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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs