Further updated: A disaster plan

21 10 2011

Perhaps related to PPT’s previous post, it is now reported in The Nation that:

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday issued a disaster warning for Bangkok, consolidating power for flood control and drainage.

Yingluck invoked the 2007 Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act to oversee flood control in lieu of declaring a state of emergency.

Under her instructions, the topmost priority for flood control is to speed up the drainage of run-off into the sea via East Bangkok.

The government is to coordinate with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to operate all sluice gates in the capital in order to rein in the water flow.

The armed forces would be in charge of maintaining and defending the royal-initiated dykes and levees. The military would also be responsible for protecting key installations, including the Grand Palace, Siriraj Hospital, the tap water system, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.

The Transport Ministry would take charge of ensuring road traffic in the capital. Relevant agencies would map out plans for evacuation and setting up shelters.

The Bangkok Post’s account of the declaration is here.

The role of the military is highlighted by PPT to give the gist of how things royal skew even disaster operations. While on the military, it is interesting to note that Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha is reported as saying: “Some 40,000 troops have been deployed to help flood victims but the number of troops was still inadequate to help flood victims in all areas.” A couple of days ago we saw a 20,000 figure and thought this a misprint or a mistake by a reporter. Wasn’t it Prayuth who, just a week ago, was reported to have claimed that:

“There are not enough soldiers. People must help. If you need help from soldiers, please tell the government to increase the number of soldiers,” Gen Prayuth said. He said there were only 250,000 soldiers in Thailand, but actually the country needed 450,000 soldiers to fullfil all its tasks.

Is he really saying that he can only mobilize 40,000 out of 250,000? Is Prayuth holding back or is there something missing in the equation? Are we misreading this and other troops are deployed on other flood-related activities?

Different sources have different accounts of the size of the Army and the armed forces. Total active (305,860) and reserve forces for the whole Thai armed services is about 550,000 according to Wikipedia and GlobalFirePower.com.

Update 1: Pravit Rojanaphruk has a story at Prachatai that seems to link to PPT’s comments on the Army. Essentially, the story is that a red shirt radio station has raised the question of whether the Army is using the floods to undermine the Yingluck government. Pravit cites two political scientists as refuting the claim. Sirote Klampaiboon, a Mahidol University political scientist, says: “It makes no sense…”.  He claimed that

such theories- including one held by yellow shirts that the government intentionally neglected the alleged advice of His Majesty the King to allow water from dams to be released much earlier – are simply not plausible. The academic said people must accept that the amount of rainfall this year was unprecedented. Even though he feels the government isn’t doing a good job at protecting some areas from the flood, the theories should still be regarded as “cheap conspiracies.”

Oddly, he doesn’t say why they are implausible. Accepting there is a lot of rain does not make either claim implausible. Also cited is:

Kasetsart University red-shirt political scientist Kenkij Kitirianglarp … saying it’s most unlikely that anyone, be it the Army or the government, would want to see such damage incurred on the Kingdom. Kenkij said the blame game should stop as it is clear Thailand lacked an integrated system to deal with flooding and that’s not a problem of just this administration.

Kengkij is right on the latter and this kind of points at the flaws in the the yellow shirt claim. But what of the claim that no one would want to inflict so much damage on Thailand for political purpose? Frankly, after the events of recent years, we find that claim barely plausible. PPT thinks we are still at square one on this issue.

Readers might find this series of flood pictures of interest.

Update 2: On the Army, there is further information available in this Bangkok Post story. This report has 40,000 soldiers in Bangkok. The report also states: “Meanwhile, the army has been working to prevent flooding at Chitralada Palace and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has ordered the Defence Ministry to provide 24-hour protection for important sites, Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said. He was speaking after a meeting of the Flood Relief Operations Command at Don Mueang airport yesterday. Gen Yutthasak said these places include the palaces, Government House, parliament and all power plants.”



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