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A Week in Review: October 23-29, 2010

There was a brief outbreak of harmony in Thailand’s coalition government last week, but for once, politics took a back seat in Thailand. Find out what the big story was last week by reading here…

After the tantrums and shenanigans of the previous week, there was a little more harmony in Thailand’s coalition government last week with the Bhum Jai Thai Party openly expressing its full support for the charter amendments proposed by the Constitutional Reform Committee.

Still feeling a bit left out, the Phuea Pandin Party played harder to get, however. The little brother of the coalition announced that it did not agree with all the points of the proposed amendments. Meanwhile, Chart Thai Pattana, which was caught sleeping at the back of the class, said that it didn’t have an opinion yet but it would discuss the issue at home and bring its answer to the next class.

However, the real story of the last week was not related to our usual topics of politics and greed – at least not until you look a little more closely. Most of last week’s headlines were devoted to the devastating floods that continued to wreak havoc across the North, Northeast and Central regions of the country.

By the end of the week, the death toll had hit exactly 100 with almost 3 and a half million people and more than 1 million homes directly affected by the rising waters. Damage to roads was estimated at 7.9 billion baht, while 5.3 million rai (1 rai is 1,600m2) of farmland had been inundated, and hundreds of schools and businesses had been flooded. The final toll of damage to life, property and the economy is certain to rise over the coming weeks.

While heavy rains are nothing new in this part of the world, and floods are annual occurrences, this year’s deluge is likely to be the worst for decades. But is it really just a natural phenomenon? While the rains have been heavier and more persistent in Thailand than in recent years, the problem has certainly been exacerbated by man-made factors.

In Korat, where the flooding has been particularly severe, the development of new roads, housing estates and holiday resorts has affected natural drainage flows and water retention areas.

In the central region, the drainage of the huge swamp on which Suvarnabhumi Airport was built has contributed to flooding further inland and upstream in Ayutthaya Province.

Although most of Bangkok has so far been spared due to a variety of preventative measures, the covering over or filling in entirely of numerous klongs (canals) to build more roads in the city has led to a situation where parts of Bangkok flood practically every time there is a downpour.

Ironically, many of the regions in Thailand that are now under flood waters were suffering their worst drought for 20 years just a few months ago. The need for better water management in Thailand is clearly paramount. Building more reservoirs would seem to be the obvious answer to at least part of the problem, but the blatant disregard for natural drainage flows by greedy developers also needs to be curbed.

In answer to the issue, the government stressed the need to tackle the encroachment of natural drainage systems, just as it had stressed the need for more prudent management of water resources during the droughts.

While developing and implementing water management plans are a major part of preventing future disasters, they will be wasted efforts unless more stringent efforts are made to curb the ubiquitous and rampant development that is not only affecting Thailand’s natural water management systems but destroying its pristine beauty and depleting its natural resources.

Paul Snowdon – October 30, 2010

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28 Nov 2015, 04:46
he’d already had five such “compromise” menisngtaed four times Mr. H never turned up. It had already cost him a lot ofmoney to travel back and forth from Bangkok to Pattaya and sometimesfrom overseas. At the last meeting, two months previous, thedefendant’s lawyer said they agreed to pay 400,000 Baht.Alan refused the offer and was really upset that such a small valuewas put on his brother’s life and the hardship facing his brother’sson and widow. Mr. H had also claimed Alan’s brother refused to wear alifejacket and that at the time of the accident he was drunk.Alan’s next meeting was to take place the following day at the PattayaDistrict Court, where I agreed to be his interpreter.In the two months since the offer of 400,000 Baht, Alan had thoughtthings through carefully and he and his girlfriend, whom he was due tomarry shortly, had come to the decision that they would just acceptthe amount on the table and put this all behind them, even though heinstinctively felt the defendant would never actually pay.Anyway, the next day we went to court. I also invited along an Englishfriend as an observer. There were several cases to be heard that day,Alan’s being the last. The second case involved two young Thai men whowere sentenced to 4 years in jail for stealing 10,000 Baht’s worth ofelectric cable. Police handcuffed the shocked pair and led them awayas their families cried on the bench behind us. The irony of theirharsh sentence was not lost on us as we compared it to the levity ofthat handed down to the boatman responsible for the death of Alan’sbrother and the suffering of the other passengers.Mr. H hadn’t bothered to turn up and the reason why was plain when hisrepresentatives informed the court that the offer of compensation hadbeen reduced from 400,000 to 100,000 Baht. Alan was very upset andrefused to accept that amount of money. The defendant’s legal counselcompletely dominated the proceedings and I could see that Alan’slawyer appeared hopeless and intimidated.It was virtually impossible for Alan to put his case until, when werealized the opposition were asking the court to postpone theproceedings for another full year, we [Alan& I] had to raise our handsfor permission to talk. Luckily the Judge listened to us and scheduledthe next meeting for 23rd January 2009 when, she advised, Mr. H andhis full legal counsel must be present.And so it was that on the 23th January, we returned to the courtagain. In the meantime Alan had had more meetings with governmentofficials in Bangkok who, it seemed, were becoming more sympathetic tohis cause. One government department had ordered their Pattayacounterparts to send observers to the court.This time Mr. H was present and sat with an air of authority andconfidence bordering on cockiness. It was fascinating to see thechange in his demeanor as a small group of uniformed officials, theobservers requested by Bangkok, entered the court. He showed obvioussurprise and a sense of uneasiness.The judge was not the same as before but once again Alan’s lawyer wasobviously scared of the defendant. He hadn’t prepared the necessarypapers and his performance was borderline incompetence. I did my bestto help as friend and interpreter but I was limited as to how much Icould get involved in the court proceedings.Unfortunately, the case was once again postponed – this time until theend of this year (2009).Although downhearted, Alan was encouraged by the court appearance ofthe official observers. He had also decided to give his case morepublicity, especially outside Thailand. With this in mind it nowseemed a good idea to Alan to broaden the spectrum of officialdominvolved. So we went to see the head of the Pattaya Immigration Policewho gave us a warm welcome and showed a genuine interest in Alan’scase. He even contacted two top ranking officers of the Tourist policeand invited them to join us together with a lawyer and his assistantand some other officials.We all had lunch together and spent nearly two hours discussing Alan’scase and its implications. I must admit this show of support wasunexpected and was certainly a morale booster for Alan. It was agreedthey would use their contacts and influence to try and persuade Mr. Hto show some understanding and come to an amicable agreement withAlan. We left the immigration office feeling very optimistic and Alanreturned to Bangkok.At the Immigration with Torist PoliceTwo weeks later, I received a call from the Pattaya Tourist Police.The news wasn’t good. They had approached various officials includingthe Pattaya City Mayor but no-one seemed interested in contacting Mr.H. Nobody cared.And so, I have decided to publish Alan’s story. If we can’t help himhere in Thailand, the least we can do is to bring his story to a widerinternational audience. I also think there are some lessons to belearned here, for Thais and non-Thais alike.I’m now back to my usual work routine again [with more emails fromreaders in need of help] but I still think of Alan every now and then.Alan’s next day in court will be in December 2009. I know I’ll bethere too and if anyone wants to join us, you are welcome.
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