Thursday, November 24, 2011

Flood-weary residents vent fury Road blockade group clashes with motorists

Hundreds of flood-devastated residents in Pathum Thani yesterday clashed with motorists during the Din Daeng-Don Muang tollway blockade to pressure the government to accelerate assistance and the drainage of deep floodwater.
Residents of swamped communities in Pathum Thani clash with motorists during the blockade of the Din Daeng-Don Muang tollway in front of Zeer Rangsit department store yesterday. The flood victims set up a roadblock to demand the government speed up flood relief operations after being hard hit by deep floodwaters for about a month. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD
The residents from several flooded communities in Rangsit and Lam Luk Ka areas, led by former election candidate Kiattisak Songsaeng, set up a blockade on the entrance of the inbound tollway in front of Zeer Rangsit department store at about noon.
The residents demanded the government's Flood Relief Operations Command (Froc) accelerate drainage of floodwaters which had affected their livelihoods for a month.
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The road closure caused heavy congestion, prompting motorists to negotiate with the protesters. However, the talks failed and both sides clashed at about 2pm before police from Vibhavadi station and Pathum Thani intervened.
Almost simultaneously, nearly a thousand residents in Bangkok's Sai Mai and Don Muang areas yesterday dismantled a massive sandbag dyke at Don Muang's Directorate of Air Operations Control intersection on Phahon Yothin Road.
An angry motorist confronts protesters after her car was badly damaged during clashes near the Din Daeng-Don Muang tollway yesterday. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD
The villagers, equipped with knives and sharp objects, waited for Froc representatives to negotiate. They had been asking the Froc to widen a drainage gap. However, they decided to remove the barrier after talks with Pol Maj Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapat, commander of Metropolitan Police Division 2, failed.
After the flood barrier was removed, large amounts of water rushed towards Saphan Mai area.
Deputy city clerk Chumphol Sampaopol yesterday said the removal of the floodwall on Phahon Yothin Road would slow down the drainage resulting in prolonged hardship.
He said some areas could be affected as the water in Khlong Mon 40 could rise by 1cm to 2cm after the barrier was dismantled.
"Even though the city's drainage system is working efficiently, the removal of the floodwall could slow down the drainage," he said.
"Some areas such as Lat Phrao, Kasetsart intersection may take another four to five days to dry out." He said that the city has asked the Royal Irrigation Department to install more water pumps south of Khlong Rangsit to accelerate drainage of water in the Don Muang area.
More protests are imminent as Arthit Ourairat, rector of Rangsit University and a former House speaker, is urging residents in Pathum Thani to step up pressure on the Froc. Rangsit University is situated in the heavily flooded Muang Ake housing estate, which lies north of Don Muang.
On his Facebook wall, Dr Arthit suggested blocking Vibhavadi Road and Don Muang tollway.
"If the authorities do not take action I suggest that we take a step. That is to close down in-bound and out-bound Vibhavadi road and Don Muang tollway," Dr Arthit said.
"And I'm asking Don Muang people to join us. We are in the same boat."
He said the floodwater may recede, but the level is still high in many areas.
However, he was opposed to a proposal that the floodwater be drained via the western side, saying it would affect Khlong Prapa, which is a resource for tap water production.
Dr Arthit yesterday sent a letter to Froc director Pracha Promnok and Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra, asking them to accelerate drainage of the floodwaters.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday pleaded with Bangkok residents to let some floodwaters flow into the area to ease the hardship of others.
"The flood barriers could just slow down the run-off into the city. The areas which have dried out should open the way for the water to drain into the sea," she said.
She said she had asked the Froc and City Hall to work together to drain the water and jointly negotiate with the people in the process.
"If we look at the big picture and try to understand the nature of water, that is the best solution," she said.
"Holding off water is never a solution. Some areas have to let water flow past," Ms Yingluck added.
Anond Snidvongs, the Froc's water management adviser, said a meeting among Bangkok and six neighbouring provinces' governors, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit, will be held today to find solutions to halt the spreading conflicts.