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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More