BANGKOK - Thai Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the authorities to prepare for storms, flash floods and landslides in the Central Plains and on the eastern and western coasts.
The order stemmed from a Meteorological Department forecast that the south-west monsoon would this week bring heavy rainfall to many parts of the country, including flood-prone Bangkok.
Deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department (DPMD) and the local authorities in the Central, East and South-west regions had been told by the Premier to be prepared.
"The Prime Minister is worried about people in areas at risk... so he ordered the DPMD to warn at-risk people and prepare disaster relief efforts," Mr Sansern said. "Troops in these areas were ordered to prepare to help people."
Disaster officials in six provinces and local bodies in 15 others, including low-lying Bangkok, have been also instructed to be on alert.
Meteorological Department director-general Wanchai Sakudomchai was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying that the heavy rainfall would be mostly in the lower area of the Central Plains, while the North and North-east regions would be spared the deluge until late next month.
While heavy rains were predicted in some areas, 23 provinces had suffered a severe drought as of Wednesday. The disposable-water level at nine dams dropped below 10 per cent of their capacity.
In the face of an imminent water shortage, the authorities have asked farmers in the Chao Phraya Basin to postpone growing rice. The ensuing reduction in supply could soon increase the price of Thai rice in local and overseas markets.
Army Chief of Staff Chatchalerm Chalermsukh said he had instructed regiments to aid Bangkok residents by providing transport during floods. He said the army disaster relief centre had been turned into the National Council for Peace and Order's Flood Tackling Centre. It will coordinate with related agencies to make swift and comprehensive relief efforts.
Former Bangkok city councillors and Democrat Party MPs have proposed that the city's governor appoint them as advisers to help solve flood woes there, the Bangkok Post reported.
Mr Sutthi Panyasakulwong, the Democrat Party's secretary-general and a former Democrat MP for Bangkok, said the city's current councillors, who were appointed by the junta, cannot perform their duties in an efficient way as they are unfamiliar with its geography and people, the paper said.
Bangkok city clerk Sanya Sheenimit said on Tuesday that garbage and grease had clogged the drainage system and reduced its ability to drain water, often causing flooding after heavy rain.
THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK