A New Climate for Peace: Thailand
Poor response to flooding has severe political consequences
In Thailand in 2011, 2 million people across 26 provinces were affected by floods caused by unprecedented monsoon rains, which surpassed the average rainfall of the previous 30 years. The monsoons damaged dams and reservoirs that were purposefully overfilled to mitigate the effect of 2010’s weak monsoon season. During the crisis, hundreds of civilians took to the streets to protest discrimination by the Flood Response Operation Centre and the unfair distribution of water, electricity supply, shelter, and food. Public unrest and discontent with the government continued until a military coup in 2013.
The floods occurred when Thailand’s political landscape was already fragile due to violent anti-government protests between 2008 and 2010. Elections in 2011 brought a new government party to power, which had not yet proven that it could redress class discrimination and deeply rooted citizen resentment. Following the poor emergency response, angry civilians broke a sandbag wall in Bangkok, which was protecting a wealthy district from water surges. Breaking the sandbag barrier was a public expression of frustration with the government for its discrimination and favouritism.
Although the government launched a three-phase recovery programme that included building new infrastructure to prepare for future floods, the compensation system was not transparent. After it was revealed that compensation was unevenly distributed, protesters demanded fairer compensation. The government’s poor disaster management and its inability to address the grievances of rural flood victims were strongly criticized.
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