The short answer to this question is an emphatic ‘I don’t know’.
How could I? I have never been in a situation like this before. Like many over the past week or so, I have been squirreling away gallons of filtered water, camping gas, food, batteries and various other items. Like my neighbours I have also grabbed sheets of polycarbonate, silicone and miles of duct tape to seal the ground floor of our house. Unlike most of my neighbours I have not however been able to find sandbags but reckon should things go pear shape my plans to seal the house will work.
Thankfully so far we have been lucky, and in fact I think we will continue to be, which is a lot more than I can say of the thousands of people who live to the North of our location, and to those who live in areas where the water has been diverted to save Bangkok.
I’m not sure how I feel about waters being diverted to save Bangkok. My wife and I were discussing it and both of us agreed that we feel uncomfortable about other people’s houses and businesses being flooded to protect ours. In fact from a personal perspective we wouldn’t mind sharing in the pain if it helped alleviate the suffering of others, but what would be the economic damage to the country if the capital was submerged? (If the water is allowed to spread over a wider area wouldn’t the average depth be shallower?)
There are going to be many questions raised after this flood has retreated amongst which will be: what was the flood management plan, really? Who was supposed to be in charge? What was the flood prevention system? Was it adequate? Did the authorities have the equipment they needed ? ( eg obsolete weather radars , missing or inadequate flood levies,) Why didn’t the industrial estates in Ayutthaya have adequate prior notice of the flood? What can be done to improve on all those points and avert future disasters?
So far over 900 factories have been closed and as someone who works in the industrial real estate business it is to these manufacturers, the employers of many of these flood victims, that I find my train of thought drifting towards. Many of these factories are the production bases of major multinational companies, whose tolerances for risk and uncertainty in any form is very low.
These firms are rational, and despite what many may think of big business, they are also compassionate, not only providing employment (at levels higher than minimum wage) but also support through their generous Corporate Social Responsibility programs which sponsors local schools, clinics and other worthy projects.
However, these firms need a stable environment to do business, they need to know that their strategic investments are safe (for that is what a factory is to these firms), and for that they need to have confidence in their choice of location. Not only in the logistical concerns of the geographical location, but also in the political context.
Flood water, snakes, crocodiles and precision electronic components do not mix very well, and so to get these factories up and running again is going to require another round of investment, and that’s going to mean that these firms will undertake new round of due diligence and risk assessments, where the answers to the questions I’ve raised above (as well as new questions addressing reduced corporate income tax, and proposed increase in minimum wages) will be weighed against all the other points which initially enabled them to make to first take the decision to place the investment in this country.
The question that their employees, many of whom are currently living in shelters having lost their homes, will be, after that review will these firms maintain/renew their investment in Thailand? It already seems that many are already looking abroad, my question is what will the government do to give these firms the confidence they need to stay. (Hint: in my opinion it requires massive investment in flood prevention measures and reformation of their disaster management systems).
As for me, what do I plan to do? Well professionally my team at Knight Frank Thailand are helping firms find dry temporary accommodation to keep them in business and to keep supply chains running, but our next steps, will be, like last year, to contact Habitat for Humanity Thailand to see how we can work with them again to help rebuild and repair homes once the waters subside.
If you want to donate money to them you can do so here offline (and get souvenirs) or online here however they also need YOU, your time, effort and sweat so go ahead and volunteer here and to find out what’s required of you see a short summary here (you dont need any experience).
Also if you prefer the various Chamber of Commerces suggest a donation to either of the below organizations:
* Thai Red Cross Flood Appeal. Funds can be transferred to the bank account below:
Bank name: Siam Commercial Bank, Sapakachat Thai Branch The Thai Red Cross Current Account Number: 045-3-04190-6 Account name: Thai Red Cross helps flood victims in Thailand
For issuing the receipt of the donation, please fax transfer slip together with name and address of the donor at fax 0 2256 4069. For further information, please contact Tel. 0 2251 7853-6. You can view more ways to help on the Thai Red Cross website at: http://www.redcross.or.th/home/ Available in Thai language only.
* Board of Trade/Thai Chamber of Commerce Heart to Heart Project is focused on helping flood victims by collecting funds to procure life’s urgent necessities. You may download a form from the link below and fax it to 0-2622-1991, along with proof of payment. Bank details are included in the form for people wishing to donate via cheque or money transfer. https://www.amchamthailand.com/asp/view_doc.asp?DocCID=3162