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Govt faces growing pressure

Govt faces growing pressure

Inner city safe from floods, says Pracha; PM soothes rural anger

As the nation's capital and most important economic zone, Bangkok must not be allowed to flood, the head of national flood-relief efforts said yesterday.

"We have given priority to Bangkok. We must protect it," Justice Minister Pol General Pracha Promnok said yesterday in his capacity as the head of the Flood Relief Operation Command (FROC).

He offered a guarantee that Bangkok's inner zones would be safe. "Only the outer zones will be affected," Pracha said. "We will push water out to sea via three main channels." A surge in run-off water from the upper part of the country is expected to reach the capital today amid concerns that, coupled with downpours and a high tide, it will cause Bangkok to flood catastrophically, as has occurred in Nakhon Sawan and Ayutthaya.

While relevant authorities are now going all out to save Bangkok, flood victims from many provinces attacked the government's decision to prioritise the capital.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday sought to appease disgruntled upcountry residents. "The government is concerned about people in all provinces. It's not about preferential treatment. But we need to protect the economic zones," she said. She emphasised that Bangkok was the heart of Thailand's economy. "We need to join hands" in protecting the economic zones, she said.

Royal Irrigation Department director-general Chalit Damrongsak said his department had ensured that dams released the smallest amount of water possible.

"The Bhumibol Dam has now lowered the volume of water discharge to about 60 million cubic metres a day," he said.

He said the flood-water level in Nakhon Sawan had stopped rising. "It's bottomed out," he said.

Chalit said that when the run-off water reached Bangkok this weekend, the water level in the Chao Phraya River was expected to reach between 2.3 and 2.4 metres. "The embankment is as high as 2.5 metres," he added, "so Bangkok should be safe."

To minimise the possibility of comments or remarks by politicians and government agencies causing confusion or panic, official statements from the FROC will now be made by Pracha only. In particular, statements announcing emergencies or urgent situations will only be made on TV Pool channels.
Asked about the danger of any more inaccurate statements causing a level of doubt among the public that could lead to dangerous delays in acting on valid information, Yingluck said: "This occurred only once, and I will address the issue internally to sort it out."

Bangkok city clerk Charoenrat Chutikarn said the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) would take care of residents of the capital during the crisis.

"We are going to be the main pillar. The Bangkok governor has told all directors of Bangkok's district offices to stay calm and manage the situation efficiently. The country has already suffered enough from the leadership vacuum," he said in a thinly veiled attack against the central government.

Pracha said there were now three important floodwalls for the capital. One is in Pathum Thani's Muang district. This floodwall is now under the supervision of the Royal Thai Army.
Another is situated along the Taweewattana Canal along Bangkok's border with Nakhon Pathom's Salaya district.

The other one is located along a portion of Rangsit Prayoonsak Canal. "Another floodwall is going up along another portion of this canal. The construction of the floodwall will be completed within two days," he said.

Meanwhile, Army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha said Army engineers were dredging three major canals in Samut Sakhon to speed up drainage of water out to estuaries. He said the dredging should be completed in the next five days and it is expected to convey the water faster.


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