Is the Thai government lying about the floods?
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Is the Thai government lying about the floods?

On Tuesday, the Bangkok Post had a story with the headline “Govt wrestles with telling truth or lies about floods”. Key excerpt:

Some wanted to tell the truth to the public, while others thought playing it close to the chest was the best policy. The conflict between Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi and Justice Minister Pracha Promnok is a case in point. Mr Plodprasop’s recent flood alert was retracted by Pol Gen Pracha, head of the flood relief centre, who thought that telling the truth would hurt the government’s image.

When the Nava Nakorn Industrial Estate was breached by floods on Monday, government flood relief centre spokesman Wim Rungwattanajinda told people to evacuate in seven hours, but Pol Gen Pracha said that moving belongings to high ground should suffice. This left the public baffled.

Contradicting messages and a lack of clarity prevail among state agencies. Bangkok residents were relieved to hear that the capital was declared safe, with massive floodwaters moving past on Sunday. The next day, they were told Bangkok was actually still at risk.

BP: The only point in the article that accuses the government of lying was when it retracted Plodprasob’s evacuation order. BP is flabbergasted. Plodprasob’s press conference was one of the low points for the government. You really have to see the video of what he said to see how bad Plodprasob performed – see video here. Bangkok Post has the key excerpt:

Mr Plodprasop announced that northern run-off had burst through a sluice gate at Khlong Ban Phrao in Pathum Thani’s Sam Khok district.

He urged residents in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang and Lam Luk Ka districts, in northern Rangsit, Thammasat University Rangsit Campus, and residents in Bangkok’s Sai Mai district to evacuate to safe ground. The areas were expected to be hit by a metre of floodwater, Mr Plodprasop said.

“Rush to Don Mueang [airport] immediately. The government cannot tell how many hours are left,” Mr Plodprasop said.

BP: See New York Times for confirmation. It was not a “be prepared” warning although he also talked about this. Were there only hours left for the residents in the communities he told needed to evacuate? No. Was there a need for them to rush to Don Muang immediately? No. He issued the warning about water came through the sluice gate which was later fixed. How does retracting this constitute not telling the “truth that would hurt the government’s image”? Surely, if you are going to accuse the government of lying, you should make a better case than this. Contradictory and confusing information as well as a initial very poor communications policy is different from lying.

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