From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals May 4, 2018

From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals May 4, 2018


A very good evening to you all.

Good to meet you all again. Today, I have many important matters to inform you, especially the matter of protection of natural resources and environment since they are matter to us all.  We have to work together to preserve our resources and environment.

I want you to take a long, deep breath and look around you. Look at what’s going on outside cities. You will see that a lot of changes have been made. Over the past decades, we have focused our attention on development and some developers might not pay enough attention to the natural resources. Will our children have enough resources? Have we been able to create a balance between development and the nature? How friendly are we to the environment?

It is true that economic expansion increases income per capita by at least 10-fold whereas the country’s population is now over 67 million. Have we looked back at the effects and consequences of our expansion? Let me give you an example of how forest encroachment has impacted us and the nature. Forests have been invaded for agricultural purposes.

Some invaders are farmers, the low income earners, and the poor people who do not have their own land.  Some encroachers were induced by capitalists. Other purposes of forest encroachment are city expansion as a result of higher population, community development, construction of resorts, and tourism activities. There should not be any problems, if these activities were carried out in accordance with the laws. However, not all cases were carried out legally, there were corruption and lack of law enforcement.  The problem had existed for a long time and people got used to the practice, making it harder to solve the problem.

These activities have slashed forest areas from 171 million rai 50 years ago to 102 million rai today or 32% of the country’s area. This happened before the current government and the NCPO took office. In the past, officers did not enforce the law well enough. There were no effective strategies or continuation in the effort to prevent encroachment.

Drought comes as a consequence of human activities. Forests are the main source of water. Flood happens because there are no forests to absorb water and because of the lack of an effective water management plan. Now, there are less rain in the needed areas at the time we are needed it the most due to climate change and greenhouse gases

These things effect our health and quality of life as well as our economy i.e. low crop production, resulting in oversupply and shortages. Consequently, it will lead to become a social issue. Farmers will be the ones to suffer because they rely heavily on rain and market. Prices of crops depend on the market which is uncontrollable. This is the topic I want everyone to pay attention and I wish that everyone including the youngsters be part of the solutions for future growth. We have to start now.

My fellow citizens. His Majesty King Rama IX once mentioned that to preserve forests, we have to grow plants in people’s hearts, which means we must cultivate awareness that will one day grow into a strong will to protect the environment. Once the locals accept and cooperate, forest conservation and other undertakings will be a success.

Therefore, the attitude is the most important thing. His Majesty King Rama IX wanted us to be able to best utilize natural resources for agricultural, economic, and social purposes therefore he gave us his royal advice “Three Forests, Four Benefits.” Under this principle, when we grow trees, tress will give us wood, firewood, fruit, and construction wood.

Not only does reforestation help preserve soil and water, it also preserves water sources area, prevents floods, and supplies water for our consumption. The government and the NCPO have adopted His Majesty King Rama IX’s advice as a guideline for policy making and implementation. The guideline has helped to ease forest-related issues and enable humans to co-exist with the nature for sustainably. Participation and cooperation from local people will lead to sustainability and lasting happiness.

In terms of forest conservation and rehabilitation, the NCPO has issued an order calling for efforts from concerned agencies to work together under the supervision of the National Committee for the Prevention and Suppression of Deforestation. The effort focuses on operation in targeted area as well as encouraging people to stop invading forest land and to grow more trees.

In every activity we must take into consideration the effects on the poor, the unprivileged, and landless people, making sure they can carry on with their normal lives. Sub-committees were appointed to look into the consequences of each activity closely. For instance, we have subcommittees for the prevention and suppression of forest encroachment at national level and mobilization committees at municipal levels. These panels will play an active role in fending off all forms of forest encroachment which is a long-standing issue.

A forest protection center has been set up to take back green areas and file legal charges against all invaders. Special units from various departments under the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment are working together to prevent natural encroachment and protect the interest of 70 million people.

These units are the Royal Forest Department’s “Payak Phrai” team, a special operation team called “Phaya Sue” who is responsible for the protection of national parks and wildlife, the “Yeao Dong” team from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, and the ‘Chalarm Khao’ team from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

Their names were mentioned here because I would like to honor them as well as offer them my best wishes for their operations.  For the   activities to promote and enhance the potential of people’s networks and civic groups to be able to work closely with the government on the issue of reforestation, there are sub-committees working with people who reside in forest areas. We have sub-committees for the study and analysis of incentives for reforestation. We also have another panel in Nan province working on the rehabilitation of forests for environmental preservation and sustainability. Nan will be a model city for forest conservation.

