offering, circumambulation, prayer sessions, Dhamma sessions, and meditation.

We should spend time recollecting the principles and the teachings of the Lord Buddha, especially the one that goes “the heart of Buddhism is to do good, abstain from all bad things, and purify one’s mind. The principle builds inner peace and brings happiness and prosperity to practitioners, the society, and the nation as a whole.

Such practice helps to perpetuate Buddhist teachings. All religions teach their followers to do good things and to live in a peaceful manner. All we have to do is to learn and understand the true meanings of those teachings, so that we can practice them accordingly. These principles are useful in everyday life and to all professions.

A Royal teaching that says “Boworn is home, temple, and school” is part of the country’s educational principle that coincides with the Thai Niyom scheme. Family should not put all the burdens of raising children on schools and temples. Children are like ‘white clothes’.

If parents, teachers, and the society teach and foster children in the right way, they will grow up to be outstanding, valuable, and capable adults. But if parents, teachers, and the society feed them lies, distorted information, as they might not really understand the matter or they only refer to academic principles only.  And, some might have bad intention.     This is dangerous to our children and such action hurts both the children and the nation.

In order to instill academic principles and international concepts to our children, it requires our understanding and an ability to incorporate them into the context of the Thai society, in line with the Thai Niyom initiative.  In term of democracy, the core concepts are the same but the practices are different from country to country.

According to ‘Super Poll’, a survey question was asked to approximately 1,000 people from all professions.  The question was what kind of democracy do they want.  This is an open-ended question.  36 percent or one third of the people said they either did not have an idea or did not want to answer, while the rest of them had different opinions depending on their experiences.

The latter group said democracy means equality without discrimination, freedom of speech, respecting the majority, unity, and participation. Some said it is about elections. And others said benefits. When asked what kind of democracy they want to see, up to 41% said they preferred democracy as it is today.

The remaining 59% said they wanted peace and democracy without corruption. Some said they just wanted things to get better. This survey was conducted by a third party, not the government.  I had to mention about this poll result because I would like everyone to aware of the situation.  A good understanding of democracy requires participation from all sides, not just school or the government. It starts with our conscience, our will, and our home.

In the past, political parties were responsible for promoting a good understanding about democracy. In an ideal state, political parties must not be vulnerable to interventions and manipulations by a third party. They must always be independent. This is clearly stipulated in the Political Party Act, B.E. 2560. This is not only Thai Niyom democracy but also coincides with the international concepts of demorcracy.

I want our children to understand the academic principle of democracy and learn about successes and failures in the past. This is not to say they should make the same mistakes. I want out children to think logically about unity and peace and do not repeat the same mistakes.

We have learnt about unsuccessful stories.  We do not have to follow those footsteps.  Before going to an advance level, we should teach our children a basic concepts of democracy in a simpler and a more creative way in accordance with our good Thai values such as peace and harmony.

For instance, if we teach our children that selecting a candidate is like picking up a banana. Green bananas are unripe and not ready for eating. Yellow ones are ripe and ready to eat. And the brown ones are not good for eating.

If teachers compare an election to other fruits such as apple.  It is going to be more difficult for Thai children (in general) to make the right choice.  Unlike a banana, Thai children might not be able to tell whether the apple is ripe or not. The logic behind this story is that we have to help people understand an election in a simpler way, so that they are well equipped and know who should they be voting for and why should they be voting for them.

They should not just use their feeling and emotion.  They should use their logical senses. They should look at all party’s policies and candidate’s qualifications before making decisions. You have to use your best judgment and not let anyone manipulate you.

I wish everyone would vote for quality and qualified representatives and avoid candidates who have inappropriate conducts as well as parties that campaign policies that are not appropriate.  These policies may lead to an overspending the Government’s budget or may not comply with international requirements.

Many people have the wrong idea that not going to the polls will allow the Government and the NCPO to remain in office. The truth is that regardless of your decision, candidates who receive the most votes will be your representatives. At present, four organic laws require for holding an election have been and are being drafted including
1) the Election Commission Act, 2) the Political Party Act, 3) the Members of Parliament Act, and 4) the Members of the Senate Act.

The last two bills are being reviewed by a 3-party committee comprised of the NLA, the CDC, and the EC. Changes will be made in compliance with the current constitution. The Members of Parliament Act will be enforced within 90 days after it has been promulgated in the Government Gazette. And an election can take place anytime within the 150-day timeframe.

