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Thai Government ‘Underestimated’ Flood Severity, Abhisit Says

Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva comments on the government’s handling of the worst floods since 1942. He spoke in an interview yesterday while handing out relief supplies at a Bangkok university.

On the severity of the flooding:

“The last couple of days I’ve been to the western part of Bangkok and the northern part of Bangkok. Clearly very heavy flooding, a lot of people suffering, and a big mass of water which still needs to be managed. There is a big mass of water to the north, and actually surrounding Bangkok.

‘‘We learned that in Pathum Thani and northern provinces, the water level is not going down quickly, and that is cause for concern. And we hope that the government would send a clear signal so that people can prepare for the worst.’’

On violence on dikes and confusion in Bangkok:

‘‘The government needs to be very clear about what it wants to do, what the affect or the impact would be and be clear about what kind of compensation they would give to those people who have to suffer.

‘‘We wish the government would be clear. It seems to be saying that people shouldn’t come back to Bangkok at the same time it hasn’t actually extended the holiday. Given the mass of water to the north of Bangkok, it will be at least a month before we can return to complete normalcy.’’

On the economic cost:

‘‘The burden from the effect on the industrial estates that have been flooded is fairly substantial. It affects the supply chain as well. I know the government is preparing quite a big package. But the situation is going to be with us for quite awhile, and we should take care of people first. We still have to sit out the next few days and weeks before we can count up the total cost.’’

On what he would’ve done differently:

‘‘What we would’ve certainly done is a different kind of management. There wasn’t sufficient warning. The situation was clearly underestimated by the government, and they were very, and still reluctant, to exercise power so that there would be better management. For instance, evacuating people and also managing the dikes and the floodgates.”

“We’ve made a number of suggestions. Some of them have been taken up, maybe a bit later than we wished they would be taken up. But we have to keep on making suggestions. We looked at isolated areas. We began some projects in Hat Yai, also in Korat and also in Lopburi, but we weren’t in a position to revamp the whole system. Clearly now the whole country would like to see a study of the complete structure in terms of water management.”

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