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

No. people killed 5,395
Bodies still unidentified 1,650
Children orphaned
(loss of one or both parents)
Fishing boats destroyed or damaged 7,500
Houses destroyed or badly damaged 4,806
Thai Government assistance /compensation
(as of 01 September 2005)
1.06 billion USD
(inc. budget contributions, Prime Minister's Office, bank credit)
UN emergency phase relief assistance 2.6 million USD

(Figures as of 07 September 2005)

Recovery Issues

Once the emergency response phase was felt to be largely over, and the transition to longer term rehabilitation began, in April 2005 the Royal Thai Government reassigned responsibility for recovery coordination to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency (TICA).

At a TICA workshop on technical coordination on May 4, participants agreed that Government-led coordination of post-tsunami efforts in all sectors would lead to the most sustainable and successful recovery in Thailand. With the Government now working on longer term rehabilitation and recovery in four key areas, the United Nations Country Team is implementing programmes supporting: social protection, livelihood recovery, environmental rehabilitation and disaster preparedness.

Over 38 million USD of technical assistance has been committed to projects with a mid- to long-term perspective, to be implemented and completed in 2006

Close collaboration with Thai Government and other organizations through partnership, also on lessons learned workshops and donor coordination, for example

Key areas

Social Protection

The tsunami caused significant psychological trauma for children and adults, and increased the vulnerability of many children. Successful recovery in the affected provinces will require the participation of all people and communities.

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Livelihood Recovery

This is a major factor affecting recovery in all sectors, not least the wellbeing of families. Workers need new skills, communities need diversification of livelihoods. Sustainable livelihood recovery is a long term challenge, not a quick fix.

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Environmental Rehabilitation

The damage sustained to the environment is also impacting on people's livelihoods, especially in the tourism and fishing sectors. The tsunami has brought an opportunity to re-evaluate coastal management and tourism planning.

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Disaster Preparedness

The unprecedented loss of life in the tsunami was attributed to the lack of warning and public awareness on the nature of and response to the hazard. Establishing regional and national early warning systems is a national priority.

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Challenges and concerns

Vulnerable groups : ensuring that assistance to communities like Muslims, Sea Gypsies, and migrant workers is sensitive to local needs and cultural diversity;

Child protection : need to strengthen capacity for care of children especially in shelter camps; and provide more trauma counselling. Children becoming more vulnerable now, in families with little or no income. Local communities and authorities need more help to build capacity to take care of children;

Livelihood restoration : this is a major factor affecting recovery in all sectors. Diversification of livelihoods is needed in areas dependent on one form of income generation (especially in tourism and fisheries);

Tourism : the fact that this sector is not rebounding as quickly as hoped compounds the above; confidence measures and stronger marketing are needed.

Land issues : people being unable to rebuild their lives where they used to live is hindering recovery;

Trauma : is impacting on people's recovery, not helped by loss of livelihoods: counselling and income generation/skills development are essential mechanisms for Thailand 's recovery;

Coordination : remains a concern for Government and other partners in the recovery effort. Recent developments have included the installation of the Donor Assistance Database (DAD) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to aid tracking of tsunami assistance to Thailand.


Lessons Learned                                                                                          

Several months after the tsunami disaster, and with Thailand well on the path to recovery, national lessons learned and best practices workshops were organized by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) during May and June in Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand with the participation of key actors involved in the tsunami-related relief effort.

The overall purpose of the exercise was to bring together key actors to benefit collectively from ongoing reflection on disaster response preparedness and management systems in the tsunami-affected countries. It also capitalized on the momentum and insights gained from recent experience; and took advantage of current interest in and commitment to strengthening preparedness systems and procedures.

At the Thailand event in Bangkok, the UN Resident Coordinator, Joana Merlin-Scholtes, addressed the participants, including senior Government officials and representatives of the Armed Forces and NGOs, and said that it was time to take stock of lessons learned with regard to disaster preparedness as well as of collective reaction and response to the disaster. She pointed out that 'while a tsunami on such a scale is a relatively rare event, Indian Ocean countries and their neighbours in the region are nevertheless prone to a wide range of natural and other hazards that have significant adverse potential'.

Key outcomes                                                                                              

General Strengths
Thai legal and institutional framework

No ad hoc structures created

Robust involvement of line ministries and armed forces

Best Practices
Effective provision of emergency health care

Swift environmental response

Early recovery efforts

Effective engagement of civil society and the private sector

Action on lessons learned

Areas for Improvement
Need for national preparedness plan

Improved utilization of resources in emergencies

Managing contributions

Protection of vulnerable groups

Involvement of affected communities

Coordination of staff deployments

Coordination among international actors

Needs assessments

Need to strengthen response capacity

Public awareness


Regional Lessons

The final workshop in the regional tsunami lessons learned and best practices exercise was held in Medan on 13-14 June 2005. It brought together Government, UN and NGO participants from Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, in addition to a number of representatives of neighbouring countries and regional organizations, to share experiences, the outcomes of the national workshops, and identify recommendations that would help improve natural disaster preparedness and response capacity in the region.

Agreed recommendations from Medan include specific actions in the following general areas:

(a) strengthening institutional and legal frameworks;

(b) updating national disaster management plans;

(c) enhancing coordination and information sharing;

(d) cooperating regionally on establishing multi-hazard early warning systems;

(e) promoting risk awareness and emergency preparedness; and

(f) cooperating at the regional level, including on improving stand-by arrangements and capacity for rapid delivery of assistance.

Another significant benefit of this exercise was the advance in consensus building on the urgency of reducing disaster risk, particularly through improved disaster preparedness.

Related info

Earthquake/Tsunami Victims Relief Efforts. Department of Disaster Prevention and           Mitigation, Ministry of Interior, Thailand (221Kb)