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Friday, January 14, 2005

Thai Gov.`has aid priorities wrong' : victims aren't getting what they need

Phuket _ The government has taken a top-down approach in its relief efforts for tsunami survivors and therefore failed to give affected people the help they really need, a seminar on the aftermath of the Dec 26 disaster was told yesterday.

``The government does not give the people what they want but give them what they don't want. Some help urgently needed came so late while some that could wait came first,'' said Amporn Kaewnoo, a Community Organisations Development Institute worker.

Speaking at the seminar on ``The Giant Waves: The Turning Point of the State and Society'' held in Phuket by the Bangkok Post and Post Todaynewspapers, Mr Amporn said the government should have asked first.


Permanent houses being built by the government could wait. It was more urgent to take homeless victims, particularly pregnant women, children and the elderly, out of small tents and put them in temporary shelters to make them more comfortable, Mr Amporn said.

Up to 150 villages were affected in the six southern provinces hit by the tidal waves _ Phuket, Phangnga, Krabi, Ranong, Trang and Satun, with Ban Nam Khem in Phangnga's Takua Pa district being the hardest-hit, he said.

His team was taking care of six to seven camps housing 3,400 survivors from 855 families, mostly from the Khao Lak beach area in Phangnga.

``There is no need for quick construction of permanent houses. The government should have consulted the people and communities first or chances are those houses may be deserted,'' he said.

Fishermen, for example, needed to have their houses close to the sea so they could take care of their boats, he said. ``Building houses deep inland is useless because fishermen are not going to stay there.''

Mr Amporn said what fishermen needed most from the government now were boats, engines, nets and other fishing tools so they could start making a living again.

Anchalee Wanit Theppabutr, chairwoman of the Phuket provincial administrative organisation, said many survivors called the permanent houses being built by the government at 100,000 baht a unit ``cartoon houses or dolls houses''.

She also said the government must not make all Phuket beaches ``look the same'' in its rehabilitation campaign because each beach was different.

``Don't do anything for the people without listening to them first,'' she said.

Mrs Anchalee said Phuket people in general welcomed the government's views and opinions about how the beaches should be rehabilitated.

Patong, Phuket's most popular beach, was regarded as the island province's ``reception room'' for an average of about 30,000 visitors daily, she said, while Kamala beach was more of a residential area. ``Let's think together what we should put into that `reception room' or what Kamala beach should be like.''

Mrs Anchalee said Phuket must leave its shocking experiences behind and move on, adding she expected things to return to normal by the end of next month.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, meanwhile, said in Bangkok that the government was helping tsunami survivors as fast as possible.

Responding to complaints that government assistance was not reaching most of the affected, he said thorough identity checks were necessary before cash aid or relief supplies could be handed out.

Mr Thaksin assured that the spending of a 90-million-baht fund by the PM's Office during the New Year period to help tsunami-affected people was ``transparent''. All the money went to help those in Phangnga's Takua Pa district, he said.

The setting up of a computer database to store information on the affected people would be completed this week, and after that the financial aid worth over 69 billion baht, approved by cabinet on Jan 11, could be distributed, he said.

``Money can be given out two weeks after the disaster. That is quick. In the Northeast, people had to wait for three or four months,'' he said.

The 150 permanent houses being built for survivors in Ranong would be completed in mid-February and another 500 in mid-March, Mr Thaksin said.

The government also had assistance measures and financial support for people made jobless by the tsunami, and affected businesses, both big and small, he said.


Source: Bangkok Post