Sufficiency manure

1 05 2020

The regime seems to have plenty of money for supporting palace propaganda, doling out taxpayer-funded equipment that they claim is from the king; that’s standard palace propaganda. They are even promoting a perception that give the impression that the king and queen are actually in the country.

Yet readers will recall that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has been pleading for the support of Thailand’s tycoons in the regime’s virus response.

The Bangkok Post reports that two more of the super-rich have agreed to throw in a few million in loose change to be seen to be doing something for what Gen Prayuth calls “Team Thailand,” promoting the notion that “we are all in this together” when this is clearly not the case.

Red Bull’s Chalerm Yoovidhya and Prayudh Mahagitsiri of the PM Group are claimed to be “allocat[ing] multi-million baht budgets to help the newly-established Team Thailand fill the state’s coffers…”.

Party time for Boss (clipped from The Daily Mail)

The report concentrates on the Yoovidhya family’s efforts. (Where is their murderous son?)

As is often the case, the Red Bull moneybags are “donating” to celebrate monarchy and cement their place in the ruling class.

They claim they will “spend 300 million baht to help make Thailand more self-reliant…”. This from a family that manages to buy expensive digs elsewhere. But this is often the double standard that emerges when the wealthy promote the dead king’s “sufficiency economy.”

Sounding like a throwback to the 1997 economic crisis response, the Yoovidhya clan wants “to help get the economy back on its feet” through a “self-reliance for the nation project for the next three years.” The family states: “We want to support and mentor people who want to adopt the ‘sufficiency economy’ approach as their new path to life…”.

It seems the clan hasn’t got a new idea in its collective head so it falls back on royalist nonsense from more than two decades ago. They go on to state that their “project” will see “the family … turn part of its land into a learning centre to equip people with a self-reliant attitude” and “build food security for the nation…”.

We hadn’t noticed that Thailand’s food security had become an issue from the current virus crisis. Presumably “their land” will be priced in and that they will still want “a self-reliant attitude” to include buying Red bull.

Sufficiency economy failure

7 12 2019

The dead king’s use of “sufficiency economy” was ideological. It was meant to convince poor Thais to be satisfied with their lot and not to be concerned about the huge monopolies that dominated the economy, sucking the nation’s wealth into the bulging pockets of Sino-Thai tycoons. It was also meant to divert attention from the monarchy’s stupendous wealth.

A Chumphon Cabana Resort and Diving Centre, made famous for allegedly following the tenets of sufficiency economy, has collapsed, only being “saved” by donations from “thousands of supporters” who could not bear to see a false icon be proven a total failure. Another part of the “saving” had to do with nationalist nonsense that might have seen “foreigners” buy the failed beach property.

The resort “needed 130 million baht to survive…”. This is not the first time the resort has failed after taking huge loans, but the previous “recovery” positioned the resort as a sufficiency economy icon.

The earlier debt was never repaid. Now supporters are paying for it and “to improve the grounds of Chumphon Cabana at  a cost of around 50 million baht, and another 5 million will be set aside to help cover daily operating costs.”

So much for sufficiency.

Sufficiency economy and refugee repatriation

30 03 2017

We missed this gem of a story a few days ago and thought it still worth a comment.

The military regime is seeking to send almost 70,000 refugees displaced by fighting in Myanmar back home. “Voluntarily” is the term used, which is a change from past efforts.

Third Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop said the Myanmar government “has prepared areas for them and current peace talks with armed ethnic groups in Myanmar look promising…”. Perhaps not if you are reading the Myanmar press, but that’s his claim.

Lt Gen Vijak said the “United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will coordinate and fund the refugees’ return, while the Thai government will act as a facilitator…”. If true, that’s better than previous efforts too.

But then this:

“We will also teach the refugees about King Rama IX’s sufficiency economy,” Lt Gen Vijak said, hoping these principles would be able to inspire them to pursue productive lives in Myanmar.

Like all displaced persons, it’s pretty sure that they will struggle when they return. Sufficiency economy is a way of making them feel grateful for their future suffering.

