News / Asia

Thai PM Invokes Natural Disaster Law as Floods Reach Bangkok

A Thai resident uses a makeshift float to keep his dog dry as he pulls a woman along flooded streets in Rangsit district at the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, October 21, 2011.
A Thai resident uses a makeshift float to keep his dog dry as he pulls a woman along flooded streets in Rangsit district at the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, October 21, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Ron Corben

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has invoked special civil powers granted under the country's natural disaster law as Bangkok residents brace for flood waters. The steps by the Prime Minister to streamline flood relief operations follow criticism of her government's handling of the crisis.

Friday, Shinawatra invoked a 2007 disaster prevention and mitigation law giving her full authority to prosecute officials for negligence if they fail to follow instructions.

The move follows days of criticism over her two month old administration's response to the mounting flood disaster, the country's worst in five decades.

The United Nations said Friday 342 people have been killed and nearly 2.5 million more affected by the floods in Thailand alone.  Another 336 have died in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, where nearly two million people are affected.  

The Prime Minister said the armed forces were also ordered to increase protection for key state monuments and buildings in Bangkok, including the Royal Palace utility units and the major airports.

Accountability

Kokaew Pikulthong, a government member of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, says Prime Minister Yingluck has found it a challenge to impose her authority, especially as the government has only been in power since August. Kokaew also said there has been difficulty in some places where people have resisted calls to allow water to flow through community areas.

"[Prime Minister Yingluck] isn't familiar with the official style, she doesn't know who is capable, who is accountable," said Kokaew. "She doesn't know these people well, so when she has a plan or wants to do anything, she cannot. I have said that she works very hard to solve the problem, but many functions or many crews that she has don't work as well as she wants - that's the problem."

Kokaew said there were difficulties in allocating funds and criticized sections of the armed forces for failing to provide sufficient personnel when called on for emergency flood relief.

Officials are now scrambling to prevent major flooding in the capital city, which sits between billions of cubic meters of water from the central plains and its ultimate destination in the Gulf of Thailand.

Public discontent

Opinion polls have shown discontent over the government's public response to the crisis, particularly conflicting official statements on the danger to communities and delays in alerting locals about rising waters.

Buranaj Smutharak, a member of the opposition Democrat Party, says inexperience within the government has been a key factor for the problems.

"It's actually not politics but the inexperience of this current government and its failure in adequately handling the crisis of this flooding," said Buranaj.  "Ever since the initial warning came from the Irrigation Department, the governments' central command continuously failed to assess the relevant data, execute the punitive measures and effectively communicate to the general public."

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, also blamed structural problems within the government, such as overlapping authority and agencies that are not organized to collaborate.

"In a place like Thailand - which lacks policy coordination, which is beset by chronic interagency conflict, flooding disasters like this are likely to have a severe effect," said Thitinan.  "And Yingluck's leadership has been lacking. She has strengths and weaknesses. Her strength is that she has good temperament. [But] she lacks decisiveness in a time like this."

Impact

The Industry ministry says more than 14,000 factories have been hit by floods, including major industrial estates, with the loss of up to 600,000 jobs. Annual economic growth has been slashed and the World Bank is forecasting negative growth over the last quarter of 2011.

Economist Somphob Manarungsan says the government's handling of the post flood recovery will be a key factor to its long term popularity.

"After the flooding calms down there will be the reconstruction," said Somphob.  "That will be much more important. If the government has a clear policy, correct policy it may still maintain some popularity; but in the end they could not hand the post flooding crisis, well I think their credibility may be negatively affected."

Scientists warn it may take up to six weeks for the floods to fully subside, with economic losses at close $6 billion. But economists expect additional government spending on recovery to boost economic growth into early 2012.

Related report by Daniel Schearf:

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid