Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Thai PM warns businesses on raising prices as flood worries grip Bangkok

UNDER WATER:Although 26 of 77 provinces have been inundated, the government said it would not declare a state of emergency, as it might scare away investors

Reuters, BANGKOK

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday warned businesses against taking advantage of flooding around the country to push up prices as residents of Bangkok cleared supermarket shelves, worried that the capital could be swamped in coming days.

Shinawatra, a political novice who became prime minister in August, said she had asked the Ministry of Commerce to keep a close watch on retail prices.

“I’d like to beg business operators: As people are suffering, I ask businesses to sell at cost price. Raising prices will lead to hoarding, which will not help solve the problems,” she told reporters at a flood crisis center set up in Bangkok’s old Don Muang airport.

At least 281 people have been killed by heavy monsoon rain, floods and mudslides since late July, and 26 of Thailand’s 77 provinces are inundated, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

The north, northeast and central plains have been badly affected and Bangkok — which is only 2m above sea level — is in danger as water overflows from reservoirs in the north, swelling the Chao Phraya river.

High estuary tides are due from today, which could push up the river level, especially if heavy rain continues.

Yingluck said the construction of flood barriers in three outer areas of Bangkok was on track to be completed yesterday.

Bangkok city officials say embankments and the use of canals to channel water away should prevent serious flooding, but Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra has ordered all 50 districts to prepare evacuation plans, just in case.

“We’re working to protect water flow from Pathum Thani, but we’re not sure about the rain storm coming on Oct. 16 to 18,” he said.

The province of Pathum Thani touching the outskirts of Bangkok has seen severe flooding this week and rescue workers were rebuilding a flood wall after strong currents burst a river bank on Tuesday, flooding homes in water 2m deep.

Pathum Thani Governor Pirasak Hinmuangkaow said the army had been asked to help.

“The province has now given full authority to the army to help control the flooding,” he said, as workers moved to shore up defenses at the Navanakorn industrial zone.

Yingluck said the government was not declaring a state of emergency at this point.

“There’s no need to invoke the Emergency Act because everybody is now helping. Soldiers are in the field. If we enforced the Emergency Act, it might scare away investors and tourists,” she said.

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