December 22, 2011 / 10:14 AM / 7 years ago

Thai govt faces lawsuit over flood crisis handling

BANGKOK, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Thai flood victims have filed a lawsuit with a top court accusing the prime minister, Bangkok’s governor and five state agencies of mishandling the country’s worst flood crisis in five decades.

The complaint was presented to Thailand’s Central Administrative Court by a group representing 352 Thais, which blamed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra, three ministers and heads of five government agencies for causing major damage to health and property in their attempts to protect the capital.

The flooding came in late July and lasted until late November, killing more than 600 people and affecting about 2.4 million more in a third of the country’s provinces.

The industrialised provinces of Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi and Ayutthaya on the northern fringes of Bangkok were the worst affected, with farmland, homes and industrial estates deluged, causing huge damage to homes, businesses and factories and disruptions in global supply chains.

The suit was filed on Wednesday by Srisuwan Janya, a legal activist and head of the Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA).

In 2009, the group successfully petitioned the same court to suspend dozens of projects at the Map Ta Phut industrial estate, the world’s eighth-largest petrochemicals hub, over environmental law breaches.

Srisuwan told Reuters the SGWA’s petition demanded compensation for victims for damage to property, comprehensive measures to prevent a repeat of the crisis and an annual fund of 2 billion baht ($64 million) to help victims.

A court official said the court would consider the case but gave no timeframe for when it would make a decision on whether to pursue it.

Yingluck and Sukhumbhand came under heavy criticism for sending mixed messages to the public, closing sluice gates and building a network of flood walls to protect inner Bangkok, which meant water levels stayed higher than two metres for several months in surrounding provinces.

Yingluck said on Dec. 8 that flood-related damages had been put at 1.3 trillion baht ($42.2 billion) and would rise substantially over the longer term with the rebuilding and improvement of flood defences.

The cabinet approved 20.1 billion baht in emergency spending for post-flood rebuilding on Dec. 12, part of a previously pledged 130 billion baht for the recovery effort. ($1 = 31.2250 baht) (Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Natnicha Chuwiruch; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Paul Tait)

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