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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.

King’s aide says city needs more channels

Posted by arnon_k On November - 11 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Urgent steps must be taken to build floodways to speed flow of runoff from the North to ease flood problems, says Sumet Tantivejakul, secretary-general of the King’s Chaipattana Foundation.

Mr Sumet, a close aide to His Majesty the King, made the comment yesterday as he attempted to relay the King’s ideas on water resources and flood management to the government.

The Yingluck Shinawatra government on Tuesday appointed Mr Sumet an adviser of a committee to work out water resources management strategies in light of the flood disaster.

The committee will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong.

The government also set up another committee to formulate strategies to rehabilitate and rebuild the country for the future, headed by former deputy prime minister and respected economist Virabongsa Ramangura.

Mr Sumet said His Majesty stressed the importance of building floodways to channel water runoff instead of allowing the water to sweep through streets and roads.

Mr Sumet said areas which once functioned as natural flood drainage paths have now been blocked by many housing estates.

In the past, vast expanses of rice farmland acted as a natural floodway to allow runoff from the North to flow through, but now housing estates, factories, and industrial estates have been located on what was once natural drainage paths.

The government must identify areas which can be built as floodways, Mr Sumet said.

His Majesty warned years ago it was wrong to allow factories and industrial estates to be built in natural water catchment areas and in areas regarded as natural flood paths.

Mr Sumet also said the government must attempt to protect remaining forest reserve areas and rehabilitate degraded forest areas on mountains.

It must also urge nearby communities to support the conservation drive.

His Majesty always stressed the need to dig more ditches and ponds and create water retention areas, known as “monkey cheeks” to store runoff to prevent floods. The water kept in the catchment areas can be used during dry seasons.

The King pointed out many infrastructure construction projects do not pay proper attention to natural flood paths, and end up getting in the way of the flow of water.

Mr Sumet said construction and urban expansion in Bangkok is not properly controlled, with huge amounts of garbage clogging sewers and drainage canals.

PM not certain Bang Chan is safe

Posted by arnon_k On November - 8 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Tuesday that the government will try its best to protect the Bang Chan industrial estate in Min Buri from flooding, but she could not guarantee it would be safe.

No one could go up against nature, she said.

Ms Yingluck said she had instructed the armed forces to help protect Bang Chan industrial estate and had asked manufacturers in the estate to implement flood prevention measures.

Poll: Yingluck govt gets low marks

Posted by arnon_k On November - 8 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

People polled recently gave Yingluck Shinawatra 4.98 points on average out of ten on her performance as the prime minister over the past three months, Bangkok Poll said on Tuesday.

The Research Centre at Bangkok University, or Bangkok Poll, sought the opinions of 1,168 people in all regions on the “Performance of the Yingluck Shinawatra government after three months in office” from Nov 3 to 7.
Ms Yingluck was given 5.61 points for her efforts to solve the country’s problems, but only 4.34 points for her courage in making decisions, according to the pollsters.

The Pheu Thai-led coalition government received 4.78 points on average on its three months performance. The government was rated highest on international affairs, with 5.09, and received its lowest grade for its handling of economic affairs, only 4.52, Bangkok Poll said.

The respondents gave the Pheu Thai Party 4.84 points for its performance as the core party in the coalition, while the Democrats received 4.26 points for their role as a main opposition party.

Other political parties in the coalition government were given 4.06 points and other parties in the opposition camp got 3.94 points for their respective performances over the three months period.

Asked about their confidence in the ability of the Yingluck government to heal the damage caused to flooded people and businesses, 55.8 per cent of the respondents said they had confidence, but 44.2 per cent of them said they did not.