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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     31 October  2011

Bangkok defenses hold

Shielded by hundreds of thousands of sandbags piled shoulder high along the city's outskirts, most of Bangkok remained dry Sunday, allaying fears for now that the massive metropolis would be swamped by monsoon floodwaters.

But along the floodwalls, which ring the city and are patrolled by soldiers and police officers around the clock, there was a mixture of relief and resentment.

The sandbags hastily erected to protect Bangkok have trapped a giant pocket of floodwater that extends for dozens of miles. By sparing the low-lying capital, which lies in the delta of the country's main river system, officials sacrificed the provinces to the north.

The flooding, the worst in at least half a century, has affected 2 million people and left close to 400 dead, many by drowning or electrocution.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra thanked the residents of Pathum Thani province, north of Bangkok, last week for their "sacrifice."

On Sunday, Yingluck said she was confident that the situation was improving because the floodwalls were mostly holding up.

Experts and government officials say favorable weather and the passing of peak tides over the weekend as the water moves out to sea may mean the worst is over for Bangkok.

''The situation is easing," said Somsak Khaosuwan, the director of Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center. "If the floodwalls don't break, inner Bangkok will definitely be safe."

Train service between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai resumed over the weekend after a month of interruption because of the floods. The main highway linking Bangkok to the north is now also passable.

But large swaths of provinces north of Bangkok are likely to remain inundated for several weeks, the government says. And bitterness is likely to persist long after the water has receded and the mud has dried.

Only seven of Bangkok's 50 districts were heavily flooded as of Sunday, mostly along the northern and western rim of the city.

Drinking water and other essentials like eggs and rice remain in short supply, partly because panicked residents are hoarding. Many parts of the city were quiet over the weekend after residents took the government's advice and evacuated to areas not threatened by flooding.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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