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Thailand Live Thursday 27 Oct 2011

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Thailand Live Thursday 27 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 Wednesday 26 Oct 2011

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BREAKING: -- Bangkok in for 1-metre flooding, says expert

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All eyes on Bangkok's flood barriers as new wave arrives today

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Bangkok luxury hotels well prepared for impending floods

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Irrigation dept defends closure of sluice gates

The Nation

The Royal Irrigation Department yesterday defended its closing of two key eastern drainage gates, saying it was preventing water from entering the city, not keeping flood water from leaving it.

Even though the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has the capacity to dispose of 10 million cubic metres per day, it is currently operating at less than that because of the closure of two sluice gates under the RID's control at Nong Chok and Prawet Burirom canals.

The two canals are Bangkok's eastern floodways to detour runoff from the north into the sea via the Bang Pakong River in Chachoengsao.

The RID's Hydrology and Water Management Office said the level of the Bang Pakong River was currently higher than the two canals. If the gates were lifted, water would rush into the capital, exacerbating the inundation, so the department was pumping the water from the Bangkok side across the two gates and into the Bang Pakong River.

In northern Bangkok, the department has mobilised 12 pumps to send water from the Bang Kanak and Nakhon Nuang Khet canals to the Bang Pakong River.

Pramote Maiklad, a former directorgeneral of the RID, said the BMA might be confused about how water flows and urged the Bangkok administration to work closely with the department, which knows which gates should be opened or closed.

Chachoengsao's elevation is higher than Bangkok and the ocean's tide has risen higher than the canals linking to the sea, so the gates from the east to the west were shut.

"For Bangkok's innercity canals, we use pumps to drain water out while the gates for canals linking to the sea will be closed. Water should be drained through the Saen Saeb, Prawet Burirom and Samrong canals before it is pumped out into the sea," he said.

The Democrat Party's shadow government urged the government to drain the runoff through eastern Bangkok more effectively within five to seven days. The claim that the Bang Pakong was higher so opening the gates would cause water to pour into Bangkok was doubtful, party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said, citing the example that Canal 2's level dropped after its sliding gate was opened.

The imbalance in water evacuation could lead to the paralysis of the central administration, which would become a nationwide problem, the Democrats warned. They also questioned whether the government's decision until recently not to open the eastern gates was because it wanted to protect a specific area.

Seri Supparathit, director of the Sirindhorn International Environmental Park's Energy for Environment Centre, said eastern Bangkok was equipped with many pumps to remove flood water quickly.

The government should send agencies to check each location and see whether the plan was actually implemented and if there was any obstruction.

Bangkok would be under only 2030 centimetres of flood water if the plan went well. There was still time to open all gates and use pumps to expel the water into the sea, Seri said.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-27

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TCC

Thai Chamber urges Govt to protect Bangkok at any cost

Petchanet Pratruangkrai

The Nation

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The Thai Chamber of Commerce yesterday urged the government to do its utmost to protect Bangkok, give accurate and up-to-date information, and forge closer cooperation with private sector to manage the logistics system and ensure minimum impact on the economy.

The chamber also urged the government to ensure adequate supply of essential goods.

After a meeting with the chamber's working committee for managing the impact of the flooding, chairman Phongsak Assakul said the TCC would make four proposals to the government to accelerate relief and minimise the impact after flood water spreads to Bangkok.

First, the government should protect the capital as much as possible and urgently relieve the impact from the flooding, as Bangkok is not only a centre of trading, but also a travelling and logistics and distribution centre to other provinces nationwide. The government should urgently release water from internal to external areas as soon as possible, otherwise business transactions and foreign-investor confidence will be severely hit.

Second, it called on the government to continue giving accurate information to the public so that they can put together plans to save their homes and businesses in time. An official website should be launched, providing information in Thai and English, for the public and foreign traders and visitors.

Third, the government should forge closer cooperation with private enterprises and facilitate shipping of goods, as many factories that have not flooded are facing difficulties in distributing their goods.

Last, the TCC and the provincial chambers have set up their own information centre to give information to businesspeople nationwide so that they can operate with efficiency, and access government information.

The proposals will be discussed with Commerce Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong soon, Phongsak said.

In addition, during a separate meeting between Kittiratt and the Federation of Thai Industries at Government House, the minister reaffirmed that the government would continue to provide relief measures for affected enterprises, after announcing a Bt15-billion soft-loan package to help flooded industrial estates.

