On 23 December 2009,PM Abhisit gave an address on his Government's performance over the past year at Government House. Gist is as follows:
• PM Abhisit stated that the purpose of the Government's presentation of its one-year report was two-fold, namely:
First, coming from a democratic, parliamentary process, the Government has the duty to answer to the people who in turn have the right to be informed of the thinking of the Government in carrying out its works;
Second, he wished to present facts so that the public and the press could examine and verify as well as criticize.
• PM Abhisit also expressed appreciation to Thai people who have lent support to the Government, and all civil servants and government agencies for carrying out their duties which made it possible for the country to move forward over the past year.
• Setting the background, PM Abhisit recalled the twin crises the country faced when his Government assumed office in December 2008, namely the global economic and financial crisis, which by then had started to impact the Thai economy. and the domestic political crisis, which had presented obstacles to overall public administration throughout 2008, eroding confidence in Thailand and the ability of its government to carry out policies and address problems the country faced.
- On the economy
• Noting the negative figures in the last quarter of2008 - a GDP of -4.2 % and double digit contraction of tourism and export sectors - as well as the initial forecast of as much as 9% economic contraction in 2009, PM Abhisit stated that his Government came in with a clear policy and strategy on how to handle the economic crisis.
• The first priority was to alleviate the people's immediate economic difficulties and maintain their purchasing power in order to prevent the country's economy from contracting too fast, which would have led to an increase in unemployment and made the country slide into a deeper recession. Once the recession had been halted and the short-term economic goals achieved, the Government was able to plan and set in motion investment projects to further stimulate the economy, namely the "Thai Khem Khaeng 2555" (“Strong Thailand 2012”)plan. In addition, if the domestic economy was maintained in a good state for a certain period of time, when the global economy started to recover in the latter half of2009, particularly during the last quarter, Thailand would be ready to benefit.
• As an example of the Government's measures, PM Abhisit cited the success of the Government's “Ton Gla Acheep” project which was aimed to help unemployed people, people being laid off and newly graduates by providing them with training and skills-building to enable them to maintain or return to their jobs or to prevent them from becoming unemployed. Among more than 800,000 people who applied to join the project, more than 400,000 had already completed their training and almost 300,000 reentered the job market. The project was also implemented using 5,000 million baht less than the 13,000 million baht budget allocated. In this connection, while the unemployment figure at the beginning of 2009 was between 700,000 and 800,000, by the end of 2009, the number - originally predicted to reach 1 or 2 million - is now around 400,000 or, 1.2% of the workforce, which is considered normal under the general economic climate. This figure is one that the Government is proud of and demonstrates the Government's success in tackling the short term economic problem which has been hit by the world economic crisis.
• Noting that measures taken by relevant ministries have produced concrete results, PM Abhisit referred to a healthy recovery in tourism, which in early 2009 experienced a big drop but saw significant increase during the second half of the year so that the total number of foreign visitors to Thailand could be close to 14 million for the whole year. As for exports, which showed a sharp contraction earlier on, there was also gradual improvement with the figure in November showing a growth of 17%,
• Furthermore, GDP figures demonstrated that the economy has clearly recovered and the Government's target of bringing the economy back into the positive zone has clearly been achieved. On this basis, the Government has the confidence that it could move forward in carrying out its policy of economic restructuring to enhance Thailand's competitiveness.
• PM Abhisit stressed that the Government's economic goal is not only to achieve economic recovery as an important problem facing the majority of the people is people's welfare. In this regard, based on the concept that "people come first", the Government has been able to increase the people's welfare and income through implementation of its policy and measures that cover all groups of people, from children to the elderly. These include such measures as the 15-year free education programme, expansion of the fund for education loans, monthly allowance for the elderly, welfare benefits for persons with disabilities, allocation of land for those without land for subsistence, low-cost housing projects for people in urban areas, improvement of the social security system, and upgrading of community-level health stations/centres to health promoting hospitals at the principality level throughout the country.
• PM Abhisit underlined that such welfare measures would not only bring the people out of the economic crisis. They would also move Thai society away from "populism" and towards a true welfare system that is about people's rights, not government charity. In this regard, he said that his Government's policy initiative which benefits the largest number of Thai people is the income guarantee scheme for farmers, which replaced the pledging scheme for agricultural products. Under this scheme, which would be used for rice, com and tapioca and covers 4 million households throughout the country, farmers would have their income guaranteed. The scheme has already been implemented with regard to corn and benefited as many as 400,000 households.as compared to 70,000 or 80,000 households under the pledging scheme, using the same amount of budget.
