More than 700,000 people have been “directly affected” by the floods. This well-worn euphemism usually heard in world news reports belies the reality that so many people, so close to globally renowned tourist havens including Koh Samui and the party island Koh Pha-ngan, are now without homes, power, access to fresh food and some beyond direct reach of medical care.
In comparison, the floods across the South this past week are not a patch on the the floods in Central Thailand in 2011 that killed more than 800 people and ground much of the country to a halt. Nevertheless, just over a month ago, 22 people died in floods in many of the same areas that are underwater today, but even having all railway lines cut off evoked nothing more than speeches and promises from the capital.
Yet with one horrific van crash, granted leaving 25 dead in one incident, authorities are quick to spout off – ready to reinvent the minivan transport industry which much of the national population relies on for inter-provincial travel. The incongruence is stunning.
For some reason, those in charge of disaster response and flood-relief efforts waited an entire week before ordering any action. Perhaps they were waiting to see if the South could tough it out by itself? The Navy supply ship HMTS Ang Thong was finally deployed to render assistance only last Saturday, and even then it had to be redirected from its original target port in Nakhon Sri Thammrat to another locale in Songkhla, an entirely different province, because disaster officials were unaware of the situation on the ground.
If anyone has any doubts as to why the trouble in the Deep South has yet to be resolved, or why even as far back as the pre-Thaksin era of Thai politics there was so much emphasis on provincial-level autonomy in dealing with such matters independently of waiting on uniforms in Bangkok to render assistance quickly, this past week stands as a good reminder.