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Open letter to head privy councillor on philosophy of sufficiency economy, effectiveness of Prayut govt

In Thailand, there is a long and distinguished tradition of citizens and non-citizens being able to petition the reigning monarch. This tradition leads dates back at least to the time of the King Ram Khamhaeng stele. Given the circumstances, this open letter to General Prem Tinsulanonda, Head of the Privy Council, is an exercising of that right.

 

CC HRH the Heir Apparent Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn

 

General,

It is out of necessity that I write to you, in an open letter in order to ensure that it is brought to your attention. Essentially, I must defend myself against potential charges of a lack of patriotism for my children’s country and that I did not do my utmost to promote His Majesty’s Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy (PSE) on the global scene, an oversight which instead lies elsewhere.

Earlier this year, because of an interest in energy, the environment, and sustainability, I co-wrote a lead opinion editorial column in January for The Nation newspaper on the subject of nuclear fusion (Reference 1) in the Annex). The column suggest Thailand should investigate fusion energy, as Malaysia has already done through its investment in the Canadian company General Fusion (Reference 2). Recent developments in fusion mean key US scientific experts now believe commercial fusion is only a decade away (Reference 3) - an advance of 20-30 years on the present, European-led ITER schedule.

The same day as the column was published, the US Department of State granted an export license in principle to the private US company EMC2 (Reference 4), the world's most advanced private fusion company and the holder of a key patent. The granting of the license on exactly the same day our column was published may be viewed through the eyes of a Buddhist, as I am, as highly synchronous. Rationally, one could suspect a cause and effect, especially given that EMC2 immediately contacted a Thai institution on reading the column.

EMC2's key patent, which the US Navy itself has stated has advanced nuclear fusion technology 50 years in a declassified statement now available under the Freedom of Information Act (Reference 5), is for a breakthrough in fusion 'polywell' technology. The breakthrough makes fusion plasma hundreds if not thousands of times denser, thus more likely to create a net energy gain at lower input levels, within a working timeframe of a decade. The export in principle agreement was granted following a protracted struggle with the US Navy, for which EMC2 worked for 20 years. This was due to the US Navy arguing, for nearly two years, that EMC2's technology was dual purpose weapons technology as, when fully developed, it can be used to drive submarine fusion engines and power space rockets.
 
Upon reading the article, EMC2 directly contacted us at Khon Kaen University, offering a return of over 50 times in eight years for a stake of 30 million USD in the company, as well as a full academic research partnership. We immediately saw the opportunity for a major joint venture between Thailand and a highly advanced US technology company in one of the most important fields of human endeavour. Indeed, clean energy is crucial to advancing the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, especially clean energy research and the alleviating of poverty, global warming, and desertification. Moreover, EMC2 expressed a willingness to grant Thailand exclusive rights within ASEAN and was comfortable with China manufacturing parts, following which fusion engines could be assembled in Thailand. Thus, this hand of friendship outstretched from the US people, via its Department of State granting the export in principle to the Thai people, would work in favour of stabilising Southeast Asian geopolitics, not disturbing it.

Given that Thailand's R&D is 0.4% of GDP, far behind that of Singapore or even Malaysia, we enlisted help in the knowledge that Thailand co-developing fusion would greatly contribute to Thailand's international competitiveness. We obtained the support of the Vice President for Research and Development at KKU and succeeded in notifying the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology as well as the Minister. The President and CEO of EMC2 visited Thailand two times, to meet with the President of KKU, the Permanent Secretary, and the Director of the Thai Institute for Nuclear Technology.

Thailand is at present Chair of the G77 voting bloc and has a mandate to lead the aspirations of 134 member countries, representing five billion people, to obtain technical assistance from the West in the area of energy in order to relieve poverty, stabilise the global climate, and phase out fossil fuels. We were confident there would be interest in the joint venture partnership. This belief was especially bolstered when Thailand failed to leverage its G77 Chair position to obtain a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, as we felt the Prayut Administration would realize immediately that it had to do more. With the kind assistance of Thailand’s media, namely The Nation, The Bangkok Post, and Prachatai, over half a dozen columns were published to support the Thailand/EMC2 initiative (for examples, see References 6, 7, 8 and 9).

Unfortunately, neither the bureaucracy nor the executive of the Prayut Administration followed up on the joint venture proposal. Yet, the benefits were clearly stated in a KKU-conducted feasibility study commissioned by the Permanent Secretary, available on request. In particular, it was highlighted that fusion energy obviously has synergies with His Majesty’s PSE, which desperately requires a flagship project with which to impress the world and so gain traction. To explain these potential synergies, we even undertook to write a final column on fusion energy and the PSE, which the Bangkok Post kindly published (Reference 10), suggesting Thailand as lead of the G77 Chair a global conference on fusion, the disparities in the timetable between the US and ITER projects, and the global consequences of net energy gain fusion, especially disruptive for G77 oil and coal-producing economies.

