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Villagers say crisis is ‘God’s will’

Posted by arnon_k On October - 16 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS


The Muslim community in tambon Tha It of Pak Kret district in Nonthaburi is one of the areas worst hit by the torrential floods _ yet many villagers there see the catastrophe as God’s way of testing their endurance.

“We think God is trying to test us, to see how strong we are; how well we can cope with this disaster,” said Sompol Larnthong, the 54-year -old village headman of Moo 7 village.

With a population of around 14,541 people, Tha It is a wetland surrounded by two water courses _ the Chao Phraya River in the east and Bang Bua Thong canal in the north.

“During last year’s flood, the water level was about knee level. Today it has gone up a lot more, even to chest-level in some places,” said Sawad Thinkham, a tambon Tha It kamnan.

“Since our dykes broke on Oct 8, we can’t handle the overflow any more,” he added.

Around 2,000 households in five villages are severely affected by flooding.

Chiwa Paiboon, deputy chief of Tha It tambon administration organisation, said four of these five villages are Muslim-dominated. Most residents are now living on the second floors of their homes.

Most people in the communities are workers for department stores, retail shops and private companies in the city and they have to rely on military trucks to commute to work. However, they have to wade through floods to the meeting point to get on the trucks.

Some people who can afford to do so have already moved out to rent flats elsewhere, but most people are afraid burglars may target their homes if they leave, said Mr Chiwa.

“We often receive complaints about valuable things being stolen, especially during a crisis like this,” he added.

Life is harder still for farmers whose crops were damaged by floods, particularly fruit growers.

“It’s 100% of our durian plantations that have been destroyed,” said Mr Sompol.

“Last year we could cope with the floods, but not this year.”

In his Moo 7 village, there are about 30 farming families, of which 10 are durian growers and the rest growing various fruits such as mangosteen, rose apple and mango.

“I have informed the agriculture district office and asked for financial support for destroyed orchards,” he said.

“However, the office requires more details, such as photographs and household registration certificates.”

The high level of flooding has made it impossible for Muslim villagers to travel to their nearest mosque, in Moo 10 village, to conduct their daily prayers. The mosque has been flooded as well.

“We don’t think it is anyone’s fault and we don’t blame anyone,” said Mr Sompol. Many villagers echoed this sentiment.

But if the residents do not wish to apportion blame for a natural disaster, they do expect more assistance from government.

“For now, we are very much in need of more high-raised vehicles and longtail boats that can transport people from their flooded homes to work and back,” Mr Sompol said.

“If possible, we want the government to build some kind of embankment for us along the Chao Phraya,” he added.

PM: Bangkok is well protected

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Bangkok is well protected and the capital will not be flooded, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told people on Channel 11 on Saturday morning.

In her weekly “Yingluck government meets people” talk show programme on Channel 11 and radio stations of the Public Relations Department this morning, Ms Yingluck said the government measures are capable of preventing Bangkok from being inundated.

“Flood prevention walls are now in place at Luck Hok canal in Pathum Thani, Thaweewattana canal in Thonburi and Rangsit canal in the eastern part of Bangkok.

“In the eastern part, the embankment built under the initiative of His Majesty the King is still strong. In order to make people have more confidence, more floodwalls had been built in that area”, she said.

The prime minister insisted that the government will protect all economic zones and will drive the overflow out to the sea as soon as possible. She assured people that the government will come up long-term flood prevention plan to systematically manage water resources in the future.

She said altogether 56 provinces were inundated since the Nok-Ten tropical storm hit the country on July 25, 11 of them at critical levels.

Ms Yingluck thanked all parties for joining hands to help relief hardship of the flood victims. She offered moral support for people being affected by the widespread flooding.

Electricity plants to close if floods threaten

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Three power plants of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand are at risk of being hit by flooding.

Piboon Buacham, assistant governor for systems control, said officials were trying to prevent damage to the plants.

They are the Wang Noi plant in Ayutthaya, the North Bangkok power plant in Nonthaburi and the South Bangkok power plant in Samut Prakan.

Each plant is gas-fired and has a generating capacity of 700 megawatts.

“We are making all-out efforts to save our plants,” said Mr Piboon. If the floods cannot be controlled, the plants will be closed to avoid damage.

“The shutdown of operations will not affect national power security because power reserves are sufficient,” he said.

Thailand has power reserves at 31% of its power capacity of 31,000MW.

Egat can shift generation of any halted power plants to its other power generators surrounding Bangkok, such as Bang Pakong and Ratchaburi.

Egat said its five power transmission stations in Ayutthaya were inundated.

However, the authority has assured that power transmission in the national grid remains safe.

