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Mapping environmental conflicts and cooperation

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2011 Floods in Thailand

Type of conflict main
Intensity 4
Region
South Eastern Asia
Time 2011 ‐ 2011
Countries Thailand
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land
Conflict Summary Flooding which affected some two million people in Thailand in 2011, fueled civil resentment towards the newly elected government. The floods resulted from...
2011 Floods in Thailand
Flooding which affected some two million people in Thailand in 2011, fueled civil resentment towards the newly elected government. The floods resulted from unprecedented monsoon rains, which damaged dams in over-capacity, purposefully filled to mitigate the effect of a weak monsoon season in 2010.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Following an unexpected period of minimal rainfall in 2010, excessive rainfall in 2011 caused devastating floods affecting two million people in Thailand.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Poor emergency responses from officials led to the uneven distribution of water, electricity, shelter and food. This disaster mismanagement revealed the government's discriminatory practices and unpreparedness to deal with the adverse effects of climate change.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

The extreme weather event occurred at a time when Thailand's political landscape was already fragile. Recent elections brought a new government party to power, which had yet to prove its capacities in addressing class discrimination and deep-rooted citizen resentment. The floods and the government’s poor disaster management further contributed to destabilising the political situation in Thailand. Public unrest and discontent with the government remained present until a military coup in 2013.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversExtreme weather event is consistent with predictions regarding more frequent and/or intense extreme weather events.Extreme weather event destroys/threatens livelihoods.Extreme weather event reveals a lacking capacity of the state to manage crises and/or reduces state capacity.The perceived inadequacy of state capacity leads to growing discontent with the state.Reduced capacity and/or legitimacy of the state compounds fragility.Livelihood insecurity leads to growing discontent with the state.An increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsA specific extreme weather event such as a flood or a storm.Extreme Weather EventA threat or destruction of livelihoods dependent on the availability of environmental resources / goods.Livelihood InsecurityReduced capacity of the state to fulfil basic functions deemed necessary by the population and/or reduced public support for state authorities.Reduced State Capacity and/or LegitimacyChallenge to the state's legitimacy, ranging from peaceful protest to violent attempts at overthrowing the government.Anti-State GrievancesA reduced ability of the state to fulfil basic functions.Weakened State
Context Factors
  • Unresponsive Government
Conflict History

In 2011, two million people across twenty-six Thai provinces were affected by floods caused by excessive rainfall which surpassed average rainfall of the last 30 years (Femia & Werrell, 2011). During the crisis, hundreds of civilians took to the streets to protest against discrimination by the Flood Response Operation Centre and the unfair distribution of water, electricity supply, shelter and food. Although collateral damage resulted from protests, there were no casualties. Public unrest persisted until a military coup in 2014.

The unprecedented floods of 2011 followed an unexpected period of minimal rainfall in 2010. Authorities shored up water supplies in dams around Bangkok and were unprepared to manage the unexpected monsoon rains. The floods occurred at a time when Thailand's political landscape was already fragile, experiencing violent anti-government protests between 2008 and 2010 (Femia & Werrell, 2011). Elections in 2011 brought a new government party to power, which was yet to prove its capacities in addressing class discrimination and deep-rooted citizen resentment.

Following poor emergency response from officials, angry civilians broke a sandbag wall in the north of Bangkok, which protected an upper class district from water surges (Nindang & Allen, 2012). The breaking of the sandbag barrier was an expression of public frustration at the government for their discrimination and favouritism of the upper class. Although the government engaged in a three phase recovery program that included addressing infrastructure to prepare industries and towns for future floods, the system of compensation was not transparent. After it was revealed that compensation was unevenly distributed on an ad-hoc basis, protests occurred again with demands for fairer compensation. Strong criticism of the government circulated for its poor disaster management and its inability to address the grievances of rural flood victims in 2010 (Nindang & Allen, 2012).

Compensation demands from flood victims were met by the government in 2012. However, disaster mismanagement revealed the government's discriminatory practices and unpreparedness to deal with the adverse effects of climate change, thus contributing further to destabilising the political situation in Thailand. Public discontent and controversy about the flood management plans continued but came somewhat to a halt with the military coup in 2014. The military government scrapped the scheme and initiated a review process (Funatsu, 2015).

Resolution Efforts

The Flood Response Operation Center (FROC) was established in 2009 to deal with natural disasters (Poaponsakorn & Meethom, 2013). This was, however, ineffective in dealing with the 2011 floods and many civilians relied upon NGOs for relief. Flood victims were encouraged by the Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) to bring their compensation claims against the government to the central administrative court (Saengpassa, 2011). However, many claims have been rejected by the court because of the sudden and unprecedented nature of the disaster, which meant that the government could not be held accountable for damage.

Three months following the floods, the government restructured its disaster response policy. This included three phases, which addressed infrastructure weaknesses and the building of dykes to improve drainage. However, the plan does not address the increased likelihood of natural disasters caused by global warming, nor does it address the effect of flood waters on land affected by drought - an increasingly frequent phenomenon in Thailand (Poaponsakorn & Meethom, 2013).

Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
Intensities
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation National
Mass Displacement More than 100.000 or more than 10% of the country's population are displaced within the country.
Cross Border Mass Displacement No
Resources
Agricultural / Pastoral Land
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence Violence has ceded completely.
Resolve of displacement problems There is some success in accommodating the displaced.
Reduction in geographical scope The geographical scope of the conflict has decreased.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future The capacity to address grievances in the future has increased.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been mostly ignored.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity The decline in intensity can be explained purely by the decline of the environmental stressor.
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political


Actors
Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Thailand Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Thai protestors
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Flood Response Operation Center (FROC)
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA)
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
1 Mediation & arbitration Flood victims brought their compensation claims against the government to the central administrative court. However, the government was not held accountable.
2 Compensation Compensation demands from flood victims were met by the government in 2012.
1 Improving infrastructure & services In the aftermath of the flood, the government restructured its disaster response policy to address infrastructure weaknesses and the building of dykes to improve drainage. However, the plan does not address climate change consequences.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Common-pool resource: No one can be excluded from use but the good is depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Asymmetric: The power to affect the environmental resource is unequal.
Broad conflict characterization Resource capture is not present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
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