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Dems renew attack in House

Posted by arnon_k On November - 12 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Suthep criticises choice of Pracha to head Froc

The opposition and senators have slammed the government for mishandling the flood crisis right from the start
Democrat list MP Suthep Thaugsuban blasted the Pheu Thai Party-led government for starting out with what he called a “critical mistake” in picking the wrong man to lead the Flood Relief Operations Command (Froc).

Speaking yesterday during a joint sitting of the House and the Senate on the flooding, Mr Suthep said the government selected Justice Minister Pracha Promnok to head the centre, rather than the obvious choice, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit.

Mr Yongyuth had served as the governor of several provinces and held the position of permanent secretary for the interior for years, which meant he had sound experience in dealing with public hardship, said Mr Suthep.

Pol Gen Pracha had far less experience in handling problems that have a massive impact on the public, Mr Suthep said.

Many of the opposition MPs and senators who spoke up during yesterday’s session shared his view.

They also called on the government to take a more systematic approach to managing floods.

They said the government should rethink city planning work in areas considered natural floodways and areas supposed to be reserved as water retention zones to mitigate the impact of floods on communities.

Mr Suthep said the government was so ill-prepared to handle the disaster that the military had had to step in to cover flood-relief duties.

Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn said the government’s appointment of former deputy prime minister and economist Virabongsa Ramangura as chairman of a strategic committee for reconstruction and development for the future, and other high-profile people as members, was tantamount to a cabinet reshuffle.

This hidden form of cabinet reshuffle was conducted to avoid creating an impact on the current cabinet, said Mr Kamnoon.

But since the committee still had to report to the government, it would lack independence in making decisions, especially ones that might not be in line with the the Yingluck Shinawatra administration’s thinking, he said.

Mr Yongyuth said the government wanted to hear the opinions of MPs and senators about the flood crisis and also wanted to take a chance to explain what the government was doing.

Meanwhile, the House on Thursday night voted 237 to two, with 177 abstentions, to pass the first reading of the fiscal 2012 Budget Bill.

The voting followed 29 hours of debate over two days.

The Democrat Party said the budget lacked priorities and failed to provide solutions to pressing problems facing the country.

After the vote, a 63-member House committee was set up to scrutinise the budget and report back.

Of the membership, 15 are cabinet ministers, 25 are Pheu Thai MPs, 15 Democrat MPs, three Bhumjaithai MPs, two Chartthaipattana MPs, one Chart Pattana Puea Pandin MP, one Palang Chon MP and one person each represents Rak Prathetthai, Mahachon, Matubhum, Rak Santi and Prachatippatai Mai.

Embattled PM refuses to quit

Posted by arnon_k On November - 11 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Scholar threatens class action suit against govt

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has pledged to stay on and tackle the floods, despite mounting criticism of the government’s handling of the disaster.

Pressure is opening on a new front as academics and activists threaten class action suits against the government and state agencies for their “mismanagement” of the floods.

An economist said yesterday he could launch a class action lawsuit which will seek compensation for people who lost their homes and income in the crisis.

However, Ms Yingluck said stepping down has never crossed her mind because she was given a mandate to run the country.

She dismissed speculation the flood problem was getting the better of her and shrugged off the legal threats.

The prime minister was on the verge of tears at times when prodded about the floods. She said crying was not a gesture of weakness or hopelessness, or she would have called it quits long ago.

“People pin their hopes on us. I would be dressed down thoroughly if I quit because of this problem.

“I might have cried but it isn’t weakness. It could be hard to understand unless you’re there. It’s a surge of sympathy when seeing others’ suffering,” she said.

The prime minister yesterday took a bus ride to visit a flood shelter in Chatuchak district.

She cooked phad wun sen for flood evacuees before heading back to Parliament to attend the budget bill debate.

Ms Yingluck played down reports about lawsuits which will be lodged against the government for its handling of the floods. She said all parties concerned have made concerted efforts to tackle the crisis.

