PM heads TV charity campaign
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PM heads TV charity campaign

Govt takes heavy flak over Isan flood response

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, centre, presides over a seminar on the implementation of national strategies in Nonthaburi province on Monday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, centre, presides over a seminar on the implementation of national strategies in Nonthaburi province on Monday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Stung by heavy criticism of its slow response to severe flooding in Ubon Ratchathani and other Northeast provinces, the government is stepping up efforts to help several thousand victims with a televised charity programme.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will on Tuesday night join the campaign by personally receiving donations during a TV programme broadcast on Mcot 30 (Channel 9), from 7.30pm to 10pm. The proceeds will go to the Prime Minister's Office relief fund, the focus of donations to help flood victims this year.

The government's urgent effort to raise funds came after celebrated actor and volunteer rescue worker Bin Bunluerit, 57, broadcast the plight of Ubon Ratchathani residents on Facebook at 3pm on Saturday along with his personal bank account number for people to make donations.

As of press time on Monday, donations to the account had reached 130 million baht. He himself said he chipped in 1 million baht to the cause.

"At first, we planned to give 1,000 baht to each affected household. But since the donations were higher than anticipated, we'll double the amount," he told a TV programme on Monday.

Bin said he planned to raise 12-13 million baht for the 12,500 Ubon Ratchathani households affected. "I thought it would be around 5-6 million but as donations have poured in, we will double that amount."

He pledged to send the money to the worst-hit areas for maximum impact.

"When I first arrived, I brought with me 200,000 baht, which I spent on daily necessities, fuel and pet food. I gave elderly people 1,000-2,000 baht each. They desperately need money to buy what they need, rather than dry food or other stuff."

Bin said that at first, he thought about flying back to Bangkok to withdraw his own money to give to victims.

"The first village I visited had 100-300 households and I thought I could use my own money to give them 1,000 baht each."

Gen Prayut on Monday defended the government's flood relief effort, denying it was too slow and brushing aside Bin's remarks along with a renewed "attack" by the opposition.

The state fundraising campaign comes as key political parties launched separate activities to help flood victims.

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit kicked off his online #SaveUbon campaign to help Ubon Ratchathani villagers while the Pheu Thai Party sent a relief caravan of vehicles.

Tewan Liptapallop, Prime Minister's Office minister, said: "We already have 790 million baht in the fund, which the donations will bolster."

Thirty-two people have died and up to 400,000 households inundated in flooding that has ravaged 32 provinces since late August, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

Ubon Ratchathani is worst-afflicted province due to the swollen Moon and Chi rivers which merge in its Warin Chamrap district.

Pheu Thai raised has criticised the government for being too slow with its flood warnings.

Gen Prayut was kept busy on Monday responding to the criticism at a seminar on national strategy and an award-giving ceremony. He urged critics to check what he and officials had done, pointing to government plans to compensate farmers for damaged crops and farmland.

"But we've been scolded about every issue," Gen Prayut said.

"Such criticism becomes newspaper headlines. I'm almost at my wits' end."

The prime minister also asked reporters not to merely focus on the suffering.

"Why don't they report more on how the government is taking care of the villagers?" he said.

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