From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals June 8, 2018

A very good evening to you all.

Celebrated on June 9th of every year, Ananda Mahidol’s Day commemorates the passing of King Ananda Mahidol or King Rama VIII. As the father of modern medicine, King Ananda Mahidol founded the Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand’s first institute of higher education. His wish was to have more physicians and healthcare personnel who can look after Thai people in all corners of the country.

Health problem remains a basic and common issue in our everyday lives. I believe that prevention is always better than solution. The latter can be costly. Your hard-earned money could all be spent on medication. Time will be wasted. Also, you might lose your chance to earn more money and become other people’s burden.

No matter how good healthcare services the Government can provide, if you do not take care of your health, you could not get away with sickness even though some sickness can easily be prevented by not smoking and drinking habitually, not eating too tasty foods that could lead to kidney problems, exercising, and keeping your home clean and sanitized so that residential areas don’t become breeding grounds for rats, mosquitoes, roaches, and other germ carriers. You must have a first aid kit and basic medicines in the house.

With that said, all types of reform start with ourselves. At present, some of public health policies are designed to augment and improve healthcare and welfare benefits. Some policies will require integration from many relevant agencies for successful implementation such as the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) policy which provides free emergency services to all during the first 72 hours.

Under such policy, those needing emergency care or in life-threatening situations can seek help at nearby hospitals either public or private even if it is not under the health security system.  This is because all lives, despite their economic statuses, are all precious. Since the policy came into force a year ago, a total of 15,000 lives have been saved.

This policy is likened to social equality and protects the rights of all citizens regardless of who they are. Please familiarize yourself with how the system works. Do not wait until something happens.  You can help save lives. For emergency assistance, please call 1669.

My fellow Thais, there is an old saying “One should even listen to the sound of a gecko.” With this in mind, the Government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) have listened to concerns and tried to address them all during the past 4 years. Our ultimate goal is to return happiness to you all. Of course, we don’t measure happiness based on economic figures or scales which are commonly used to analyze data for academic and business purposes.

But the Government have a bigger objective.  We take into consideration people’s wellbeing, social equality, safety of people’s lives and properties, corruption issue, the lack of proper basic infrastructure, and political conflicts.

Please share your concerns with us.  No matter they are poll results, opinions, or complaints. You can get in touch with us through several channels including Damrongtham Center 1111 and the Thai Niyom Hotline 1567. I’m glad to see that many problems have been solved.  We will not ignore your problems no matter how small they are.  With regard to complicated issues, please give responsible agencies time to solve them.

In the past, many problems were swept under the carpet. Witnesses were scared to speak up. This Government focuses on enforcement of the laws especially when it comes to children’s lunch, (the noodle and fish sauce sandal), the embezzlement of the Destitute Fund, the ‘Sema’ Fund, and other problematic projects such as road maintenance. We are solving these problems. Please let us know your problems through the aforesaid channels. Also, please refrain from prank calling as pranking is not good for anyone.

As for structural problems or big reforms, time is needed before we can start to see the results. Issues of rice, rubber, and sugarcane farming will take time. While at it, farmers should find additional work to do to earn more money for their family. We have invested a lot of money for our future. Not only does it will solve problems sustainably, it will create good opportunities as well.

For example, the construction of 10 electric train lines is underway. In the past, the projects got struck.  The construction may cause traffic congestion but is worth the trouble. The establishment of the EEC will start to come to fruition soon. There will be tens of thousands of job openings in many fields. 50-billion-baht worth of domestic materials will be consumed. And the country will generate up to 70 billion baht from exports on a yearly basis.

All Thai people will be better off. We will be the ones benefiting. However, all have to improve themselves and find a way to be part of this project.  Materials and workforces will not be coming from other places but around the country. Small manufacturers, SMEs, and startups will have to partner up with large businesses in the EEC zone. Activities and growth will be realized not only in EEC cities but also other parts of Thailand, CLMV nations, ASEAN, and the world.

Looking back 30 years ago, the Thai economy was thriving and booming.  Today, the EEC project is the next big thing that will benefit the next generation and our children. In the next 3 years, when the projects are gradually completed, we will begin see some concrete results. At that time, you will understand that what I’m speaking now is the truth, responding to my promise that I have given to you.

My fellow Thais, last week you might have heard a good news about a Thai athlete winning U.S. Women’s Open Championship 2018. Ariya Jutanugarn, aka Pro May, won the championship and as a result she moved up to number 2 in world rankings. What I want to point out apart from her patience, discipline, and commitment is the level of her concentration.

Concentration helped her through many obstacles and decision making during the competition. She had a very stable mind and strong heart. When talking about stability, many of us think of our lives, properties, and the nation, and often think that it is the government’s responsibility to provide these things. This notion might not be entirely true. Stability in your mind begins at home, temple, and school, in line with the Royal Philosophy.

With regard to build quality and capable human resources for the nation from the upstream level or Thai Niyom principle, I would like to share with you the Government policy on homes and residences, which are of the 4 necessities in life and have a direct impact on families’ wellbeing.