She was not interested in being part of a political game and hoped her sincerity in working for the country would be returned in kind.

“I am the prime minister but I don’t know everything about water. But I am not left to handle this on my own.

“Why don’t we help build confidence and overcome the crisis?” she said.

Among those who are exploring the feasibility of holding the government responsible for the crisis is Assoc Prof Narong Phetprasert, a Chulalongkorn University economist.

Mr Narong said he has discussed the matter with lawyers and found a couple of legal points that can be pursued.

He plans to make it a class action suit which will cover not only those who are directly affected by the flood, but those who lost income as well.

“The lawsuit is not limited to people whose houses are submerged. It will also include those whose houses aren’t flooded but who lost income due to the flood,” he said. He insisted he is not after the government alone, but every agency which should be held responsible.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the Agriculture Ministry, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and Egat Plc could also be targeted by the suit.

He had yet to decide how much compensation to demand for flood-affected people.

He said the plight of the public should also be taken into consideration to determine if state compensation of 5,000 baht for each household, as proposed by the government, is justified.

He said people who are considering taking action should join a flood forum on Dec 15. “Those who want to share, discuss or criticise are welcome. And those who want to sue the government cannot miss this,” he said. Mr Srisuwan is an environmental activist who took a lawsuit against the Industry Ministry in 2009 for approving the building of 76 factories in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong province.

Kriangsak Woramongkolchai, a spokesman for the Lawyers Association of Thailand, said a lawsuit can be lodged against the government if it can be established the flood was caused by mismanagement.

Meanwhile, Democrat MP Niphit Intharasombat traded barbs with Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Theera Wongsamut over water management during the budget bill debate yesterday.

Mr Niphit said the Agriculture Ministry had fallen down on managing risk, which resulted in heavy flooding.

Water should have been released from the Bhumibhol dam earlier.

Mr Theera replied the ministry’s water management was based on its assessment of the situation at the time.

He admitted he had asked Bhumibhol dam not to release water because rice farmers downstream were about to harvest. “They were harvesting their crops. I had to do as the situation required,” he said.
Srisuwan Janya, president of Stop Global Warming Association Thailand, is also gearing up for a class action.

Capital could be dry in 11 days

Posted by arnon_k On November - 10 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Half of northern runoff has flowed into the sea

Bangkok could be drained of water in 11 days, says the Irrigation Department, presenting good news to an anxious city for the first time since northern floodwaters entered the capital.
Nearly half of the northern runoff which has devastated farmland and industrial estates and flooded parts of the capital has now flowed into the sea and the rest will be drained out soon, it said yesterday.

This year’s northern runoff has been estimated at 14 billion cubic metres.

Nearly half of that amount has flowed into the sea leaving 8.5 billion cu/m in the Central Plains, said spokesman Boonsanong Suchatpong.

He said that of the 8.5 billion cu/m of water, about 3 billion cu/m is in the Chao Phraya River and 3.5 billion cu/m in the fields in the central provinces and north of Bangkok.

The rest has penetrated flood walls and inundated many parts of the capital.
As the water continues to flow into the sea, the run-off in the fields will gradually drain into the river.

Mr Boonsanong said this would leave only about 5 billion cu/m of water for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to manage.

With about 400 million cu/m of water being drained into the sea every day, the floodwater could be drained out of the capital in 11 days, he said.

Mr Boonsanong dismissed reports the city could be hit by a new volume of floodwater from the North.

He said the water level in Nakhon Sawan was now 1.12 metres below the river banks and the water volume that flowed downstream would not add to the flood woes being experienced by downstream provinces. The drop in the water level in Ayutthaya’s Bang Sai district and Nonthaburi’s Pak Kret districts was also a good sign that less water was coming from the North, he said.

Meanwhile, the runoff from the western part of the city is approaching Rama II Road that links the city to the southern region.

