Bloomberg News

Bangkok May Have to Accept More Floodwater as Protests Grow

November 24, 2011

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said officials will have to let more water into Bangkok to appease residents from flooded districts who have held daily protests against measures to protect the inner city.

“Residents in flooded areas are suffering,” Yingluck told reporters today at Government House. “I’d like to ask for cooperation from people in Bangkok to let some water flow into the area to ease the burden.”

Polluted water more than a meter (3.3 feet) deep is still inundating thousands of homes in northern and western districts of the city. Officials are maintaining a network of canals, levees and sandbag barriers to keep water out of inner Bangkok, sparking clashes with residents living outside the flood defenses.

Hundreds of people in Pathum Thani province north of the capital today blocked cars from using the outbound lane of an elevated highway to pressure the government to accelerate the drainage of water, the Thai PBS television network reported.

The protesters threatened to block both lanes of the major highway if their demands aren’t met, the report said.

“This is a challenging task for the negotiation team as people in areas that are now dry don’t want to be flooded again, and those who have been inundated are still suffering,” Yingluck said. “Areas that are dry should allow some water to flow into drainage systems or to empty into the sea.”

Floods caused by above-average rainfall and water released from dams in Thailand’s north have spread across 64 of the nation’s 77 provinces in recent months, claiming 610 lives and swamping the homes of 13.4 million people, according to the government. Seventeen provinces are still affected.

Protecting Bangkok

Authorities have tried to protect Bangkok by diverting the slow-moving pool of water around the city, which sits at the southern tip of a river basin that empties into the Gulf of Thailand.

Water that swamped seven industrial estates north of the capital has receded, and companies are expected to resume production over the next two months, the industry ministry said yesterday in a report submitted to Thailand’s Cabinet.

The disaster has had a “severe and broad-based impact” on the economy, central bank Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul said today, adding that gross domestic product will contract in the fourth quarter and the forecast for full-year growth will be “significantly” cut from an estimate of 2.6 percent.

“We will need to monitor inflation because post-flood spending and government measures may also add pressure to inflation,” he said.

‘Require Easing’

Bank of Thailand policy makers are scheduled to meet on Nov. 30 to discuss monetary policy, and have signaled there is room to cut rates to prop up growth.

“On one side, the floods will hurt the economy, especially in the fourth quarter,” Prasarn said. “It will also affect confidence. This will require easing. On the other side, inflation pressure may rise in the medium term. So we will need to consider the appropriate move to maintain confidence and make sure inflation won’t return to be a problem.”

Yingluck has proposed spending 130 billion baht ($4.2 billion) on rebuilding and measures to prevent future floods.

While the government should invest in water management infrastructure, it should also “keep some bullets” spare in case the global economic outlook worsens, Prasarn said.

--With assistance from Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok. Editors: Tony Jordan, Linus Chua

To contact the reporters on this story: Suttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok at suttinee1@bloomberg.net; Supunnabul Suwannakij in Bangkok at ssuwannakij@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Jordan at tjordan3@bloomberg.net


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