Home is a place to cultivate and instill (values) and provide immunity to all family members, getting them ready to face and experience the outside world. I believe that when families have a stable home, happiness and love will follow. Family members will have a productive life whereas the society will have fewer problems. All most all problems we have are in relation with the quality of our people.  Therefore, to solve the problems, problems must be tackled at their roots and the roots are the people.

In the future, there will be more population and migration. The demand for residential homes will be higher. At present, about 5 million families don’t hold ownership of their premises, and up to 3 million of them are low income earners.

The Government has short-term measures to find these people a place to call home while at the same time improving the wellbeing of their communities. As for long-term measures, the Government has a 20-year housing development blueprint (2017-2036). The goal is to help every individual find a place to call home and have a good quality of life by the year 2036.

There are five principles attached to the blueprint.
1) We have to make sure places people call homes are up to standards. Policy must also be implemented at both provincial and local levels, together with proper management on land. Also, the information system on residential places will have to be upgraded, so that we have more accurate information.  This would help us make a better policy or tackle problems at the right spot.

2) We have to improve accessibility in our financial and credit system such as the Housing Development Fund, the Urban Community Development Fund, and the Mortgage Risk Guarantee Fund.  This would create more chances for people to have a house.

3) We must improve the management of residences, which will require cooperation between the private sector and local people. Also, we need a one stop service center to accommodate those in need.

4) We must promote sustainability of communities through the provision of proper social welfare and supports, together with the help of community members.
And 5) we must create a hospitable environment for a good quality of life through land and city management, along with the public utility system, energy saving residences, and environmentally-friendly practices.

Under this master plan, the Government has issued a working plan to improve the quality of life and assist up to one million low income families in urban and rural cities. Two million families will be entitled to affordable rent or leasing through the Pracharat Housing project and Ban Uea Athorn project.

These projects will accommodate 700,000 families in 6,500 communities across 77 provinces. To elaborate, let me give you some examples of the projects the Government has implemented for different groups of people.

The first one is the housing project for the low-income earners in urban areas.
1) We have Lat Phrao Canal Side House project stretching 32 kilometers. In the past, houses on this waterway were there illegally and many of them were in poor conditions given that they were built above the water.

This Pracharat housing program receives great cooperation from the residents who are willing to move away from embankments. They have agreed to a 30-year rent contract, with an option to renew the contract every 30 years. The rent is only hundreds baht per year or 50-100 baht a month.

Also, the residents are entitled to a 15-year house construction loan of no more than 360,000 baht in a form of cooperative loan, enabling them to have a decent home in a livable community. The Government is also helping to improve their living standards and enhancing their professional skills especially among housewives. Career development funds have been given to various communities.

Projects are already implemented in 29 communities, 2,600 families. 1,190 of them already have their own homes. The remaining 1,200 families will follow suit. Not only will it improve the wellbeing of canal side communities, these housing programs also provide solutions to future flood problems.

(2) The Din Daeng Community Renewal Project.  The flats were unsafe for occupancy. There have been efforts to make improvements to the flats for the past 16 years.

This Government has taken up the issue to accelerate the process of improving the quality of life and raising the living standards of people in the area. A committee has been set up to mobilize and educate the public regarding quality living and the need for the restoration of the Din Daeng community.

Finally, the project was able to roll out in late 2016. When the project is completed, it will be able to develop around 20,000 new residential units, consisting of approximately 6,500 units for former residents. This first phase of construction was scheduled to finish this June.

Around 13,000 units for new residents who are civil servants and the general public are in the process of studying the feasibility of a joint venture with the private sector.

This project will not only ensure safety for the people in the community but also create a new urban landscape that is more beautiful, livable, adding recreational areas, parks, as well as community shopping areas to create opportunities for community residents to make a living and boost their mental, physical, economic, social, and environmental wellbeing.

And (3) The project to improve the quality of life of homeless people in urban areas to help integrate these people with the community and society and promote overall improved well-being.

The project has created a center of homeless people to conduct quality of life development activities in 3 provinces, consisting of Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and Bangkok. In 2017, the construction of the Center for the Rehabilitation and Empowerment of Homeless People in Chiang Mai was initiated to accommodate 80 homeless people.

In the Bangkok area, the Taling Chan District Homeless Shelter was renovated to accommodate 50 homeless people. In 2018, the city purchased land and buildings in Muang District in Pathum Thani to accommodate 120 people. In Khon Kaen, we are purchasing and designing a joint center between networks for homeless people, academics, and associates in the area to accommodate 125 people. We must continue with these programs as there are many people that need to be accommodated.

Projects in the second group are housing projects for the poor, the underprivileged and the vulnerable. Let me give you the following examples.

(1) The project to improve the housing environment for people with disabilities to remove obstacles and help the disabled to be able to live and conduct activities in their daily life. The project focuses disabled people with low income, no stable residence, no caretakers, in living conditions that are unsuitable for them. The project aims to improve their living condition.

