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Home  >>   Daily News  >>   Thailand News  >>   Environment  >>   Thai Flood Update
THAI FLOOD UPDATES Asean Affairs     22 October  2011

9 a.m.-Bangkok time

Bangkok Post

Prime Minister takes charge

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has invoked the disaster prevention law to take full control of flood operations as run-off from the North has started surging into Bangkok.

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra yesterday said there were signs the northern run-off has entered the capital.

First, the water level in Khlong 2 in Rangsit continued to rise despite the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) opening its floodgate wider.

Second, the rising floodwater broke an embankment at Phahon Yothin Road near Khlong Rangsit in Pathum Thani, causing water to spill on to the streets.

However, the governor said flood barriers are expected to be put in place in time to ease the impact on central Bangkok.

Soldiers have now been deployed in flood-prone areas to watch for any emergencies, the governor said, adding that military trucks are ready to evacuate people.

In the face of an increasingly tense battle with the rising water and what appeared to be inter-agency bickering, Prime Minister Yingluck yesterday invoked the disaster prevention law to consolidate power over flood management efforts.

Section 31 of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act (2007) gives the prime minister full control over officials around the country, including in Bangkok.

Under the law, all officials must report directly to the prime minister as the director of the relief operation. Those who refuse to follow orders can be prosecuted for malfeasance or serious dereliction of duty.

Following the invocation of the law, the premier ordered the BMA to open all sluice gates in Bangkok to allow the overflow from the North to pass through the city and on to the sea. The amount of water flow will be controlled so the capital is not harmed.

The invocation of the law follows a perceived conflict between City Hall and the government's Flood Relief Operations Command (Froc).

Despite Froc's request, the BMA has reportedly refused to open all sluice gates in Bangkok to allow floodwater to drain through the city's canal network.

"I'm asking the BMA to fully perform its duty," said Ms Yingluck.

"I'm pleased the BMA will [manage the overflow], and Froc is ready to give support. But if the BMA can't take care of it, Froc will take over."

The premier has also appointed a committee to manage flood drainage in disaster areas chaired by Veera Wongsaengnak, former deputy chief of the Royal Irrigation Department.

The committee, made up of former RID chiefs and experts in water management and geoinformatics, will lay down guidelines for Froc to deal with the floods. It will also work with the BMA regarding waterflow management.

Ms. Yingluck said some agencies were ordered to open all floodgates for full water drainage but later checks found they did not comply. It is understood she was referring to City Hall.

In invoking the disaster law, Ms Yingluck also ordered the Defence Ministry and the army to protect key places, including the Grand Palace, other palaces, Siriraj Hospital, flood barrier lines, utilities units and Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.

Froc yesterday also set up a forward command, headed by permanent secretary for interior Pranai Suwanrath, to oversee flood operations in east Bangkok.

Responding to the invocation of the disaster prevention law, MR Sukhumbhand insisted it does not affect City Hall's powers to manage the flood.

He said the law actually enables the BMA to instruct state agencies that do not come under City Hall under normal circumstances to assist in flood relief operations in the capital.

MR Sukhumbhand rejected suggestions of a conflict between him and the government on how to deal with floods.

"There are just different interpretations," he said, adding that City Hall has cooperated by opening some sluice gates in Bangkok, though not all of them.

Meanwhile, some areas of Don Muang and Laksi districts in Bangkok have been inundated by overflow from Khlong Prapa.

Metropolitan Waterworks Authority governor Charoen Phassa yesterday said run-off had burst through a flood barrier at Khlong Bang Luang in Bangkok Yai district and swept into Khlong Prapa.

The incident caused the canal to overflow into Don Muang and Chaeng Wattana Road in Laksi.

The overflow problem has been brought under control and the floods there are expected to recede in the next few days, Mr Charoen said.

Don Muang district office chief Phumiphat Damrongkiatisak said Khlong Prapa's rising levels breached a barrier and flooded a 500m section of Song Prapa Road in Don Muang. Efforts were being made to pump the water into Khlong Prem Prachakorn.

MR Sukhumbhand, however, expressed concern that if the water in Khlong Prapa continues to rise, then floods will be inevitable on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

The governor said that more than 1,400 residents in Don Muang affected by floods have been evacuated to two evacuation shelters in the area.

Relief falters

Officials and rescue workers trying to help flood victims trapped in Nonthaburi's Bang Bua Thong district have been struggling to carry out their tasks.

A shortage of boats with engines has been a significant obstacle.

Nonthaburi governor Wichian Phuttiwinyu said the district faced the province's worst flooding. Floodwater has covered almost 100% of Bang Bua Thong.

The province has mobilised all resources, including staff, cars and boats to provide assistance to flood-affected people in Bang Bua Thong, Pak Kret and Sai Noi districts, with support from 450 troops from the Air Defence Command and the 2nd Army Region.

