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Rising Mekong threatens provinces in Thailand and Laos

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Rising Mekong threatens provinces in Thailand and Laos | The Thaiger
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PHOTOS: The Nation

Authorities in Thailand’s northern and northeastern provinces are watching the rising water levels in the Mekong after torrential rains have hit large stretches of the country causing flooding in both residential and agricultural areas.

The Mekong river flows through parts of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department has instructed its offices in 59 provinces in all regions of the country to be “fully prepared” for overflowing rivers, flash floods and landslides following days of heavy downpours, director-general Chayapol Thitisak said yesterday. Of the 59 provinces, 17 are in the North, 20 in the Northeast, eight in the Central region and 14 in the South.

Riverside provinces like Chiang Rai, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nong Khai and Ubon Ratchathani yesterday reported a continuing increase towards the critical point in the Mekong’s water levels. In Mukdahan, the river’s highest water level was recorded at 12.3 metres, just 18 centimetres below the bank.

After 15 days of downpours in Nakhon Phanom, water in the Mekong section passing the province stood at 11.5 metres yesterday – 1.5 metres below the critical level. This has led to many tributaries overflowing and flooding eight districts of Nakhon Phanom, prompting local authorities to declare them disaster zones.

Chiang Rai province’s riverside Chiang Khong district saw a sharp rise in the Mekong’s water levels to 7 metres, up from the normal 3-4 metres, compared to the critical level of 10 metres. The district chief, Tassanai Suthapoj, said he had convened a meeting of local administrators about preparations for possible flooding. He attributed the rise in the Mekong water volumes to heavy rains and extra water released from a dam in southern China.

Rising Mekong threatens provinces in Thailand and Laos | News by The Thaiger

Read more about the Mekong Flood Plains HERE.

In Ubon Ratchathani, many areas in five riverside districts were flooded due to overflows from the Mekong. Several roads connecting villages and other parts of the province became impassable. Elderly villagers said they believed this year’s rains could be the heaviest in 40 years. In 1978, heavy downpours had led to the Mekong overflowing and causing severe floods that hit large farming areas of the province.

Authorities in Nong Khai province yesterday warned residents in riverside areas to be prepared for possible overflows from the Mekong, as water levels continued to rise following days of heavy rains. All river shipping operators in the province have halted operations on the river due to safety concerns. Meanwhile, four families in the Sop Moei district of the northern Mae Hong Son province were evacuated yesterday after cracks developed in their houses as a result of land subsidence. Local officials said there was a risk of landslides following heavy rains in the area.

In Nan, another northern province, 65 families in the Bo Kluea district requested state assistance for relocation after a landslide in their village left eight residents dead over the past weekend. The cremation of the eight landslide victims in Nan was held yesterday.

Large volumes of water released from Laos’ dams have been blamed for floods in many riverside provinces on the Thai side. Chainarong Setthachua, a lecturer at Maha Sarakham University, said he thought the imminent increase in the water levels in riverside areas was due to the release of water from Nam Theun 2 Dam in Laos. More release of water from Nam Ngum 5 Dam across the river could worsen the situation, he warned.

On the Laos side, flood victims in the Sanamxay district of Attapeu province were still in need of essential items, especially food, rice, drinking water, clothing, blankets, medicines and other daily necessities. More than 10,000 people were relocated to shelter centres in Attapeu and Champassak provinces after inundation from a dam collapse hit 13 villages.

Rising Mekong threatens provinces in Thailand and Laos | News by The ThaigerRising Mekong threatens provinces in Thailand and Laos | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: The Nation

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Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand

The Thaiger



Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand | The Thaiger

Vietnamese finance officials are downgrading expectations for a recovery of the south east Asian nation’s economy in 2021. The normally fast-growing gross domestic product in 2020 has stalled due to a huge drop in local and global demand, and the absence of international tourism. The booming economy, growing at an average of 6% per year since 2012, will struggle to reach a growth rate of 2% this year.

Fuelled by manufactured exports, the Vietnam economy has dropped back to a trickle. The Asian Development Bank estimates that this year’s GDP growth could be as low as 1.8%. The Vietnamese factories, that usually crank out shoes, garments, furniture and cheap electronics, are seeing dropping demand as the world’s consumer confidence drops dramatically.

Stay-at-home rules in Europe and America are keeping are keeping people away from retail stores. And despite the acceleration of online retail, many of the consumers are emerging from the Covid Spring and Summer with vastly reduced spending power.

The headaches of 2020 are also challenging Vietnam to maintain its reputation as south east Asia’s manufacturing hotspot. Rising costs and xenophobic foreign policy have put China ‘on the nose’ with some governments, complicating factory work in China, whilst other south east Asian countries lack infrastructure and are incurring higher wage costs.

One Vietnamese factory operated by Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, which produces footwear for top international brands, has laid off 150 workers earlier this year. There are hundreds more examples of the impact of falling demand in the bustling Vietnamese manufacturing economy.

Vietnam’s border closure is also preventing investors from making trips, setting up meetings and pushing projects forward. Those projects in turn create jobs, fostering Vietnam’s growing middle class. Tourism has also been badly affected by the restrictions on travel. “International tourism is dead,” says Jack Nguyen, a partner at Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Inbound tourism usually makes up 6% of the economy.”

“Things will only pick up only when the borders are open and there’s no quarantine requirements. Who knows when that’s going to be.”

A mid-year COVID-19 outbreak in the coastal resort city Danang followed by the start of the school year has reduced domestic travel, analysts say. Some of the country’s hotels are up for sale as a result.

“Recovery could take 4 years.”

The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment is now warning that global post-pandemic recovery could take as long as 4 years, perhaps more.

Not that foreign investors in the country are pulling out. Indeed, many are tainge a long-term view that Vietnam’s underlying strengths will outlive Covid-19. Vietnam reports just 1,069 coronavirus cases overall.


