Thailand is often known as the heart of Southeast Asia, as it lies in the centre of the ASEAN Region, sharing borders with Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, and Myanmar. The nation is home to a variety of geographical features – including mountains, flatlands, coastal regions, rivers and wetlands – with its proximity to the equator ensuring a hot and steamy climate throughout most of the year, with a climate controlled by tropical monsoons.
While the risk of natural disaster in Thailand is generally lower than the rest of the ASEAN nations due to land masses in the east providing protection from typhoons, and the fact that the country does not lie on a tectonic plate boundary – the interaction between humans and the environment often sees Thailand experience high occurrence of disaster from natural hazards. Floods, drought and landslides disasters are often the result of this complex interaction between humans and their surrounds.
Without doubt, flood forms the greatest natural hazard to Thailand and its citizens, with all regions throughout the country prone to experiencing disaster events and damages due to flooding. There is flash-flooding in the river basins of the south and central deltas, monsoonal floods in Thailand’s coastal regions, and flooding in mountainous areas as the arid land struggles with absorbing the rain caused by unstable mountainous weather systems. High numbers of communities living along the nation’s rivers and coast often feel the full force of these yearly occurrences. Between 1987 to February 2018, Thailand experienced 77 flood events, impacted the nation’s population and economy.
Accelerated by the impact of a changing climate, drought events have become increasingly prevalent in Thailand, particularly in the nation’s central and eastern regions. The months between January and May often see drought conditions become increasingly severe, as communities await alleviation through the onset of the monsoon season. Drought in Thailand has a significant impact on the nation’s agricultural industry, and consequently can affect the country’s food supply and economy. Alongside this, weather anomalies have also resulted in severe drought emergencies. For example, El Niño in 2014 impacted over 20,000 villages in Thailand’s north, having a run-on effect to agricultural production, food supplies and the nation’s economy.
Landslides form a significant hazard for Thailand’s mountainous northern and eastern regions, as the struggle between arid lands due to the dry season and the onset of monsoonal rains plays out. This struggle often results in large and unexpected landslides, at times amplified by the existence of land degradation due to deforestation. With such events occurring in more remote, mountainous locations, vulnerable populations tend to be from rural commu-nities, and impacts are often further accentuated due to poor building practices within these remote villages. 2011 saw Thailand’s worst landslide event, with an entire village engulfed by mudflow, with 110 residents lost their lives due to the unexpected natural disaster.
Written by : William Shea
All information sourced from ‘Viet Nam Disaster Management Reference Handbook: 2015’, as developed by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM).