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Thai officials on defensive as flood anger mounts
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Nov 1, 2011

Bangkok authorities insisted on Tuesday they could not ease the flooding crisis for everyone in the city, as anger and misery grew in inundated areas over the lack of assistance from officials.

Although inner areas of the capital have remained dry, the situation is critical in several outlying districts, where residents have protested that their homes are being sacrificed to save central parts of the city.

But Bangkok authorities justified efforts to spare the glitzy downtown area as much as possible by diverting the brunt of the water to other neighbourhoods.

"Bangkok is the heart, you can cut your hand but you have to save your heart, because if your heart fails, everything fails," Jate Sopitpongstorn, a spokesman for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), told AFP.

Thailand's worst flooding in decades, triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains that began three months ago, have claimed more than 380 lives and affected the homes and livelihoods of millions across the kingdom.

Inflation rose in October as flood damage to farmland forced up food prices, according to government data released on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Bangkok officials have clashed over how much water should be let through certain sluice gates to the north of the city centre to ease the pressure on inundated communities.

On Monday, Yingluck caved in to protesters and ordered a gate in the northeastern district of Khlong Sam Wa to be raised to one metre (three feet) to allow more water through and relieve those in the immediate vicinity.

But Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra on Tuesday warned the move could put other areas of the city, including industrial estates, at risk of flooding if other gates further north were not closed.

He said he had to consider the needs of all of the megacity's economic and political heartland.

"I love the people, as do other elected politicians, but sometimes I have to be tough with the demands of the minority for the sake of the majority," Sukhumbhand said in a televised press briefing.

"I cannot yield to every demand," he said, adding city authorities and the government should try "to find a common position".

Central Bangkok has largely been spared from major inundation after barriers along Bangkok's swollen Chao Phraya River prevented a major overflow during a spring high tide over the weekend.

But in districts such as western Bang Phlat, just five kilometres (three miles) from downtown Bangkok, homes were badly damaged and streets turned into deep canals of filthy water, with no official help in sight.

"I want the government to come and take care of us. We have asked for help but nobody comes. We asked for boats, food, medicines, but nothing," said Pailin Sontana, 58, as he waded waist-deep through the brown liquid.

Yupin Songsuk, a 38-year-old housekeeper at a hotel, said the situation showed no signs of improving, with more water on the way.

"We can still eat and drink the things we stocked, but what about later on, if nobody comes to help us?" she told AFP.

BMA spokesman Jate admitted they were unable to help everyone who refused to move to a shelter. "We have limited numbers of army vehicles and boats and we cannot go into every street and hand out food and water three times a day."

And an official from the government's Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC) said parts of western Bangkok could be inundated for another month because of ineffective drainage systems.

Further east, Bangkok's main international air hub Suvarnabhumi is operating as normal but Don Mueang airport, the city's second-largest which lies to the north, has been shut for a week.

"I have assigned the air force chief to pump out water from Don Mueang airport's taxiways and runways before Friday," Defence Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapa told reporters.

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Thai floods push inflation higher
Bangkok (AFP) Nov 1, 2011 - Thai inflation edged up in October, government data showed Tuesday, as the country's worst flooding in decades caused widespread damage to farmland and forced food prices higher.

The consumer price index rose 4.19 percent in the month from a year earlier, against a 4.03 percent rise in September, the commerce ministry reported.

"Floods have seriously affected (the supply of) fresh vegetables and eggs because the floods have destroyed farms and plantations," the ministry told reporters.

Three months of unusually heavy monsoon rains have inundated large swathes of the country, killing more than 380 people and affecting the homes and livelihoods of millions.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, jumped 2.89 percent compared with last year.

The ministry said it expected the floods would push overall inflation for the whole 2011 up 0.1 point to 3.8 percent.

"The rise in headline inflation was pretty much anticipated and the pace should accelerate further in November when floods take full effect on prices," Siam Commercial Bank analyst Pornthep Jubandhu told Dow Jones Newswires.

The Bank of Thailand last week slashed its economic growth forecast to 2.6 percent for the year, down from an earlier projection of 4.1 percent, as the country reels from the flood crisis.

"Despite the higher inflation outlook, the BoT may still consider a rate cut as its next policy move as the risks to growth now outweigh price pressures," said Pornthep.

Thailand has held its interest rate at 3.5 percent since August to boost growth, pausing after a series of hikes to tame inflation.


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Politics hindering Thai flood relief: experts
Bangkok (AFP) Oct 30, 2011
Thailand's battle against its worst floods in decades has spilled into the political arena, underscoring the deep divisions that linger more than a year after deadly civil unrest rocked the kingdom. Efforts to prepare the capital for looming floodwaters have been plagued by contradictory messages from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government and local authorities, both seeking to scor ... read more

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