- On social issues
• PM Abhisit noted the Government's efforts to resolve the problems of narcotic drugs, which is of concern to people. The number of arrests made and the amount of drugs confiscated demonstrated the Government's commitment in tackling this problem. They also indicated that the authorities are arresting major dealers and moving towards. disbanding drug trafficking rings. Meanwhile, improvement has also been made with regard to rehabilitation undertaken by the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security with a view to persuading more drug users to participate in such programmes voluntarily.
• As for crimes in general, latest statistics by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) showed that the numbers of all types of crimes have reduced, underlining the government's dedication in tackling the country's social problems.
- On political issues
• While acknowledging that the Government could not claim to have resolved the domestic political situation, PM Abhisit stated that what this Government was able to achieve is to ensure that the country's political system function and move forward. One indication of this could be seen in legislative works. The Prime Minister himself and the Government attached importance to interacting with parliamentarians, including by responding and giving clarifications to the latter's queries. The Government was able to push through numerous legislations, including those required for implementing the Government's economic measures such as the stimulus packages as well as several agreement frameworks.
• With regard to reconciliation, PM Abhisit emphasised that this Government had done its utmost and adopted every means to bring the country's political situation back to normal, but this it could not be achieved alone, He emphasised that he has abided by the principles he had previously set, namely that he would not create conditions that would bring about conflict, that he would ensure law be enforced fairly, and that the Government would listen to and allow for scrutiny and participation by all groups of people.
• This approach seemed to work after the April incident, when the Prime Minister proposed that all sides work together to find political solutions to the problems within the parliament framework. Parliamentary committees were setup to promote reconciliation and look into the incident, and recommendations have since been made with regard to amendment of the Constitution. Despite his and his party's disagreement with the issues proposed for amendment, the Government has been willing to move forward with the suggested recommendations, only with the condition that the people are allowed to be involved through a referendum. Despite initial agreement from all sides, this process is currently stalled as the opposition party has withdrawn its cooperation.
• Be that as it may, the Government recognised that more need to be done to achieve reconciliation. Even with the call for dissolution of the House of Representatives, PM Abhisit reiterated his position that he has no problem to do so and hold general elections. However, he wants first to make sure that the economy is stronger, which, he is confident, could be achieved in 2010 that all parties accept the rules for elections, as there would be no point in holding elections if another protest would ensue when a political party is dissolved for committing fraud; and that activities which are not in line with democracy, such as use of violence, obstruction of government's work, or of political campaign, cease. These conditions should be met; otherwise, there cannot be fair elections that would bring about true reconciliation.
• On corruption, PM Abhisit noted that the Government has demonstrated its commitment to deal with this issue. For example, when corruption allegations arose in the case of the sufficiency community projects or the health services project under the economic stimulus package, the Government moved to tackle these problems straight away, calling for investigation into the matters, decelerating pending projects and improving methods and other details to ensure greater transparency in their implementation.
- On security issues
• In ensuring peace and order, the Government, with an exception of the April incident, was able to keep the peace, exercising powers in accordance with the law without violating individuals' rights and freedoms. Special laws, such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), were used when necessary to ensure security such as during international meetings and political demonstrations. Nevertheless, the ISA did not prohibit demonstrations and was applied for only some demonstrations based on assessment of the situation and intelligence.
• On the situation in the Southern Border Provinces (SBPs),PM Abhisit, while noting that he was not content with the minimal decline in violent incidents so tar and that the authorities concerned have to continue their operations to reduce such incidents, said the Government has at the same time undertaken and adjusted a number of policies in addressing problems in the area. These included the establishment of a Special Cabinet for the SBPs, setting up of a special economic development zone, and allocation of budgets with clear targets both with regard to top-down projects and locally proposed projects with cooperation between villagers and officials. The Government has also taken steps to review the laws applied in the SBPs. For instance, in tour districts of Songkhla, the less stringent ISA has replaced the use of martial law. In those areas where the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations applies, improvements have been made with regard to the complaints system. to prevent abuse of power, compensation for those affected, and provision of educational support. Also a bill to restructure the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre is currently under the National Assembly's consideration.
