Thai PM Prayuth Moves to Allay Flood Fears

By Pracha Hariraksapitak 4 October 2016

BANGKOK, Thailand — As Thailand’s rainy season peaks, the government is taking steps to avoid a repeat of devastating floods in 2011 that killed hundreds of people and cost billions of dollars, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday.

Floods in the past few weeks, and an overflow of water from the Chao Phraya River, have inundated communities north of Bangkok, the capital, prompting government critics to warn of a repeat of floods in 2011 that killed more than 900 people.

Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy registered annual growth of just 0.1 percent that year, after the floods hit industrial estates, crippling the electronics and auto sectors, before sweeping down into Bangkok.

But this time round, the floods in the northern and central regions are manageable, Prayuth told reporters.

“The government is doing everything it can to manage the water, but in some areas it is flooding because of heavy rain and because other areas are low-lying,” he said.

These steps range from diverting the excess flows to water storage sites to keeping close watch on dam levels, although the latter are not yet cause for alarm.

The government says about 96,000 hectares (237,000 acres) of farmland have been affected by the floods, or less than 1 percent of agricultural land.

Managing water supplies in largely agrarian Thailand has proved a challenge for successive governments, with the government of then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra being criticized for mismanaging the 2011 crisis.

The military toppled Yingluck’s populist government in a 2014 coup following months of street protests, saying it had to step in to prevent violence and restore order.

Prayuth is expected to visit the central province of Ayutthaya, home to several big industrial estates, on Wednesday, to inspect flood damage there.