The most topical issue of public interest, the most worrisome of the week and for many weeks to come, is the annual approach of the wet season flood surge from the North, with last year's catastrophe still fresh in people's minds.
More than 2,500 households in six communities in Sukhothai municipality were taken completely by surprise on Sunday when eroded flood barriers behind Wat Ratchatanee community were suddenly breached by the flood swollen Yom River. The river poured through the area, inundating the communities, some of which were 1.5 metres underwater, and the downtown commercial area.
Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi, who is in charge of overall flood prevention and management, explained that the flooding in Sukhothai was just an “accident”, not a consequence of inefficiency or negligence on the part of the officials.
Equipped with heavy machinery, troops from the 3rd Army Region were sent in to help fix the damaged embankments. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ordered Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk to visit flood-affected areas in Sukhothai and on Thursday the prime minister herself visited the province, where the floodwaters were steadily receding.
As the huge flow of water in the Yom River moved downstream, residents along the river in Phichit and Phitsanulok provinces were alerted to brace for possible flooding. About 25,000 rai of mostly farmland in Prom Piram and Muang districts of Phitsanulok have been flooded.
The Royal Irrigation Department issued a warning to residents living along the Chao Phraya River in Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani to brace for possible flooding and to move their valuables to higher ground. Low-lying areas in Som Kok district of Pathum Thani, which suffered under the flood for months last year, have already reported flooding with water 10-20 cm deep.
The Royal Irrigation Department warned that weather forecasters advised two storms were forming in the western Pacific and if they move into Vietnam or Thailand they would bring heavy rain and flash floods.
In Narathiwat province, in the far South, a group of 93 militants agreed to give up their armed struggle and were subsequently shown to the public in the company of Lt-Gen Udomchai Thammasarorach, commander of the 4th Army Rregion.
The mass defection was hailed by Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha as a major success in the government’s efforts to convince militants to turn over a new leaf.
Among the 93 defectors were a few leading militants, particularly Wae Ali Copter Vaji, or Jeh Ali, who had a one million baht bounty on his head. Jeh Ali was believed to be one of the masterminds of the daring raid on an army armoury in Cho Airong district of Narathiwat on Jan 4, 2004 in which four soldiers were killed and more than 400 weapons, mostly M16 assault rifles, were stolen. The attack signalled the start of the current insurgency.
The defectors made three demands, the most contentious being the revocation of warrants for their arrest issued by the authorities under the provisions of the emergency decree and the Criminal Procedures Code. There has been no official reply to their demands yet from the government or the army, but Lt-Gen Udomchai did say the arrest warrants issued under the emergency decree would be automatically dropped once the decree is lifted.
As for the warrants issued under the Criminal Procedures Code, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has voiced reservations, saying that the feelings of the families of those killed or maimed by the militants must be taken into consideration if such demand is to be granted to the defectors.
The opposition Democrats finally agreed to take part in a forum organised by the government to discuss the southern problem at Government House next Tuesday once they learned that the prime minister herself will chair the meeting. They rejected an earlier invitation from Mr Chalerm, saying that only the prime minister has "decision making authority".
A former movie star known as “the Pearl of Asia”, Pawana Chanachit, was found dead in a pool at her home in Nakhon Chaisri district of Nakhon Pathom on Monday, sparking speculation of foul play and family feuding.
A fost mortem examination found water in her lungs, which suggested that she drowned, but police were still investigating the possibility of murder. .
Pawana, whose really name was Aranyaporn Laosaengthong, left behind a huge inheritance said to worth several hundred million baht which has become the subject of fierce squabbling and, perhaps, a lengthy court battle between the ex-actress’s husband, Natthapong Luangsirikul, and her 21-year old adopted son, Apicha Laosaengthong.
On Thursday, Mr Apicha, accompanied by his real mother and father, Hatthaya and Panyos Ratchadapornvanich, went to the former actress’s house and asked to check her assets and official documents, including a will.
The group got into a heated quarrel with Mr Natthapong, who denied the existence of a will. He said he would allow them to do their checks after the funeral was over.
The controversial transfer of defence permanent secretary Sathian Phoemthongin and his deputy, Gen Chatree Thatti, by Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwannatat, was back in the news. The Central Administrative Court on Wednesday dismissed Gen Sathian’s petition against his transfer to an inactive post on the grounds that the documents presented by Gen Sathian to back his plea were falsified.
However, the court issued an injuction suspending the defence minister’s transfer of General Chatree Thatti on the grounds the deputy permanent secretary was not a direct subordinate of the defence minister, and that the charge of a disciplinary violation against Gen Chatree was unclear.