Although the Thai capital was mostly spared from the first inundation of flooding that swept through the country last week, meteorologists are predicting a new storm system will potentially ravage Bangkok this week. In an article in Voice of America, Bangkok’s governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra, one of the most respected politicians in the country, says that the new wave of water will come this week. This time, the central areas and most populous regions of the capital’s suburbs could well be hit.
What is shocking about the flooding is not only the sheer scale, but also that the central government has had a relatively long time to prepare for it – and now as another week to prepare – and yet seems so disorganized, thus causing panic among many Bangkok residents. As I wrote earlier in the week, the first potential wave of flooding seemed to catch the national government unaware, even though there were many signs it was coming and it hit northern parts of Thailand first. The prime minister seemed totally overwhelmed by having to deal with the disaster, only adding to people’s anger and panic. A new poll of Bangkokians, referenced on Bangkok Pundit, shows that on average they gave the government’s flood response center a horrible score of roughly three out of ten for effectiveness. Anecdotal opinion from Bangkokians I have spoken to is even worse; I doubt any of them would give the center more than a rating of one. Most had no idea what the center was doing, and had had no contact from government officials in terms of organizing evacuation or relief – even though, as I noted, this is now the second week of potential flooding, and the government has had weeks to prepare the city.
Although former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had many flaws, he was decisive in handling crises and often instilled confidence in people with his decisive measures. In fact, sometimes he was actually too decisive. Many Thais worried that his sister, the new prime minister, was not prepared for the job, having virtually no political experience. Her response to the flood crisis is hardly disabusing those concerns.