Yingluck, Abhisit discuss Bangkok risk

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday denied being under stress even as many upstream provinces remained submerged and run-off and dam releases were besieging Bangkok.

When asked if she was confident that authorities could cope with the approaching menace, all she could do was give a deep sigh. "We will do our best," she managed to say meekly.

Reporters noticed that Yingluck looked tense after being briefed about the latest developments, when the surge from Northern provinces broke through some floodgates in Pathum Thani, which is immediately upriver from the capital.

She was monitoring the unfolding situation at the government's Flood Relief Operation Command at Don Mueang Airport.

She welcomed Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, whom she had sent into the opposition, as he led a visit to the government centre with some Democrat politicians including Korn Chatikavanij, Alongkorn Ponlaboot and Deputy Bangkok Governor Pornthep Techapaiboon.

Yingluck told Abhisit that she appreciated advice from all parties and wanted the flood crisis to be treated as a national agenda item. Abhisit offered to help the government in every way he could.

The prime minister took the opposition leader and his entourage to a meeting room where they were updated by officials from various agencies.

Yingluck expressed concern over the speed and force of the deluge that had flooded many of Bangkok's neighbouring provinces and was now threatening to engulf the capital.

She said the priority now was to drain waters out of the affected areas.

Abhisit said later that he offered the government three suggestions - closely coordinate the work of its many flood centres to ensure unity, clearly designate areas of responsibility and quickly evacuate victims from heavily flooded areas, and issue an order to allow special powers for the government.

In the afternoon Yingluck rode a police helicopter for an aerial inspection of the flood situation in Pathum Thani and Ayutthaya.

She also gave out relief items to residents in areas inaccessible by road.

Wim Rungwattanajinda, spokesman for the flood-relief centre, said residents of the two areas complained that they had not received any assistance from authorities for three days.

Earlier in the day, Abhisit went to Thammasat University's Rangsit Campus in Pathum Thani, which has been turned into a shelter for Ayutthaya flood victims.

He consoled the evacuees, saying the centre had good management, although there were worries that new arrivals were going to overwhelm its capacity.

The government should find more large buildings for new refugees, he said, adding that those at Don Mueang Airport were also suitable.

Politicians from both the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties will have to work together and forget about their political affiliations, he said.

Although the Bangkok governor is from the Democrat Party, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is not the only agency taking care of the city, Abhisit said. The key is an efficient system to release excess water, he added.