Examples include remodeling the bathroom, shower room, staircase, walkway, bedroom and all other necessities (if any).  The project focuses on 132,700 targeted homes. In addition, I have ordered that all public projects be consistent with the guidelines of “universal design.” Although, it would cost more but we need to reduce “physical” disparities, starting today.

And (2) The life-enhancing project for homeless people and beggars under the “Baan Noi Nai Nikhom Sang Ton Eng” project which accommodates target groups who have passed the rehabilitation process according to the Thanyaburi Model. A total of 347 units have been allocated in 23 “Nikhom Sang Ton Eng” areas in 17 provinces, along with occupational and skill development programs  to ensure readiness to return to their families and communities. At present, a total of 224 participants have gone through the program. During the fiscal 2018, 10 have been sent back home with another 202 participants undergoing occupational development such as working at businesses, homes, or farming areas.

The 3rd group is an integrated housing and land solution for low income farmers according to the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy. I would like to give the following examples.

(1) Ten rural housing projects in areas owned by the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) in 7 provinces, involving 982 households, with 497 already being implemented. For example, the ALRO project in Uthai Thani allocates over 3,000 Rai for 500 farms at around 5 Rai per family.

The Government will provide a subsidy of 40,000 baht for each home, with top up fund from the homeowner for the remaining. The construction of the house will be undertaken jointly to save money. Households will also grow their own vegetable.

In the farm, silkworm farm and hybrid farm will be the main occupations. This is an example of a policy to strengthen the local and  community with integrated efforts by the Government.

Important principles are the “power of the people” in the area, including “economic ignition from within according to the King’s Philosophy.

(2) The Rural Sufficiency Housing Project to help poor households in rural areas with land and housing troubles, including disaster-affected areas and damaged homes. In 2017, the project has assisted around 10,000 households.

In 2018, the project set a target of 15,000 households but was able to exceed its target by assisting over 16,000 households with a budget of 340 million baht. Over 4,000 households have already been built/repaired.

The Government would subsidize the repair or reconstruction of homes using some old materials with a budget not exceeding 18,000 baht per household, with the remainder paid by the homeowner. The community may also contribute funds as well as labor, encouraging unity within the community.

Some districts have founded a housing development fund to assist other people in the future. In addition to the projects I had mentioned, there are many other projects initiated by the Government with the same objective, which are to ensure that people of all groups have the opportunity to improve their housing conditions and raise their standards of living. This may be through projects for repairing and improving homes for the elderly or renovating homes for the impoverished and disadvantaged in the southern border provinces.

All of these are developments by the Government to resolve problems. They serve as a good “starting point” for mobilizing the Master Plan for Housing Development and the 20-Year National Strategy to reduce inequality and improve the country’s human resources, raise the quality of life and create a good environment for our children.

I would like to commend the IUU, ICAO, and Anti-Human Trafficking working groups for their work progress. I am satisfied with the work and understand the officials and fishermen who have made this a success. Of course, there are people who were affected by the change but we must continue to cooperate and resolve issues together for the common good of our country.

Finally, I would like to commend and congratulate Mr. Athiwara Khongmalai or “Toon Bodyslam” who will receive this year’s “Banterng Terd Tam” award from HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

This is the most prestigious award from the “Nine Entertain Awards” for his famous charity run program to fund 11 hospitals across the country.

I see this as a historic and important reform move by a person in the entertainment industry according to the “quality frontstage, ethical backstage” concept of being a good role model for society both in front of and behind the camera.

He has encouraged Thai people to take care of their health by exercising and take part in volunteer activities for the greater good, in line with the country reform agenda which must occur in all corners.

So, I invite everyone to “reform ourselves” and develop ourselves to be better than the day before. Let’s engage in productive activities for the common good and post pictures or video clips of those good deeds on social media with the hashtag #สร้างไทยไปด้วยกัน (building Thailand together) and #ReformTogether so that we can encourage each other to do good things and invite people from all over the country to join our reform efforts and build the future together.

Next week, there are two important activities: (1) The Cabinet meeting in Nakhon Sawan on June 11-12 where we are going to meet with people in the lower northern provinces Nakhon Sawan, Kamphaeng Phet, Phichit and Uthai Thani

and oversee the revitalization of Phichit River and major water resource development projects (Bueng Si Fai and Bueng Boraphet) and other projects including  infrastructure and logistics development, improving production inputs to reduce costs and increase income for farmers, and the development of tourism industry to improve quality and sustainability.

(2) The ACMECS Leadership or Irrawaddy-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy on June 15-16, 2018, in Bangkok where Thailand is the host nation. The meeting involves 5 CLMVT countries that have continued economic growth. The region is a high potential market and an important strategic location between China and India and the Indian and Pacific oceans.

I will inform you of the issues discussed and the results of the meeting in the following programs. Most importantly, I would like to ask all of us to be good hosts (for the upcoming meeting).

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