Oct 28 2011

Thai floods: Some governments overreact?

Published by at 1:51 pm under Health & safety

There’s plenty of travel advice to Thailand floating around in light of the current flooding. Here we’re not going to offer any new tips, but rather attempt to put some of the existing information into perspective.

Such activities are now contrary to FCO and other govt's advice!?

Such activities here are now contrary to FCO and other governments' advice. This was Sukhothai, last week.

We’re somewhat put out, though hardly surprised, by some of the Western media’s rather sensational coverage and here’s an example by the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Calling Don Muang Bangkok’s second airport is, we guess technically true, but the report doesn’t mention it’s now used mainly for cargo, as well as by small low cost carriers Nok Air and Orient Thai. Nok have for now relocated to Suvarnabhumi but we’ve heard nothing of Orient Thai. The Thai Airways planes on a flooded runway in the article’s  dramatic photo are in fact cargo planes.

Sensational or exaggerated media reports can be ignored (assuming one realises they’re exaggerated), but advice issuing from governments can’t be so easily dismissed, unless you want to find your travel insurance invalidated. Note if your government warns against travel for a certain area then, generally speaking, insurance agents based in that country no longer consider your travel insurance valid if you ignore said government advice. Here is the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice for Thailand published October 26 and following is a list of the 27 provinces they have seen fit to advise against travelling in:

Bangkok; in the North, Sukhothai, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Sawan and Uthai Thani; in the Central region Chai Nat, Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Saraburi, Suphan Buri, Nakhon Pathom, Pathumthani, Nonthaburi, and Samut Sakhon; in the Northeast, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen, Srisaket, Roi-et, Surin, Mahasarakham and Kalasin; and in the East, Chacheongsao, Nakhon Nayok and Prachinburi.

Here are some links to some other government warnings as of October 27.

We’re not sure on what basis the FCO compiled their list and would love to know. While the lower central provinces and Bangkok suburbs may well be best avoided under current conditions, we’re at a loss to see the potential dangers of travelling in many of the other areas. In many of these districts floods have subsided (such as in the north), and in others we’ve not heard any reports of current extensive flooding either (the northeast, for instance in Surin). It appears to us to correspond, at least partially, to a list of provinces that have suffered flood damage in recent times regardless of whether they are still suffering or not.

Sukhothai for example was flooded some three weeks ago but on a visit last week we saw nothing other than minor flooding in very restricted areas. Certainly we couldn’t see any impediments or potential dangers involved with visiting the provincial capital or old city, which are the likely tourist destinations in that particular province. As we’ve already mentioned, declining to visit places in the aftermath of the disaster is effectively a second blow to recovering communities.

Even in northeastern provinces where some residual flooding remains, we can’t see any life threatening dangers and the worst case scenario would seem to involve getting one’s feet wet. We don’t mean to make light of the more than 300 deaths reported so far in the last month or so’s flooding — sadly many children or older people unable to swim, or in the former case playing in dangerous areas. But there’s a big difference between badly flooded regions with 1-2m of floodwaters and others containing residual puddles.

The distinctly dry looking Sukhothai old city on 16th October

The distinctly dry-looking Sukhothai old city on October 16.

Sukhothai could do with some tourist bucks to help recover from the damage caused by the earlier deluge. Please check up-to-date info carefully, and conditions can change rapidly, but in our opinion the inclusion of certain areas on the FCO list is unnecessary and misinformed. As the FCO points out, travel in those areas is up to the individual, but bear in mind if you crash your motorbike or break a leg insurance isn’t going to cover your costs.

PS For anyone who can read French we’ve just found these rather sensible and restrained warnings from the French embassy, which proves that not all Western governments favour knee-jerk overreactions! Vive la France!

PPS As of October 28 reliable reports have at a minimum, Phichit and Sukhothai as back to normal, and Nakhon Sawan and Phitsanulok as cleaning up post flood — in Ayutthaya the waters are only just starting to recede, so the latter definitely remains off-limits for visitors.

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One Response to “Thai floods: Some governments overreact?” ...

  1. Deeon 09 Nov 2011 at 9:10 pm

    “We’re not sure on what basis the FCO compiled their list and would love to know”
    Apparently based on some list of provinces that the Thai authorities have done in provinces affected by flooding.