My dear citizens, during the past 4 years, there are countless of charges filed against offenders under forest and wildlife protection laws. Here are the details.
There have been more than 26,000 cases related to forest and wildlife poaching and 5,000 people who invaded 670,000 rai were arrested. There were 30,000 cases involving logging of protected wood. 15,000 people were arrested and 60,000 cubic meters of wood were seized. Lastly, there were 25,000 cases of wildlife poaching and reportedly 42,000 animals and animal bodies weighing almost 19 tons were found. A lot has been done to tackle the problem. However, it now depends on all of us. If everyone respects the law, there will be plenty of forests and animals. Authorities would be able to do other tasks.

Rehabilitation and reforestation must be done at the same time especially at upstream areas. A total of 273 operation centers and 943 rehabilitation bases have been established to fight encroachment and invasion as well as grow trees on mountains and highland. So far, more than 700,000 rai of forests have been rehabilitated.  With that being said, I truly believe that the best way to achieve long-lasting results is to manage forest areas in a way that bring happiness to the people.  To do this, we have to work harder on land allocation (for farmer who have no land) and park and state land encroachment issues.

Also we have to respect and give rights to those obeying the law and not in the invaded area, and balance between preservation and sustainably usage. In this regard, we have to make sure that people are able to access government services and the issue of social disparity is being addressed, especially the issue of land allocation to the poor without giving them ownership but allowing the people to be part of the land management in their community. Many of you may not know about what I’m about to say. Or some of you may have heard it in the past but didn’t quite understand the whole concept. let me give you some clarifications.

We will allow people to use 6 types of land for income generation and other purposes. The six types are protected land, land from the agricultural Land Reform Office, public land, mangrove forest land, Ratchaphatsadu land, and land reserved for businesses. The use of these lands is authorized and given to communities and cooperatives as a collective group by the national land policy committee, aiming to give the poor people land to work on and advance their skills through the adoption of the sufficiency economy principle.  The principle focus on proper soil and water preservation as well as the enhancement of public utility system, which will lead to a balance between humans and nature. This will ensure the effectiveness of soil, water, and land management, at the same time, will lessen people’s difficulties
and develop the capabilities of effective and balanced land utilization to create sustainability in the economic, social, environmental, and national security dimensions.

The government has set a 20 year target (throughout the 2017-36 fiscal budgets) of 5.6 million Rai. As for the 2015 to current fiscal years, the government has undertaken the following:

Designated land for occupational purposes totaling over 1 million Rai in 629 areas in 68 provinces, issued permits for utilization or residence for over 320,000 Rai in 87 areas in 45 provinces which accommodates over 30,000 citizens in 81 areas in 41 provinces. The government has also supported occupational development for participating residents in 99 areas in 48 provinces. The allocated land falls within the 6 aforementioned land categories, with the exception of national parks and private land that cannot be utilized.

2. Community forests projects, under this project the State will have forest and people will have land to work on.  This project aims to stop people from using forest land due to population growth along with expansions in occupational land as well as the migration of ethnic groups. This policy aims to provide citizens with stable plots of land with minimal impact to the environment to support coexistence with forests and the restoration of biodiversity and ecological systems.

It includes creating jobs for people and sustainable utilization of natural resources by communities. The government has established community forests in over 10,000 villages across the country, totaling over 6 million Rai. This accounts for 1 in 3 of the 19 million or so Rai of land in over 22,000 villages. An example includes Ban Thung Yipheng community forest in Ko Lanta District in Krabi that was awarded best community forest of 2017. The mangrove community used to cut trees and burned coal as part of their way of living.

Today, they no longer engage in deforestation or coal burning and have successfully restored the surrounding area as an ecosystem for shrimp, clams, crab, and trees.
The community had been instilled with a sense of environmental awareness and have engaged in community management practices that ensure prosperous occupations that are suitable to the local environment. The goals of the community include forest and sea conservation, income generation for community members, and protection from the expansion of the tourism industry in the future.

3. Urban forests, known as “Pracharat forests for the wellbeing of the Thai people” are designed to strengthen the ecological system and enable locals to utilize the green space according to the conditions of the area. This includes exercise, relaxation, and learning. In 2018, over 300,000 Rai of green space within and around cities will be made available for the public.