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Singapore’s population contracts along with its GDP

The Thaiger



Singapore’s population contracts along with its GDP | The Thaiger

The little south east Asian island nation of Singapore, which has always punched way above its weight, with the fourth largest economy, but the biggest GDP per capita in the region, is getting smaller. Both its economy and population. The population of the Republic of Singapore is shrinking for the first time since 2003. Border closures and, mostly, job losses, are forcing 10s of 1000s of foreign workers back to their home countries.

Singapore’s overall population dropped by nearly 20,000 people, or 0.3% of the population at the endow 2019, to 5.69 million people.

There’s been a sharp drop in expats, down 2% to 1.64 million, and a smaller drop in permanent residents. At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a number of citizens to return from overseas, swelling the numbers of locals slightly.

The annual report of Singapore’s demographics notes that the transitions are nearly entirely due to the coronavirus outbreak. The report also says that there has already been an economic decline officially estimated between 5%-7% for 2020.

“These trends were largely due to Covid-19 related challenges, brought about by weak demand and travel restrictions. The government has been raising barriers for foreign hiring to preserve jobs for locals.”

Singapore’s non-resident population has surged 200% over the last 2 decades, fuelling mega population growth in the city-state with one of the world’s lowest birth rates. If not for the influx of foreigners, Singapore would have been recording a net drop in population.

The rise of Singapore’s middle class, and the ‘trend’ to hire domestic help, has caused an influx of low-paid migrants to act as nannies, maids, cleaners, drivers and construction workers. Many of these have either voluntarily headed back to their countries, mostly the Philippines, or been sacked.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser notes that the decline in non-resident population is mostly due to the departure of work permit holders, who take up jobs which Singaporeans avoid in the first place. He says the trend probably signals some sectors of the economy are not doing well.

“The issue of foreigners in our midst cannot be addressed simply by cutting down their numbers, without negative consequences for our economy.”

Meanwhile, Japan says it has made an agreement with SE Nations Singapore and Brunei to reopen their borders for newly arriving expats from next Wednesday and and other long-term residents from October 8.

Those eligible to travel will be allowed in on condition they self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival as a preventative measure against the spread of Covid-19.

Brunei and Singapore join 7 other ASEAN countries, including Vietnam and Thailand, with the new travel bubble with Japan. Japan still has a ban in place for the entry of travellers from 159 countries and regions. Japan’s foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi says the government is seriously considering how to restart travel back to Japan, both for business and tourism.

“We see the resumption of new entries (of foreigners) to Japan as an extremely important issue.”

Japan already allows short-term business travellers from Singapore to enter the country without doing quarantine, on condition they take a test before they travel to Japan, then another when they arrive, can provide an itinerary of their stay and take preventative steps to actively socially distance during their visit.


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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand seals its 2,000 kilometre border with Myanmar

The Thaiger



Thailand seals its 2,000 kilometre border with Myanmar | The Thaiger

Thailand’s Department of Disease Control remains on alert, and patrols increased along the Thai/Myanmar border, as Thailand’s western neighbour continues to register a spike in new Covid 19 cases – between 430 and 670 people each day, over the past 4 days. The DDC director-general Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai told Bangkok Post that Thai “business operators should stop hiring foreign workers, especially Myanmar people, to help prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections in Thailand.”

Myanmar’s number of confirmed cases has now reached 7,177 with 129 Burmese succumbing to the virus at this stage. Yesterday the four national papers suspended circulation, waiting out the sudden surge of cases.

Thailand seals its 2,000 kilometre border with Myanmar | News by The Thaiger

Further west, in Bangladesh, the country is registering 1,600 – 1,800 new cases per day, but falling, and India, which is still registering 75,000 – 97,000 cases per day (over the past week), is likely to surpass the US total in the next few months if the present case trends continue.

The fluid borders in the region continue to worry Thai officials who are scrambling to better secure the long border between Thailand and Myanmar, which runs from Chiang Rai in the north to Ranong in the south. Even Malaysia, to the south of Thailand, has had a recent spike of new cases, some of the outbreaks in the northern Malay state of Kedah which shares Thailand’s southernmost border.

Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, is now in a deep lockdown, including directing people to stay home, except for emergencies or to buy food, most schools around the city are now closed and residents are not allowed to visit neighbour’s homes and 2 people outside is considered a ‘gathering’.

Meanwhile the border checkpoints have become busy where Burmese are trying to cross into Thailand as fears sweep their country about the rise of the cases. The DDC chief says that “tough legal action will be implemented against those found to be involved in human smuggling gangs”.

Yesterday a Burmese teenager, living near the Thai-Myanmar border tested positive for Covid-19. The 17 year old boy tested positive for Covid-19 last week in Myanmar’s Payatongsu district, about 5 kilometres from the Three Pagodas Pass checkpoint bordering Kanchanaburi. The Pass, and the border zones around it, are a fluid mix of Thai and Burmese locals doing day-to-day trade. The teen started having symptoms on September 11 and tested positive a week later.

In another case, a 2 year old Burmese child tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving Thailand. A report from Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health Disease Control Department says the child most likely contracted the virus while travelling from Thailand to Myanmar around September 4 to September 10. The family travelled to Mae Sot and entered Myanmar through natural passageways. 2,635 people in Mae Sot tested negative for Covid-19.

In some border districts, police have placed barbed wire along the leaky jungle border to deter people from crossing the 2,000 kilometre-long border illegally. Security has increased and dozens of migrants have been arrested in the past month for trying to cross into Thailand illegally. Even volunteers have stepped up to patrol the borders. No migrants arrested for allegedly crossing the border have tested positive for the virus at this stage.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Reuters | Chiang Rai Times

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