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Sakon Nakhon floods easing. Authorities worried about more rain.

Tanutam Thawan

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Sakon Nakhon floods easing. Authorities worried about more rain. | The Thaiger

The country’s disaster warning system needs to be reformed, experts emphasized yesterday, as there was no warning for the recent flash flood in Sakon Nakhon that resulted from heavy downpours and leakage in a local reservoir.

Meanwhile, experts have reassured the public that there will be no big flood similar to the disaster in 2011, because there was no indication of heavy rainfall in the late phase of the rainy season. The flooding in the Northeastern provinces was due to obstructions to the local water drainage systems and a large downpour in a short period of time.

On Friday morning, Sakon Nakhon residents woke up to find their city being submerged by flash flooding caused by heavy rains. Shortly afterwards, more than 1 million cubic meters of water that leaked from the Huai Zaikamin Reservoir washed down toward the city, intensifying the flood situation and leaving some areas under two meters of water.

Due to the lack of warning, a large number of people were unable to evacuate in time and their belongings were damaged. Hannarong Yaowalers, Thai-Water Partnerships chairman, said that the disaster in Sakon Nakhon was not the first and would not be the last unless the disaster warning system was improved.

“In January, we witnessed the failure of the authorities to warn the people in Prachuap Khiri Khan about the upcoming severe floods from the broken reservoir upstream, which cost people’s lives,” he said.

“The incident in Sakon Nakhon proves that there are serious flaws in our warning system, which needs to be fixed as soon as possible.” Mr Hannarong said that the current disaster warning system was too slow to keep up with the recent floods, and that authorities needed to keep updating it.

“What we have experienced in Sakon Nakhon is that the precipitation in the province increased over 200 millimeters within a short period.

“This signified the critical situation of a flash flood, but it seemed that the local authorities were too complacent and were not ready to cope with the situation, so the damage is great,” he said.

Mr Hannarong stated that the system should warn people immediately when there is any indication of disaster. People should be informed in enough time to evacuate and they should be made aware of how long the disaster will last.

“It is quite simple to warn the people about floods because we already have the monitoring system for precipitation and water levels in the reservoirs,” he said. “All the authorities need to do is tell people the truth as soon as possible.”

However, Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department deputy director-general Kobchai Boonyaorana said the disaster-warning system was already working well, but the flash flood in Sakon Nakhon occurred “too rapidly”. Officers were simply unable to warn the people in time.

“From the information provided by the Meteorological Department, there was a cluster of heavy rain in the Sakon Nakhon area during the time of disaster. When the rain met with the Phu Phan Mountain Range, it caused a heavy downpour within a short period, and triggered flash flooding from the mountain to the city down below,” Mr Kobchai explained. “It happened so fast, but after the flood, we dispatched a disaster relief team to Sakon Nakhon immediately to help the people and restore the basic infrastructure.”

He said that five evacuation centres had been set up right afterwards and had received 909 people. The authorities also diverted floodwaters to Nong Han Lake and drained the water out to the Mekong River to relieve the flood situation in the city. Chaowalit Chantararat, managing director of the TEAM Group engineering firm, said that the major flooding in Sakon Nakhon was mainly because the local drainage system could not receive a large amount of water.

Despite the severity of flooding in the Northeastern region, there was no indication that there would be major flooding in the Chao Phraya River Basin and Bangkok soon. “This year is actually a normal year in terms of precipitation levels, which means that we will get the normal amount of rainwater and there will be no big flood like in 2011,” he assured.

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Local Thai journalist speaking fluent Thai and English. Tanutam studied in Khon Kaen before attending Bangkok’s Chulalongkhorn University.

Thailand

Updates on international travel to Thailand

Caitlin Ashworth

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Updates on international travel to Thailand | The Thaiger
Stock photo by Bao Menglong for Unsplash

Thailand to introduce “area quarantine” for international visitors from April

From next month, foreign visitors to the Kingdom will be able to experience the delights of “area quarantine”, after the government confirmed the scheme for 5 provinces: Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri and Surat Thani, which includes the popular tourist islands Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan. Some of the tourist destinations are considered areas of “economic significance” and are included in the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccine campaign.

Read the full story HERE.

Thailand considering vaccine passport policy in bid to revive international tourism

A so-called vaccine passport, declaring a traveller has been vaccinated against Covid-19, would potentially allow foreign visitors to enter Thailand without going through a mandatory quarantine. Thailand’s Tourism Minister says he has asked the Public Health Ministry to approve a vaccine passport scheme, but the government is waiting on a statement from the World Heath Organisation on the matter before moving forward with a decision.

Read the full story HERE.

“Sealed route” set at Bangkok airport for international transfers

International transits and transfers are now allowed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. A so-called “sealed route” is being set up in the airport to ensure the passengers with a layover in Thailand don’t come in contact with the other passengers. Passengers need to have the required documents including a fit-to-fly certificate, travel insurance that covers Covid-19 expenses and a negative Covid-19 test result issued no more than 72 hours before departure.

