United Nations Thailand


Although the tsunami disaster had a major impact on Thailand, requiring immediate and focused relief operations, the need to process and identify many bodies, and deal with a large number of foreign nationals, the Royal Thai Government is widely acknowledged to have led an effective response. This encompassed prompt provision of health services, major forensic body identification operation, compensation payment, construction of homes, and use of military assets to support the whole tsunami-affected region.

Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, ordered the establishment of the Southern Disaster Victim Relief Collaboration Centre in Phuket on 26 December, to act as the coordination centre for relief to all affected provinces. This was chaired by the Minister for the Interior Kongsak Wanthana, responsibility for certain provinces was assigned to four deputy prime ministers and ministers as well as for key relief activities including search and rescue, forensic autopsy and identification, tourist repatriation, infrastructure restoration, distribution of relief aid and others.

The emergency response was supported in Bangkok by a Relief Centre at the Department for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, which set up services such as a 24 hour call centre for relatives of victims to contact, and a donation centre for receipt and coordination of cash and essential supplies. Other Thai Government and NGOs also contributed significantly, especially the Armed Forces and the Thai Red Cross, supported by large numbers of national volunteers.

There was no appeal for international financial assistance: the Government had the capacity to mobilize the necessary resources to react swiftly. Unsurprisingly though, in view of the magnitude of the disaster, the Government welcomed external expertise and equipment to support their own efforts.

Apart from funds provided by the country's State budget, contributions were also made available from thirteen Government ministries and departments in relevant sectors, the Prime Minister's Office and bank credit. The equivalent of 30 million USD of private donations were received in Thailand, and were used to set up a Relief Fund for Disaster Victims administered by the Prime Minister's Office.

Many of the factors affecting relief and recovery efforts in other parts of the tsunami-affected region, like Indonesia, Maldives and Sri Lanka, have not played a significant role in Thailand e.g. no ongoing major civil/military conflict, there is relative political stability and a healthily developing economy. Beyond the immediate aftermath of the disaster there has been no need for large-scale food assistance, a relatively small proportion of the population has been displaced, and there have been only localized and quickly restored disruptions to water/sanitation, health services and education.

Therefore, in Thailand it has not been the UN's role to provide humanitarian relief to the entire affected population; its mission has instead focused on support to the Government-led response and assistance to specific vulnerable groups.