However, it also depends on the readiness of all parties involved.  In During that time, the Cabinet will ask the NCPO to invite the EC, the CDC, and the political parties to meet and discuss on the election date. It must be the day when everything is ready. This is a national agenda. There may be an agreement as to how the country should be moved forward according to the country’s reform roadmap.

The government and the NCPO will not interfere with the law passing process as accused by some people who keep feeding the public wrong and distorted information. The only thing that will obstruct the process is violence and the use of weapons, as we witnessed in 2014. We all need to work together to avoid going on the wrong path.

People, politicians, and all concerned parties help each other maintain a peaceful atmosphere. After the election, I hope that we will have a government and an opposition party who would work together to serve the whole nation and continue reforming the country in accordance with the national strategies.

My fellow Thais, this past week, I had an opportunity to visit people in the Nakhon Pathom Province and visited several development projects in the area. I was pleased to learn about the success of many undertakings that integrated the new agricultural theory and the Royal Guidance into the creation of value, sustainability, income stability, and environmental protection.

The first place was the Laem Bua Learning Center for Agricultural Productivity in Nakhon Chai Si District. It is a learning center for local farmers and those who interested in farming and agricultural practices. The center has been successful in adopting the Royal Guidance in terms of pest management, water management, cattle raising, indoor farming, rice processing, organic farming, fertilizer production, and technological innovations.

They have been able to increase quality and productivity while at the same time reducing costs. They have also incorporated the self-sufficiency principle into farming practices and solutions to agriculture related problems in the area,

The practice introduces an eco-friendly farming under the concept of ‘farmers helping farmers’. Sustainability is attained when farmers help other farmers. Additionally, I had an opportunity to visit a lotus field of Uncle Jaem Sawasto in Phutthamonthon District.

The lotus plantation is part of the land given to local farmers by His Majesty the King Rama IX in 1975. The Royal initiative was the model for land management. As there are uncertainties in the price of rice, Uncle Jaem, then, decided to turn his rice field into a lotus plantation.

His land is utilized in the best possible way. He divided his land into plots and plant lotuses all year round. The remaining part of the land is used for home and for mixed agriculture in accordance with the Royal Guidance. He also grows vegetables, fruits and flowers for sales.

Uncle Jaem is not the only farmer, but those in Ban Saladin have also adopted the same practice. They are able to turn the area into a tourist site, create community products, and grow safe and organic crops that meet the market demand. Thanks to everyone’s cooperation, the wellbeing of the community has improved. They now earn enough money to support themselves and able to put some money to saving.

I would like to thank the people and officials in the area for a very warm welcome. You should be proud of your success. This is a result of cooperation between officers, the public, and local businesses. Many firms stepped up to help purchase crops from local farmers.

I decided to visit the site because I wanted to see for myself so that the policies can be issued to address the problems accordingly.

The Thai Niyom committees are going to not only listen to the people but are going to provide solutions to the problems.  This allows the Government to support the people faster.

Indeed, we follow His Majesty the King Rama IX’s Royal Guidance   “Understand, Reach Out, and Develop.”  Now, we are able to understand the needs and the problems of local people in all aspects, which will lead to development. These are what we hope to achieve.

My fellow Thais, in the future, the administering of the country will coincide with the 20-year national strategic plan and reform imperatives under the current charter. Responsible committees are gathering people’s thoughts and opinions to finalize the aforesaid plans and will make appropriate changes before forwarding them to the cabinet for consideration, after which they will be enforced.

With that said, in the future, changes can still be made at any time to make sure that those plans will truly meet the needs of people. Still the change process must comply with the requirements under the constitution i.e. public hearing and parliament consideration.

Each plan will be assessed every 5 years, along with the adjustment of the 12th – 15th national economic and social development plans.  The follow up committee will evaluate the plans according to changes happen both offshore and onshore. This is to allow the administration to make appropriate adjustments. Currently, the Government is working on projects under the Thai Niyom scheme.

Committees have been appointed on all levels i.e. government, provincial, district, and Tambon levels. The committees will visit people door to door in order to collect information on the needs of each community in order to help increase communities’ capacities and values.

This would be a venue for people to give their inputs on how to improve their communities, how to raise their income, and how to fix their problems at the root cause. We, then, can grow from the inside. Many communities may not know where to begin. This is where the committees come in.

