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

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs