Geopolitics

Deadly Floods In Thailand Test New Leader, Recall Past Invasions

High waters in the country’s central plains used to protect the Thai people from their attackers. But today, the natural ally has become a scourge, killing more than 330, though poor leadership from new Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra may also be to bl

More than 300 people have been killed by the floods since last July
More than 300 people have been killed by the floods since last July
Arnaud Dubus

BANGKOK - Any time the Burmese army tried to storm Ayutthaya, the historic capital of Siam, between the 15th and 18th centuries, they had to reckon with a terrible enemy: floods. On several occasions, the rising waters in the central plains, which followed the monsoon rains between May and October, saved the Thai people from their attackers. But today, what was once an ally has become a scourge.

This year, after exceptionally intense rainfall – a 25% increase in July and August compared with rainfall over the last 30 years - the tourist regions of northern and central Thailand have suffered from unusually high waters. The areas, where most of Thailand's rice is grown, are overwhelmed. In early October, the ancient Temple Chai Wathanaram, a Unesco World Heritage Site located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, came under eight feet of water within 10 minutes after a nearby dam ruptured.

In the surrounding countryside, hundreds of thousands of villagers have had to move to the second floor of their homes or evacuate. More than 300 people have been killed, washed away, or fallen victim to accidents resulting from the floods. The economic impact of this disaster is also significant: 13% of the area's rice crop has been destroyed, and five industrial zones have been completely shut down by the floods. In total, nearly 1,000 (mostly European, American, and Japanese-owned) factories have been forced to suspend their operations. Experts estimate that the disaster will cut Thailand's economic growth by 1.5%. It is the worst flood damage of the past 50 years.

The Thai government, formed in April and led by Yingluck Shinawatra, has struggled to meet the challenge. Ministers have given out conflicting information, provincial governors and regional authorities cannot agree on simple facts. Last week, a rumor led to the unnecessary evacuation of the northern districts of Bangkok. Yingluck has come off as out-of-touch and unable to manage communication within the government.

"If she had shown more leadership, the situation would not be so bad right now. She needs to improve her management skills," said political scientist Thawee Suraritikul. Since Sunday, the water level has been declining in the provinces of the central plain. Yingluck has said that Bangkok, which is protected by a network of roads acting as dikes, would not be affected.

A central question that still remains is why the authorities did not anticipate the intensity of rains and floods this year. Not everything, after all, can be blamed on the elements. "Our current situation is not the result of a natural disaster. Our problem is that we do not know how to manage water," insists Smith Dharmasaroja, director of the Foundation for Natural Disaster Alerting. "The government agencies responsible for irrigation and electricity were afraid of running out of water during the dry season, and they let the water accumulate in storage dams." Dharmasaroja says that the simultaneous "release" of this water from the dams was what ultimately caused the exceptional flooding.

Thais have also not been convinced of the need to protect Bangkok at all costs – "because it is the economic heart of the country," according to the head of the government – at the expense of the provinces, whose inhabitants have had their feet in water for over two months.

But now Bangkok is no longer protected from the surging waters of the north. The city of 9 million people has lost its natural defenses, due to the filling of most of the old canals and the almost total disappearance of underground water recovery areas. On Sunday night, officials from the Centre for Flood Emergencies asked people in flooded areas not to destroy the sandbag dams that have been placed around the industrial areas north of Bangkok.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Bcow

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

🇸🇩💥  IN OTHER NEWS

Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

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Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

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