The floodwater is about 1km away from the highway but it is hard to predict when it will reach and flood the road.

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said yesterday he anticipated the runoff will reach Rama II Road by today.

The runoff, which is the result of the government’s attempts to divert water from the Central Plains to the west and the east of the capital, has flooded most of Phetkasem Road and Bang Khun Thian-Bang Bon Road as it heads towards Rama II Road.

The government appears to have decided not to block the floods from entering Rama II Road but instead will use the highway as a floodway to allow floodwater to head into the estuary.

MR Sukhumbhand said the BMA must protect Rama II Road from inundation.

The BMA will seek cooperation from the Highway Department to keep the highway accessible to motorists, he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she has asked Thai Airways International to put on extra flights at discounted rates for travellers going south in case Rama II road is inundated.

In Bang Phlat, one of the worst-hit districts in the western part of the city, the floodwater in several areas has receded by 10cm.

A section from Krung Thon Buri bridge to Bang Phlat intersection is now passable to motorists with a water height of 20cm.

Motorists were having a difficult time on Sirindhorn and Charan Sanitwong roads because the water levels differ along these roads.

In some parts the floodwater had fallen to 20-30cm, but other sections remain under 80cm water.

Residents in Bangkok Yai district are keeping their fingers crossed that run-off from Phetkasem Road will not reach Tha Phra intersection.

The district has deployed 18 pumps at Khlong Bangkok Yai’s sluice gate to drain water from the canal to the Chao Phraya River.

During high tide today and tomorrow, communities along the Chao Phraya River on the western side of Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan’s Pak Nam have been urged to keep vigilant.

The water in the river will rise by 10cm above mean sea level during high tide.

The BMA has issued an evacuation warning for Ram Intra and Kannayao sub-districts of Kannayao district, while Lat Phrao sub-district in Lat Phrao district was put on close watch.

Seri Supparathit, director of Sirindhorn International Environmental Park, said the “big bag” flood barrier north of Bangkok will slow down the run-off which would finally overflow the barrier within a week. “The barrier will hold the water for seven days before the overflow starts,” he said. “Khlong Bang Sue will be in trouble and the flood may affect the Victory Monument.”

Flood Relief Operation Command director Pracha Promnok admitted yesterday the water might overflow the flood barrier, but insisted it would not fall.

He said the barrier would be able to hold the mounting water pressure and last for months.

Bangchan under round-the-clock watch

Posted by arnon_k On November - 10 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Floodwater in the areas surrounding Bangchan Industrial Estate in eastern Bangkok has continued to rise prompting a close watch around the clock.

The water level rose by 2cm from 95cm on Tuesday night to 97cm yesterday morning.

The management of the industrial estate plans to warn factories inside to move their machinery to higher ground when the level reaches 1m.

The estate, located in Min Buri district, has been virtually surrounded by floodwaters for three days while more water has continued to pour in from several canals, said Somchet Thinaphong, chairman of the executive board of the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, yesterday.

The estate’s last defence against the deluge is a 2.2m-high earthen barrier that has been fortified with 20,000 cement boards reinforced by a 17km line of 200-litre oil barrels filled with sand, said Mr Somchet.

Yongyuth Thongsuk, a deputy permanent secretary for industry who is tasked with safeguarding the estate against flooding, said the flood level stabilised after more water pumps were added to drain water out.

Thirty pumps were installed yesterday afternoon to accelerate drainage of water from Khlong Bung Krathiam near the estate to the Gulf of Thailand via Khlong Saen Sap and Bang Pakong River.

Ten more pumps were added later in the evening.

Seri Supparathit, director of Sirindhorn International Environmental Park, said the flood situation facing the estate was worrying.

He proposed turning Mom Chao Sanga Ngam Supradit Road into a floodway to drain water away faster and reduce the risk of the estate being swamped. If water could be drained via this road, it would become a major help in the attempt to drain floodwaters into the sea via Khlong Saen Saep.