Gen Prayut Chan-o cha
, prime minister’ s speech.
Brothers, sisters, citizens. Yesterday, new cabinet members were sworn into office.
This comes at a time that is of enormous importance to everyone in Thailand, and I want to lay out some of my thoughts as we go forward.
We have, together, successfully fought, and continue to fight the Covid public health threat.
Our joint efforts have saved tens of thousands of lives. As importantly, we have saved many tens of thousands more households from losing their fathers, mothers, children, and from losing breadwinners in a family, or carers for children who would grow up without a mother or father, or both – creating huge financial problems and pain for families that will be felt deeply for tens of years long after the Covid crisis is over. And we have saved tens of billions of baht that we would have had to spend on medical needs – money which we can, instead, now use to help us fight the economic challenges overwhelming so many millions of families.
A country like ours can not afford the devastation of tens of thousands of deaths, as has happened in so many other countries, and I therefore intend to continue to take a tough approach on preventing a public health crisis.
But my growing focus now is to attack the economic crisis.
I will begin by saying that the economic crisis is not something that will go away quickly. We have to be realistic. Most experts inside and outside of Thailand expect everyone to continue to suffer until late next year.
The entire world is suffering one of the worst economic challenges in modern times. We are caught up in that global storm because our country was so dependent on money from exports and money from tourists. And because we were more dependent on exports and tourism that many other countries in the world, so we will be feeling some of the greatest shocks, maybe even worse than others. We cannot escape the storm. We are a small boat in a big ocean, and our economy can only start returning to normality when the rest of the world starts returning to normality.
However, what we can do is to put the best talent to work on doing everything to help people survive these terrible times. That is what I promised to you in my earlier address to the nation; that we must mobilise the best people in every sector and every level of society to share their talent and capability and work together to help us not only get through this Covid crisis, but to plan and advance the future of our country in a ‘new normal’ way of working. It’s what I called Ruam Thai Sarng Chart.
As part of that Ruam Thai Srang Chart promise to mobilise the great talent in our country, no matter where they may be, I decided to bring into cabinet talent from outside of the political world.
In putting together a cabinet to serve the country I have been pleased to work with the government coalition partners to the best of their and my abilities.
Living in a democratic society means that we must all work with certain compromises. However, there is one area in which I have said there can be no compromise: the economy. The economy is as big a threat to our lives as is the health threat, and which is why I have appointed a non-politician outside experts to manage the essential financial portfolios. They are respected men of strong moral character and with long and outstanding professional records.
I know that no-one can quickly turn the economy around while the global situation exists, so my guidance to him is simple. I have given him 5 job guidelines to follow in serving the people of Thailand.
• Job #1: We must keep providing short term pain relief for the people, and with particular attention to SMEs and the people who have lost their jobs in various sectors.
• Job #2: We must do it in a way that is sustainable for the country, bearing in mind how long this global problem will last. I know it’s impossible to keep giving relief forever, so we must begin a solid programme for sustainable recovery that’s right for our current situation, and which will bring prosperity once the world situation stabilises. We must ensure the right programmes are rolled out and we must ensure our limited pool of money is used properly and reaches the right people and with the right integrated mechanisms.
• Job #3: We must provide incentives to help people stay employed, and for businesses to use this time to ‘reset’ and become efficient and competitive.
• Job #4: We must have a plan for youth employment. There are a whole new generation of graduates entering the job market. They need to find jobs.
• Job #5: And in doing all of these, to operate with transparency and with integrity, and to stay open to the opinions of all stakeholders. Everybody in our society has a role to play in helping us get through this challenge.
In addition to appointing non-politicians as ministers as part of Ruam Thai Srang Chart’s goal to involve talent from every part of society, I am now formally reaching out with invitations to other great talent that lies outside of the government
During this and next month I will be conducting workshops with various sectors who will come and present to me their vision to drive their sector forward, the opportunities that they see, and their points of view in how the government may support their sector to progress even faster.
I will attend all of these sessions personally because I want to hear directly from the people. What I want is for the groups to tell me how they propose to move their sector up to the next level so that when the Covid crisis subsides our country will be positioned to prosper quickly, create great employment opportunities, and be in even better shape than before we entered the Covid crisis. My role is to understand issues first hand, and I will direct the state to support the efforts of the various sectors, or remove encumbrances that hold us all back from greater success
This united approach to solving our problems, where we engage in constructive discussion, planning and activity, is the way out of the problems that have stagnated our country for so long.
The politics of division that rejects a united approach to solving problems belongs to another era in history. It is the politics of divide and rule, of an old generation. It does not have a place in today’s world. People who say, “I won’t listen to him because he has different beliefs”, or “I won’t meet him because he believes in certain ideas” are stuck in the politics of yesteryear. It is a culture that belongs to a bygone era.
Our sights must be on the decades that belong to today’s 15-year-olds, 20-year-olds, and 30-year olds. What’s important today is social justice, equality before the law, equality of opportunity, more chances to be the best that each of us can be, regardless of our surname, or our family’s financial standing, or our age. We must all trust that everyone one is born with good. I, too, I believe in that.
Our new world asks for us to learn how to collaborate and to work together in a diverse but single team. We must redefine our politics together and break the mould of old-world politics of division and ‘us versus them’.
This is the language that we must speak. This is the language that I will speak. And this is the language that the vast and silent majority of Thais, deep in their hearts are speaking.
The most important thing is that we share our thoughts and that we must give everyone an opportunity to contribute their vision and ideas with enthusiasm and conviction.
And that is exactly what the members of the media who I met did.
That is why I salute with respect every member of the media for meeting with me during my recent visits to solicit their ideas and advice for the future of Thailand. Based on their deep and wide knowledge of our country and its constraints, they diligently prepared some very well thought out and realistic recommendations, no matter what part of the political spectrum their sympathies may lie, and I am sure they will be able to detect their ideas embedded in future programmes… The important thing is that they made their recommendations not because they care for me personally, or even my government, but they did so because they care for and love the more than 70 million other people who call this beautiful land ‘my country’ and who also proudly say ‘I am a Thai’. They did it because they just want to help their country and their countrymen.
• This is the spirit that makes our country great and puts us on the path of even greater greatness – a path very different from the one that says, “I won’t listen to him because he disagrees with me”, or “I won’t let her speak because I disagree with her, or dislike her”. That is the certain path to darkness.
• Instead, the Thai spirit says, “I may have a different point of view, but let’s ‘give opportunities’, let’s listen, let’s compromise, and let’s just get something done.”
Right now, we must focus on the economic survival of tens of millions. Let’s get the economy going first; first, get that done by working together, and we can look to fixing the other issues, collaboratively, later.
As a gesture to show that I will walk the talk of Ruam Thai Srang Chart, I have today, recommended to my new minister of finance that he invite some of the best brains in our country to talk to him and share their perspectives, and that many of those who he invites should be people who may have served in governments from other parts of the political spectrum or may have different political convictions… He must listen to them all.
This is an approach that I want adopted throughout my new cabinet. It must be a cabinet that proves we must ‘Ruam Thai Sarng Chart’. I am now appealing to every Thai citizen, reaching to you directly to please say ‘no’ to the politics of hate and division and to the politics that spreads the disease of tribalism of ‘belief versus belief’, or ‘young versus old’, or ‘rich versus poor’, or any other manner of distinction that may soon be injected into our society.
The future belongs to the young, and also our future is in the hands of the young. Let the young lead the way and provide the moral leadership to show us all how to take the hard path of collaboration with people who may disagree with us during times of national hardship for the sake of the many millions suffering right now.
We have a great priority ahead of us, and one that’s above polemics and political philosophy. It’s the financial survival of millions of people who are suffering from the devastation caused by the global Covid crisis.
We have halved our problems by avoiding the huge death tolls suffered by so many other countries. But we must now focus on economic survival. We are in a very dire economic situation because of the terrible global circumstances of Covid. But we have hope. We have hope because we have seen how joining hands and acting together made us one of the best countries in the world at stopping the Covid virus from killing people in our country. We can do the same in managing the worst effects of the economic crisis. We can win the admiration of the world for how we as Thais united to solve our economic issues; we can show how 70 million people working together can overcome the greatest challenges thrown at us by the world. The only way forward is to join hands, join hearts, and to work together for the best of our country, and to hold our prosperity and that of our children as our first and most important mission right now.