From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals May 11, 2018

A very good evening to you all.

On Monday, May 14th, 2018, the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony will be held at Sanam Luang. It is an ancient ceremony that reflects the prosperity of the country’s agriculture and the strong bond between the monarchy and Thai people.  The ceremony has been held every year since the period of Sukhuthai Kingdom. The Royal Ploughing Ceremony offers blessings to Thai farmers and boost their confidence. It also marks the start of the rice growing season. Rice planting is one of the main occupations in our nation.  The Royal Ploughing Ceremony Day coincides with Famers’ Day. We have some good news from the Thai Rice Exporters Association. During the first half of 2018, Thailand is the world’s largest rice exporter, exporting 4.99 million tons of rice overseas. The Department of Foreign Trade consequently adjusted its rice export target from 9.5 to 10 million tons, driving up the prices of Thai rice including the famous Hom Mali rice. Thailand has recently won an auction to supply 120,000 tons of rice under a government-to-government contract to the Philippines.  We also won the auction to supply 200,000 tons of rice to Indonesia.  Moreover, under the government-to-government program, we will be shipping the fifth batch of rice or around 100,000 tons to China.  The delivery shall be completely finished within this month. Prices of Thai rice are expected to increase continually.
However, I would like all farmers and producers to monitor the news and follow the government official’s advice on producing and selling plans closely.  Oversupply means decreasing prices. If the price goes down, no matter how much you sell, your return will not be much.  Cost reduction is also very important.  The Government attaches importance to the market-based production concept while introducing new technologies to help the agricultural sector to be able to foresee, analyze, and connect data on water resources, meteorological conditions, and the market.  This will improve the management of crop production and prevent issues like water scarcity, low crop output, and the agricultural price slump which can lead to social and economic problems. I want everyone working together, not separately. The Government is working to make everyone make it through happily without leaving anyone behind.

My fellow citizens, earlier this week, the cabinet members and I visited Surin and Buriram provinces to follow up on the implementation of the government policies and to learn about difficulties that people in 4 lower northeastern provinces are facing through various platforms.  Through these platforms, we learned about people’s complaints and needs while at the same time fostering a better public understanding of public administration including the 20-year strategic plan that was drafted under the Government’s initiative to ensure the continuity of the development foundation and investment for the future of our nation as a whole.  As for the provincial level, the provinces must have a similar development plan that caters both current and future needs of the people in a sustainably fashion.  In this regard, people’s strength shall be combined with supports from the Government.  This is similar to musical groups where musicians play different instruments but the same symphony.

More importantly, we must have a well thought out plan. In the past, some projects were focused on the establishment part only, while ignored post-project management which can subsequently create income and value added. This is why, as a whole, it is necessary for the Government to prioritize activities according to their urgency. Budget allocation must comply with financial disciplines, without putting too much pressure to next governments.  During a joint meeting between representatives from the government sector, private sector, local administration, and farmers in the lower Northeast known as “Nakhon Chaiburin” comprising Nakhon Ratchasima, Chaiyaphum, Buriram, and Surin, the cabinet was informed of the potential of this group in all dimensions.  This information will be linked with the national strategic plan.  Many projects are already included in the budget plan while others will be reprioritized based on their urgency. Some projects will have to be reconsidered with more feasibility study. Details were reported earlier this week.

Let me inform you again that the Government sees potential and opportunities in these provinces and will mobilize these provinces to be gateways to the northeastern provinces and the CLMV region and to link them the East-West Economic Corridor and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), as we had planned.  I believe that the key to success is the implementation of Pracharat policy which the Government has continually pushed forward.  There are 4 Pracharat Pillars – good governance, innovation and productivity, human development, and public participation in prosperity.  The ultimate goal is to end social disparities, improve people’s skill and competitiveness level. In order to achieve this gold, we are adopting the Royal philosophy of His Majesty King Rama IX “Understand, Reach Out, and Develop”.  It is to understand the area, the people, and their potential. It teaches us to manage each region and provincial group collectively. Later on, the 4 provinces I’ve mentioned will have their projects approved by the cabinet. Approval will be given based on the urgency and the connectivity of the entire region. Please, do not compare between provinces.  Every time the cabinet held its mobile cabinet meeting, provinces can propose ideas and projects. Nearby provinces always took part in the meeting with the presence of their governors, the private sector, the agricultural sector, the industrial sector, and traders etc. They took part in the meeting to propose their development plans.  This is how we work when it comes to project approval process.

My fellow citizens, I would like to share with you some positive results of a model Pracharat project which I learned during this week’s cabinet meeting.  It shall give you an idea of how we work. Now, we are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  First is a project to enhance the capabilities of agriculture and industries sectors by making water hyacinth based products as a way to solve the problem of aquatic plants in a more sustainable fashion, by adopting the Royal Philosophy as a way of thinking and the Pracharat approach as an implementation tool.  The catch is to turn unwanted weed into valuable products. This is more than just sustainability. It allows people to adapt their practices to today’s circumstances. The Armed Forces Development Command of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, in cooperation with Dr. Paichit Saengchai, a startup owner who won best environmentally-friendly innovative creation from the World Economic Forum, introduced a model water hyacinth processing project to create innovative products like 3-D wallboards, ceilings, clay bricks, floors, basketry products, furniture, and other art pieces made of water hyacinth.  These processed goods will be inspected, regulated, certified, and patented by concerned agencies. We have chemical-free garden soil made of water hyacinth. The soil has been examined and certified by the Land Development Department.  Alternative products that use water hyacinth as a substituted part are 20-30 per cent less in cost production.  The price of these products are 80-100 per cent cheaper than the market price.  For example, a regular ceiling sheet costs 140 baht while a water hyacinth sheet only costs 65 baht only. A regular flooring sheet is sold at 70 baht a piece but water hyacinth flooring sheet only cost 35 baht. Bricks made of the plant cost 4.5 baht whereas a regular brick can cost between 10 and 12 baht. However, please study the market first before going to production.  Moreover, there are other innovative products that can help communities collect, move, and process water hyacinth into useful creations. This know-how knowledge is open to everyone. You can find out more by a QR Code scan or visit the website appearing on your screen.  Please help disseminate the information.  This is our own innovation.
2. The development of tourism and silk products. The beginning of Ban Tha Sawang OTOP Village was attributed to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the queen consort of His Majesty King Rama IX, who gave her personal funds to Ajarn Viratham Trakul-nguenthai, a collage teacher and member of Ban Tha Sawang Village, to build the Chansoma weaving factory for the purpose of producing ancient brocade silk once used to make attire for APEC leaders. This is why Ban Tha Sawang brocade silk is so well known in Thailand and around the world. Afterward, Ban Tha Sawang Village became a model sufficiency economy village by applying His Majesty King Rama IX’s self-sufficiency philosophy into everyday activities, allowing members of the village to stand on their own feet.

In 2017, Ban Tha Sawang Village was awarded a sum of money to improve its landscape, tourist centers, attractions, and Ban Tha Sawang Museum. The village is also known for people’s honest livelihood, with 20 families taking part in silk weaving development. As of 2018, the number of participating families moved up to 26. Local businesses generate their revenue by selling silk products and souvenirs both online and in their stores. On average, these stores make about 150,000 baht a month. Around 120 people or 35 households are benefiting from silk business. There are about 40 weavers who earn 8,000 baht a month. 150 people or 40 households benefit from silk weaving.

In addition, the silk weaving factory generates approximately 1.2 million baht a month from selling ancient brocade silk products. The factory employs people in the village, providing an income to the village 180,000 baht a month. Apart from silk weaving, the village is improving its tourist sites and homestay services to sustainably add more value and income to the village.  It is a must to have new innovations while preserving traditional artifacts in order to meet market demands.  Another example I want to share with you today is an exemplary farmer in the field of sericulture. Her name is Kulkanok Petchlert. After joining the program, she was systematically supported. Therefore, now, she is able to make 282,600 baht a year. The money is the result of a well-managed system which involves planting mulberries on a 2.5-rai land with 2,900 kilograms of output per rai.  Also, she grows silkworms 8 times a year, produces 16 kilograms of silk. She is able to weave 15 meters of silk per year, makes 500 soap bars, and 400 kilograms of crispy rolls from mulberry lefts. Details are appearing on your screen. Kulkanok also earns from other activities such as rice farming, pig raising, lecture giving, and homestay businesses.

