King Bhumibol’s Sufficiency Economy — Thailand #2209 (2005)

Thailand - Scott #2209 (2005)
Thailand – Scott #2209 (2005)

Today is a national holiday in Thailand commemorating the death anniversary of Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poraminthra Maha Chulalongkorn Phra Chunla Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua (พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาจุฬาลงกรณ์ พระจุลจอมเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว), better known simply as King Chulalongkorn or Rama V. I’ve written about him several times on this blog, including last year’s Chulalongkorn Day.

This month, I have devoted the blog to the memory of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) who died last year on October 13. The nation of Thailand is still in deep mourning (the official government-mandated mourning period ends at midnight on October 29) and we have been preparing for the Royal Funeral which gets underway this week with the actual cremation occurring Thursday evening, October 26. All of my posts since October 1st have featured stamps either depicting King Bhumibol or directly related to him (such as the royal palaces, his beloved dog and the boats he used).

I had planned to concentrate on members of the Royal Family this week with articles on Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (well-known as a stamp collector), and the new king, His Majesty Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X). My plan for the actual cremation day was to illustrate one of the new stamps to be released this week  (I managed to get a third-party pre-order placed last week) with details about the funeral and the massive Royal Crematorium.

As I was going through scans of my stamps this morning, looking for a nice design portraying Queen Sirikit, I came across a video I’d downloded from YouTube early this year. Not only does it provide a still-revelant overview of the intense love Thai people have for King Bhumibol and the grief we have continued to experience all year, the video also reminded me of His Majesty’s teachings of a “Sufficiency Economy”.

The development of the country must be fostered in stages. It must start with the construction of infrastructure, that is, the provision of food and basic necessities for the people by methods which are economic, cautious and conforming with principles. Once the foundation is firmly established, progress can be continually, carefully and economically promoted. This approach will prevent incurring mistakes and failures, and lead to the certain and complete achievement of the objectives.”

— Bhumibol’s speech at Kasetsart University Commencement, 19 July 1974.

King Bhumibol had begun his royal projects in tbe late 1950s and early 1960s but after 1988, the structured development of the projects reached its apex. Bhumibol’s Chaipattana Foundation was established, promoting his “sufficiency economy” theory, an alternative to the export-oriented policies adopted by the period’s elected governments. Following the 2006 coup, establishment of a “sufficiency economy” was enshrined in the constitution as being a primary goal of the government, and government financial support for royal projects was boosted.

I decided that this would be my topic for today, particularly since I’ve already wriiten about the Queen several times on this blog and I was struggling to find a new angle to focus on. I already knew which stamp(s) I wanted to use — a pair separated by a non-postally valid label issed on King Bhumibol’s 78th birthday to which the Scott catalogue assigned a single number, 2209 (the individual stamps were given lower-case letter designations — “a” for the left stamp and “b” for the right).

I began my research, uploaded the stamp images, found this detailed pdf about the sufficiency economy, and got ready to write. However, my laptop had different plans and shut itself off just as I opened the “Add Post” editor on WordPress. The culprit was a dead battery, despite the computer being plugged into the charger. Several attempts to recharge the battery failed. I suspect that its an internal problem rather than the battery or the charger.

My notebook (an HP) has been on its last legs for a while. Electronics don’t really last very long in this environment; the heat and humidity take a toll but the chief cause of failure seems to be the tiny (almost microscopic) ants that tend to get inside and eat their way through cables and other wiring. A portion of my screen went completely blank a week ago, cause indeterminate.

Today being a holiday, there was’t really much I could do about the dead computer. Most shops are closed and I don’t expect a lot of businesses will be open until after the funerary period later this week  It also happens to be the Nine Emperor Gods 9-Day Rites Ceremonial (better known locally as the Phuket Vegetarian Festival) so anybody who isn’t dressed in black mourning the King is dressed in white chanting in the temples. I was surprised that they allowed the festival to proceed with the nationwide ban on “joyful celebrations” but they have cancelled all the street processions that are the main focus out of respect for the mourning period. The grand finale (an all-night affair of non-stop fireworks that resembles a Syrian firefight in more ways just than the smoke and noise) will occur as usual starting late Saturday night.

I almost cancelled today’s entry outright. However, an afternoon and evening spent at rehearsals for Phuket’s portion of the Royal Funeral made me want to share even more of this amazing country’s deification of the late King.

Thus, I am writing this entry on the tiny screen of my mobile phone. It is slow-going and I can’t do certain tasks such as right-justifying the text. I also don’t have access to tbe high-resolution photos on my laptop’s harddrive (most are backed-up to extetnal drives so that’s one thing to be thankful for.

I do not know if my old laptop is repairable. If not, it might be a month ot more before I can purchase a new one (this time of year is my annual visa and work permit renewal with numerous associated fees as well as tryng to prepare for tbe end-of-year holiday season). If I have to continue making entries on my phone, they will necessarily be much shorter (hooray!?) but with far fewer images (I may be able to upload some on a PC at work but the desk staff is often busy using the (one) computer themselves). I suspect that there will be a far greater number of typos as well. The blog will continue with daily entries but it will take a bit of pre-planning. Let’s hope that a new battery or charger will solve the problem.

At any rate, Sufficiency Economy is the name of a Thai development approach attributed to the King Bhumibol’s “sufficiency economy philosophy” (SEP). It has been elaborated upon by Thai academics and agencies, promoted by the Government of Thailand, and applied by over 23,000 villages in Thailand that have SEP-based projects in operation.

