Thai opposition figure accuses junta of slow response to floods

A flooded area in Sakon Nakhon province, north-east Thailand, yesterday. Ten of the 77 provinces have been inundated in the middle of the annual rainy season, causing damage estimated at US$300 million (S$407 million).
A flooded area in Sakon Nakhon province, north-east Thailand, yesterday. Ten of the 77 provinces have been inundated in the middle of the annual rainy season, causing damage estimated at US$300 million (S$407 million).PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • Floods have killed 27 people in Thailand, stoking tension in the politically divided country, with an opposition figure accusing the ruling junta of being slow to respond to the disaster.

Ten of the 77 provinces have been inundated in the middle of the annual rainy season, causing damage estimated at US$300 million (S$407 million), with the Shinawatra family's north-eastern stronghold especially hard-hit.

"Supporters in the north-east felt the response was slow, that they were left out and had the floods been in a pro-military zone it might have been faster," Ms Thida Thawornseth, a senior member of the opposition "red shirt" movement, said yesterday.

The "red shirts", the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, backed the governments of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, former premier Yingluck, whose opponents back the traditional establishment.

The Shinawatra-led governments were booted out in coups in 2006 and 2014. The "red shirts" are loathed by the military-royalist elite who have accused the Shinawatra governments of graft.

The junta, which took power after the 2014 coup, has kept a tight lid on dissent by detaining and arresting its critics.

But analysts said the floods, coupled with a looming verdict in a criminal case that accuses Yingluck of mismanaging a rice- buying scheme, are fuelling underlying tension.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd denied that the floods and Yingluck's trial had put political pressure on the government.

"It doesn't pressure the government, but spurs the state to work harder to resolve people's problems," he told Reuters.

In 2011, the worst floods in half a century killed more than 900 people and caused major industrial disruption. Yingluck also came under fire for mismanaging the situation.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline 'Thai opposition figure accuses junta of slow response to floods'. Print Edition | Subscribe