Hundreds of flood victims sue Thai premier, officials

For the first time in Thailand, hundreds of people have taken legal action against relevant authorities and officials, including the prime minister, over the flood crisis.

The Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) has represented them in bringing the case to the Central Administrative Court today.

"It's going to be a historic case," SGWA president Srisuwan Janya said.

He said 350 people were there in the first batch of flood victims who had authorised his association to represent them at the Central Administrative Court.

"There will be more batches," he added.

This year, severe flooding raged across many provinces in the country and turned millions of people into flood victims. Many of them have seen their houses under flood water for more than one month.

"We will file a complaint against 11 authorities and officials on grounds of negligence, delayed delivery of services and committing actions that cause damages," Srisuwan said.

He said the government had the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act in place but failed to enforce it for the flood-prevention and flood-relief operations. He said the government was also too slow in sending relief items to flood victims.

Srisuwan said the construction of big-bag floodwalls has also hurt many people who then have had to face prolonged flooding.

SGWT believed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the Flood Relief Operations Centre, Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut, Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit, the director-general of the Royal Irrigation Department, the director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, the director-general of the Water Resources Department, the director-general of the Pollution Control Department, the director of the National Disaster Warning Centre, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and the Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning) should be held responsible.

The SGWT has described the government's offer to pay Bt5,000 (S$200) compensation to each flood-hit household as a contemptuous sum.

"That amount of money is hardly enough to replace a door," Srisuwan said.

He said each of the 350 flood victims in the first batch wants the compensation amount to be no less than Bt100,000. Some even wanted a seven-digit compensation amount, he added.

"We have decided to sue the relevant authorities on behalf of the flood victims because it may be hard for people to fight the case against the government on their own," he said.

Srisuwan said SGWT had already prepared a team of legal experts for the case.

Among them were Warn Tiamjaras, a former senator, Kamon Srisawas, Padungsak Tienpairoj, Jakkrit Wilaisomsakul, Chaiwanrat Paisan, Thanawat Tasak, Anan Amornthammawut, Chokchai Saeng-aroon, Tewait Chotecharoenporn, Kris Thamkunakorn, and Sanit Noraheem.

So far, Srisuwan said SGWT would represent the flood victims in the Administrative Court only.

"After the Administrative Court issues a ruling, they may use it in the Criminal and Civil courts," he said.

Srisuwan has been conducting a campaign for flood victims to come forward and take action against relevant authorities and officials over what they see as the mismanagement.

SGWT held a seminar on "2011 Flood Crisis: Inevitable or a Result of Poor Management?" at the Imperial Queen's Park Hotel on December 15.

On its website, it also tells flood-hit people unhappy with the compensation amount from the government to exercise their right to sue.

Srisuwan said after SGWT had finished the paperwork for more victims, it would lodge more complaints on behalf of the flood victims with the Central Administrative Court.

"From next week onward, I will visit more flood-hit communities in Bangkok and its adjacent provinces to inform them of the process to sue relevant authorities if they want to," he said.