Sufficiency and corruption

12 10 2014

Readers may not have noticed that on of The Dictator’s younger brothers is said to work at the Crown Property Bureau. Readers might also have missed noticing that the Prime Minister’s Office deputy spokesperson is the now promoted Major-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd. The latter was the spokesman for the murderous Thai Army who went about fabricating and concocting information throughout the life of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations.

We mention these two links because it was Sansern who was reported at the Nation as announcing that General Prayuth Chan-ocha will be at the Crown Property Bureau to “discuss strategies to promote development based on the King’s sufficiency philosophy … – with 18,594 villages targeted for various activities.” That’s apparently about a quarter of Thailand’s villages.

The “meeting would be held in accordance with government’s policy to implement sufficiency measures up until 2017.” Yes, the sufficiency economy is back for the poor because the military dictatorship believes that the “promotion of a sufficiency economy went hand in hand with the inculcation of moral ethics.”

Of course, the military junta believes that villagers need morals and ethics because they vote for populist politicians. The military and police brass now inhabiting the higher (appointed) positions don’t need morals or sufficiency because they are corruptly rich and prefer a coup to an election.

Sansern said that villages near the hugely expensive royal projects would be “targeted.” This royalist nonsense is being recycled by yet another military government because of the belief that it is a rhetorical device that demands loyalty to the monarchy and the royalist regime. In other words, it is a political project.

Because of this, Sansern said the sufficiency economy will be forced on “the education sector, in business administration, public relations and the security sector.” Sufficient funds for this sufficiency project are 8.7 billion baht. No doubt some of those unusually wealthy generals, admirals and air chief marshals will get their hands into this pot as well.

Sufficiency shouldn’t get in the way of some good propaganda

11 11 2013

Somehow we missed this story when it first appeared in the middle of October. So, apparently, did The Nation, for it has only managed to get to it by 10 November. The Nation needs to be aware that it can’t be rampantly royalist if it doesn’t have timely propaganda.

Why propaganda? Quite simply because the story doesn’t interrogate its central claim.

The Nation reports that “Jarun Jaroensab, the first Thai farmer to receive the Asia-Pacific Model Farmer Award from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), took to farming after learning about His Majesty’s ‘sufficiency theory’.”

Saddled with debt, Jarun “did some research and found a book on His Majesty’s [they mean the king] sufficiency theory.” According to the report, “sufficiency theory [sic.] advocates a diversified approach to farming, rather than sticking to one crop, and encourages what are essentially organic methods for sustainability and freedom from loans.” Jarun was intrigued and reportedly “turned to Kasetsart University and Department of Agriculture for advice on implementation of the practices. He later shared his knowledge with other farmers in his village of Rang Si Mok.”

Hey presto, “before long, his yields were high and his farm was self-sufficient.”

At the Chaipattana Foundation, this is the explanation of sufficiency economy, maintaining the emphasis in the original:

In this royal statement, His Majesty [was] concerned that modern development which emphasized only the economic expansion might eventually lead the country to crisis. Therefore, he stressed the importance of building a ‘good and stable foundation’ before further progress could be developed. This means that instead of putting the emphasis on the expansion of the industrial sector prior to development, the stability of the basic economy should be established first, that is, assuring that the majority of rural people have enough to subsist first. This is a method of development that stresses the distribution of income to build the overall economic foundation and stability of the country before going on to a higher level of development.

Here’s a bit more:

His Majesty believed that if the farmers acted with due consideration based on knowledge of past price fluctuations of agricultural commodities they would see how risky it is to concentrate all one’s resources in such commodities expecting large profits. And if they adopted the principle of self-immunity, they would prepare for price changes in the market by producing enough to eat as a priority and only then think of selling any surplus.

And so on. Does this fit the story The Nation tells, with its headline that makes it seem like the award is for the king?Royal nonsense

Well, after following the king’s “theory,” “he and his neighbours were still at the mercy of the market…. They grew rice and other crops in the belief that demand was strong, but all too often, oversupply brought the prices down.” Maybe they didn’t study the contradictory and all-purpose advice well enough? Who knows, but the solution was found elsewhere:

So Jarun realised he had to make wiser choices about what to grow as well as come up with a marketing plan to sell effectively. While hunting for ideas, he decided to seek a job at one of Thailand’s largest agro-industrial companies. However, since he did not have a degree, he only landed the post of a janitor. But Jarun decided to make the most of it. He watched, listened and learned. After three months he developed a business plan, quit his janitor job, and began growing organic asparagus and baby corn to sell at a market just north of Bangkok.

