Bangkok, 24 October, 2010 [PDN]: in what is being described in the press as the worst case of inundation ever to afflict Thailand, 13 Thai provinces continue to suffer as the flood waters continue to rise amid persistent rain, while the capital is now being doubly threatened as the Chao Phraya River swells from the Northern and Central provincial overflows and the monthly high tide peak, as well as forecasts of more torrential rain over the next four days.
The National Institute of Emergency Management (NIEM) reported today, Sunday, 24 October, that 34 have died, victims of the flooding in Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Lop Buri, Khon Kaen, Phetchabun Chaiyaphum, Trat, Sa Kaeo, Saraburi, Ayutthaya, Nonthaburi and Uthai Thani, with the heaviest toll occurring in Rayong, where seven have died.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has asked flood- and relief-related agencies, including the Departments of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, the Royal Irrigation Department, and the Meteorological Department, to come up with a co-ordinated relief programme, especially for the Central Region, threatened by the combined effect of an ever-swelling Chao Phraya River, fed by continuing flood waters pouring in from the North; the monthly high tide flowing in from the sea, and further rain, particularly in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani and other central provinces.
Former Bangkok Governor, Apirak Kosayodhin, has been appointed by the premier as Chairman of the Flood Co-ordination Centre, charged with melding the respective agencies into a cohesive unit, while the premier, himself, will personally monitor the ongoing flood problems, particularly by inspecting the dykes along the Chao Phraya River.
A simplified, rationalised method of compensation payments is currently being organised for the flood victims to the tune of Bt5,000 per head. “I affirmed that the simplified process will help us compensate those affected by floods quicker, be it for agricultural products, farm land or community areas. The government will do it according to the facts of what happened,” the Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, Ongart Klampaiboon, declared.
Compensation is not the most pressing need of the beleaguered victims, however, apart perhaps from the dire need to buy boats. Of more concern is the lack of food, shelter and the mounting risk of disease, as well as the predatory effects of wild animals, such as crocodiles and snakes. Many are cut off, living in the top storeys of their houses, or in some cases on the roofs. Meanwhile, daily press briefings will keep the nation informed as to the death toll, cost of damage, areas affected by flood and assistance, and other related matters.
Meanwhile, behind the prominent news of ongoing flooding and Bangkok’s consequent vulnerability, the government has the threat of dissolution to contend with. In the original Damoclean scenario, Damocles was made to sit under a sword suspended by a single hair; in the current situation that single hair or thread, the straw that broke the metaphorical camel’s back, may be personified by Democrat MP Wiruch Romyen Wiruch shown in the video released by the Puea Thai Party. The video clip shows Democrat MP and legal advisor Wiruch apparently colluding with court official Pasit Sakdanarong, secretary to Court President Chat Chonlaworn, to allegedly lobby the Constitution Court on behalf of the Democrat Party. Pasit was subsequently sacked.
Two panels have been set up to investigate the video case, one by the court and the other by the premier. The court inquiry will be held in camera i.e. in confidence, while the government’s panel will be open. The premier nevertheless vowed that Wiruch will face prosecution if found guilty. Whatever the findings of the respective panels, the case will not proceed until after the Constitution Court has ruled on the two charges facing the Democrat Party, although the premier begs to differ, saying if the court has accused Wiruch of wrongdoing, he should be tried immediately.
However, the Court Secretary-General Chaovana Traimart maintains “The matter [of the clips] will not affect the proceedings of the case [the possible dissolution of the Democrat party]. Please be assured that the Constitution Court is impartial, independent and able to proceed with its judicial process without pressure on the judges.”
The Democrat Party’s future currently hangs in the balance. The Election Commission has already ruled that it should be disbanded, having found it guilty of actions contrary to the Political Party Act, namely effectively concealing a Bt29 million election allocation and the receipt of a Bt258-million donation from mega-concrete manufacturer, TPI Polene, thus violating the Constitution by receiving funds exceeding the legal limit.
The Constitution Court is the final adjudicator in the case. If it, too, decides against the Democrat Party, it will mean that the party’s 40 executives who held office in 2004-2005, including Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, will be out of a job and banned from political involvement for five years.