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“201555”,”4/9/2009 5:38″,”09BANGKOK931″,”Embassy Bangkok”,








DE RUEHBK #0931/01 0990538




P 090538Z APR 09






















E.O. 12958: N/A












Ref: Bangkok 862




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1. (SBU) Summary: Despite Thailand\’s emergence in recent years as


a major trading economy in Asia, the King\’s encouragement of a


self-reliant \”sufficiency economy\” has attracted support in the


countryside. Government programs support village recycling and


low-carbon impact agricultural practices. A number of villages are


moving away from chemical fertilizers for environmental reasons,


confident they have found comparable organic alternatives. In the


upper South region, sufficiency economy tourism is a growing


phenomenon, with villagers eager to teach, and learn, about the best


ways to increase garden production and introduce bio-fuel


alternatives. Some believe that a more robust, self-reliant and


simple rural economy can absorb redundant labor from factories


closed by the economic recession. End summary.




2. (SBU) Comment: While many of the \”sufficiency economy\”


practices Econoff observed were impressive in their ingenuity and


some may hold promise for widespread application, the effort to


re-invigorate traditional village life as an alternative to a more


secular industrial society will be a tough row to hoe. Moreover,


the government\’s efforts to promote the sufficiency economy may be a


distraction from needed debate on improving real agricultural


productivity and competiveness with other regional players.


Laid-off workers likely to return to the villages are those with


close family ties; it is very unlikely that there will be a massive


re-migration back to the countryside. Nevertheless, as a matter of


social policy, it is a phenomenon that may attract increased


attention in tough economic times. End comment.




3. (SBU) For years, Thailand\’s King Bhumipol has taught his


subjects to take the Buddhist \”Middle Way\” in economic matters, with


a philosophy of self-reliance, minimal environmental impact and


\”small is beautiful\” ideas that became known as \”The Sufficiency


Economy.\” After the 1997 economic crisis, when Thailand was


devastated financially from years of conspicuous consumption fuelled


by massive foreign borrowing that ultimately could not be repaid,


the philosophy gained popularity as a way for national redemption.


There was some fear among economists that extreme applications of


the philosophy, such as a return to bartering, could leave Thailand


behind in a world rapidly globalizing. But such fears have not been


realized as Thailand has continued to maintain a largely open


trading economy. Arguably the most noticeable impact on Thailand\’s


national economic policy has been relatively tight control of the


banking system and conservative macroeconomic management, which the


past year has shown to have been very prudent.




4. (SBU) In the countryside, however, the sufficiency economy has


gotten more traction. In recent visits to the Northeast and upper


South regions of Thailand, econoff found that sufficiency economy


principles are very much at the forefront of current village


development efforts. Most of the efforts are home-grown, but are


supported by government officials and programs. The 2009 Thai


government budget allocates nearly half a billion dollars for rural


development; separate ministry budgets also set aside money tagged


for sufficiency economy programming. The 5-Year National Economic


and Social Development Plans have formally adopted \”the royal


philosophy of Sufficiency Economy\” as a guideline. Today, villages


claim that self-reliance agriculture provides a means to deal with


the economic recession by absorbing labor back into rural areas.




The Northeast: Leaving Chemical Fertilizers for Home-Made






5. (SBU) In the Northeast, econoff found that most of the villages


visited are shifting away from chemical fertilizers as a way to


reduce expenditures and preserve the environment. In Kalasin


province, one village head told econoff that when he moved in 20


years ago, he and other villagers made a good living by clearing the


natural forest and growing sugar cane and cassava. An industrial


conglomerate set up a large sugar cane processing plant in the area


to process the growing production. The farmers relied heavily on


chemical fertilizers and pesticides and crop yields were impressive.


\”We were greedy,\” he admitted, \”and went into debt trying to expand


too rapidly.\” Over the years, however, they noticed that fish could


no longer live in the ponds and the local well water tasted bad.


Subsequently, the village head and a few other families began


switching to natural, locally produced, fertilizers. \”The first


year, nothing grew,\” they said. But after 4-5 years of careful


development they were able to produce a better crop than before and


now actively promote the move away from chemical fertilizers among


neighbors and neighboring villages. When Econoff walked through the


fields and the headman pointed out the organically-fertilized fields


and fields across the road he said were still using chemical


fertilizer, the organic sugar cane did look very impressive.




