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Don Muang flood victims in lawsuit threat

Foreign tourists continue to visit Ayutthaya's Wat Chaiwattanaram after the place was severely hit by flood last year and several parts remain under repairing./By Suphakit Khumkun/The Nation

Foreign tourists continue to visit Ayutthaya's Wat Chaiwattanaram after the place was severely hit by flood last year and several parts remain under repairing./By Suphakit Khumkun/The Nation

After repeated complaints, followed by frequent rallies and roadblocks, floodaffected residents of Bangkok's Don Muang district have threatened to lodge a joint petition with the Central Administrative Court against the Finance Ministry and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration over regulations that prevent them from receiving blanket compensation of Bt20,000 each.

Bunchuay Janphengsaeng, who represents a group of residents who are frustrated with the vastly differing rates that have been paid out - ranging from Bt200 to Bt20,000 - demanded an explanation for the large gap and insisted the criteria for payment be made public. Don Muang District Office earlier said those unhappy with their compensation should submit written appeals for more money.

Bunchuay said the appeals process was lengthy and that the payments still did not correspond to the damages suffered by individual flood victims. He said Bt20,000 would never be sufficient for repairs and renovations to their heavily damaged homes, but could help alleviate their mental suffering.

"Other government agencies could also face action from the Central Administrative Court pending further consideration," he said.

According to Don Muang district office, there are 20,000 residents based in its jurisdiction eligible to receive blanket Bt5,000 payments under government's authorisation. An extra Bt300 million would be required if the blanket rate of Bt5,000 is increased to Bt20,000.

A deputy permanent secretary to the Interior Ministry, Pracha Terat, strongly opposed the demand for blanket Bt20,000 payments, saying it was fiscally impossible to mobilise such a huge budget so suddenly. The Bt20,000 payments would then be sought by all those who had received Bt5,000 payments, a group comprising flood victims in 58 of the 64 provinces that were flooded last year, Pracha said.

Pracha admitted that in the provinces, local administrative bodies had paid higher rates to floodhit people with connections, such as canvassers for local politicians. In many areas, even the payment of Bt5,000 have been prolonged, by local politicians, in cases there are local elections coming near, Pracha said he would not say such a tactic existed, but they did, in reality.

Asked if residents in the provinces should simply accept their fate and live with their corrupt local bodies, Pracha said: "Yes, because as voters, they have chosen to put those officials in power."

He said those not happy with receiving Bt5,000 should protest to their local bodies using nonviolent measures, while governors may hold gatherings outside city halls to receive complaints from flood victims and forward them to the Interior Ministry. "But whatever you do, never use roadblocks as a tool," he added.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said it had no authorities to authorise the blanket Bt20,000, in response to Don Muang residents' complaints, and it was the Interior Ministry's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DPM) who would work out on the matter and finalise each case, paying its own budget if it agreed to permit requests for Bt20,000.

A deputy city clerk, Somphob Rangabthuk, said the BMA could only verify conditions of damage submitted by homeowners and endorsed them for payments by the DPM. "If the DPM deems BMA's works on the verification as problematic, it may now do all the works itself, with welcoming from the BMA," he added.

A number of Bangkokbased Democrat Party MPs said they would today submit a request to the prime minister via her aides calling for perhead pay of Bt3,500 to all floodhit residents in Bangkok for damage done to clothing, sleeping gear and cooking utensils damaged by floods an extra amount paid to flood victims in the provinces but never to Bangkok residents.




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