Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha told some 800 foreign businessmen, on Wednesday 3 December 2014 about what he thinks should be improved in a range of areas. The businessmen were all members of the various Chambers under the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT).
The Scandinavian participation in the event was significant, with top level participation from all four Chambers of Commerce and the Danish Chamber members occupying no less than six tables.
The general was given 30 minutes, but spent an hours covering a wide range of areas like agriculture, people trafficking, new economic zones, the southern insurgency, high speed railway lines, water management, education, foreign workers, poor internet speed, an upcoming IT program and social conditions of the conutry’s urban and rural poor.
The style of his speech in Thai language was abrupt, fast paced, sounding almost annoyed if he hadn’t sprinkle it with a few drops of extra dry humour. This is the way the Thai public has come to know him in his TV appearances, but many foreigners may well have been surprised. His speech was simultaneously translated to English and transmitted to the audience in a softer version.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha said among others that the Foreign Business Act would not be changed – but added “for now”. He spent quite some time speaking about the battle to reduce corruption. An interesting point of view was that corruption could be curbed by speeding up the authorities’ handling of cases. “People offer bribes to speed up the process. We need to speed up the processes so there will be no need to pay bribes,” he said.
Although he confirmed that there will be an election at some point in the reform process, it became clear that he and his ministers consider themselves to be in it for a longer period of time. As the Swedish publisher Hakan Wallenius says in his comment to the event: Once you have taken the boat out, you must keep on rowing until you are safely back on shore.
The establishmentpost.com called it a “coup of sorts” that The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT) had been able to arrange the event in the first place. But considering that the JFCCT includes not just the European businesses but also the Chinese, Japanese and Korean companies it seems quite reasonable to allocate an hour to make them feel included. Several times throughout his speech the general mentioned how important they were and urged them to consider Thailand a home and help improve the country.
After his speech a Question and Answer session was set up on the stage with the General and a few of the ministers giving prepared answers to pre-submitted questions.
The loser of the day was Hotel Plaza Athene where the lunch was arranged. The hotel failed to serve the menu that was announced on the tables and basically failed to use the opportunity to show the 800 top businessmen what a good venue they could be for future corporate events.