The lack of a response from the bureaucracy and the executive seems to follow a set pattern. Bureaucrats appear to be locked into existing projects, such as illusory Chinese 'clean coal technology'. They also appear unable to manage their own schedules and prioritise opportunities. And, they seem simply lacking in the vision to recognise a major opportunity for Thailand which involves a United States-based world-leading advanced technology energy company. Ultimately, the Prayut Administration appears noncommittal regarding Thailand’s R&D per capita, leading the G77, or His Majesty’s PSE.

Instead, it prioritises spending hundreds of millions of US dollars on an outdated interstate industrial warfare paradigm involving Chinese tanks and submarines, prioritising this much higher than investing 30 million USD to lead the G77 to obtain advanced energy technology from the Global North. Such an attitude towards disbursement of public funds does not just demonstrate a lack of vision regarding the PSE or representing the five billion citizens of the G77; it borders on neglecting patriotism in favour of show.

Due to the lack of any response, we then unfortunately had to inform the President and CEO of EMC2, one of the world's most gifted nuclear physicists, that the Thailand joint venture was not viable. We therefore released EMC2 to perhaps return to earlier negotiations with a major oil producing Middle East country which is strategically interested in rapidly moving away from its dependence on fossil fuels.

My enthusiasm for this joint venture is difficult to explain except in person. There are a number of possible explanations. I may be an idiot savant who somehow understands advanced nuclear fusion polywell technology. I may simply be relying on the US Navy's own technical review reports of the technology, classified until the middle of this year, when they became available under a Freedom of Information Request. Or, I may have been shown either a working demonstrator of the next level of the polywell technology - which could have been built by a sufficiently funded agency in the time since EMC2 finished its technical stage in 2013, or I may have been shown a virtual demonstrator of the EMC2 fusion engine, using high performance computing virtual laboratory simulation software for nuclear reactions, which certainly exists. Or, combinations of the above may be true.

Ultimately, however, the point is that cheap fusion energy could be generated by the EMC2 approach within the next decade, with the necessary investment. This will cut decades from the existing fusion timetable and will solve the planet's reliance on fossil fuels, at the same time working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero within this century, and lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty by providing cheap energy.

I am thus seeking to personally invest in EMC2. To protect me from accusations of having had inside information which might benefit me commercially, or of not having done my utmost to convince the Prayut Administration of how a partnership with the world's most advanced fusion company might benefit both the global vision of His Majesty’s PSE as well as approximately one billions dollars in revenue for Thailand’s economy in 2024, I am personally notifying you of all I have done.

As a foreign father of Thai citizens and commentator on Thai national affairs at a sensitive period of Thai history, it is especially important that you are aware of how I have sought to internationally promote Thailand in terms of suggesting to the Prayut Administration a way in which Thailand can provide global leadership on energy, the global economy, and climate change through the G77 and His Majesty’s PSE. I would especially like to defend myself from any charges of not having attempted to promote His Majesty’s PSE in a way which would make it an internationally lauded philosophy.

Therefore, any failings in the years to come to make progress on energy security, the R&D of the Thai economy in the high technology sector, the environment, the position of the G77, and His Majesty’s PSE, are not mine, but those of the Prayut Administration. I hope that in this manner I can assure you of my commitment both to Thailand's future and to His Majesty’s philosophy.

Yours Faithfully,

John Draper

 

Annex

1) Draper, J., & Kamnuansilpa. P. (2016, January 28). How nuclear fusion could unlock Thailand’s energy dilemma. The Nation. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/How-nuclear-fusion-could-unlock-...

2) Next Big Future. (2015, May 19). Malaysia invests $27-million in Canada's General Fusion startup who will begin building full scale prototype in 2017. Next Big Future. http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2015/05/malaysia-invests-27-million-in-cana...

3) American Security Project. (2014). Fusion White Paper: A ten-year plan for American energy security. http://www.americansecurityproject.org/fusion-white-paper-2014-10-year-p...

4) EMC2, Inc. (n.d.). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polywell#EMC2.2C_Inc.

5) Next Big Future. (2016, April 13). 2013 Independent Review declares EMC2 Fusion's progress to be most significant advances made in plasma physics and magnetic fusion over the past 50 years. http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/04/2013-independent-review-of-emc2-fus...

6) Draper, J., & Kamnuansilpa, P. (2016, April 18). Forging a role in low-end nuclear fusion. Bangkok Post. http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/937073/

7) Draper, J. (2016, April 20). Fusion technology breakthrough could herald demise of coal. The Nation. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Fusion-technology-breakthrough-c...

For the Prachatai version:

Draper, J. (2016, April 20). Fusion technology breakthrough could herald demise of coal. Prachatai. http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/6089

8) Kongrut, A. (2016, June 29). Seizing energy. Bangkok Post. http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/1022677/

9) Draper, J. (2016, May 4). Fusion to be commercialised thirty years faster than expected - Civil society's role. Prachatai. http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/6114

10) Draper, J., & Kamnuansilpa, P. (2016, August 1). Sufficiency economy must be applied to boost fusion. Bangkok Post. http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/1049657/

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