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Friday, Oct. 28, 2011
Thailand in trouble
Floods in Thailand, which initially hit northern and central areas hard, are spilling toward central Bangkok, where government organizations are concentrated. On Oct. 25, two domestic airlines canceled all their flights to and from Don Muang airport in northern Bangkok. As of the morning of Oct. 26, 373 people had died. Most of them drowned, but at least 17 were electrocuted. Some 2.93 million people have become flood victims.
As Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said a few days earlier, the situation is "extremely serious." A record high tide is to happen on Oct. 28 in the Gulf of Thailand, making release of floodwater into the gulf difficult. Weather reports are forecasting yet more rainfall, thus the damage from the floods is expected to expand. The Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross Society, other Japanese organizations and ordinary Japanese citizens should consider what they can do to help Thai flood victims.
Three months of monsoon rains, said to be the heaviest in 50 years, have caused the floods. Global warming may play a role, but reports say man-made factors have also contributed to the scale of the disaster. In an attempt to invite foreign enterprises, Thailand has filled in canals and marshy grounds since the 1980s and developed industrial parks. Rapid industrialization and urbanization have greatly diminished these areas' natural capacity to hold water. In Ayutthaya province along the Chao Praya river, all five such factory parks have been submerged.
Apparently political conflict between factions supporting and opposing former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra (the brother of Yingluck Shinawatra) has prevented the government from taking well-coordinated initial actions to bring the floods under control. It is estimated that the floods will reduce Thailand's rice production this year by about 30 percent.
As seven industrial parks have been flooded, some 460 Japanese enterprises have sustained damage. Among them are the eight Japanese carmakers, which have suspended factory operations. Earlier they had suffered from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which damaged supply chains. The Japanese government should immediately take steps to help flood victims, which include Japanese nationals. In the longer term, it should provide Thailand with know-how and technology for flood control.