Vehicles used in the flood relief operations include 86 cars, 24 shuttle buses, rowing boats and boats with engines.

Mr Wichian said officials and rescue workers have experienced difficulty reaching flood victims. They need more boats with engines to quickly reach those people trapped in their houses in flooded housing estates, he said.

Nonthaburi province has only a limited number of boats with engines, added the governor.

The province has asked the Royal Thai Police and the Flood Relief Operations Command (Froc) to lend the province more boats.

The Royal Thai Police has agreed to lend the province 10 boats.

Froc has agreed to lend the province more boats, high-wheeled vehicles and water pumps, said Mr Wichian.

Maj Gen Veeran Chanthasatkoson, the deputy commander of the Air Defence Command who led a group of troopers to support Nonthaburi's flood relief operations, said thousands of people were still trapped in their houses in Bang Bua Thong district.

Over the past three days, about 3,000 people have sought help at the province's evacuation centre, said Maj Gen Veeran.

An 8km stretch of the Bang Kruai-Sai Noi road is flooded, which is also hampering relief operations.

Troops had to gain access to the district through Rattanathibet Road, and large vehicles could not go through small roads in housing estates in the district to reach those in need.

Adding to the woes, the floodwater current in the district is very strong in places, added Maj Gen Veeran.

In Nonthaburi's Bang Yai district, floodwater has continued to rise.

With almost the whole of Bang Bua Thong district inundated, the flood level near Thanon Canal in Bang Yai district, adjacent to Bua Thong 1 housing estate, has risen to over one metre. Areas on both sides of Kanchanaphisek Road (Taling Chan-Suphan Buri) in front of Bang Yai Market are also flooded.

More troops to Bangkok

The army is to deploy an additional 3,000 soldiers from Nakhon Ratchasima and Prachuap Khiri Khan to help tackle flooding in Bangkok.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday the army has 40,000 soldiers in the capital to help deal with situation but more troops were needed.

As a result, the army has sought approval from the Defence Ministry to send an additional 3,000 soldiers from the 2nd Army - 2,000 from Nakhon Ratchasima and 1,000 from Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Gen Prayuth also urged people not to wait, and evacuate immediately if threatened by severe flooding.

"I would like to say to people, that if there is severe flooding, please leave [home to the prepared shelters].

"Soldiers will be unable to help evacuate millions of people if people refuse to move when they have the chance.

"Let's be strong and united to overcome this crisis," he said.

Gen Prayuth also said the floodwalls will not be able to protect Bangkok from the huge amounts of water running down from the North.

He said the total volume of water flowing through Ayutthaya, Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani was immense.

"The speed of the current means that water could quite possibly breach the floodwalls and enter Bangkok, since they're not permanent structures," Gen Prayuth said.

The government, the army and other agencies involved in the relief effort have been trying their best to stem the flow of the run-off and drain water through the eastern and western outskirts of Bangkok, the army chief said.

However, some floodwater will have to pass through certain areas of Bangkok so that it can be released rapidly out into the sea.

He said temporary dykes can only slow down the flow of water, giving authorities more time to help people.

Meanwhile, the army has been working to prevent flooding at Chitralada Palace and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has ordered the Defence Ministry to provide 24-hour protection for important sites, Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said.

He was speaking after a meeting of the Flood Relief Operations Command at Don Mueang airport yesterday.

Gen Yutthasak said these places include the palaces, Government House, parliament and all power plants.

The defence and interior ministries have prepared areas for temporary shelters for flood-hit people, he added.

In addition, three C130 transport planes are standing by at Don Mueang airport to evacuate patients from flood-affected hospitals, the minister said.

Gen Yutthasak said he has cancelled plans to attend an Asean defence ministers' meeting in Indonesia, scheduled for Sunday and Monday.

He will stay in Thailand to help combat the floods.

The Nation

Swift comeback seen for plants

Commerce Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said he was confident that more than 50 per cent of the industrial estates would go into operation within 45 days once the floods start receding.

Under a measure to help factories resume operation, the government will provide generators to power up machinery once water has been pumped out of each factory.

It will also urgently approve work permits for foreign experts to help repair damaged machinery.

Many local banks have also confirmed that they will provide funds to help factories start operating as soon as possible.

The government will also encourage banks to provide soft loans for private enterprises and borrow money from overseas to facilitate the private sector and restore growth.

So far, many financial institutions such as the World Bank, and Asian Development Bank are ready to provide loans, he said, adding that there should be no worries about Thailand not being able to pay back the money because it should recover rapidly with cooperation from the private sector.

He added that the government would continue to promote domestic consumption using its populist policies such as increasing the minimum wage and helping first-time buyers of cars and homes.

However, he acknowledged that the heavy flooding had slowed down export growth since last month and it would continue to drop until the first quarter of next year.