- On foreign affairs
• Despite domestic difficulties, PM Abhisit stated that the Government recognised and carried out its role in restoring foreign confidence in Thailand. Moreover, as ASEAN Chair, the Government convened two ASEAN Summits, pushed for key elements in the ASEAN Charter, as well as oversaw the establishment of new mechanisms such as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. In addition, Thailand was entrusted to represent ASEAN at important international for a such as the G20 Summits. The Prime Minister also attended other major international meetings such as the APEC Summit and the. First Japan-Mekong Summit and paid visits to countries in various regions, including the Middle East, Europe and especially Thailand's neighbouring countries.
• Cooperation with neighbouring countries also made significant progress. With Malaysia, the recent visit of the Malaysian Prime Minister, including his trip to Narathiwat with PM Abhisit and other developments showed that the Thai-Malaysian relations and cooperation have been raised to a higher level. With Laos, Thailand played an important role in supporting that country's hosting of the South East Asian Games and further cooperation between the two countries is in the pipe line. PM Abhisit had also visited other ASEAN member countries, with exceptions of Brunei Darussalam and Myanmar due to inconvenient scheduling.
• With regard to Cambodia, PM Abhisit said that relations between Thailand, and Cambodia had been normal for most of the past year up until recently when new conditions arose following Cambodia's appointment of its new economic adviser, its refusal to grant Thailand's extradition request and its criticism of Thailand's political and justice systems or its courts. It is therefore not true that this Government caused bilateral relations to deteriorate when it assumed office. In this regard, PM Abhisit stressed that the Government would work to maintain normal relations between Thai and Cambodian peoples while also having to be firm in its principled position and defend the country's honour by taking certain necessary diplomatic measures. He added that the Government would continue to carry on with this approach and ensure that the situation would not escalate to violence or cause trouble for the peoples.
- On protecting the Monarchy
• PM Abhisit noted that over the past year, this Government embarked on numerous activities to promote harmony and to protect and honour the monarchy, including the celebrations of His Majesty the King's birthday anniversary which brought Thai people together and increased their happiness.
• During his travels abroad, the Prime Minister also took opportunities to clarify issues about the Thai monarchy and relevant laws, which might have been misunderstood, so that foreigners now have a better understanding of the country's revered institution. Specifically, with regard to the lèse-majesté law, the Government intends to ensure that the law not be abused or used for political purposes: In this connection, a committee has been set up to help screen related cases, which is expected to commence work in January 2010.
• Despite criticisms and various poll results, both favourable and unfavourable, the indicator of the Government's success which the Prime Minister found most satisfactory was the "happiness index". The index was highest in December during His Majesty the King's birthday anniversary celebrations when people from all around the country united. Excluding that, the "happiness index" of the people during this Government's term in office has been higher than in the past few years. The Government intends to work to make this indicator increase further.
• Looking ahead, PM Abhisit stated that while continuing to find solution to political problems, his Government would move forward in full steam with investment project under the "Thai Khem Khaeng 2555" ('(Strong Thailand 2012") plan. which should help boost economic growth during the first half of 2010 and increase people's purchasing power. Then, in the second half of next year, the Government would find ways to encourage the private sector to take a lea-ding role in bringing the country's economy forward. In this connection, the Government is expediting efforts to seek the early resolution of the problem regarding the Map Ta Phut industrial estate, in which some major projects have been suspended by a court order.
• At the same time, PM Abhisit said that, among many other plans, the Government would continue its work on the social welfare system by pushing through relevant legislations, such as those on saving funds. land banks. as well major overhaul of the tax system including property and land taxes. The Government would also press forward with large-scale investment projects, including the country's communication and transportation systems, such as the train system and the third generation (3G) communications system, with a view to enhancing Thailand's competitiveness and preparedness as well as reducing logistical costs in the future.
• PM Abhisit noted that the Government is not complacent that in emerging from the economic crisis, certain risk factors exist. These include the price of oil, the fragile state of the world economy, as well as Thailand's domestic political situation, in the face of which he reaffirmed the Government's resolve to ensure that people's interests would not be, or would be least, adversely affected.
• In this regard, noting that if Thailand had unity and harmony, and if the Government is given a chance to discharge its duties, progress and targets could easily be achieved, and that it would be a shame, should incidents of violence or chaos occur that could destroy all that Thailand had achieved over the past year, including the fact that the country was able to climb out of an economic recession quicker than anticipated, and the image and confidence the country had regained, PM Abhisit said that Thais should not waste the rare opportunity it had been given and appealed to them to unite in moving forward together and. Enhancing happiness for all Thais.
Department of Information
25 December 2009