FTI chairman Payungsak Chartsuthipol said the government should continue to provide soft loans to private enterprises

The Industrial Estates Association said it planned to resume operation of the plants in the estates within 45 days after the water recedes lower than the clay barriers.

The water level in many industrial estates in Ayutthaya has been gradually dropping. Rojana Industrial Estate is preparing to borrow Bt1.9 billion from the government to make repairs soon.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-27

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FLOOD-RELATED DISEASES

The perils in the water

Dr Gerard Lalande

Special to The Nation

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Amid the flood's destruction and disruptions, stay mindful of the less visible dangers

Major flooding brings serious, immediate and longterm health issues, even with the most effective healthcare system. The initial disruption of medical services aggravates the plight of those affected.

According to the Health Ministry, the current flooding has affected the health of more than 700,000 people - and the disaster appears to be far from over.

Below we examine the key health risks stemming from the unusual sanitary con¬ditions, along with some preventive measures.

INFECTION

People spending a lot of time in the water are at risk not just of drowning and electrocution but also several other dangers.

They could face severe skin infection from the multiple toxins that escape from inundated factories and farms and the sewage of housing estates. Scratches and other injuries are unavoidable, worsening the risk.

Leptospirosis - also called haemorrhagic jaundice and, in Thailand, roke chi noo - is a disease directly linked to contact with polluted water. Its source, as the Thai name indicates, is rat urine.

Outbreaks have been common in the Northeast amid flooding, with cases num¬bering as many as a few thousand each year. People contract leptospirosis directly from drinking contaminated water, but also through lesions on the skin or via the mucous membrane.

Long exposure into the water often leads to fungal infections on the legs and feet. Intense fullbody cleansing is required when exposed. Any damaged skin must be extremely well disinfected, and if the wound is severe, see a medical practitioner for a possible immunisation booster.

BITES

Bites from insects, particularly centipedes, or reptiles can occur as flooded urban areas bring wild animals into contact with people.

DISEASES

Water contaminated by microorganisms is a major concern. Lots of waterborne communicable diseases can spread, such as Hepatitis A, E coli bacteria, staphylococcal endotoxins and enterovirus (which infects the gastrointestinal tract and can spread to other parts of the body), and to a lesser extent typhoid fever and poliomyelitis.

Acute diarrhoea and food poisoning can result from ingesting contaminated water, even in small amounts.

Cholera, usually a major flood concern in tropical countries, is fortunately very rare in Thailand. However, since minor cholera outbreaks occurred from 2007 to 2009, it's wise to be on guard.

To protect against these waterborne diseases, obey the rules of basic hygiene, especially drinking safe water and proper hand washing prior to eating.

Flooding often increases the risks of "vector-borne" diseases, namely malaria, dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis, all of which are transmitted by mosquitoes.

In fact, the initial flood surge can wash away insect breeding sites, so the number of cases might not increase at the flood's outset. However, once the waters recede, all the puddles and ponds that remain become breeding places, and after about two months, mosquitoborne diseases usually appear.

In the flooded North and Central regions, an outbreak of dengue fever is more likely afterward than malaria or encephalitis.

This vast crisis has also displaced many people, forcing thousands into confined improvised shelters. The high density in such places can spur communicable diseases such as influenza, meningitis and measles. It's wise to make sure everyone's immunisation is up to date, especially children.

STRESS

Natural disasters induce high levels of stress, both emotionally and physically - from the extra effort expended to move personal belongings.

Flooding brings unprecedented stress when home and property are destroyed or even simply at risk of damage. In the flooding that inundated western Queensland in Australia earlier this year, the main complaint at hospitals was stressrelated chest pain.

Stress affects adults and children in different ways and, even if severe, it is too often neglected or underestimated. Stress lowers our ability to fight the very infectious diseases that become more common during these times. High and continuous stress can lead to dangerous depression. It's best to get a medical opinion.

IN GENERAL

Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say, and it's just a matter of time before things return to normal. Meanwhile, amid the dreadful current hardships, it is essential to stay focused on healthy living.

Do your best to maintain a proper diet, to take special care of the skin if exposed to floodwater, and - in the interest of managing your stress as much as possible - to maintain your compassion. It is by no means inappropriate to engage family and neighbours in some fun pastimes to keep their spirits up.

Dr Lalande, The Nation's Health Matters columnist, is managing director of CEO-Health, which provides medical referrals for expatriates in Thailand. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Flood hotlines

1669 - Ambulance and medical assistance from the Public Health Ministry’s Emergency Medical Services.

