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Thailand Live Monday 17 Oct 2011

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Thailand Live Monday 17 October 2011

News, Bits and Tweets

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Keep up to date with live updates from the news, hour by hour.

For breaking news,national, regional and international news updates on a daily basis only, this thread is closed to commentary so that those who wish to follow the news can find it here...

Commentary is still open for Thailand news in the relevant thread posted in News Clippings.

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Related topic: Thailand Live Sunday 16 Oct 2011

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BMA begs govt to act to keep flood water from Pathum Thani out of city

The Nation

Bangkok is begging the Irrigation Department to help stop the floodwaters swamping neighbouring Pathum Thani from cascading into the capital.

"We're worried about Sai Mai and Don Muang districts as well as all areas in the eastern zone," Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra said yesterday.

"We'll ask the Irrigation Department to close the sluice gate of Canal 1 everyday. We will beg for sympathy until the water gate there is closed," he said.

Don Mueang Airport, which still services many airlines, is located in Don Muang district.

Sukhumbhand said the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has also been trying to protect its area from floods by building an embankment along the Hok Wa Canal in Sai Mai.

The Army has already been asked to help construct a one-metre-high sandbag barricade along a six-kilometre stretch of this canal. The water in the canal had already risen by two centimetres a day.

Even without the runoff from the storm-struck upper parts of the country, many Bangkok roads were submerged on Saturday night following a torrential downpour.

"The rainfall in Bangkok was up to 154 millimetres on Saturday night," Sukhumbhand said.

From January 1-October 16, Bangkok has been pelted by 2.16m of rain, more than usual.

"The good news is that the Banyan storm has already weakened into just a pressure ridge," he said.

Saturday's cloudburst was responsible for raising the water in many of Bangkok's canals, he said.

"We are closely monitoring the situation," he said.

However, the city's defences have so far successfully saved its inner areas from floods, he said.

The floodwalls range from 2.5m to three metres in height.

However, not all areas in Bangkok are protected by embankments. If runoff from Ayutthaya rages down without any control, many parts of the capital will be threatened, he added.

Pathum Thani is now struggling with water from upstream.

"Our embankment was originally 4m above sea level, but now we've raised it to 6m," Alisa Sahavacharin, assistant rector for student affairs at Thammasat University, said about the Rangsit Campus in Pathum Thani.

The water in nearby canals has almost reached the height of their embankments.

"We believe the moats inside the campus will help," she said.

The campus was ready to move all flood victims taking shelter in the Gymnasium 1 building to its upper floor if it is inundated, she said.

Anon Antimanon, a volunteer at the university's Rangsit Campus, which is a major evacuation centre for flood refugees, said the Chiang Rak and Premprachakorn canals behind the campus had overflowed.

"Chiang Rak Road, which is just behind the campus, is now under about one-and-a-half metres of floodwater," he said.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-17

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Kittirat to chair meeting today on relief measures for industry

Nalin Viboonchart

The Nation

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Soft loans plan for affected manufacturers, plus skills training

The Industry Ministry will ask the government to approve measures to lessen the impact of the flooding on the estimated 186,000 workers affected, including skills training and soft loans to about 650 flood-hit manufacturers.

Meanwhile, ministry officials insisted no decision has yet been made on whether to postpone the BoI Fair, which is scheduled for November 10-25. The Board of Investment (BoI) will hold a meeting to discuss the issue today(October 17).

Industry Minister Wannarat Charnnukul said the flood-relief measures would be proposed to the economic relief committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Kittirat Na-Ranong today. The proposals include six-year soft loans to affected manufacturers. The amount of the loans is under consideration, while the interest rate awaits consideration by the committee. The loans will be separate from those offered by the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand.

Another proposed measure was skills training, to be conducted while affected manufacturing plants are repaired, Wannarat said.

Yesterday, water flooded into Factory Land, an industrial estate housing nearly 100 manufacturing plants in Ayutthaya province's Wang Noi district. The plants there have a combined investment value of Bt11 billion, with roughly 6,000 workers. The water level is 1.5-2 metres high.

So far, five industrial parks have been submerged, affecting 645 plants and 186,000 workers.

Witoon Simachokedee, permanent secretary at the Industry Ministry, said the BoI would also hold a meeting today (October 17) to discuss whether or not to postpone the BoI Fair. After the BoI concludes this matter, it will inform the Industry Ministry before notifying Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who chairs the BoI's approval committee.

"It may prove impossible to organise the BoI Fair at this time due to the severe floods. However, the BoI has yet to make a decision on this matter. It must ask Impact Exhibition Management, the operator of Muang Thong Thani [convention centre], where the fair is to be held. And finally, it has to seek approval from the prime minister," Witoon said.

While some potential exhibitors at the fair are keen for it to proceed, others whose operations have been affected are not.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-17

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Many stressed, fearful

The Nation

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About one in three people feel very stressful due to news reports on the floods and some two in five are quite stressful because they fear their homes will be inun-dated, Suan Dusit Poll said in a survey released yesterday.

Fewer than one in ten said they saw the floods as a natural phenomenon, meaning there was no reason for anxiety.

One in two people said they would avoid flood-related news in order to lower the level of their anxiety.

Almost the same number of people said they chose to brace themselves for the inevitability of being flooded.

About three in five people have called for increased police patrols as a way to fight burglars taking advantage of the floods.

They also want the Commerce Ministry to rein in the prices of essential goods in the face of the inundation.

In regard to political implications, almost half the respondents did not see the floods as an opportunity to bring about reconciliation, saying inundation and politics are two separate issues.

Key conclusions drawn from the inundation include untold damage and the urgency for the government to come up with a comprehensive plan to prevent future floods.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-17

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Emergency centre taking more than 50,000 calls a day

Asina Pornwasin

The Nation

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The government's call centre-1111 press 5 was only set up a week ago at the Flood Relief Operation Centre (FROC), but is now handling 50,000 to 60,000 calls a day, mainly for immediate help from state agencies and authorities.

The call centre provides the core data for FROC to manage and monitor the flood situation as well as to offer rapid help to flood victims. The hotline service is driven by a collaboration of all mobile operators, Advance Info Service, Dtac, and TrueMove, plus TOT Corporation.

The four organisations have 400 reception agents working at the tier-1 centre to receive calls via 1111 press 5. It received 40,000 calls a day initially, but this has increased to between 50,000 and 60,000 calls a day now.

The agents answer basic questions and learn which areas need help or are asking for evacuations - such as what streets are closed, what areas are to be watched and prepared for evacuation, as well as locations that need help with evacuations and food supply.

Arpattra Sringkarrinkul, who is in charge of FROC's call centre, said about 80 per cent of incoming calls were resolved and completed at the tier-1 call centre.

Only 20 per cent were passed to the tier-2 call centre at FROC at Don Mueang, which has around 70 people manning phones. They are officers from organisations such as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Metropolitan Electric Authority and Department of Highway, who take care of the calls.

"Tier-1 call centre has 400 agents from AIS, Dtac, True, and TOT Corporation, who answer calls at their sites. These agents can access the FROC's database for information of flood areas and update-status of streets and highways. If people need more specific information, their calls are passed to the tier-2 call centre," Arpattra said.

Officials at the tier-2 call centre are from organisations involved in flood relief. Their priorities are human life, evacuation, and health emergencies.

"If the calls are from the most severe flood situations, such as Ayutthaya, Nakhon Sawan, and Lop Buri, they are passed to the military. If they are asking for food, water, boats, restrooms, and so on, the calls will be passed to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, [or] Ministry of Interior.

"We are now adding location-based features on to the calls, by working with the Provincial Electric Authority (PEA) to plot the exact location of calls to identify their origin. This helps authorities reach them more quickly. For example, we received a call one night from Ayutthaya. We passed the information to the relevant rescue organisation, and they helped bring a 100-year-old grandmother out from her flooded house in time."

Arpattra said the call centre's IT system and teams were working round the clock to offer flood relief services as efficiently as they can.

She said a call centre system usually needed to be tested for months before it could work well. For the current emergency, call centre-1111 was performing well, but it wasn't 100 per cent.

She said that with clear directions from the PM and Information and Communication Technology Minister, the call centre integrates both private and government organisations. This collaboration helped the call 1111-centre's system to be set up and running at short notice.

"All authorities give us feedback from their operations which is sent to a database to check the progress of cases. An outbound call centre also calls and monitors victims to check on who has called in."

Arpattra has 30-years' experience in technology and telecoms and was an IBM system engineer and ex-AIS' chief information officer. She has contacts with many private IT and telecom firms.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-17

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Increase in seniors' allowance proposed

Piyanart Srivalo

The Nation

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The Interior Ministry will seek Cabinet approval for a Bt52 billion budget to increase senior citizens' monthly allowance from a flat Bt500 to a maximum of Bt1,000, according to their age bracket.

All Thai nationals when they reach 60 years of age currently receive a fixed Bt500 a month, according to a policy that costs the government Bt16 billion per year.

A source said yesterday that the ministry has proposed that those who are aged 60-69 will receive Bt600, rising to Bt700 for those 70-79, Bt800 for those 80-89 and Bt1,000 for those 90 and up.

The government will allocate the additional funds from the fiscal 2012 budget.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-17

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Engine problem forces Qantas jet back to Bangkok

640px-Qantas_Boeing_747-400_VH-OJE_SIN_2011-7-23.png

File photo: Boeing 747. Source: Wikipedia

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Lower NEast, East, BKK to see heavy rain; sandbags reinforced at Navanakorn Industrial Park; Rangsit Canal sees high water level /TAN_Network

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Murder near Phuket Airport

phuket-1-11217VyPkGrtmwwXmvJMwAIimWgciOW.jpg

Phuket Kusoldharm Foundation workers prepare Mr Niphon's body

for transport to the Thalang Hospital morgue.

Photo: Wichai Witthawat

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