Floods show up PM's lack of experience Skip to main content

Floods show up PM's lack of experience

 Bangkok Post

ANALYSIS: Yingluck must show she can keep her head above water as she grapples with the nationwide crisis


Political inexperience is taking its toll on Yingluck Shinawatra as her fight against flooding calls into question the prime minister's leadership of the mission to steer the country through the crisis.

Before and shortly after the July election, supporters of Ms Yingluck allayed critics' concerns about her qualifications to run the country by pointing to her business background as president of SC Asset as her advantage.

As she was trying to prove that those pundits were wrong, the unexpected flood crisis has come along to test her ability to handle the shocking situation.

Worries about the prime minister's performance were underlined by the public confusion at the Flood Relief Operations Centre (Froc) on Thursday when Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi warned residents in part of Pathum Thani and northern Bangkok to escape the coming water from the North, only for his warning to be retracted hours later by Justice Minister and centre commander Pol Gen Pracha Promnok.

"I give her seven out of 10 for this crisis management," said Thawee Surarittikul, a political analyst at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University. "That score is for her determination to pool resources to solve the problem. But in terms of the effectiveness of the operation, thus far she has failed."

The prime minister has been overshadowed by her cabinet ministers fighting among themselves to be in the limelight, as happened with Mr Plodprasop on Thursday at the Froc, Mr Thawee pointed out. "If the prime minister had more leadership, things like that would not have happened. Leadership is the area that she has to improve," the analyst said.

"Ms Yingluck has to show that she is the leading actress who runs this show."

Even an aide in Ms Yingluck's camp assessed her ability conservatively by saying that what she had done was "somewhat acceptable" and the flood crisis had not done severe damage to her leadership.

"Under the present circumstances, we have to admit that the prime minister has limited experience in politics and administration.

"On the other hand, the prime minister must admit to the public that nobody knows everything and that she has the confidence to put everything under her control," said the aide, who requested anonymity.

As the flooding has crippled one province after another with water gradually approaching Bangkok, Ms Yingluck's advisers appear to have growing worries about the prime minister becoming a target of criticism.

That was reflected in a call last Monday by Noppadon Pattama, a legal consultant to Thaksin Shinawatra, who urged Thaksin's youngest sister to tell the full truth about the situation, even if she found it painful.

People would have more time to prepare for floods or evacuate their homes.

He advised her to use all communication channels to talk to people.

Mr Noppadon's call for closer cooperation on information from the Royal Irrigation Department, which is under the Chartthaipattana Party, also showed political defiance.

"We have to look beyond the party's interest and join hands to quickly tackle the problem," Mr Noppadon said.

The opposition Democrat Party has pointed to poor preparation for the flooding crisis, especially on the warning system. It says a lack of effective management and communication between cabinet ministers and between the government and people are the areas that Ms Yingluck should improve.

The opposition party has made it clear that it will not want to take advantage of this mishap to attack the government, but those were areas identified by the Democrats for the prime minister to resolve, Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said.

"The government had information about the water situation at all dams but complacency has led to a situation in which it is now trying to catch up with the problem instead of devising measures to cope with it beforehand," Mr Chavanond said.

With Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit playing no role at Froc, he questioned how the government communicates with provincial governors.

A Government House source suggested Ms Yingluck boost her strength by seeking experience from experts and by better using people around her, including banned politicians close to Thaksin who are part of her advisory team.

Analyst Mr Thawee said "many crises have made heroes". He added: "Whether Ms Yingluck can turn around her fortunes is up to her. What we can do is give her support to resolve this water crisis."

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