From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals October 19, 2018

Good evening to you all.

October 23rd marks the passing of His Majesty King Rama V. There were several major reforms during his reign. These major reforms led to the expansion and the development of our nation.

His Majesty’s countless works are for the people. People called their beloved King Phra Piyamaharaj or the Great King. Thus, October 23rd is designated as “Piyamaharaj Day” or “King Chulalongkorn Day.”

One of the most notable achievements of King Chulalongkorn was the abolishment of slavery in Thailand. He was able to do it without bloodshed or violence, but rather through legislative processes, which speaks to his intelligence and ingenuity.

Thailand was able to move away from slavery just a bit over 30 years, followed by other aspects of reform such as infrastructure development, electricity, irrigation, postal services, telegram, telephone, and public health etc.

Oversea visits to Europe was also an important part of his royal activities. Not only his presence in Europe forms strong allies between both sides, but he also applied European thinkings and practices in the context of Thailand which led to prosperity and acceptance among the world community, particularly western countries. He was also the main reason why Thailand hasn’t been colonised by anyone.

To demonstrate the country’s love and loyalty to His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, the Government is organising alms-offering and wreath-laying ceremonies at the Royal Plaza, along with homage-paying and candle-lit ceremonies at the Sanam Luang Ceremonial Ground. Also, People are invited to wear pink on Tuesday, October 23rd.

My dear citizens, national reform will not in done in one day. It needs time, consistency, and cooperation from everyone.  Please allow me to show you an example, on October 19th, 1972, His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej or King Rama IX gave us and the world a successful demonstration of artificial rain making technique, a method that adds water to dams and reservoirs.

He chose Kaeng Krachan Dam in Phetchaburi province as a place for the demonstration. The size of the dam was 46.5 square kilometers or 1,160 rai. It was the smallest dam to ever conduct a cloud seeding operation. The demonstration was a great success. His Majesty was able to produce artificial rain that accurately fell into the targeted area in front of the eyes of many witnesses, mostly scientists and members of the press from Thailand and overseas. It was one of the steps toward country reform that addressed the problem of drought faced by Thai people and farmers.

For this reason, October 19th is designated as “Thai Technology Day” in commemoration of His Late Majesty’s great achievement.

Today, let me give you an example of agricultural reform which the Government wishes to carry on. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has introduced a new agricultural management system to improve farmers’ living standards and income, helping them overcome poverty in a more effective manner.

The first approach is to restructure the work of local agriculture and cooperatives offices by promoting connectivity between governmental agencies and the private sector and forming a sub-committee for provincial agricultural and cooperative development. This has resulted in higher solidarity and better, faster solutions.

The second approach is the management of water resources which is being done more systematically among concerned agencies under the supervision of the Office of the National Water Resources. As a result, water resource development and water distribution have improved by 4-fold, enhancing irrigation in 3,500 zones covering 2.8 million rai and benefiting up to 9.74 million rai. Water supply has increased by 1.652 billion cubic meters. And 1.3 million households are better off and now earn an additional 2,750 baht per rai. In addition, there are water retention areas or monkey’s cheek dams to prevent flooding in Bang Rakam and Chao Phraya fields. This effort has to continue for better results. Moreover, several royally initiated projects under His Late Majesty are implemented by this Government.

The third approach is the adoption of modern agricultural methods to lower cost and increase marketing channels. Farmers are encouraged to form a group, apply the large-scale farming technique, and set up a learning center to pass on knowledge. Private companies will be buying directly from these farmers. We also have Pracharat shops serving as additional distribution channels. Agricultural cooperatives are encouraged to partner up with the private companies under the Pracharat initiative. Farmers are taking part in the “Smart Farmer” campaign which focuses on the new generation of farmers. Also, online sales channel is another useful tool. Most importantly, the Government is working to make sure that farmers can rely on themselves.

The fourth approach is the stabilisation of the prices of rice. The Ministry of Commerce has drafted an integrated rice production plan which encourages farmers to grow rice at certain times of the year and resort to alternatives. The Government assists them in finding buyers for their alternative crops and insuring prices. This has led to lower (rice) supply and higher prices. Many have join the efforts and have been successful.

The fifth approach is to adopt sustainability. Concerned agencies and the private sector were jointly developed a production plan in accordance with the Government’s “market leads production” policy. Farmers should understand the demand, retail prices, and production cost before deciding to grow any crops. The Government is applying several measures to minimise risks for famers to invite them to switch to a new method. The new plan will be executed this November. It is a must that we monitor the world market. We cannot just hope that the price would be high.   In order to compete in the world market, we have to set the right price that is compatible with the current supply and demand.

And the last approach is to fix the debt problem. Debt settlements have been done through negotiations and mediations between creditors and borrowers. We’ve been able to assist 36,000 indebted farmers, reducing their debt around 10.2 billion baht. There could still be other major creditors and loan sharks. In this regard, I urge that you respect concerned laws and regulations when carrying out your businesses.

However, a successful reform always starts with “ourselves.” Then, from there, we have to reach out and work together to address the country’s problems and challenges in a sustainable fashion.

My beloved citizens, when it comes to national reform, we cannot only think of “domestic factors” or only look at reform from our own perspectives, but we have to progressively think of global factors too.  We must apply both factors to create an environment that can best accommodate our country’s future development.

