There have been some sensational headlines cropping up today on social media sites, forums and in some sections of the press concerning ‘disaster warnings’ for Bangkok. Digging beneath the hyperbole here is what has actually happened today. The Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, has invoked Article 31 of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Bill.
In the past weeks there has been a number of differing views from agencies, politicians and government officials concerning how to best handle the flood crisis. As I understand it, today’s action by the Thai PM stops short of calling a state of emergency, but still allows her more power to direct the flood operation. In the past week or so there have been clear differences of opinion between the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) and the Thai government. Yingluck has called for closer co-operation and has already made it clear that her priority is to release the huge volume of water to the north of the capital as quickly as possible. Yingluck wants to do this via eastern areas of Greater Bangkok which will almost certainly result in more flooding in those areas. The armed forces will be in charge of maintaining some significant flood barriers and would also be used to protect key installations such as Bangkok airport and the Grand Palace.
At this stage it still isn’t known whether there will be any flooding in central Bangkok and if there is, to what extent that could be. Flooding has occurred in some outlying districts of the Thai capital and this could get worse before it gets better in those areas as water is diverted away from central Bangkok and into the Gulf of Thailand. As it stands at the moment, central Bangkok is clear of flooding. Some shops and businesses in the downtown and commercial areas of Bangkok are reported to be using sandbags as a precautionary measure.