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Impact on Thailand
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Impact on Thailand

United Nations Thailand

The 26 December tsunami was the worst natural disaster to ever strike Thailand, causing loss of life as well as major damage to property, the environment and the economy. The severe impact on the natural environment in turn had serious consequences on the fishing and tourism industries and, therefore, thousands of families' livelihoods.

Sunday 26 December 2004

(timings given for Khao Lak, Baan Nam Khem village)

07.58 Earthquake off west coast of Sumatra measured over 9 on
the Richter Scale
09.35 Sea receded to 100 metres from the Andaman coast for
about 5 minutes
09.38 Large wave strikes, 2-3 metres high
09.43 First tsunami strikes - 6-7 metres high
10.03 Second tsunami strikes - 10 metres high
10.20 Third tsunami strikes, 5 metres high: causes hour
long inundation
12.00 Sea level returns to normal

Source: Department for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation,
Ministry of Interior, Thailand

Description Figure
No. people killed 5,395
No. people missing 2,817

1,972 Thai,
2,248 foreign nationals :
37 countries
Bodies still unidentified 1,650
No. of affected people 58,550
Children orphaned
(loss of one or both parents)
Lost livelihoods in fisheries 30,000
Fishing boats destroyed or damaged 7,500
Lost livelihoods in tourism 120,000+
Houses destroyed or badly damaged 4,806
Estimated value of damages
(not. inc. housing)
353.4 million USD
Thai Government assistance /compensation
(as of 01 September 2005)
1.06 billion USD
(inc. budget contributions, Prime Minister's Office, bank credit)
Relief Fund for Disaster Victims 31.75 million USD
UN emergency phase relief assistance 2.6 million USD
UN recovery programming
(till mid 2006)
38.3 million USD
( Figures as of 07 September 2005 )

Government led response
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. (See situation reports for updates on expenditure).

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.

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