News / Asia

Thailand Floods Foster Unity in Divided Country

Volunteer relief workers prepare supplies at the Don Muang Airport, Thailand, October 15, 2011.
Volunteer relief workers prepare supplies at the Don Muang Airport, Thailand, October 15, 2011.
Ron Corben

Relief efforts are being stepped up as Thailand copes with its worst flooding in 50 years. Thais working at a key relief center say the disaster has helped foster a sense of national unity absent from the country’s recent years of political turbulence.

Thai officials remained confident Sunday that flood walls protecting Bangkok would hold.  

But the floods, the worst in five decades, continue to take their toll. On Sunday, another major industrial estate in nearby Ayutthaya province was inundated with the loss of 60,000 jobs. This takes the toll to five estates to fall to the rising waters. Economists say the floods may cost the economy $5 billion and lower economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Country-wide, the flooding has claimed some 300 lives and is affecting millions of people across more than 30 provinces.

At the main relief center at the former international airport of Don Muang, 25 kilometers from Bangkok city, thousands of volunteer relief workers combine to pack supplies to be sent to flood-bound communities.   

Janya, from the northern province of Lampung, where floods have passed their peak, says she wanted to help rather than wait for floodwaters to fully recede.

“It’s Lampung, it’s in the north; but it is safer than Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani - all the provinces around Bangkok," she said. "So I don’t know what to do. So being in the room [and] keep watching TV [I’m] stressed out so better to help people here. I think most Thai people we are sad, we are sad for this situation. This is very bad.

As trolleys laden with large bags of donated rice pass, the volunteer crowds cheer.  Tanawat, a dentist from nearby Don Muang town, spoke of his pride how the Thai community has come together after recent years of political conflict.

“Very proud, very proud; the Thai people are very proud. Everyone sad with the situation but we have the power of mind to help everyone," he said. "You see this flood in Thailand is the most severe in my life, ever seen in the 50 years. This is very, in 50 years, the most severe situation.”

Among the overseas volunteers arriving at the center was a group of 40 high school students and staff from the Faith Academy in Manila, the Philippines. They are visiting Bangkok for a high school choir competition. Staff member American Kim Johnson said the group wanted to help after hearing about the disaster.

“It’s really sad. We were even debating whether to come [to Thailand] because of the tragedy," said Johnson. "We had to fly but we pushed through and they said no, come, and we’re glad to be here and helping because unfortunately, the kids really haven’t seen the flood because we’ve been in the center of Bangkok, but they wanted to help in some way. So I think it just been a great opportunity to come here and help.”

The choir then gave an impromptu concert, widely appreciated by the hundreds of volunteers.

The United States has joined relief efforts.  A special U.S. Marines’ humanitarian aid team has arrived along with officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development to assist local efforts in distributing aid to tens of thousands of people isolated by floodwaters.

U.S. assistance includes six Seahawk helicopters to airlift heavy construction materials.  Other foreign assistance has come from Japan and Australia, while China’s military offered help to the Thai defense forces in the form of 24 boats and diesel-fuel generators.

Thai government officials have called for greater cooperation and unity despite some conflicts between residents in flooded areas. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra saying the needs of the people are her top priority.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid