PM wants clear evidence of drought

PM wants clear evidence of drought

The Krathong irrigation canal in Wat Sing district is almost empty on Friday as dry conditions take their toll in Chai Nat province. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
The Krathong irrigation canal in Wat Sing district is almost empty on Friday as dry conditions take their toll in Chai Nat province. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

Provinces declared disaster zones due to drought will be very closely scrutinised, with possible intervention by the junta to ensure that government aid is not wasted, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday.

While the water shortage is starting to take its toll in some areas of the country, Gen Prayut said he was unconvinced by claims that an entire province can be a disaster area.

"I am very concerned about provinces declaring themselves drought-hit zones. How can the whole province have no water?" he asked rhetorically on his weekly Bringing Happiness to All Thais broadcast.

The prime minister urged local authorities to monitor local conditions, saying they should be more specific about the problems in their localities so that the rikght kind of government aid will get to the areas the need it the most.

"Some areas need drinking water while some areas need water for produce. Some areas need water to feed cattle. You need to designate these areas according to their needs because they will never have the same need," he said.

The prime minister said he would consider giving the task of verifying drought assistance requests to the National Council for Peace and Order. "The NCPO will check all areas if necessary," he said.

As of Friday, 71 districts in 14 provinces, most of them in the northern and northeastern regions, had been declared drought disaster zones by the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department. No province-wide water shortages have been reported in any province. Drought has hit 18% of the whole country, according to the department.

Any province declared a disaster area is eligible for quick financial aid from the Finance Ministry.

Gen Prayut visited Chai Nat and Nakhon Sawan on Friday to assess conditions and seek measures to help farmers. The two provinces are not on the disaster list of the department.

Below-average rainfall last year and the impact of the El Nino phenonenon have led to the current dry conditions, which are expected to persist for several months.

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