6. (SBU) In nearly every village Econoff visited, there was some




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effort underway to switch away from chemical fertilizer. Many


admitted that they still relied on chemical fertilizer, but said


they are working to develop organic substitutes in order to lower


expenses (especially after petrochemical prices soared last year)


and preserve the environment. Many are also seeking ways to live


more simply. In one group of villages, early skepticism has given


way to an inter-village barter system for fruits and vegetables in


which econoff was told 60 percent of the households now participate.


Only produce left over from the exchanges is then taken to the


nearby city market for cash sales. Another village specializes in


herb production and encourages herbal treatment at home as an


alternative to long waits at the district health clinic.




7. (SBU) The movement toward self sufficiency is being encouraged


by local officials and spread by villagers. A Development Board


officer in Khon Kaen province explained that despite best efforts to


develop reservoir systems, the poor soil and lack of rainfall for


much of the year means that only 14 percent of the region has


irrigation, making imperative the need to make maximum use of what


resources are available if the area is to develop. The government


also promotes micro-enterprise in the villages, though the officer


admitted that to be more effective government programs need more


grassroots input into what is appropriate on a village by village


basis. It is not just the government that is encouraging more


earth-friendly change. Village monks told Econoff that they stress


the importance of not harming the environment in their teachings.


Village leaders say that while they realize young adults will


inevitably leave to find paid work in factories and cities, teaching


them basic sufficiency economy skills will enable them to come back


and make a living when economic times are bad.




The Upper South: The Growing Pilgrimage to Sufficiency Economy




8. (SBU) Evidence of the sufficiency economy movement was even more


striking in the upper South. In all villages visited, village


leaders spoke of how they are implementing sufficiency economy


principles to one extent or another. Baan Khoa Krom village in


Krabi province has transformed itself into a training center for


sufficiency economy living. The village head told econoff that


their goal is to preserve ancestral knowledge about how to live off


the land and share that knowledge. He claimed that with these


techniques, whereby any person can learn to provide enough for


himself, the land can support almost a limitless number of people,


unlike a modern industrial economy which squanders natural


resources. To that end, they have built an education center which


in the two months prior to Econoff\’s visit housed over 200 visitors


who came to learn the village\’s ways of sufficiency living. The


headman explained that the curriculum first requires training in


changing one\’s mindset away from modern materialism. The training


also stresses the need for friendliness, environmental preservation,


and cultural and religious values, in addition to the practical


skills of self-reliance.




9. (SBU) In another village in Surat Thani province, villagers have


pooled funds to construct a dozen dorm cabins for visiting students


of sufficiency economy principles. The 500-baht (14 dollar) day


charge for room, board and training is partially offset by


government subsidies. The ministries of Agriculture, Interior and


Education support the program. At the time of Econoff\’s visit, they


had trained 490 people in the previous two months and had high


expectations of full cabins during the upcoming two-month school






10. (SBU) In Baan Khoa Krom, the headman claimed that the village


was almost completely self-sufficient. He then took Econoff on a


tour of more than 20 projects that he said villagers to produce


virtually all they need and generate products for sale outside the


village to buy the few items the village cannot product itself.


The projects seemed quite ingenious. Among them:


* Compost fermentation capable of producing gas to run a cooking


stove for two hours from 50 kilograms of vegetable waste.


* Production of a smoked orange wood liquor which can be sold for


600 baht per liter in the local market for use as a pesticide.


* Fermented durian husks, which after one month can be used as fish




* Quadrupled banana production by inverting parts of the trees.


* Vegetables that need water only once a week when grown in coconut




* \”Condominium\” gardens where fruits and vegetables are grown on top


of each other, in seven layers, fertilizing and growing off each




* Palm leaves ground up for cattle feed and the cattle manure


processed for methane gas. What remains after the gas is taken off


can be used as fertilizer (and has no smell!) for increased palm and


other tree cultivation.


* Bio-diesel production from used cooking oils, with a by-product


made into soap.




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Econoff\’s favorite was the long string pulled tight over fish ponds,


onto which hundreds of red ants are enticed with chicken grease.


Periodically during the day, the string is plucked, flinging the


ants down into the pond, where they become, reportedly, a favorite


snack for the catfish. The Baan Khoa Krom headman insisted that


the \”sufficiency economy\” agricultural techniques and lifestyle he


promotes can be readily adopted by villages throughout Thailand.










Written by thaicables

June 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] RURAL SUFFICIENCY ECONOMY (April 2009) 1. (SBU) Summary: Despite Thailand’s emergence in recent years as a major trading […]

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