Yet Kittiratt said he was confident that exports would gradually recover by March because many factories should be up and running soon.

He said the Export Promotion Department should urgently speak to trading partners and assure them that Thailand is well capable of serving their demands.

Meanwhile, the government is planning to revise the Kingdom's export target once the flood damage is assessed.

In the first nine months of this year, Thailand's exports jumped 25.5 per cent to US$179.57 billion (Bt5.57 trillion), while the value of imports rose 30 per cent to $174.29 billion, leading to a trade surplus of $5.28 billion.

In September alone, export value rose by 19.1 per cent to $21.51 billion, of which imports accounted for $21.27 billion, up by 41.9 per cent with a trade surplus of $238 million.

Deputy Commerce Minister Siriwat Kachornprasart said yesterday that most of the exports in September were farm products, though industrial goods such as printing and rubber products, plastic pellets and plastic products, car and car parts, electrical appliances and electronic parts were also exported in large quantities.

However, overseas demand for gems and jewellery, gold, pharmaceutical products, medical equipment and toys is dropping.

Imports focused mainly on capital goods, including oil worth $3.45 billion, consumer goods, raw and semi-raw materials, and cars and car parts.

Siriwat added that the European countries accounted for 15.5 per cent of the key export markets, Japan for 14.6 per cent and the United States for 4.1 per cent. High export-growth markets involved South Korea, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia and CIS countries.

The minister also insisted that Thailand would be able to achieve the 15-per-cent export growth projected, though the export value for next year would have to be reviewed and relevant associations should soon come up with a plan to drive export growth.

In addition, the value of border trade with Malaysia, Burma, Laos and Cambodia grew 22.6 per cent to Bt78.4 billion in September, with exports accounting for 24 per cent or Bt49.95 billion of it, up by 20.1 per cent, while imports accounted for Bt28.45 billion, showing a 20.1-per-cent increase.

During the first nine months, the total value of cross-border trade value rose 16.3 per cent to Bt679.97 billion.

Imports focused mainly on capital goods, including oil worth $3.45 billion, consumer goods, raw and semi-raw materials, and cars and car parts.

Siriwat added that the European countries accounted for 15.5 per cent of the key export markets, Japan for 14.6 per cent and the United States for 4.1 per cent. High export-growth markets involved South Korea, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia and CIS countries.

The minister also insisted that Thailand would be able to achieve the 15-per-cent export growth projected, though the export value for next year would have to be reviewed and relevant associations should soon come up with a plan to drive export growth.

In addition, the value of border trade with Malaysia, Burma, Laos and Cambodia grew 22.6 per cent to Bt78.4 billion in September, with exports accounting for 24 per cent or Bt49.95 billion of it, up by 20.1 per cent, while imports accounted for Bt28.45 billion, showing a 20.1-per-cent increase.

During the first nine months, the total value of cross-border trade value rose 16.3 per cent to Bt679.97 billion.

Bangkokians must do their part

There is one painful fact at this stage of the flood disaster: The waters need to pass through Bangkok as fast as possible to ease the suffering of people in other flooded areas.

The need to give the capital the best protection available is understandable, but it is being overwhelmed by other urgencies. Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani have been virtually knocked out by ravaging floods. Ayutthaya remains unconscious. Other provinces such as Nakhon Sawan or Angthong are still inundated and see little hope of quick recovery.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday invoked the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act to give her greater leverage when dealing with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. Her flood relief centre's conflict with the BMA has been in plain sight over the past few days, a situation compounded by problems or outright fighting among local politicians or officials.

However, this is the worst time to let politics get in the way, so the situation is simple: Bangkok has to make some sacrifices now, not only as a payback but also for its own good.

To put it in straight language, if some parts of Bangkok have to be flooded so the waters can move faster towards the sea, then so be it. It's the government's and the BMA's job to decide which areas to protect. Being the centre of government and the economy, Bangkok is the location of important places. Having said that, now is the time for all Bangkokians to be prepared to get their feet wet.

Simple calculations tell everyone that if Bangkok is to be kept dry at all costs, the suffering outside the capital and the remote provinces will last longer. That will be very bad for everybody, including the alreadystressed Bangkokians. This is not to mention the possibility of conflicting interests between those who are suffering and those who are not erupting in violence.

Bad politics at all levels is the last thing Thailand needs now. The cooperation between the government and the BMA and understanding between the government and Bangkokians must begin now, before the issue of who mismanaged dam waters and who was responsible for a huge amount of flood waters being trapped outside the city becomes more politicised than it currently is.

Even if the painful "surgery" means some parts of the capital will be under water for several weeks, it must be carried out sooner rather than later.


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Thai Flood Update    22  October  2011
• October 22, 2011 - 9.00 AM
• October 21, 2011 - 10.00 PM
• October 21, 2011 - 6.00 PM
• October 21, 2011 - 3.00 PM

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