ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs 3 November 2011
Headlines proclaimed today that “20 percent of Bangkok is flooded.” That is small comfort for the 20 percent of Bangkok residents but much better solace for the 80 percent of residents who are dry. (This includes this reporter who years ago, quite by chance, picked the “right neighborhood” in which to live.)
Other headlines proclaim that the businesses flooded out would begin operation by early 2012.
However, beneath these headlines is a strong current that may put the current Yingluck Shinawatra-Pheu Thai out to sea or at least the political dustbin.
The opposition and election-losing Democrats have always been opposed but the overwhelming flood crisis is likely to snuff out the candle of the Pheu Thai government that came to power only four months ago.
An episode of Ms. Shinawatra apparently breaking into tears, is often being cited by her adversaries as an example of her lack of experience to handle “tough” situations that invariably hit any national government.
Her ministers are falling back on the line, “a great natural disaster,” which is quite accurate, as the rainfall providing the water for the flood was 42 percent above the usual monsoon level. However, those who have had their homes flooded are probably inclined to blame someone or something for the flood.
Another sore spot is how the flood crisis will impact the government’s “populist” policies that carried them into office. Already before the severity of the flood became recognized many of these programs has been scuttled or reduced. The credit card for farmers was nixed, tablet computers were cut back from all first grades to only those schools that wanted them and the 300 baht (US$10) daily wage was reduced from countrywide to seven provinces starting in January.
The flood is a terrible disaster for Thailand but its impact may have an even greater effect of destabilizing the present government, destroying any chance of the often mentioned “reconciliation” efforts.
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