Soon after ascending to the throne in 1946, King Bhumibol toured the country and became aware of the hardships facing Thai farmers. At that time, the per capita GDP was about US $200. He took a keen interest in rural development, and instituted a number of royal projects to help the lot of the rural impoverished.

The sufficiency economy philosophy was elaborated upon in the king’s speeches to students at Kasetsart University in 1974 and Khon Kaen University. To the latter he said, that “there must be a foundation with the majority of the people having enough to live on by using methods and equipment which are economical but technically correct as well.”

Sufficiency economy came to prominence during the 1997 economic crisis when the king told a nationwide television audience, “Recently, so many projects have been implemented, so many factories have been built, that it was thought Thailand would become a little tiger, and then a big tiger. People were crazy about becoming a tiger…Being a tiger is not important. The important thing for us is to have a sufficient economy. A sufficient economy means to have enough to support ourselves…”

Three interrelated components and two underlying conditions are central to SEP’s application. The three components are reasonableness (or wisdom), moderation, and prudence. Two essential underlying conditions are knowledge and morality. In contrast to the concept that the primary duty of a company is to maximize profits for the benefit of shareholders, SEP emphasizes maximizing the interests of all stakeholders and having a greater focus on long-term profitability as opposed to short-term success.

The Chaipattana Foundation says sufficiency economy is “…a method of development based on moderation, prudence, and social immunity, one that uses knowledge and virtue as guidelines in living.”

Sufficiency economy has much in common with Buddhist economics, the term coined and promoted in Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher, a book translated by the king into Thai. Schumacher was a Christian whose thinking was influenced by what he observed in Burma.

SufficiencyEconomy

Sufficiency economy is not a theory about how the economy of a country works, but rather a guide for making decisions that will produce outcomes that are beneficial to development. According to Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Board:

Sufficiency Economy is a philosophy that stresses the middle path as an overriding principle for appropriate conduct by the populace at all levels. This applies to conduct starting from the level of families to communities and to the nation in terms of development and administration, so as to modernize in line with the forces of globalization. ‘Sufficiency’ means moderation, reasonableness, and the need for self-immunity to protect from impacts arising from internal and external change. To achieve sufficiency, an application of knowledge with due consideration and prudence is essential. In particular, great care is needed in the utilization of theories and methodologies for planning and implementation in every step. At the same time, it is essential to strengthen the moral fiber of the nation, so that everyone, particularly public officials, academics, and business people at all levels, adhere first and foremost to the principles of honesty and integrity. In addition, a way of life based on patience, perseverance, diligence, wisdom and prudence is indispensable in creating balance and in coping appropriately with critical challenges arising from extensive and rapid socioeconomic, environmental, and cultural changes in the world.”

The Oxford Business Group’s 2016 report on Thailand says “the sufficiency economy concept puts sustainability at its very core” and “is now seen as an important contributor to the UN’s international development goals…advancing a different approach from short-term shareholder value-centred ideas of economic development.”

Self-sufficiency economy (localism) offers the idea of limited production in order to protect the environment and conserve scarce resources. Production should be aimed at individual consumption. Production in excess of consumption may be sold. The philosophy holds that the rich can consume as many resources as they like so long as their consumption does not incur debt, and that the poor should consume resources without borrowing.

The Thai governmental organisation most responsible for implementing the sufficiency economy is the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).  The NESDB’s primary tool for mobilising action is the publication of the National Economic and Development Plan. The latest (eleventh) version of this plan covers the years 2012-2016.

After the 2006 coup d’état, the military junta claimed that the policies of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra were inconsistent with the king’s philosophy. The preamble of the junta’s new constitution stated that promotion of self-sufficiency was one of the fundamental roles of the state.

The junta-appointed Prime Minister, Surayud Chulanont, pledged to allocate 10 billion baht (US$300 million) for projects to promote well-being in line with King Bhumibol’s sufficiency economy principle. He made the pledge while participating in King Bhumibol’s 80th birthday celebrations.

Pid thong lang phra” (ปิดทองหลังพระ) is a Thai idiom meaning “to eschew praise for one’s good deeds”. It is the name of a royal initiative to foster rural development using the philosophy of the sufficiency economy. Founded in 2008, the project is in its second phase, running from 2016 to 2020. It was first deployed for five years in Nan, Udon Thani, Phetchaburi, Uthai Thani, and Kalasin Provinces. It enabled farmers in 2,017 families to earn 285 million baht in income. The second phase of the project will aim at assisting farmers in Khon Kaen’sUbolratana District and 21 villages in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat Provinces. It will be funded with 1.5 billion baht from the Office of the Prime Minister, focusing the efforts of four state agencies.

Thailand - 2209 label - 2005

Thailand - 2209b - 2005

Scott #2209 was printed by Chan Wanich Security Printing Company Ltd. of Bangkok in sheets of twenty 3-baht stamps — ten of each design, each pair separated by a center label (ten of these). The latter wasn’t valid for postal use but I do have a number of used copies; unfortunately, these are all off-cover so I don’t know if they paid a portion or the entire amount of the required postage. The set was given the issue number TH-755 by Thailand Post (titled “The Royal Development Project Commemorative Postage Stamps”) and released on December 5, 2005.

 

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