FLOODS

Govt blasted for mishandling crisis, lack of planning


A flood-management expert yesterday criticised the government for mishandling relief operations and failing to carry out preventive measures before the flooding across the country reached a critical level.

Phornphilai Lertwicha, a Thailand Research Fund (TRF) researcher, said the heavy flooding in Nakhon Ratchasima, which is on a plateau in the Northeast, was a testimony to the government's failures.

"Flooding on a plateau is a difficult occurrence by nature. This shows that the government has done nothing to prevent it," she said.

She said some flood management and action plans had been carried out at the national level, "but during this government's term, we have not witnessed any clear-cut action, despite annual flooding in Thailand. We never learn any lessons, and we let it happen, over and over."

Responding to her statements, secretary to the prime minister Korbsak Sabhavasu said the government had thought about setting up a war room to handle flood management. "But we are worried about natural slow progress and red tape through the bureaucracy after it is set up.

"Now we are thinking about how to shorten the process and increase the speed of work. I admit that the problems get worse because there is no host agency to take care of them, which should be directly under the Interior Ministry's supervision," he said.

Delivery of relief supplies and aid money is continuing, but largely through efforts of the private sector and the media, which initiated donation campaigns before the authorities followed suit. But when it comes to regulations on handling donated money, the PM's Office Ministry is having problems with the Bt90 million it has in hand.

Permanent secretary Juturong Panyadilok said: "It will be clearer next week how the money will be given to flood victims" under disbursement regulations.

A Government House source said there had not been any discussion or meeting to discuss payment conditions or speedy delivery of donated money to cope with urgent needs.

The main responsibility for flood management had been assigned by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, but after his resignation to take part in a by-election campaign, Abhisit was too busy with other tasks. "No one in the government is now dealing with the flooding," the source said.


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