Thai MPs suggest moving capital; ASEAN to make statement on flood prevention, relief

Updated On: Nov 16, 2011

Lawmakers in Thailand have suggested moving the country's capital, as Bangkok is low-lying and could face even more floods in the years to come.

Meanwhile, reports say ASEAN leaders will agree to enhance cooperation in flood prevention and relief when they meet in Bali later this week for a series of summits.

Finally, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to offer a new aid package to Thailand when she visits this week, before joining US President Barack Obama for the meetings in Bali.

A New Thai Capital?

Bangkok is currently under siege from Thailand's worst floods in half a century, and environmentalists warn that the city will face further challenges in the future.

On Tuesday, Lawmakers from the ruling Pheu Thai party tabled a parliamentary motion to discuss the feasibility of moving Thailand's capital. The motion will be submitted to government whips for consideration on Wednesday.

"The capital will face more and more problems from natural disasters and the environment," said Mr. Sataporn Maneerat, one of 20 Pheu Thai MPs behind the motion.

He said the establishment and development of a new capital would also fit the country's "New Thailand" concept.

Mr. Sathaporn added that during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, studies were conducted on relocating the capital to Nakhon Nayok, north-east of Bangkok, where water can be quickly drained because of its sloping terrain. Nakhon Nayok is also well-suited as a new centre of the economy as it is not far from Suvarnabhumi airport.

Former Prime Minister Plaek Pibulsongkhram has also previously suggested moving the capital to Phetchabun province, even further north.

Experts have said Bangkok, which is built on swampland, is slowly sinking at a rate of 2 to 5 cm a year. Meanwhile, waters in the Gulf of Thailand are predicted to rise by about 20 to 30 cm by 2050.

According to some estimates, the metropolis of 12 million could be underwater most of the year by 2050, like it was originally in the 19th century.

Report: Thai lawmakers mull moving capital out of Bangkok [TODAY, 16 Nov 2011]

Report: PT MPs propose new capital city [Bangkok Post, 15 Nov 2011]

PM Yingluck on Flood Status

Draining floodwater from Bangkok's western districts is no easy task, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday.

Ms. Yingluck admitted it has proven very difficult to drain floodwater from the western districts where there are less water drainage facilities than on the eastern side of the city.

However the western floodwall along the Chao Phraya River will be fixed in the next few days. Once gaps are patched, Ms. Yingluck said flooding in the western part of Bangkok will ease.

She added that eastern Bangkok would be dry before the New Year.

Bangkok has already passed the worst of its flood crisis, she said.

Report: Western areas feel no respite [Bangkok Post, 16 Nov 2011]

Flooding on ASEAN Agenda

Ms. Yingluck will be attending the ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Bali this week, after missing last week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Honolulu due to the flooding.

ASEAN leaders will be hosting a series of meetings between November 17-19, including the main ASEAN Summit, the East Asia Summit, ASEAN-UN Summit, and US-ASEAN Summit.

In a move initiated by Thailand, the 10 ASEAN leaders will issue a statement on cooperation in flood prevention and mitigation, as well as post-disaster relief, after their meeting on Thursday.

Leaders will call for further cooperation among members to share best practices in disaster management and management of water resources.

The statement is expected to note that severe flooding affects agricultural production and regional food security as well as regional and global industrial supply chains. ASEAN will also aim to boost relief, recovery and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of disasters.

Floods in Thailand have killed more than 500 people, and displaced millions of others. Other ASEAN countries, including Cambodia and Vietnam, have also faced severe flooding.

Clinton and Obama in Asia

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce new support for Thailand when she visits the country this week. A State Department official said Mrs Clinton would offer a "very substantial" aid package to Thailand and hoped to reach out to the public in America's oldest Asian ally.

"One of the messages that the secretary will bring directly to the Thai people and the government is that we believe it is in the national security and political interest of the United States to have this government succeed," the official was quoted as saying.

"We will do what we can to support that going forward. There are substantial tensions in Thailand and those tensions will not be resolved after one or even a few elections."

Mrs. Clinton is currently in the Philippines, shoring up ties with another key US ally. Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama is visiting Australia, another long-time ally in the region. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton will be heading to Bali for the East Asia Summit, the first time the US is attending as a full participant.

Report: Asean puts water on agenda [Bangkok Post, 16 Nov 2011]

Report: Asean members to cooperate in flood migitation and relief [The Nation, 15 Nov 2011]

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