Other than this, silk isn’t the only prominent textile in the northeastern region. There are also traditional Thai loincloths (Pha-Kao-Ma) whose value can be added. An example is the local loincloth project that had commenced since August 2016 as a cooperative effort between the Pracharat Rak Samakke Social Enterprise by the local economy and Pracharat working committee and the Community Development Department.  It is a way of creating a unique identity for the local loincloth which has a history of over 500 years and can be turned into other products. The project also helps develop the quality of products and expand sales channels to generate more income for communities.  People were encouraged to obtain patents for their products so that the community members would be proud in their occupations and promote their loincloths as a unique local product. Many has started their businesses at Phadung Krung Kasem Market.  Now, there are more products and some can be used as a decorative item for houses, meeting rooms, and bags etc.  In 2018, we have built upon the success of these projects to create continuity for community development projects and have supported the award winners of last year’s loincloth competition to raise awareness and add value to handmade loincloth. It is a way of preserving local practices under the concept of sustainable community handicrafts.  The Government has supported community clusters to enhance production potential and develop the products for the next generation. This includes a local loincloth competition for 2018 for the categories of fashion, craftsmanship, and design.  An example of a community that has benefitted from this program is a loincloth weaving community in Amnat Charoen under the brand “Nuchaba.” It has been hailed as a prosperous loincloth economy that has turned its local loincloth into other household items through raw material management and local knowledge on natural coloring.

The community also received support to feature its products online. Income generated in the community can be divided into the following categories, (1)Weavers have increased their income from 5,000 baht per person per year to up to 20,000 baht per person per year (2) Loincloth processors currently take in around 20,000 baht per person per month (3) Those engaged in sewing now generate income from loincloth that is sold at Pracharat stores and orders from Nuchaba worth around 60,000 to 100,000 baht per month.

3. Projects to develop border trade and investment include the Chong Chom International Point of Entry and the Chong Chom customs project. Chong Chom is the largest Thai-Cambodian border crossing in Surin province.  There are a lot of border trade in this area.  We exported almost 880 million baht while imports since 2014 have totaled over 2.2 billion baht. Since 2007, Surin has initiated the Chong Chom customs project to accommodate the growth in border trade and tourism and has pushed forward for a one-stop-service center for a more convenience services while reducing traffic bottlenecks. Overall, this development it will create a positive image for the country.  In addition, enhancements to Chong Chom border checkpoint coincides with the government’s policy of enhancing the growth of provincial clusters in the trade, investment, tourism, and logistics industries.  It will serve as a hub for distributing products throughout the region via a dual track and high speed railway, the Bang Pa-in – Nakhon Ratchasima Highway, Mittraphap Road, and via the seaports at Laem Chabang, Sattahip, and Map Ta Phut.  Furthermore, it will connect with the logistics network of the east and western economic corridors under the Greater Mekong Subregion Framework and serve as a gateway between Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.  Once operational, the upgraded border checkpoint is expected to enhance the value of trade, investment, tourism, and medical services. The nearby communities will also benefit from this increased prosperity in a sustainable manner. However, we shall not disregard the border and safety issues. Being a good host is also very important.

4. Projects designed to raise the quality of living include the Ban Sa-Nuan Nok Pracharat homestay project. It is another success story of a collective efforts to lift the quality of life by building internal strength of the community.  There are around 165 households in the community that mainly engage in agricultural occupations and textile business as an additional occupation.  What others can emulate from this community is their management system that emphasizes on village principle including virtue, knowledge, balanced source of income, good health, healthy ecosystem, family love, crime elimination, self-sufficiency funds, and a strong village committee.  The community its mobilized by the following social pillars, the household, temple, and school. Ban Sa-Nuan Nok is also a community that incorporates the sufficiency economy philosophy by establishing a self-sufficiency fund that is directed towards urgent needs in the community such as building concrete roads.  In addition, the community has come together to develop its products such as shirts, bags, pencil bags, and toy dolls. People in the community are also encouraged to plant their own vegetables for consumption. This community has a knowledge base of sufficiency economy practices center within the community.  Furthermore, the community has promoted tourism initiatives as the village is famous for its silkworm farming, a traditional practice of indigenous people in Thailand’s northeastern region. It is a cultural heritage that has been passed down through the generations and can be seen today in its local silk products. This is another source of income.  Ban Sa-Nuan Nok has promoted itself a destination for traditional silk weaving.  The initiative began with the gathering of housewives in the community, who have pooled together 10,000 baht as initial capital for producing unique silk designs that have been passed down by their ancestors. Initially, the group could not make a sale to outside markets therefore the sale was only at 10,000 baht per year.  Later on, it then received assistance from the Government on processing methods and marketing. Also, on the marketing side, the group recruited additional members to expand on its operations and registered its silk products with OTOP.  The product was awarded as a 4-5 star OTOP product. Finally, it has developed its own signature design.  The design becomes a unique silk design of Buriram which is now renowned and in demand.  Moreover, it has turned itself as a OTOP tourism village by promoting its renowned production processes, becoming a destination for those who wish to learn about the traditional way of life of villagers, tour the silkworm farms, practice making local snacks, view cultural performances, admire the natural scenery, and stay at one of the homestays. This has helped strengthen the silk community, generating 3 million baht in income for the community.