The outcome of his three months “internship” at a large and modern conglomerate was:

It wasn’t long before exporters discovered Jarun’s high-quality organic vegetables, and with his knowledge about marketing, packaging, food safety and international standards he was ready for the big move. Now the problem was that his farm, which had expanded to 30 rai, was not big enough to meet the demand.

It seems to us that Jarun has done something that he deserves credit for.

We know, SE can be all things to all men and women, but this is anything but a story of the triumph of some grand theory.

Sufficiency economy criticized

10 12 2012

In an article that readers may have missed, the Bangkok Post reported on a series of opinions about the sufficiency economy idea and found disappointment and criticism. While it isn’t clear in the article, the comments may be from a conference or they may be a part of a retrospective on the idea associated with the king’s birthday.

The most “positive” account was from Chamroon Suaydee, a representative of environmental group the Eastern People’s Network, who said that there’s been a lot of talk about the concept but little has happened. For PPT, this is essentially a fact as the sufficiency economy is a rhetorical device that demands loyalty to the monarchy.

Chamroon said that, “unlike Thailand’s 10 million middle-class citizens, the poor have been stripped of resources to cultivate a self-sufficient lifestyle and are starting to doubt that they will ever find what is considered ‘enough’.” He then proceeds to blame the people he claims to represent for “failures.”  Farmers use pesticides and chemical fertilizers: “Farmers also know that organic fertiliser is good, but they choose to purchase [chemical fertiliser] instead of making organic fertiliser…”. He says the future for farmers is contract farming. Actually it is their present, and has been around for decades and has been expanding rapidly.

Likewise, Hardeep Grewal, head of corn marketing at Syngenta Asia Pacific is critical, although he also seems somewhere in the past when he notes that farmers need to invest in “children’s education, health, house, utensils and farm equipment. In the current economic environment, small farmers will find it difficult to survive just by doing farming,” and he adds that “farmers will look at other sources of income and seek help to do the farming.” Again, this pattern has been evident in Thailand for several decades. But he does not advocate sufficiency economy.

Veerachai Chaochankit, “chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries’ agricultural machinery club, said although self-sufficient agriculture is a good idea, only 100,000 households have committed to the practice out of 35 million farmers.” He says farmers don’t adopt the idea because “it’s not fun…”.

“Not fun” is an odd way of putting it, but the message is clear, as Grewal seems to imply it is not relevant, Chamroon says it is some kind of “middle-class dream” and Paul Teng, a senior fellow of food security at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University says “self-sufficiency does not make sense economically,” and adds that “the opportunity costs of self-sufficiency are not worth it…”.

Sufficiency economy praised, ignored

14 09 2012

Thailand’s National Economic and Social Advisory Council, a body that has very little influence and a limited role recently organized a seminar on “Thailand’s Strategy over the Next Two Decades (2013-2032) under the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.”

Apart from the fact that there is little philosophy in the notion of sufficiency economy, the fact that it is attributed to the king means that it has been around since the Asian Economic Crisis, and gets considerable lip service from governments. The only government that seemed to take the conservative notion seriously was the cabinet of old men under military junta appointed, Privy Council member, General Surayud Chulanont. That government’s economic policies were hopeless.

Most other governments used the king’s term and then, sensibly, ignored it. Even the deeply royalist Abhisit Vejjajiva government, while having programs in name basically did nothing more to give life to the king’s “idea.”

The Yingluck Shinawatra government appears to be following the same path. While at the sufficiency economy seminar, Deputy Prime Minister for economic affairs Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the “government will try its best settle the problems of social inequality and the income gap…”. Sufficiency economy has nothing much to say about this approach. In particular, he targeted “raising workers’ incomes,” which is absent from sufficiency economics.

Remarkably, Kittiratt also stated that “the government will give importance to aliens working in Thailand as they have also played crucial roles in mobilising the economy…”. Such recognition of migrant workers has been sadly lacking for decades (and missing from sufficiency economics).

At the same seminar, former Thaksin Shinawatra government minister Surakiat Sathirathai, who has always had a very high opinion of his own abilities and intellect, is reported to ave argued several vacuous points before stating that “Thai society now is not strong enough due to ongoing social divisions and too much demand for people’s participation.” The arrogant elitists seem unable to learn.

Wikileaks: sufficiency economy

19 02 2012

Somewhat bizarrely, just prior to the 2006 military coup, the U.S. Embassy was sending a cable about on “sufficiency economy” (SE), an idea attributed to the king, and promoted by him and a flock of royalists and academics following the 1997 economic crisis. As PPT recently commented on yet another event meant to promote this notion to an audience that simply isn’t interested, we felt that the 15 September 2006 cable may be of some interest.

The Embassy claims that there had been a spike in interest in  Much has been written about SE since the king again championed what is claimed to be his  idea in his birthday speech at the end of 2005. It is noted that this action by the king was “perceived” as an attack on the Thaksin Shinawatra government. The Embassy claims that SE’s “Buddhist-like principles … are considered by many [sic.] as antidotes to crony capitalism, corruption, consumerism and indebtedness.”

The commentary says that the “general idea” goes back to 1974 when it was floated “to justify royal development projects…”. PPT thinks this is wrong, except in the broadest of terms. Even the new book on the king, as big as a large brick, doesn’t claim this, referring to the 1997 economic crisis as the genesis.

The Embassy then notes that “economists” have noted that SE has “principles” that have “been expressed in vague terms that limit their practicality, and while RTG institutions pay lip service to them (as with any ideas supported by the King), they have so far been applied only to small-scale farming projects.” They might have added that there were precious few of those.

It is with some irony that the Embassy quotes the richest person in Thailand as preaching “self-sufficiency and moderation as cures for the perceived excesses plaguing Thailand’s economy.”

While PPT knows that the king had an earlier interest in a “Small is Beautiful” movement inspired by economist E.F. Schumacher, and liberally borrowed from Schumacher while disingenuously calling it a “new theory,” we aren’t convinced by the cable’s claim that the king translated “SIB” into Thai. We can find no evidence of that. Readers who know more can email us.

We do agree that SE’s “tenets are vague and malleable … and subject to interpretation” and that the reason it gets attention is because of “public reluctance to criticize anything associated with the revered King.” The cable says no one knows how to implement SE except for tiny farms and considers it inadequate as policy.

Of course, criticism of SE is likely to get you jailed for many years. And, even using the king’s ideas can get you into trouble. As the cable points out, when NGO activists used his ideas to oppose dam construction, the “King, who has long advocated dam construction … sharply criticized those groups…”.

The problem Thaksin faced was that SE was put up as a “vague and malleable” idea that was considered an “alternative” to policies that were seen by an elite as pandering to provincials. Even though that pandering was a basis for rescuing many local businesses as the economic crisis lingered on, by this time, the palace and several of the countries biggest conglomerates – the Bangkok Bank is mentioned in the cable – were using SE for their anti-Thaksinism.

From Ji Ungpakorn: Abhisit decrees that the opposition cannot criticise the Government during 25th July by-election. Seven Steps in Thailand’s Sufficiency Democracy

29 06 2010

1. September 2006: Military stage a royalist coup against an elected government “to protect Democracy” in the face of increased political participation by the poor. The poor are obviously too stupid to be trusted with the vote. Birth of the concept: “Democracy by Military Coup”.

2. 2007: Military Constitution brings back military appointed senators, enshrines legitimacy of military coups. Also enshrines the King’s “Sufficiency Economy” (economic growth without development for the poor, the King has his billions and the poor have nothing, what could be better than that?).

3. 2008: New concept: “Democracy without Cooking”. Courts dissolve political party which won the election because the Prime Minister appeared on a TV cooking programme. Abhisit then appointed Prime Minister after military intervention.

