Updated: Politicizing a national disaster II

28 10 2011

In addition to the comments in PPT’s earlier post, there are a couple of stories that reflect on the way that the attacks on Yingluck Shinawatra reflect on the broader political conflict in Thailand.

Michael Montesano has a story at the Jakarta Globe that reflects on how the “floods have triggered a political and ideological contest concerning the role of the Thai monarchy.” He adds that “Thais unreconciled to the victory of Yingluck’s Red-Shirt-supported Pheu Thai Party in July’s polls have in recent weeks tried to turn her government’s current struggle to partisan political advantage. ” He notes how they have used fake and dated photos to convince themselves that the palace is hard at work on floods.

Related, it is interesting that Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha seems to have become official spokesperson for the monarchy. We noted his earlier comments here. Now, at The Nation, it is he that tells the media that “Their Majesties the King and Queen have been concerned about the plight of flood victims…”, noting that the king is monitoring the floods. Why wouldn’t he be?

Prayuth then goes on to say that he is “pledging full military efforts on rescue and recovery.” What were they doing before this? Half-hearted efforts? Prayuth adds that “Their Majesties told the soldiers to take good care of the people…”. In Bangkok, yellow-shirt speak, that is saying (again) that Prayuth and the military’s loyalty is not to the government, but to the monarchy. Prayuth seems back on political course, posing the monarchy-army alliance against Puea Thai. The watery coup idea holds water, so to speak.

Andrew Spooner has a cheeky post that asks a relevant question of the HRW staffer in Thailand who seems to have a political concern about portable toilets….

For those saying that the government has been partisan in its efforts, this story is a kind of mild antidote.

Update: A reader draws our attention to a story in The Nation:

The military will deploy another 50,000 troops, 1,000 vehicles and 1,000 boats to fight off floodwaters from Bangkok, the Defence Ministry said yesterday.

The First Army Area will defend Bangkok, and the Navy Siriraj Hospital, where His Majesty the King is receiving treatment, and Thawee Watthana district….

The Air Force will be in charge of Don Mueang airport compound and the government Flood Relief Operations Centre, said ministry spokesman Colonel Thanathip Sawangsaeng.

There are around 10,000 troops already deployed throughout the country, he said. Military reservists may be mobilised as extra helpers to assist regular troops when needed.

It does seem seem odd that the report only has 10,000 troops in places other than Bangkok. Given that almost all deaths and injuries have been beyond Bangkok and that the flood in Bangkok will, in all likelihood, be less than further north, the question of priorities needs to be raised.


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