During my visit, I oversaw the country’s readiness to host the MotoGP PTT Thailand Grand Prix at the Chang International Circuit.  Thailand had been selected for the first time to host the 3-day global event on October 5-7. Over 200,000 people are expected to attend the event, which will also be broadcasted on 200 channels in 207 countries to over 800 million viewers.  Based on the same event that was hosted in Malaysia 7 years ago, income generated directly from the event from foreign visitors and activities totaled around 1.2 billion baht.  Income generated indirectly as a result of the event in the country’s economy including nearby cities amounts to another 4.3 billion baht.  To accommodate this sporting event, the Government has provided support in renovating the Buriram Airport by expanding the runways and adding new passenger terminals accordingly.  Other sectors must prepare themselves as well. This includes restaurants, hotels and homestays, travel and tourism activities, local products, souvenirs, as well as traffic management, facilitation process, safety and security of people’s lives and property.  Together, as a good host, we must lay out systematic plans that are in accordance to international standards. In order to support projects, the Government will see the potential and suitability of the area too.

Lastly, I have 2 pieces of good news. The first one is about how Thailand’s blind football team made history by making it to the round of 16 in the Blind Football World Championships which will take place on June 5-18 in Madrid, Spain. It is an achievement no different from any other sporting competition. In order to represent Asia in this final round, not only must each individual player express their fullest athletic abilities, they must also coordinate as a team, something that is important in any activity.  This sporting event proves that despite being blind, players can still utilize other sensory receptors to play football. It is a matter of practice and continuous improvement. Those who stay committed will become successful. I admire the players for their skill and dedication.  This will sure inspire the whole nation to never give in to difficulties.  I would like to invite everyone to follow and lend their support to our athletes to bring home success, fame, and happiness.  This shall be a stepping stone of the upcoming 2020 Paralympic Games in Japan.

The other topic is Thailand will host and chair the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Network for 2019 and 2020. The network serves to mobilize women’s issues in ASEAN, especially in the area of women economic development to promote gender equality and female participation in the ASEAN economy.  This will help raise the quality of living of the people through cooperative measures and coincide with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a people-centric approach.  In this regard, I asked that Thailand’s hosting focuses on boosting the competitiveness of SMEs and female entrepreneurs, strengthen the local economy in the production and marketing sector through the Pracharat model, and bring about a digital economy that is driven by innovations and technologies that are environmentally friendly and enable sustainable development.  We must approach these issues by creating strategic partnerships of equality based on mutual benefit without leaving anyone behind.  In addition, I would like to leave you with a poem as a guideline on national development for security, prosperity, and sustainability.  Please pay attention to the content of the poem instead of scrutinizing its eloquence or correctness.

“Mobilize our political sector for national development
Don’t cause conflict where you go
Democracy is meant for the people,
not for justifying anarchy
Continue with the reform projects,
like weaving silk into one piece
Blend in all colors and features
Thailand must stay ahead of danger
The Government and the NCPO can’t do it all
Thais must strive to help Thais through the Pracharat model
to rid themselves of poverty and suffering
and reach the destination of a sustainable Thailand”

Thank you and I wish everyone and their families a happy weekend,
especially the farmers who are the backbone of this country, during this planting season.

Thank you.  Sawasdee Krub.