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Cover story: 10 Oct / Vol. 24 No. 13
H.M. King Bhumibol's
Philosophy of
Sufficiency Economy
By Ninnart
Photo by Royal Courtesy

H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is a monarch having a far-sighted vision with talents in arts, science, sports and languages. His royal initiated projects and royal concepts have been recognized worldwide as are seen from the numerous awards presented to His Majesty, particularly the UNDP award recently presented by the UN and the first ever Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Medallion awarded by the World Food Prize Foundation. Among the royal ideas given to be guidelines for his subjects, the philosophy of sufficiency economy is the most widely known.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presents
H.M. King Bhumibol with the UNDP Award.

Part of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's speech in presenting the award to H.M. the king regarding sufficiency economy reads:

"...His Majesty's "Sufficiency Economy" philosophy emphasizing moderation, responsible consumption, and resilience to external shocks is of great relevance to communities everywhere during these times of rapid globalization. The philosophy's "middle path" approach strongly reinforces the United Nation's own advocacy of a people-centred and sustainable path toward human development..."

To celebrate the auspicious occasion of His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary on 5 December 2007, many activities have been held and many are coming. Thaiways thus joins this occasion by presenting to you the philosophy of sufficiency economy which H.M. the King explained to his subjects through royal remarks on many occasions in the past more than 25 years.

It should be mentioned that the King in his childhood was taught to follow the "sufficient way of life" by the Princess Mother who was a model of not only kindheartedness but also of her principles to live in accordance with the "sufficient way of life".

H.M. King Bhumibol emphasizes the importance
of occupational development.


According to a booklet "Ways of Learning Sufficiency Economy" published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the philosophy of the Sufficiency Economy has details as follows.

"Sufficiency Economy is a philosophy that stresses the middle path as the overriding principle for appropriate conduct and way of life by the populace at all levels. This applies to conduct and way of life at the level of individual, family, and community, while providing a choice of balanced development strategy for the nation so as to develop in line with the forces of globalization, and shielding against inevitable shocks and excesses that may arise.

The Bhumirak Thammachat Centre at
Nakhon Nayok Province was initiated by the
King to be a model of life based
on sufficiency economy.

"Sufficiency" means moderation and due consideration in all modes of conduct, together with the need for sufficient protection from internal and external shocks. To achieve this, the application of knowledge with prudence is essential. In particular, great care is needed in the application of theories and technical know-how and methodologies for planning and implementation. At the same time, it is essential to strengthen the moral fiber of the nation, so that everyone, particularly public officials, academics or theoreticians, businessmen and financiers, will adhere first and foremost to the principles of honesty and integrity. In addition, a balanced approach combining patience, perseverance, diligence, wisdom and prudence is indispensable to cope appropriately with critical challenges arising from extensive and rapid socioeconomic, environmental, and cultural changes occurring as a result of globalization."


As Thai society is an agricultural society, the philosophy of sufficiency economy has existed in the indigenous knowledge and the simple way of life for a long time. But the changing world misled the people and they were diverted to materialism. The simplest way to follow the "sufficiency economy" philosophy is to go back to what is indigenous.

Most people think that "sufficiency economy" relates only to farmers in remote areas. In fact, people of other occupations such as businessmen, civil servants and office personnel, can apply the concept to their work as well.

Even though the "sufficiency economy" philosophy seems easy to understand, some people, even those with a Ph. D., might not fully understand it. Therefore the King elaborated on its meaning in a royal speech given in 1998.

"...The Prime Minister (Mr. Chuan Leekphai, in the position from 1997 to 2001) has mentioned my various activities, such as what I said last year, about the sufficiency economy. The term sufficiency economy does not exist in the textbooks; there has never been a sufficiency economy. There are other terms but not this one. Last year, I spoke about sufficiency economy because I could not find other terms. I also added that 50 per cent of its application, that is, not completely, or even only 25 per cent, would be enough.

