Thailand in the News Week Ending 01/16/10

Bangkok Sinking

Flooding in Bangkok's Chinatown

Anyone that has been in Bangkok after a decent storm can tell you that it wouldn’t take much to sink Bangkok, but now scientists are warning that large sections of Bangkok might have to be abandoned by the middle of this century unless severe action is taken.

Bangkok’s canal systems were used to move the majority of traffic through the city but that has largely given way to roads that support the estimated 12 million Bangkok residents. According to researchers subsidence and lack of urban planning have resulted in the already low lying city sinking a further 2 cm – 5 cm a year.

Add in the rising sea levels and the coastal erosion along the gulf of Thailand and researchers are saying that Bangkok could be looking at regular flooding reaching the 2 meter mark.

It’s been a problem that authorities have known about for decades but initially sediment compression was seen as the main factor, now research has shown that the crust of the earth is depressing in Bangkok caused by tectonic events that are beyond anyone’s control. Much of today’s problems started in the 1980′s when industry was getting stronger and their need for water saw water being drawn from underground aquifers faster than it could be replaced which causes subsidence.

There have been many solutions offered but researches say it will take more than one solution to fix the problem. Solution’s have ranged from building dikes around Bangkok’s important infrastructure such as Suvarnabhumi Airport to the much more aggressive proposal to build a massive 100km long dike right across the Gulf of Thailand from Hua Hin to Pattaya.

These solutions don’t come without social and economic repercussions for Thailand’s fishing communities and the short term costs for such construction will be tremendous and hard to get the government to back.

Mid century sounds a long way off but it’s not as far into the future as experts would like. One small rain is enough to completely flood Chinatown for a whole day now, as pictured above. I have a feeling the answer won’t come easy for this one and when it does come it will be expensive and not just in terms of money.

Prime Minister Wants Less Reliance on King

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva

Courtesy Getty Images

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said his politically divided nation would be better off if it stopped relying on the widely revered king to intervene in times of difficulty.

This past week when the Prime Minister spoke before the foreign correspondents of Thailand he was quoted as saying:

the country had struggled at times of crisis to solve problems, in which 82-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s role had been critical, crucial, vital.

Now what I’m saying is that it would be better if we can all resolve these issues without having to rely on His Majesty’s interventions, even though they are always within the framework of the constitution. It will take time.

Very interesting. This doesn’t sound like he wants to relieve a burden from the aging King but more like he wants to see the Monarchy give way to government, his government. Correct me if I’m wrong but one of the very real fears of the Thaksin led government was that people saw him trying to gain much more power and it was said by many that Thaksin at some point would seek to exclude the Monarchy from government by whatever means necessary.

Shouldn’t Prime Minister Abhisit’s words be seen as a Lèse majesté violation? Certainly the Prime Ministers own party has used a much less stringent standard when applying the same law to political opponents, journalists and bloggers. I would think seeking to rely less on the Monarchy is surely an insult to said Monarchy.

Abhisit had also said during the meeting that a new advisory board on the Lèse majesté laws would create “clarity” which would see many cases that have been pending with the police and Attorney General cleared.

If Prime Minister Abhisit really want’s to do something for the betterment of all Thai people he would seek to repeal Thailand’s archaic Lèse majesté laws and then there wouldn’t be a need for advisory boards and or the clearing of pending cases.

Five charged over Thai-Saudi jewel mystery

Blue Diamond, not the real thing just a paperweight

This past week saw a a very old crime come back to life with new charges leveled at Thai police officers involved.

20 years ago an unassuming Thai janitor working in a Saudi palace sought to commit the crime of the century, he did and he was caught soon afterward. The man stole jewelry valued at over 20 million dollars and smuggled it back into Thailand.

The thief was caught and most of the jewelry was recovered and returned to the Saudi’s. Unfortunately this is Thailand and Thailand is known for it’s fake gem scams, the Saudi’s soon found this out when most of the returned jewelry was determined to be fake including one incredibly rare blue diamond.

The years following the heist havee been full of intrgue and assassinations all related to the original crime and the subsequent fallout. Thai-Saudi relations have hit rock bottom costing Thailand billions of dollars in trade as well as a serious loss of face.

This week 5 Thai police officers were charged with murder related to the jewelry heist and the 20 year old case is once again in the news.

For an excellent article of this incredible case so far you might want to check out  Timeline of the Blue Diamond Affair over at


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6 Responses to Thailand in the News Week Ending 01/16/10
  1. Mike
    January 17, 2010 | 7:50 pm

    Talen interesting. Particularly the first two.

    Sages here have been publicly quoted as saying that sea level rises will NOT affect the Gulf-clearly they live in a different world.

    The second article is also in the news in a slightly different format regarding even more censorship of web sites that refer to HM the King. Public scrutiny is being encouraged with the setting up of a site where citizens can rat on each other.

    The plot thickens!
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Discovering Unseen Thailand-Thai ASEAN News Network =-.

    • Talen
      January 17, 2010 | 8:10 pm

      Mike, Maybe Bangkok will sink and take with it a load of politicians…one can only hope.

  2. Catherine
    January 17, 2010 | 11:41 pm

    Talen, the man (being a geologist), made an elevation map of Thailand to pinpoint where the waters would rise (if it did happen).

    It was an excercise to pick where we would could move (if we decided to stay during it all).

    There were many entertaining evenings where we focused on possibilities of location, how nationalistic Thais might be about the land they had left, if there would be a drop in available Thai produce due to having less land to farm (rising seas would take out a huge swatch), and whether or not the seas really were rising.

    We also discussed the cost between protecting Thailand’s coast (similar to what have been done in the Netherlands) and moving Bangkok further north.

    Oh, and the cost of a new airport as this one is built on a swamp and might need to be moved too.

    It was an interesting exercise.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..YouTube: Rak Bpon Bpon =-.

    • Talen
      January 18, 2010 | 12:10 am

      Cat, I would love to see what happens at your household when you guys really cut loose lol. :)

      I think they could protect Bangkok with dikes but it would be a very costly effort.

  3. Martyn
    January 19, 2010 | 12:49 am

    Bangkok has got that sinking feeling, you were right on the swine flu pandemic being over hyped and so I’ll follow your lead on this one whatever that might be. Looking at your photo of Chinatown then something needs to be done anyway and sooner is surely better than later.

    PM Abhisit Vejjajiva’s statement does appear to be another example of the double standards in Thai politics. If Thaksin Shinawatra had used the very same words then the yellow ones would have whipped up a storm. I still can’t believe the PAD leaders have been allowed to get away with the airport closure and the loss of billions in revenue to Thailand.It makes the jewelry scandal look like a schoolboy prank.
    .-= Martyn´s last blog ..Udon Thani’s Nutty Park =-.

    • Talen
      January 19, 2010 | 12:51 pm

      Martyn, Chinatown as well as a few other areas of Bangkok flood really fast and it happens so often that the merchants go about their day like it isn’t happening . I have a pic of a secretary at her desk in a shop with the water up to her knees.

      I can believe that PAD has been allowed to get away with murder because their party is in power just look at what Thaksin was doing while he was in power.

      Perhaps it’s time Thailand went back to a strict Monarchy and did away with government for the most part.