Egat has warned people to stay at least 4m away from flooded high-voltage transmission poles.

The authority has also reinforced the flood embankment wall of its power plant in Bang Kruai district of Nonthaburi to prevent overflow from the Chao Phraya River reaching it. Water pumps are installed at the plant’s tunnel and officials have been told to be on full alert.

Meanwhile, a source from the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) said there will be no electricity cuts. The MEA has also launched a free service to move plug sockets to safer locations. Interested householders can call 1130.

Yingluck government slow to respond to flood crisis

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

The flood crisis has hurt the Yingluck Shinawatra government, with critics saying it underestimated the problem, says a Post Today analyst.

When her Pheu Thai party was in opposition last year, the party criticised the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration for its slow response to that year’s floods.

Plodprasop Suraswadi, deputy party leader, spoke in the House of Representatives on Oct 30, 2010.

”The government must help affected flood victims quickly,” he said.

”A centre must be set up to coordinate donated items and relief work and the prime minister must personally chair and issue orders from the centre. The operation must be carried out transparently.”

Now Pheu Thai is in government, facing the same problem but on a greater scale.

No one can predict when the crisis will end. People in Bangkok have been warned to prepare for floods from tomorrow to Tuesday when run-off from the North will meet the high tide from the sea and even more rain.

The high tide will arrive again at the end of the month and there might be more tropical storms as well.

This year’s flood crisis covers about 59 provinces.

Floods have practically inundated the whole of Ayutthaya province, moving to Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi and are now on the verge of flooding eastern Bangkok’s Lat Krabang, Min Buri and Nong Chok.

Ms Yingluck has admitted Bangkok might be flooded while Bangkok governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra has warned residents to prepare for possible widespread floods.

The damage to the people’s property, agriculture and industry could reach over 100 billion baht.

During last year’s floods, the Pheu Thai Party criticised the Abhisit government for being ill-prepared and unable to help people promptly.

Now the criticism has come back to haunt the government. The floods began nearly two months ago as Ms Yingluck and her team took office.

The government did not pay much attention to the flood problems as the government relied on bureaucrats in the provinces to deal with the situation.

The government adopted the so-called ”Bang Rakam Model” for tackling floods, when Ms Yingluck visited Bang Rakam in Phitsanulok to inspect the floods there.

For the past two months, the Yingluck government has been occupied more with transferring bureaucrats and implementing policies.

Only when the floods began to inundate several provinces in the Central Plains and threatening Bangkok did the government begin to treat the problem seriously by establishing a flood relief operation centre at Don Mueng airport.

Justice Minister Pol Gen Pracha Phromnok is directing the centre, with acting permanent secretary of the interior Phranai Suwanrat as his deputy.

Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop heads the relief operation.

It is strange that provincial governors _ who are close to the people and well positioned to respond to their needs _ work under Interior Ministry and yet Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit does not have a role at the centre, notes Post Today.

Admitting the government was slow to respond, Mr Plodprasop told one TV programme that: ”We came late, but better than not at all.”

Ms Yingluck, meanwhile, told a national telecast that the floods were much worse than originally thought.

Mr Plodprasop said the government under-estimated the volume of water travelling from the North, which flooded Nakhon Sawan, Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani.

The government would adjust its strategy from fighting the torrent to evacuating people to higher ground.
Floods cut GDP growth

The floods have caused extensive damage and affected about 2.38 million people, says Post Today.

Forecasters can’t agree on the scale of the damage.

The Bank of Thailand and the Finance Ministry estimated the damages at 60 billion baht or about 0.6% of GDP.

The National Economic and Social Development Board put the damage at 89 billion baht, while Kasikorn Thai’s Research Centre believes the figure is as high as 120 billion baht.

Three large industrial estates in Ayutthaya are now under water.

Several other industrial estates in Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan are under threat. It is inevitable the floods will affect GDP.

If the factories submerged by floods cannot recover this year, next year’s GDP will also be hit.

Millions of farmers are also badly affected as their cash crops will be under water for several months.

They will be heavily in debt, resulting in lower domestic demand for goods and services.

Tourism will begin its high season in November.

If the floods do not recede by then, another important economic engine will stutter.

Meanwhile, large sums earmarked for investment by the government will be diverted to reconstruction, depressing the investment climate.

Growth, initially forecast at 3.5-4%, may contract to 3%, which means the government’s revenue collection will be below target, affecting the country’s fiscal position. The government’s public debt will worsen.

Deputy Prime Minister Kittirat Na Ranong said the government may have to revise its budget to improve water management infrastructure, which means money has to be diverted from projects elsewhere.