H.M. the King is reaping rice
in his demonstration farm.

"At that time, last year, I thought that it was understood, but lately, only last month, somebody who should be in the know, someone who has participated in development work for quite a long time, came to see me and said that the sufficiency economy was a very good system, and he indicated his understanding that the application of one-fourth of the sufficiency economy means the coverage of a quarter of the area in the country. The meaning of sufficiency economy and only one-fourth of its application did not mean the area of one-fourth, but one-fourth of the extent (degree) of sufficiency.

"I have to come right to the point because I am worried that even a person with a Ph.D. still misunderstood my point. Perhaps I did not speak clearly enough, but when I reread what I had written from my peech, I thought that it was clearly stated that 50 per cent sufficiency or even only 25 per cent sufficiency would be enough. I meant that the application of the sufficiency economy does not necessarily mean full sufficiency, and I may add that full sufficiency is impossible. If a family or even a village wants to employ full sufficiency economy, it would be like returning to the stone age...

H.M. the King has a teaching soul.
He patiently explains his initiative ideas
to the officials involved.

"The word sufficiency has another meaning, a wider meaning. It does not only mean self-sufficiency but also means to have enough for the individual to live on. This sufficiency was mentioned to those who were present here. in this hall -- when was it? 20 or 24 years ago, in 1974. From 1974 to 1998, it is 24 years, isn't it? On that day, I said that we should strive to have enough to live on.

To have enough to live on, of course, means sufficiency economy. If everyone has enough to live on, everything will be all right. Furthermore, if the whole country can subsist, the better it would be, and Thailand at that time was on the verge of insufficiency. Some individuals had plenty, but some had practically nothing. In the past, there was enough to live on, but today, impoverishment is creeping in. We must, therefore, implement a policy of sufficiency economy so that everyone will have enough to live on...Sufficiency means to lead a reasonably comfortable life, without excess, or overindulgence in luxury, but enough.

"...The word to have enough is sufficient; sufficiency is moderation...If all nation hold this concept -- I don't mean sufficiency economy -- this concept of moderation, without being extreme or insatiable in one's desires, the world will be a happier place..."

In conclusion, below are concrete examples of the practice of "sufficiency economy":

Land and water management is necessary for agricultural development.


Generally, the New Theory of H.M. the King is an example of a practical way that adopts the "sufficiency economy" philosophy. His Majesty's New Theory is a new theory on land and water management. It is based on the division of the agricultural land of each rural household, which averages 10 to 15 rai (=1.6 ha to 2.4 ha), into four parts accordingly to use in the proportion of 30-30-30-10 in the following way.

Thirty per cent is used for a reservoir. Thirty per cent is devoted to rice cultivation. Another thirty per cent may be used for growing more rice or horticultural crops, depending on the local conditions and market demand. The remaining ten per cent of land is used for building a house, paths and ditches and also for growing household vegetables and raising livestock.

The implementation of the New Theory will help farmers achieve self-sufficiency at a frugal level. In order to prove the feasibility of his New Theory, the King arranged to make a case-study at Wat Mongkhon Chaipattana, Saraburi province. The experiment proved highly successful and farmers in various parts of the country have adopted the methods and put them into practice.


Besides the New Theory on land and water management, more than 3,000 development projects and six study centres initiated by His Majesty the king are also based on the "sufficiency economy" philosophy.

Several Royal Development projects help
uplift the well-being of the hilltribes.

The development projects are mainly divided into seven categories, viz. Water Sources, Agriculture, Occupational Promotion, Public Health, Public Welfare, Environment and Communications. In Occupational Promotion, especially for farmers, His Majesty emphasises on self-reliance and integrated farming to lessen risks of having to depend solely on a single crop. In addition, a large number of demonstration farms have been set up throughout the country to be models for farmers.

For the correct pronunciation of romanized Thai words, see
Romanization System of the Thai Language.

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