Floods, Bangkok and politics

18 10 2011

Bangkok Post photo

Anxiety levels are high in Bangkok as the breaching of some of the embankments around the mammoth Nava Nakorn industrial estate threatens to overwhelm all of the efforts to prevent central Bangkok flooding.

This anxiety has been reflected in political comments on the flood, ranging from bizarre suggestions that Thailand is being “punished” for red shirt support for Thaksin and Yingluk Shinawatra to attacks on Yingluck for being slow to respond, inadequate and lacking leadership while ignoring the hapless efforts of the Democrat Party administration headed by Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra.

To be frank, this is a huge flood, and neither administration should be outright condemned. Both are working pretty much tirelessly at present. Still, PPT understands that both will inevitably be held responsible for failures once the water levels recede.

The level of frantic effort on the part of the Puea Thai government and Yingluck herself is seen in a report from The Nation:

The success or failure of the government’s hectic efforts to save the inner areas of Nava Nakhon Industrial Park, which employs more than 200,000 workers, will go a long way to determining the increasingly uncertain fate of Bangkok.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra expressed confidence that the industrial park in Pathum Thani would be saved. Yesterday she was left nearly speechless, saying that she was sorry the outer parts of the vast industrial zone had finally succumbed to floods.

The report lists several pieces of very bad news:

The Thammasat Rangsit relief centre was itself sending alarming signals, asking owners who parked vehicles in the campus to escape flooding to get their cars out of the area immediately. The Dhammakaya Temple, which only a few days ago was listed as a good flood shelter location, faced a similar threat. The Air Force base at Don Mueang was also at risk of flooding and on evacuation alert.

Some military experts even warned that the Flood Relief Operations Command in Don Mueang was no longer safe.

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra was said to have lost considerable confidence and now “said he could not give an assurance that the city was 100 per cent safe, although he reiterated that ‘if danger comes’, he would be the first to tell Bangkokians.”

People outside Bangkok continue to resent what they perceive as being made to suffer to save Bangkok:

Realising how vulnerable the capital is, especially to human conflicts that could lead to destruction of key flood-prevention facilities, Yingluck yesterday made another plea for angry flood victims not to pull down structures in an attempt to “level things up” with Bangkok.

Yingluck calling on the Army to tackle major relief efforts in Nakhon Sawan, Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, Lop Buri and Nonthaburi is seen by some as an admission of failure….

Also politically significant is this note to the story:

In another development that could signal the alarming seriousness of the capital’s situation, Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont, also president of the council at King Mongkut Institute of Technology in Lat Krabang, called for an urgent meeting of agencies concerned with protecting the eastern parts of Bangkok.

PPT can only guess at the reaction to yet one more “boss” getting into the mix, but we doubt the critics will choose to note this intervention.


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