Thailand

Disaster Management Reference Handbook - Thailand (January 2022)

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Thailand is exposed to flooding, landslides, drought, earthquakes, tsunamis, heat waves, forest fires, and epidemics. Thailand is also exposed to technological hazards such as chemical accidents. Flooding is the natural hazard with the most significant impact on human life, livelihoods, and the economy for the country. The occurrence of droughts has increased in recent years due to the effects of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which brings drier-than-average rainfall conditions. Drought has adversely impacted the country’s agriculture sector, which employs around one third of the country’s workforce.

Thailand’s disaster management system has been built over the past four decades, with the enactment in 1979 of the Civil Threat Prevention Act as the country’s first comprehensive disaster management law. In 2002, the Royal Thai Government (RTG) established the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) under the Ministry of Interior (MOI), as the lead agency for Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and disaster response. In 2004, the Indian Ocean Tsunami had a catastrophic impact on Thailand’s southern coastal communities. Following the disaster, the RTG further developed its disaster management system. In 2007, the RTG enacted the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act (DPM Act 2007) as the main statutory framework for DRM and disaster response.

Additional regulations and a periodically updated National DRM Plan, which provides a blueprint for the country’s DRM and response planning, support the legislation. In addition to the government-led system, a vast network of Non-Government Organizations (NGO), charities, academic institutions, business and private enterprises, and community and citizen-led networks support the country’s disaster management capabilities.
Climate change is intensifying the natural hazards that Thailand faces, such as severe storms, flooding, and drought. Thailand’s agricultural sector stands to be impacted the most by climate-related hazards arising from changes in carbon dioxide availability, precipitation, temperature, and water scarcity.

Experts estimate that loss of farmland value and output alone could exceed US$94 billion under a high-emissions scenario by 2050. Sea level rise is another significant climate change risk for the country. Rising sea levels are expected to worsen the impact of storms and flooding and lead to permanent inundation in some areas of the country. Bangkok City, which stands only 1.5 meters (m) (4.92 feet (ft.)) above sea level, is expected to become one of the world’s worst affected cities alongside Jakarta and Manila.

The RTG recognizes climate change is a major challenge for the country, affecting livelihoods, economic growth, and the achievement of sustainable development. Since 2007 the RTG has incorporated climate change into its national economic and social development plans. Climate change is addressed at the highest level under the country’s National Strategy 2018-2037, an overarching framework for sustainable development. The RTG has also developed the Climate Change Management Master Plan 2015-2050, which sets out mitigation, adaptation, and capacity building targets. Moreover, at the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) held in 2021, Thailand pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2030, or by 40% with further financial and technological assistance.

Looking forward, key areas of priority for Thailand’s DRM include water sustainability to meet current demands, addressing the high levels of poverty among vulnerable groups to strengthen resiliency, broadening the engagement of communities and schools in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and strengthening the role of local governments in connecting national development priorities to locally-led action and resilience building.