1111 press 5, 1131 - Flood Help Centre at the Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC). Or call (02) 241 1749, (02) 504 3569 and (02) 534 1911.

(02) 504 3027 - For English at FROC.

(090) 418 052529 - The Mirror Foundation, an NGO coordinating floodrelief with FROC.

4567892: Free emergency SMS provided by the ICT Ministry.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-27

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PROPERTY

Demand for low-rise homes expected to drop

The Nation

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Housing demand is expected to plunge in the near term, particularly for low-rise projects in flood-stricken areas such as Chaiyaphruek, Ratchaphruek, Bang Bua Thong, and Rangsit in Pathum Thani.

DBS Vickers Securities (Thailand) said the flood crisis would chiefly affect Property Perfect, Land & Houses, Quality Houses and Pruksa Real Estate, which have low-rise developments in those areas. Meanwhile, LPN Development could benefit the most, given that fears of severe floods recurring in Bangkok in the future could sway demand towards condominiums in the city.

"And the problem could be compounded by the fact that the fourth quarter normally sees the most new launches" of housing developments, the securities house said.

After the floods in the outskirts of Bangkok affected a large number of low-rise housing projects, DBS expects presales and transfers to tumble in the current fourth quarter as the floods show no signs of subsiding.

Pruksa Real Estate director and chief business officer Prasert Taedullayasatit accepted that the company had to revise its presale and revenue target in the current final quarter of the year.

"It is too early to estimate the losses from the flood but we are monitoring this event and will revise our business plan," he said.

Somsakul Limsuttaphan, assistant managing director of Plus Property Co, the property-management arm of Sansiri, said flooding in Bangkok would also encourage many to look for a second home in resort cities such as Hua Hin and Pattaya.

During Oct 21-25 Between last Friday and this Tuesday, as the floods reached Bangkok, the company was approached by more than 150 clients demanding short rental contracts in Hua Hin. For a short stay of less than three months, they were looking for units with monthly rents of Bt25,000-Bt55,000.

Plus Property has also witnessed increasing demand for rental units in Pattaya.

"The floods in Bangkok and peripheral provinces should spur residential demand in Hua Hin and other resort destinations, now that they realise the necessity of a second home for refuge. We believe that more projects in the cities will be launched and projects with systematic management and permission for pets will be in high demand," Somsakul said.

The Agency for Real Estate Affairs estimated residential damage at Bt74 billion, or 25 per cent of the value of flooded properties. So far, 329,569 houses are flooded and another 166,225 are at risk.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-27

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King worried about people, not palaces, Army chief says

The Nation

His Majesty the King does not want the government to be overly concerned about the Royal Palace because he believes the water should flow "naturally", according to Army chief Prayuth Chanocha.

Prayuth, who has been in liaison with palace authorities on how to defend royal residence which is high on the government's antiflood plan, said the message from His Majesty was that the monarch did not want "anything special" to be done regarding the palace.

"His Majesty is very worried about the Thai people. He always has been and always will be. That's him. He doesn't want anything special, and he said the water must be allowed to flow naturally," the Army chief said.

Having been given the responsibility to protect the royal residence by the government, however, the Army would do "whatever we can and are allowed to do" to defend the palace against the flood, he said.

"The most important thing that I want the public to realise is that His Majesty and all Royal Family members are very concerned about all Thai people in this situation," Prayuth said.

Apart from the Chitralada Palace, "royal residence" also covers places like Suan Kularb Palace, Suan Tewase Palace, Sra Prathum Palace, Sukhothai Palace, the Thaweewattana Palace, the Siriraj Hospital and the Bang Pain Palace. Plans have been mapped out to protect the places according to levels of possible flooding. worstcase plans involved evacuation.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was accompanied by Prayuth and senior defence officials including Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha to receive briefing from palace authorities yesterday.

Flooding on Sanam Luang has caused concern over the nearby Grand Palace although senior officials were confident the area remained wellprotected.

Concerning the Siriraj Hospital, where His Majesty has been staying for over a year, measures have been taken and the monarch was constantly briefed on the situation. He was said to be pleased by action taken by the government and the hospital to cope with floods. One key issue of preparation had to do with stock of medicine to serve the public, which currently can last about a month.

Meanwhile, Yingluck yesterday tried to allay fears about widespread capital flooding, saying the authorities were simply warning the public about worstcase scenario. She was confident that the key business area of Silom remained under strict protection, although she admitted that the eastern part of Bangkok could be substantially hit. She also recommended people living in onestorey houses to consider moving out if they were in highrisk areas.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-27

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FROC complaints bring shakeup of handout system

The Nation

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From now on, only government officials at provincial or district level will be issued donated supplies at the government's Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC) for local distribution.