4. Late 2008: New concept: “Democrat Party without Democracy”. Abhisit’s so-called Democrat Party Government instigates draconian censorship and increases lese majeste cases “to protect Democracy” from too much Democracy.

5. April-May 2010: New concept: “Democracy without Human Rights”. Government and military gun down 90 unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in order to avoid “too much Democracy” by being forced to call immediate democratic elections.

6. June 2010: New concept: “Democratic Reforms without Democracy”. Abhisit’s military junta announces “reform process” under martial law, involving the usual anti-democratic conservatives. Over 400 political prisoners now in jail. Government uses death squads to assassinate red shirt activists.

7. June 2010: New concept of “Elections without the Right to Criticise the Government”. By-election to be held in Bangkok’s number 6 constituency. But political prisoner and Red Shirt leader Kokaew, standing for opposition Puea Thai Party, told by Abhisit that it would be “illegal” to accuse the Government of murdering civilians during the election campaign. Government to be given full media coverage while opposition will be ignored in the mainstream media.

Sufficiency economy projects and corruption

20 01 2010

Update: The Bangkok Post (20 January 2010) reports that the first investigation into Thai khem kaeng (Strengthening Thailand) projects are just beginning in the Ministry of Education. At the moment it is an internal inquiry. This inquiry is worth following, although the external pressure is not as significant as in the Ministry of Public Health case.

The Post also calls for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to be more open and transparent. It calls for him to release reports on the Ministry of Public Health and Thai Airways scandals. It says: “For a government that occasionally pledges openness and accountability, the actions of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his subordinates in two recent cases must raise eyebrows.” Importantly, it is added: “Abhisit should order their public release, and should also make members of the Banlu commission and the airline’s investigating committee available for close media questioning. These are rapidly becoming cases where justice may seem to have been done. But without full access to the reports Mr Abhisit used as the basis for punishment, no one can know if justice is actually being done.” An excellent point.

*** Original post is below ***

As regular PPT readers will know, we have repeatedly posted regarding the accusations of corruption within the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects since 8 August 2009. We followed up on that first report with more detail on 19 August 2009, and continued to post after that, especially as the projects disappeared from the news. That disappearing act followed the appointment of well-known royalist MechaiViravaidya to take charge of the Office .

In these sufficiency economy scandal, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Korbsak Sabhavasu resigned his role as chair of the Office and his brother, who was deputy head of the Office resigned, but there was no accounting of the corruption that was exposed. It was announced in October that Korbsak would step down as Deputy PM to become Abhisit Vejjajiva’s secretary-general. That only happened this week. No better than a slap on the wrist for an incompetent and allegedly corrupt minister.

Now Mechai has finally made comments that have been reported (The Nation, 19 January 2010).

Mechai is reported as saying that he will “reveal guidelines on fund allocation to district chiefs nationwide. He said these guidelines should minimise corruption because provisions have been made for those involved in graft to face criminal charges.” Interesting comment for it appears to admit corruption (but see below) and, second, seems to say that there were no measures for criminal charges previously. Is that serious? There are umpteen opportunities to bring civil charges and to seek anti-corruption agency investigation.

More interestingly, though, Mechai dismissed the earlier reports of corruption as a public relations problem: “Mechai attributed the negative news to poor public relations and lack of public understanding and participation.

Mechai plans to change this by having “anybody above the age of 15 … [being able to] voice their opinion. This is the first time that the country’s youth, numbering about 5 million, will offer opinions on how the Bt18.6-billion government budget should be allocated…” says Mechai. He also plans a “nationwide referendum for most-needed projects”. In addition, referendum “participants will be encouraged to point to all traces of corruption. At the same time, Mechai has decided that the budget will be used to first help the poor and the underprivileged, not purchase equipment.Mechai added that: “Different opinions are welcome, and a second round of the referendum is possible.

Mechai is a PR specialist. Is PR sufficient? Nationwide referenda will trump local needs assessments? Is this really the way to deal with this particular example of corruption? Thai Crisis also comments here.

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