Thailand has learned a lesson from the experience of the tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean with a great loss of life in 2004. Since then it has shifted to a “holistic disaster management approach.”
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said that, like other developing countries, Thailand is accustomed to employing the traditional approach to the management of disaster situations.
The statement was part of his opening address at the High-level Commemorative Meeting to Reflect on Key Results and Successes of the Past 25 Years for the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC). The meeting took place at the Plaza Athenee Hotel in Bangkok on March 23.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the traditional approach to disaster management had focused mainly on disaster response, provision of relief assistance, and recovery, with too little attention to preparedness, prevention, and community involvement. Most of the people who reside in the repeat disaster areas usually consider disaster situations as an acceptable risk that they cannot change or prevent.
Following the 2004 tsunami, he said, Thailand restructured related laws and regulations by enacting the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2007, which is more oriented to the harmonization and systematization of disaster management practices of all stakeholders. Based on this new structure, the National Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Plan 2010-2014 was formulated and approved by the Cabinet to provide a strategic framework of action for all stakeholders. Tsunami evacuation exercises and other disaster management exercises are also conducted every year. Moreover, to make sure that appropriate investment in disaster risk management is in place at the local level, both disaster prevention and mitigation action plans have been developed and enforced. At the international level, in view of its limitations, Thailand seeks technical cooperation with many foreign entities, including ADPC, for knowledge sharing and enhancement of disaster management capacity.
With ADPC’s support, various activities under the Thailand-ADPC cooperation framework have now become the building blocks for an ongoing development of disaster preparedness in Thailand. ADPC has also introduced the Community-Based Disaster Risk Management approach to train local people to ensure their preparedness and involvement in diverting or encountering disaster impacts. Currently, Thailand has implemented community-based disaster risk management training in more than 7,000 communities in risk-prone areas nationwide, and it will proceed with this effort until the training program covers 26,000 communities. In addition, ADPC has organized emergency response training courses for Thai officials that have become the guideline for the development of “One Tambon One Search and Rescue Team.” This team has played an important role in minimizing disaster impacts and filled the gaps of emergency medical services at the local level.
At this meeting, Prime Minister Abhisit also extended his condolences to the Government of Japan and Japanese people on the losses and hardships they are suffering as a result of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. Thailand has provided assistance in many forms and will continue to lend a helping hand to Japan in this time of need.