Thailand's hopes being swept away

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 October, 2011, 12:00am


Thailand has a special place in the hearts of many Hongkongers, being popular for family holidays and where the rice on most tables comes from. So, when a calamity like the severe flooding that has for several weeks been affecting central and northern parts of the country and now inundating Bangkok strike, thousands of vacation plans are thrown into disarray and there is concern that we will have to pay more for a staple of our diet. We should, though, be thinking of the plight of the Thais who, after enduring five years of political turmoil, were looking forward to a brighter future under the ambitious policies of new prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. We may be cursing our bad luck, or questioning the timeliness of the red travel alert issued by our government, but we should not forget the hundreds of people killed, the massive damage wrought and the tough times that lie ahead for the nation.

Although monsoon rains are an annual occurrence, there have not been such floods for half a century and Thailand has been caught unprepared. Bangkok is prone to troubles in heavy rains. Severe flooding is a case of when, not if. Tourists and business people should always be prepared to have plans disrupted during the monsoon season. Just three months in power after being elected by a landslide, Yingluck was not expecting to have hers derailed in such a way. She had yet to implement a series of policies - from a 300 baht-a-day minimum wage to free tablet computers for children starting school. They were formulated during good economic times. With the damage bill estimated to be at least 150 billion baht and predictions that GDP this year will be cut by 1 per cent or more as a result, they may now be delayed or never happen.

Holidays have been disrupted and we may have to pay more for our beloved Thai rice, but the lives of millions of Thais have also been turned upside down. Every effort must be made to ensure that life in the areas hit by the floods can return to normal as soon as possible.