Today, budget process goes two ways from top down and bottom up. Budgeting process requires input from all concerned parties. It cannot be determined only by the central administration. Thus, visiting provinces allow us to understand how much money each area needs and how it should be spent for better results and impact groups of people.

Development projects that are not under the Thai Niyom scheme shall be submitted to the Government for its consideration.  If approved, fund will be set aside for the next fiscal year.

People may wonder why there is still corruption in government spending. It is not an easy task to crackdown on but it’s not difficult to do so either because we have an audit system.

The government and the NCPO is currently conducting many investigations but I cannot talk about them now, so just wait for the results. Our laws are acceptable.  Some may be outdated and may need to be reviewed and revised.

The problem lies in the person. If the concerned parties agreed to the corruption, then corruption will happen.  This could be a small group of people at the project level.  At the policy level, we are very careful.

At the project level, when making procurements or TORs, there may still be loopholes.  We need to fix this problem. Or in some cases, the government officials were compelled to cooperate. These are existing problems in the system that are apparent.

In some cases, the investigation is not yet conducted but the news was already circulated.  These can decrease our credibility so we need to work hand-in-hand to tackle the problem.  Budgeting process must be transparent and involves the public.

We must protect our rights and must not let corrupted people get away with corrupt activities. In many cases, the policy is good but there’s a problem at the implementation level. We must prevent these incidents from happening from the beginning.

For example, if you don’t receive the full amount of money, you must raise the issue immediately.  Or letting other people sign your name up (to receive money) for the activity that you do not know.  The most important thing is people must know the law, otherwise problems will worsen and lead to a lengthy investigation process that is difficult to expedite as the evidence gathering process always take time to do.

We must therefore increase our cooperation in the anti-corruption field. People must aware of the corruption activities as well as the penalties for such conduct ranging from the penalties under the code of conduct, civil law, and criminal law.

Today, we are planning to open channels for people to make complaints anonymously without fear of retaliation from the accused. Everyone must not be afraid or remain idle. Don’t let others take advantage of us.
The Government has put many laws and measures in place. However, the problem lies in bad individuals. Things weren’t made worse because of the Government or the system. The Government has brought many corrupted activities into light and will continue to work harder on the issues.

We are not going to protect any corrupt individuals, especially those who are fugitives. The anti-corruption agencies that must also upgrade themselves.  This is also a matter of legislative reform to ensure that the justice system coincides with current conditions.

The new generation must also focus on this issue because it is a detriment to the country and their future. If the budget is used excessively but with very little effect due to lack of good governance, it will be problematic. Therefore, we have opened addition of communication channels through websites and Facebook under the name “Sai tong Thai Niom” (Thai Niyom Direct line)

in order to receive complaints and suggestions and to disseminate useful information as well as current affairs information on top of the 1111 and 1567 hotlines that are available 24 hours per day.

As for the answers to my 10 questions to the public, I would like to thank everyone who has participated. We have received 15 reports on this topic.  Also, I would like to thank the 1.5 million people who have expressed their opinions.

These are people who willingly submitted their answers in person. This is different than other surveys.
Most of the people who submitted their answers were farmers between the age of 31 and 60 with primary education.

Certain information that is of Interest include the desire for reforms before elections. In the past three to four years, the Government has reformed the government organizations, work processes, and legal Frameworks to make the country ready for an election. I hope that the election will brings about an ethical government. This is an important mission that the NCPO must complete.

Most notable was the opinion respondents had on politicians with inappropriate or corrupt behavior. They wished that these politicians receive the harshest punishments which include political bans, prosecuting accomplices and supporters, as well as disbanding the political party.

I’m not sure if some of these suggestions are too harsh, but they are the opinions of the people. I think these matters must be proceeded to the judicial process.  Respondents also hope that the NCPO continues to address problems and for me to smile more. I will do my best.

My fellow Thais, there are two pieces of good news that I would like to convey to you to prompt a reflection on how we can build on our accomplishments and work together to address what is still problematic in a practical manner instead of just ideologically. This is so that we can improve our image in the eyes of the international community.

This first is the recent Corruption Perceptions Index for 2017 which revealed a “slight improvement” for Thailand when compared to the rest of the world that remained mostly stable. Thailand scored 37 and is ranked 96 out of the 180 countries. Last year, we received a score of 35 and was ranked 101 out of 176.

The CPI index is a credible source for the global community because of its use of diverse methodologies and sources including experts, risk analysts, and academics both domestic and abroad. These results illuminate important issues,

1. Thailand’s commitment towards facilitating ease of doing business and cracking down on bribery, especially the Cabinet’s announcement for 2017 to be a year of ease of doing business and cracking down on corruption.

2. The level of awareness of Thai bureaucrats and society in the eyes of Thais, investors, and international academics that Thailand is still confronted by public officials who misuse their power and take bribes. Although Thailand had “improved slightly,” we were able to achieve this despite the addition of new criteria, such as having an elected government. While we aren’t an elected government, we were able to score higher.

When we have an elected ethical government, our score would definitely improve even further. However, in order to significantly increase our score, we must include participation from all sectors, reduce conflict, and add new mechanisms for independent organizations.

At present, in general, the public consciousness towards anti-corruption in Thailand has increased. People are working hand-in-hand on the matter.  We must pave the way forward on this matter in accordance with the law.

This year has a good start as the public “awareness” is like an “immune system” that prevents corruption from happening. This will lessen the work in the problem solving area.

I hope that everyone can become the eyes and ears and not remain idle to the corruption.

The second matter is the Bloomberg report that said that Thailand is ranks No.1 in its 2018 Misery Index for the 4th year in a row. We must focus on income distribution and the flow of money.   We are working on the matter as it is a part of the Thai Niyom scheme to make sure that our food producers will receive a fair share.

We must help the low income people earn more money.  This can be done in many ways for example additional occupations, making changes to their businesses, grouping, funding, providing more relevant information. However, the process must be integrated as we have limited budget. I wish the best for officials and the people to continue with this effort.

The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) revealed that the Thai economic in the last quarter of 2017 expanded by 4 percent from the same period last year.

This was the result of continuous growth in the export sector in almost all product categories. This coincides with increased demand from the global market and an increase in the number of tourists, especially from China. In addition, private sector consumption has increased due to income from outside the agricultural sector and higher confidence.

For the manufacturing sector, we see an expansion especially in the production and export sector in line with the growing export sector.

Another strong sector is hotels and restaurants due to the increase of tourists which has in turn benefitted the transportation and retail sectors as well.

However, the agricultural sector in the last quarter suffered from rainfall and flooding and therefore did not perform as well as other sectors.

This year, the government’s water management policies are expected to provide more relief to the public.

If we look at 2017 as a whole, the economy grew by 3.9 percent mainly due to the export and tourism sectors. Private sector consumption and investment had made an overall recovery as well.

This year, the NESDB expects the Thai economy to continue to expand due to the economic growth of our trade partners and investment from the private sector.

A part of this comes from joint venture projects between the Government and the private sector, including investment in the EEC that is now taking shape and will stimulate investments in construction.

In addition, the Government spending are expected to be accelerated by the approval of an additional 150 billion baht.

I’ve also instructed the government agencies to strictly disburse budget according to the plans so that the government spending can better support the economic activities.

In 2017, the government plans on carrying out 4 economic measures,
1. Support the expansion of non-agricultural production in the industrial and tourism sectors by boosting credibility and investing in infrastructure projects. This is expected to contribute to more income distribution to the people.

2. Mobilizing State Investments in infrastructure projects and in special economic zones which will also stimulate investment by the private sector and continuously attract foreign investment.

3. Supporting Farmers, low income citizens, and SMEs through various projects relating to weather volatility relief, large-scale farming policy, crops selection for different regions, and access to loan.

4.  Raising the standards of the labors to accommodate future production and investment growth.

Not only will these measures contribute towards the sustainable growth of the Thai economy, it would also lay a solid foundation for the country reform process under the National Strategy.

Important issues such as road traffic and road safety, quality of living, environment, sufficient income, human resource development, and education are addressed in the reform plan as well as the National Strategy.  We need to work together and form network of cooperation (Pracharat) to address these issues, with the Thai Niyom concepts, for the greater good of Thailand.

Thank you, and I hope that you and your family would take some time off to visit temples to do religious activities and learn about Buddhist teachings during Makha Bucha Day as well as visiting the Oon Ai Rak Klay Kwan Nao festival (winter festival). Sawasdee Krub.


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