My fellow Thai citizens, to enable the people to utilize and protect forestland while still drawing from its natural resources for consumption and trade, the government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, has pushed for the Community Forest Act which is expected to be submitted to the Cabinet for review very soon. Furthermore, next-phase policies by the government and the NCPO include,

1. Accelerating the allocation of land for community utilization according to the government’s policies.

2. Push for the National Land Policy Act for a unified and effective effort in land and soil management by National Land Policy Committee that is tasked with making policies and management plans on land usage in the aspect of economic, social, cultural, environmental, and national security.

It includes the integration and decentralization of power and includes community participation for more effective, fair, and sustainable land management which would also resolve public issues and reduce social disparities.

3. Create a national land and soil management plan for the short term, 5-year midterm, and 20-year long term timelines in accordance to the national strategy that can be used as a guideline for all agencies.

Everyone must be aware that the amount of usable land and forest land has been declining. We must find alternative means of conducting a living. People wish to have enough land for agricultural purposes, however, there are areas where the land is unsuitable or where water is lacking. This government has committed a large amount of its budget for land allocations and infrastructural projects as long term solutions.

This final issues I will talk about this evening are important topics. First, the land distribution demands by the P-move activists is something that the government has included in meetings with the NTC (National Land Policy Committee). However, many are still impatient and are trying to push expedite the issue further. These demands need to be considered in accordance to our existing rules and procedures. This is something that the activists must understand.

These groups also need to be thoughtful in their activities. I don’t want anyone to be in any trouble in the future.  The government does not want to block them. Their demands will be included in the NTC’s land allocation decisions. They can’t simply lay claim on plots of land that they wish for. The second issue is the judge’s housing project along Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. Everyone, including myself and the Cabinet, are discontented by this issue because it affects the entire country. I have been following information from government agencies, academics, and all media outlets and viewpoints.

Regardless of where and when the problem started, I would like everyone to trust that the government and the NCPO will do their best to address this issue. Please place your trust in me, the same way you have trusted me these past 4 years, that we will be able to find a solution that is best for the country. Up till now, we have been able to solve many problems. We understand the sensitivity of the issue.  Therefore, we will find the best solution for the country.

I have instructed the Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, and a working group to work with the locals and find a common solution. I have been informed that the talks have so far been positive. The first thing I would like see is reforestation, while the verdict on the remaining issues that require further discussion and legal consultation can be put as a second priority.

Most importantly, please do not express any hate or animosities towards the court officials, as they weren’t the people who commissioned this project. It was a policy of the governments in the past. The question is what can we do with it.  For now, what is certain is that I have not yet allow anyone to live in these houses. We must first see if we are able to reforest the area during the next rainy season.

Other matters will be decided upon afterwards. Please do not conduct any further protests or pressure authorities even more. Otherwise, it will become a national issue that can be exploited. For public gatherings, I want everyone to rethink and seek peaceful solutions to problems instead of pressuring authorities. We are in the process of considering the land distribution demands by P-move and any further pressure will not accelerate the process any further.

In the past, we may be familiar with the works of the House of Representatives that is divided into the government and the opposition sides. I invite us to reconsider our definition of these sides as “the government” and the “opposition and support” side, which means that the opposition serves to review and remind the government on various policies.

However, both sides must cooperate on matters concerning the national strategy and reform agendas, otherwise we will not be able to achieve anything and the country will not be able to develop in a sustainable manner. I want us to have this new viewpoint where one side is the government and the other is the opposition and support side that conducts reviews. The opposition should serve to inspect and put the government in check in a constructive manner, providing suggestions on the grounds of facts and national interests. Regardless of political party, the government must adhere to the principles of good governance and implement appropriate projects and policies.

Successfully doing this will create a culture of reconciliation that is not based on making attacks or trying to win and thereby closing off any consideration of suggestions or alternative viewpoints. In the end, it is the country and the rest of us who suffer. Therefore, I would like everyone to consider this culture of reconciliation as a new standard for Thai society, one that is not based on alliances to achieve (personal) agendas, but based on good governance. We should be able to duel with conflict with reason according to the current laws. We must find a point of agreement based on facts, legal principles, and according to the King’s Philosophy that is now an invaluable national treasure.

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