THAILAND Bangkok turns into a sinking ship

By Promboon Panitchpakdi, Country Director Raks Thai Foundation (CARE Thailand)

“Today, Oct 24 is a public holiday in Thailand. We have just completed an assessment on the situation of migrant workers who are affected by the floods in a few selected areas around Bangkok. There seems to be very little emergency assistance for those workers, who have no means to support themselves.

It is a particularly difficult time because with each passing day we are hearing and seeing in the news the floods surrounding Bangkok from all sides: the north, west and east. And in the south there is the ocean. It seems like the city is shrinking as the floods rise, giving the appearance of a sinking ship - Bangkok.

There is a lot of uncertainty among the population. Even as of today, in every shop in Bangkok and even large malls we see empty shelves for dry food, milk, and other items for daily use.

The worst scenario is that Bangkok would be largely inundated, perhaps not 100 percent, but  with water levels of 30 centimeters to 1.5 meters for a period of two to six weeks. The thousands of families already affected around Bangkok had to make the choice between holding out in their homes on the upper floor, evacuating to crowded relief centers, or temporarily moving out of Bangkok. The numbers of those who migrate will add to the three million people who are estimated to be affected by the floods in other provinces of Thailand.

Our staff are working over the weekend including today, a public holiday, using their personal money to buy food stuff for the migrants, until the office opens again tomorrow. We have received an alert for the area where our office is located, it could be flooded between today and mid-November. We are preparing an office evacuation plan either to other parts of Bangkok or to neighboring provinces. For now, we are moving our equipment and offices to the second floor, hoping that the water level would not rise too much in our neighborhood.

Raks Thai has launched a program to support migrant workers and their families in flooded areas. Most of the migrants do not dare to evacuate fearing prosecution or extortion by authorities. They are staying in apartment buildings, on the second floor and above, holding out with very little water and food supplies.

Raks Thai also plans to respond to other vulnerable groups that are among the Thai population affected by the floods, such as supporting mothers and their children. I hope we will receive sufficient funding from international donors to scale up our emergency assistance! In the short term this means to emergency relief support, in the longer term, beyond next four months, this would include a focus on livelihoods and community disaster risk management.

Even though there have been over 300 deaths, we do not expected a large number of casualties. However, the social and economic disruption to lives, on the other hand, will last for several years.”