Saturday, October 22, 2011

PM steps up control

PM steps up control

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday overrode the mandate of the city administration by invoking the disaster law to take over the supervision of flood control and drainage in Bangkok.

Under Article 31 of the 2550 Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act, the central government has in effect sidelined the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration in terms of dealing with floods.

"The written order as mandated by the disaster law would be clear for all relevant agencies to comply with in uniformity, such as the issue of opening sluice gates to regulate the water flow," Yingluck said.

Before issuing the disaster warning for Bangkok, she chaired a highlevel meeting to assess the situation, particularly the runoff heading toward the capital. Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra was notably absent.

Yingluck said she wanted to ensure that all agencies are united where tackling the runoff is concerned, because successfully diverting the water to drain into the sea via east Bangkok would hinge on all relevant agencies moving in a concerted effort.

The government and city administration must work jointly in regulating the water flow via sluice gates, she said.

As for contaminated water flowing into the canal reserved for the production of tap water, she said this was because a dyke had broken down and that she had instructed the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority to speed up its repair.

She has also given the military the job of guarding the dykes at two critical areas - Khlong Hok Wa and Lak Hok in Pathum Thani - believed to be the last flood barriers before the runoffs reach the capital.

The military and concerned agencies should step up floodcontrol measures to protect key installations like the Grand Palace, Siriraj Hospital as well as Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, she said.

The Transport Ministry would be in charge of ensuring uninterrupted traffic on key roads, tollways and the mass transit system, she said, adding that related agencies should ensure that there is an adequate supply of essential goods.

She also voiced concerns that a large number of flood victims were still waiting to be rescued in Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani. Yingluck has also told state officials to find additional areas for shelter and parking spaces.

Reacting to Sukhumbhand's call to stop the waterworks canal or Khlong Prapa from overflowing, she said the central government and the city administration should act as one instead of playing the blame game. The canal is located just outside the city's jurisdiction.
The government stands ready to help the city and likewise, the city administration should try to look beyond its boundary and work with the central authorities to solve the overall situation, she said.

Yingluck said she still believes that enforcing the emergency decree at this juncture would not improve the situation. On the contrary, she said, emergency rule might undermine the confidence of investors.

In reaction to the prime minister's latest moves, Sukhumbhand said he had no objections because this would make his job easier, adding that he was ready to cooperate with the central government in trying to overcome the floods.

Meanwhile, Army chief General Prayuth Chanocha yesterday encouraged the government to impose the state of emergency in order to strengthen the power of its Flood Relief Operation Centre and help it deal with the worsening flood situation.

However, he said the emergency law could not be strictly imposed against residents suffering from severe floods. "Fully enforcing the law might lead to confrontations between officials and residents or between the government and citizens, though enforcing the law would be beneficial," he said.

When asked about some politicians' speculation that declaring emergency would lead to a military coup, the Army chief responded by asking if there was anyone in the armed forces "stupid enough" to stage a coup at this time of disaster.

"They should focus on helping the people as much as possible. Politics and the military are not related. My appeal is that no accusations should be made to upset soldiers who are working hard [to help with the flood situation]," he said.
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