Read the full story HERE.

Foreign tourists travelling to Thailand must now download a Covid-19 tracking application

Foreign tourists travelling to Thailand will need to download the Covid-19 contact tracking mobile application “ThailandPlus” before arriving in Thailand and use it throughout their stay. The app will notify travellers if they have been in close contact with any confirmed cases.

Throughout their trip to Thailand, tourists will need to keep the app “on” and check in and out of various locations by scanning QR codes. The app requires access to the smartphone’s GPS , but the Tourism Authority of Thailand says the information collected will only be used for public health purposes and will not infringe on the tourists’ right to privacy.

Read the full story HERE.

Thailand tourism sector seeks to reopen the country by July

The campaign Open Thailand Safely is urging the Thai government to reopen Thailand to international tourists by July 2021. The campaign there’s 5 reasons why Thailand should reopen by July.

  1. The majority of citizens in many source markets will have been vaccinated by then.
  2. It gives time to Thai medical authorities to vaccinate both front line staff in hospitality settings in Thailand and/or vulnerable citizens around the country.
  3. It gives international travellers time to make travel plans and bookings.
  4. The date gives time to airlines, hotels, tour operators and others to start marketing and sales and get ready for tourism operations to commence
  5. It will take Thailand at least a year, and maybe longer, to return to the large numbers of international visitors that it had before the Covid-19 crisis.

Read the full story HERE.

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Freedom House downgrades Thailand to “not free”

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Freedom House downgrades Thailand to “not free” | The Thaiger

US based Freedom House, a democracy advocacy group, has downgraded Thailand from being “partly free” to “not free” in its latest global rankings. The Freedom in the World 2021 report released this week assigned Thailand a total score of 30 out of 100, dropping from 32 out of 100 in the previous survey conducted in 2019.

Before, Thailand was deemed “not free” in the years of 2017 and 2018, but then was upgraded after elections were held after 5 years of military rule. But, the NGO has deemed the election process to be flawed.

The reasoning for the current downgrade is partly due to the court-ordered dissolution of the Future Forward Party in 2020 and the recent crackdown on pro-democracy groups, which have seen young students being charged with lese majeste, or defaming the monarchy, which is a crime in Thailand. As for the elections that were considered as flawed by Freedom House, the NGO issued a statement explaining their take on the supposedly democratic process.

“The results, announced 6 weeks after the polls, were tainted by irregularities, with ballots ‘lost’, and initial vote tallies changed. Additionally, the formula for distributing party seats was altered after the election in order to reduce seats won by opposition parties and redistribute them to military-aligned parties.”

The report also noted that “a combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy” had provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade.

“In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists.”

“Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.”

Freedom House rates countries based on 10 political rights issues and 15 civil liberties issues. It gave Thailand 5 out of 40 for political rights and 25 out of 60 for civil liberties in 2020.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Motorists told to avoid certain areas in Bangkok as protests planned for today

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Motorists told to avoid certain areas in Bangkok as protests planned for today | The Thaiger

Bangkok motorists are being told to avoid areas where protests are planned to take place today. Kasetsart intersection, Lat Phrao intersection, Rachaprasong shopping district’s Central World shopping mall and 11th Infantry Regiment barracks in Bangkhen are the sites where demonstrators are set to infiltrate.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner says he is most concerned about the Lat Phrao intersection, due to the Redem or Restart Democracy group planning to hold a leaderless protest, which has been prone to violence in the past as demonstrated last Sunday. The group is an offset of the Free Youth movement, which is one of the main groups that have been demonstrating against the military-backed government.

The Redem protesters plan to march from the Lat Phrao intersection to the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road, despite a law announced in the Royal Gazette last night which banned protests, mass gatherings and assemblies. The law stated the reasoning was not political, citing fears over Covid-19 instead.

The newly announced law would give the government a wider range of power in enforcing such public gatherings, with law-breakers being subjected to up to a 40,000 baht fine or up to 2 years in jail. The Redem group is expected to demand the release of core Ratsadon leaders and others being held in jail without bail.

The Ratsadon group reached the outskirts of Bangkok yesterday, after a nearly 250 kilometre-long march from the Thao Suranaree statue in Korat province’s Muang district province. But they were met by police who tried to prevent them from marching further into Bangkok, but eventually allowed them to keep marching until they reached the Kasetsart intersection. The group is expected to end the march tomorrow, at Democracy Monument.

Despite the groups’ plans to ignore the recent law that bans protests, police have warned that they will face charges if they defy the new order. 32 companies of anti-riot police have been placed on standby in light of the expected protests taking place in Thailand’s capital today.

SOURCE: Thai Pbs World

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