Prime Minister and Defense Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha on 17 April 2020 issued a statement to inform the people of his upcoming undertakings and other related issues. The following statement was televised on the Television Pool of Thailand.
Dear Thai people,
Today I wish to inform you about my forthcoming undertakings and the important role that we all need to take on for this coming week.
Before that, as this past week was the Thai New Year, I would like to once again, wish you all a very Happy New Year with good health and heartened spirits. As it is a very important day for the Thai people, I hope that you all had a Happy Songkran. Although this year has been different from the past, it was still a meaningful time for all of us as we celebrated Songkran Day and Family Day in Thailand.
This is a time that has allowed us to reflect upon the most important thing in our lives, which is our families. No matter what problems we may face, the ones that will always be there for us are our parents, siblings, and relatives. In a way, our families have expanded this year – extending beyond our relatives to include the entire nation of almost 70 million people, given that we are all doing our best to handle the ongoing crisis together. We are supporting and relying on each other to get through this very difficult time and overcome the many hardships – as we have seen, complete strangers are now buying food for people in distress so that they can survive the day.
At the moment, Thailand is going through a very stressful time, with many lives and livelihoods being ruined at an unprecedented level. At the global level, the COVID-19 crisis has caused much damage to all nations, whether poor, rich, or powerful. Many countries in the West, in Europe, along with other highly developed countries are experiencing high infection rates, which have come with tens of thousands of fatalities. Experts have also suggested that the number of fatalities may increase to be in the hundreds of thousands in the future. This is an epic crisis that has required all governments to live up to their potentials in order to overcome it.
At the moment, I am focusing on two key areas of work. The first concerns health issues, meaning – what we need to do to reduce the spread of COVID19, and enhance our capacity to treat patients. The second area of work concerns providing assistance to the Thai people, so that all citizens will have enough money to live on. This involves approving a number of assistance programs and the Ministry of Finance has been delegated to be the main agency responsible for coming up with and implementing such measures. My role is to direct and manage the entire work of the Government, so that each ministry and agency can do their jobs correctly, appropriately, and effectively.
I am well aware of your concerns about the 5,000 baht per month scheme and the other assistance measures undertaken by the Ministry of Finance. I have been continuously looking into this matter. As such, I met with the Minister of Finance and other concerned officials to obtain an explanation on the situation, including the cause of the current problems and how to resolve them. Along with the 5,000 baht per month scheme, I have been following up on the work by other ministries, specifically their initiatives to help people out during this difficult time. Almost all the ministries are implementing their respective assistance programs, and the Government will, therefore, continue to look after every sector in our society.
Along with these two key areas of focus, I would like to mention another calling that I view as crucial at this time and is thus a responsibility for all Thai people to undertake with me. This refers to actually working together for the greater benefit of all, which essentially asks of us – how can we do things better and more effectively, more than ever before, to win this war against the COVID-19 virus.
Undertaking this calling begins with understanding well the reality that we each have our own strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and different ideas. We also need to realize that overcoming the COVID-19 crisis will need committed cooperation between the Government and all sectors in our country. In this regard, we also need to realize that the Government cannot provide solutions to every single problem. However, there are many other groups and sectors that can help by coming up with creative solutions and ideas that will be most useful.
The COVID-19 crisis is extensive and complex. Our task is, therefore, to fight this together with unity, and as Team Thailand. We need to seek out greater cooperation and bring in every sector in our society, particularly the business sector, to pool our knowledge and capabilities to help our country. We need the many gifted and talented persons in our country to work together now. This is Team Thailand. Whether it is the Government, our universities, research centers, businesses, our tycoons, or the average citizen – everyone has been making personal sacrifices and cooperating together during this crucial time, and in particular, with our doctors and public health officials, as well as the many volunteers who have risked their own safety to save other people.
I know that many of us in Team Thailand have already started many important and beneficial programs to help out. But now, more than ever, we need to enhance this national effort, starting first with our business sector. Therefore, next week I will issue an open letter to our top 20 tycoons and ask of them: as respected persons in society, how you will work with us more and help our country in this time of need?
There are many tycoons in Thailand who have great influence on our economy, some of whom are listed as among the wealthiest in the world. I ask you to play a crucial role in supporting our country by becoming an integral part of Team Thailand. I am aware and sincerely appreciate the fact that many of you have already initiated your own measures to help the people and the country. But I am asking you to please do more. I know that you are all more than willing, especially as the country now needs your urgent assistance. I know that you also hurt when you see so many Thai people in distress and hardship. In this regard, I ask that you share with us your vast capabilities, know-how, and vision, and use your proficient organizations to help the country get through this current crisis.
Aside from our prominent tycoons, I also want to hear the opinions and expert advice from our private sector. Therefore, next week, I will also meet directly with our business societies to listen to their viewpoints, including the many medium and small businesses. I want to learn more about the real situation, without initially going through state agencies. I want to access the knowledge, capabilities, and expertise from our private sector. I also want to listen to their opinions and recommendations, as well as their needs and challenges. I want to know how they will contribute more towards solving this crisis, including learning about what they have already done. Importantly, I want to learn from them about how the government can do a better job.
It goes without saying that the Government has a responsibility to look after every citizen throughout the country. But we can also do more if we cooperate and work with the private sector who possess much potential and many ways to quickly reach out to people in distress. By doing so, the Government will be able to provide more effective assistance to the public.
In this current situation, there will be a number of varying opinions among the experts on how to approach each challenge. This is beneficial and I would like to have the opportunity to listen to them all so that we can come up with the best solutions. I believe that your varying opinions, all mean well for our country. So, when we decide on our course of action, please render your cooperation and support so that we can achieve these goals. I ask that we all work together as a ‘family’ and turn this crisis into an opportunity to make our country stronger, based on the solidarity and unity of the Thai people.
During this most difficult time for our country, I ask that we all unite and combine our strengths to help each other out, regardless of our differences or political affiliations. In the future, when we look back to this time, we will see that though this was a most difficult and desperate time for our nation, we were able to bring out the best in each other, including our true nature as a Thai person with unwavering devotion to our family of the Thai nation.
This is my hope and I believe that every Thai person will share this aspiration. I ask that we all join hands now to realize our hopes and win over this challenge together.