Volunteers wishing to help flood victims must request and collect the supplies from provincial offices, PM's Office inspector Chamroen Yuttithamsakul said.

Chamroen was assigned to be in charge of the FROC-donated supply distribution after heavy criticism of the agency's management.

The donation centre has been moved from FROC headquarters at Don Mueang Airport to the national stadium. The FROC venue was too small to deal with the large amount of donations and visitors.

The media over the past week published pictures of large amounts of donated supplies retained at the FROC depot while flood victims were crying for essentials.

The media also criticised Pheu Thai MP Karun Hosakul who was in charge of releasing the FROC's donated supplies. FROC spokesman Wim Roongwattanajinda said later Karun was no longer in charge and the operation was under PM's Office Inspector Chamroen.

The FROC had been accused of selective donation management that favoured the pro-government red shirts and allowed Pheu Thai MPs to promote themselves through the people-donated supplies.

Pheu Thai MP Chalong Riewrang on Tuesday said he wanted to deliver the supplies to troubled people in his constituency but the donated items were reserved for the red shirts, resulting in a shortage of donated goods.

Earlier, Thai Flood, a major civic group of volunteers withdrew from FROC's operations, citing such discrimination and a lack of information released to the people.

Pheu Thai MP and red shirt leader Natthawut Saikua - speaking at the FROC office at Don Mueng Airport - denied yesterday the red shirts had received privileges with donated flood relief items.

Natthawut said some red shirts had raised funds and donations as well as delivered the kits to the victims themselves and had not collected supplies from the FROC centre. Others had distributed needed items by truck. Chalong might not have clearly understood the red-shirt's actions.

"Some donated packs were labelled with the name of (Pheu Thai MP) Jatuporn Promphan as the red shirts wanted donations to be made through their leader Jatuporn. We passed on the packs and there was no need to declare for them for political popularity," he said. His group never thought of labelling MPs’ names to make people feel like they owed them something.

Natthawut also denied reports that another red-shirt leader Yoswarit Chooklom, assistant to the secretary of the deputy interior minister, abused his power by saying he wanted to get two donated boats and told reporters to carry the boats for him. Natthawut said it must have been a misunderstanding.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-27

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No colour rifts at ground level,say volunteers

Pravit Rojanaphruk

The Nation

Volunteers helping out with the flood-relief efforts say that at the ground level political differences is not something they think about, though some are urging the government to try and mend the rift by forming a committee that includes well-known faces from all camps.

"We should talk and, if possible, a committee involving both state and civic sectors could help," Pichate Yingkiattikun, a volunteer and project manager at Siam Intelligence Unit, said.

The suggestion came after ThaiFlood, a prominent civic network, pulled out of the relief operations during the weekend. The reasons cited were the attempts made to censor the network's reports and the Flood Relief Operations Centre's unwillingness to share vital information.

Pichate also said that the relief-and-rescue effort should not be swayed by the media's short attention span, adding that with the media concentrating on Pathum Thani province now, Ayutthaya and other affected provinces were being ignored. He suggested that perhaps there should be a clear division of labour as to which volunteer group should be responsible for which province, and this decision could be made by a "multi-colour" committee.

Panya Suarkumjorng, a red-shirt volunteer, said it might be a good idea if the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship Volunteers banners were taken down in order to reduce the political tension. He said the rift was real, but volunteers on the ground were not really paying attention to it.

Two yellow-shirt volunteers helping out at Don Mueang Airport, where FROC is based, told The Nation that they had encountered no problems.

"I just rode on a truck full of red shirts and there was nothing," Buri Ram native Ladarat Thorpoon, who was sporting a yellow blouse with black polka dots, said.

"No problem," Chiang Mai native Kanisorn Nitisuphanan, also in yellow, said.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-27

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Migrant workers can seek visa extension in nonflooded areas

The immigration police is instructed migrant workers, whose visa is close to expiring, to contact immigration offices in nonflooded provinces for visa renewal until the situation is back to normal.

Immigration Bureau Commissioner Pol LtGeneral Wibul Bangthamai issued a memo on Tuesday notifying immigration offices in flooded provinces such as Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Nakhon Sawan, Lop Buri, Uthai Thani, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsanulok to allow migrant workers in their jurisdiction to seek visa renewal elsewhere. Those seeking more information can call the 24hour 1111 hotline.

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-- The Nation 2011-10-27

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