Tsunami Semi-annual Report 2004-2008 Thailand Appeal No. 28/2004

Situation Report
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This report covers the period of 1 May through 30 September 2008, but reports cumulative totals from December 2004 onwards.

In a world of global challenges, continued poverty, inequity, and increasing vulnerability to disasters and disease, the International Federation with its global network, works to accomplish its Global Agenda, partnering with local community and civil society to prevent and alleviate human suffering from disasters, diseases and public health emergencies.

In brief

Executive Summary: The Federation's tsunami recovery programme in Thailand has continued on track during this reporting period with most programme areas moving ahead as anticipated, although a number of planned activities have not been completed. The American Red Cross and Finnish Red Cross continue to work in the six tsunami-affected provinces.

Throughout the reporting period, the programme team continued to work closely with the Thai Red Cross to support ongoing activities. At the specific request of the Thai Red Cross, three key areas will be provided with multilateral support through the International Federation in 2008/09: organizational development, disaster management, and coordination. Such support will be based on issues identified or experiences gained during the tsunami recovery operation over the last three years and a half.

Operational Overview

Following the uncertainty of the early part of the year, the operating environment in Thailand during this period has been generally calm. Civil unrest has continued in three southern provinces: bomb attacks, shootings and arson attacks increasingly spilling over into neighbouring provinces and threatening to extend to Bangkok. The conflict has resulted in more than 2,700 deaths in the past decade, with over 90 per cent of these in the last four years, and the regular incidents have made the daily lives of the local population that much harder. The three provinces remain under emergency decree, and the skirmishes between the military and the militants continue.

Thailand's political troubles have taken a dramatic and unexpected turn in recent weeks and months, with Samak Sundaravej forced to resign as prime minister after having been found guilty of violating the constitution. However, the confrontation between the coalition government, led by the People Power Party (PPP) on one side and the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD, a coalition of civic groups, royalists and others opposed to the government) on the other, has persisted. By late September, PAD supporters, numbering in the low thousands, remained entrenched in and around the Government House complex (the location of the prime minister's offices) in the capital, Bangkok. The government has now abandoned the site, and in late September, Samak's successor, Somchai Wongsawat, was working from temporary offices in a terminal at the old Don Mueang airport.

The verdict raised the spirits of Samak's opponents, particularly the hardened leaders and supporters of the PAD. Since late August, the PAD has been occupying Government House in an effort to force Samak to resign. Although rejoicing in Samak's downfall at the hands of the judiciary, the group has refused to end its protests, as the PPP (which supports Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister who was ousted in the September 2006 coup) remains in government. The PAD's supporters have shown no sign of moving away from Government House, where they have erected semi-permanent shelters and have set up food and water supply chains.

The Thai baht remains under pressure owing to a combination of the strengthening US dollar, high inflation and a downturn in investor sentiment in the face of ongoing political and economic instability. Following the imposition of a state of emergency on 2 September the baht fell to a 12-month low against the US dollar.

The impressive growth rate in the first half of 2008 (at 5.7 per cent year on year) was driven primarily by strong exports of goods and services, mainly rice export. This trend will not persist. Worldwide demand for agricultural goods is reduced with the looming global financial crisis. In addition, countries like Viet Nam have increased their rice production over the last nine months.

The International Federation is working with the Thai Red Cross to support disaster management and organizational development activities. The Thai Red Cross has also explicitly requested the International Federation to play a role in coordinating the support offered to them by partner national societies.

The American Red Cross , in close collaboration with the International Federation and the Thai Red Cross Society began its tsunami recovery operations in Thailand in late 2005 focusing mainly on the following sectors:

- Health and care: First aid and youth development project, community-based health project, and water and sanitation and health promotion project

- Disaster management: Disaster preparedness project

The water and sanitation and health promotion project, the largest portfolio of Thailand tsunami recovery programme, is being implemented bilaterally by American Red Cross while the three other projects are being implemented by Thai Red Cross with the technical and financial support from American Red Cross.

Significant programmatic progress was made over the past six months. With positive relationships and support from Thai Red Cross at both headquarters and provincial chapter levels enhanced, the project activities are being scaled-up and progressively expanded into the target areas. As for the operational progress, the main achievements include the deployment of key administration and operations staff as well as the completion of the provincial office refurbishments.