This October, I attended several meetings outside the country. Please allow me to share with you about what I have learnt during those meetings.  After my attendance at 10th Mekong-Japan Summit in Tokyo on October 11th, I took part in the unofficial ASEAN Leaders’ Gathering
attended by heads of international organisations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. The event took place in Bali, Indonesia. ASEAN leaders gave keynote speeches, expressing their visions and willingness to work toward the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

They also stressed the importance of reducing development gap through regional partnership and international organisations’ cooperation. Strategic economic partnership is also a key to success.

This meeting shows that international organisations are giving a lot of weight to ASEAN region and the issue of sustainable development.  On my part, I talked about 3 topics.

The first one was the promotion of stabilisation of global and regional economic and monetary amidst global economic uncertainties. It can be said that Thailand’s strong position in the global arena together with our economic policy and our own flexibility have allowed to cope with the impact of currency fluctuations and support regional economic growth.  I have emphasised the important of free trade policy that comes with financial discipline. At the national level, there must be sufficient amount of reserves and low foreign debts, or in accordance with the law. Currently, Thailand’s foreign debts stand at 35 percent which is much lower than the international criteria at no more than 80%. Our foreign debts are well managed. In terms of public debt, our country’s public debt is below 60%. Thailand is at 40%.

However, the size of the economy is also a very important factor. Exceeding the limit is a dangerous sign. At the regional level, there must be active financial collaboration and assistance programs. And at the global level, cooperation must be done through international bodies responsible for overseeing financial and monetary activities and policies in times of financial crisis in order to prevent the domino effect.

These three levels of cooperation will effectively reduce risks and the impact of crisis. Also, such cooperation will improve people’s access to financial services.

2. I invited the World Bank and the UN to join in on research to increase the link between existing regional frameworks, such as ACMECS and IMT-GT, as well as strategic partnerships between the World Bank, ADB and AIIB in funding

and 3. To adopt the sufficiency economy philosophy in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (or SEP for SDG) in the context of the region, as well as to welcome the establishment of ASEAN Centre for Dialogue and Education for sustainable development in Thailand in 2019. The Centre is going to support ASEAN in achieving the SDGs and becoming a people-centred community that leaves no one behind, along with a vision of a strategic future.

I also emphasised the importance of human development as being the “heart” of sustainable development, which corresponds to the concept of the World Bank. I proposed that Thailand is ready to host talks on human capital development between ASEAN, the World Bank, the IMF and the UN.

The World Bank President said that in the past, it had recommended countries to invest in infrastructure before investing in people. However, Thailand had chosen to invest in human resources as its first priority.

Examples are such as comprehensive public health investment which benefited the growth of the country. Therefore, today, the World Bank has urged countries to turn their attention to the development of human capital such as education and health which will benefit sustainable economic growth.

This meeting has generated significant momentum towards sustainable development goals in line with the way Thailand is going. This will pave the way forward for Thailand’s ASEAN chairmanship next year.

Between the 18th and 19th of October, I attended the 12th Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) to exchange views global security, economy, and society in order to set the direction towards cooperation and strengthen understanding between nations.

The European Union, as the host has set the main topic of the conference as “Europe and Asia: Global Partners for Global Challenges.” Leaders from 51 Asian and European countries, along with two international organisations which are the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat participated in this meeting. It is a great opportunity to promote Thailand’s role in the ASEM arena.

I had presented my vision of how to promote cooperation for comprehensive growth and sustainable connectivity to support Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in which Thailand supports Asia and Europe as “Partnerships for Sustainability” and concrete links to cope with different challenges from nature and human actions as well as technological advances.

In addition, I also had opportunities to exchange views with other leaders during informal meetings on how to increase multilateral cooperation regarding situations in the region and the world.  The topics include the promotion of free trade and the revision of international rules to keep up with the changes as well as new challenges.

After the ASEM meeting, I also attended the EU-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting, which discussed cooperation between ASEAN and the EU in various areas under the 2018 – 2022 ASEAN-EU Action Plan to tackle global issues, including trade wars and creating new strategic balances in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific region.

I also discussed enhancing links between the two regions in a “seamless manner” in terms of infrastructure, regulations, and social links to prepare for the future, which contains challenges from a variety of dimensions such as climate change, ageing society, and balancing humanitarian issues with security.

These are significant issues that will continue to be of importance during Thailand’s ASEAN chairmanship.

Finally, the Cabinet meeting this past Tuesday oversaw the organization of the “Happiness Building” exhibition for the people of Kalasin and Mae Hong Son, which are pilot provinces for solving income issues by expanding on the province’s strengths and selling points.

This reminds of the girl group “Praewa Gigi,” which consists of 18 members from 18 districts in Kalasin, presenting songs in local dialect and folk dances.

What I find interesting is the introduction of “Praewa Silk,” a unique hand-woven fabric of “Phu Thai” heritage that is sewn into the artists’ dresses, reimagined in an innovative, modern, and free-flowing fashion. This is the work of the local people demonstrating their skills for the rest of Thailand.

I notice that various provinces have their own unique and local fabrics, though they may not be widely known or developed into exportable goods. They are often only popular among locals, especially the elderly who wear them at festive occasions. I think that they can be developed further in terms of design for use in other ways.

In addition to preserving these local designs, they can bring value to products, such as costumes, bags, shoes, curtains, bedsheets, or any other use case as deemed appropriate. It is a matter of thinking creatively to meet local and international demand.