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JP Newsletter 2004 Issue 2 Lessons from Tsunami and the Forgotten live Print

Lessons from Tsunami .... And the Forgotten Live

By Worapot Singha

Tsunami tidal waves attacking 6 Southern provinces on December 26, 2004 have causes serious damages on Thai coastal Andaman and inestimable loss of lives and properties.

The government and mass media only presented impacts on tourism in the 6 Southern provinces, and gave priority to rebuilding of the area. However, the government grabs this opportunity for its purpose.


February 6, 2005 was scheduled for general election. This even made priority on building image of the country for tourism. This natural disaster was used for political purpose. The government used tears and death of people as instrument for its election campaign.

The plan on rebuilding Andaman after Tsunami tends to turn back to the traditional concept of giving priority to tourism with clear interest on tourism industry. Until now, we can clearly see that business sector is urging public sector to allocate huge amount of budget to rebuild Andaman coastal area as soon as possible, especially tourist areas without being concerned on traditional way of life of villagers who are the original owners of the areas for generations.

The lesson of loss and destruction of life in this disaster helps us to see the lack of balance between community life and selfishness of tourism sector, money-based development and interest of public sector against simplicity of villagers, greed of -business-politicians worsens this tragedy and the victims further.

When disaster and loss occurred unexpectedly, all were shocked under the same fate, both the rich and the poor. This situation helps us to clearly see earlier conditions of national development when there was individualism, competition for interest and exploitation of the nature without being concerned on a regulation of mutual and peaceful living between human being and the nature.

One interesting thing in this Tsunami disaster is Burmese workers who have not got proper assistance from the government. At the moment, one province affected by Tsunami has found thousands of dead Burmese workers while several thousands were missing. The surviving Burmese workers have not got any donation of food, clothes and housing. It is even worse that they are neglected and discriminated against. They were accused of theft and did not get any protection at all.

Looking at the life of Burmese workers in Thailand, basic rights, such as medical service or ongoing care, should be considered because most of these foreign workers have limitation of language and communication. Thai people would get a better reception at hospitals. However, even if they are Thai, but poor, they are also discriminated against like the Burmese workers. Yet, foreign workers suffer more than the poor Thai.

In addition, Burmese workers working on fishing boats also have a risk of being physically abused by boat navigators. Some Burmese said that now they were afraid of Thai people and Thailand because they were injured, beaten, forced or threatened by with by boat leader. When they were working, they were threatened. If they could not work as told, some were violently beaten with shovel.

For Thailand, Burmese workers are strangers in their own country. They were rejected by Thai society. A closer co-operation between the military junta of Burma and Thai government, the situation of foreign workers from Burma becomes more violent.

Mass media in Thailand presented news on arrest and imprisonment and projected image that Burmese were convicts in Thai society, were criminals and ones who create confusion in our society. Most importantly, it is people in our own land who really create endless confusion and chaos much more than Burmese workers.

If the poor in Thailand are the second class population of the country, then, foreign workers from Burma, who are our neighbours, are merely materials of no value in the eyes of Thai society.

Time and again, public sector and Thai society do not look at foreign workers as human beings and have the same life as us, although they have their thinking, aspiration and dream for better future for their own life and country that are not different from all Thai people.

The recent natural disaster clearly indicates that foreign workers from Burma in Thailand, although having a lively breath, but are forgotten and no one cared about them.

In the incident of Tsunami, these Burmese workers were similarly affected like western tourists and Thai people. Thai workers got a little care, but we scarcely heard any thing about foreign workers in our country. What we often heard is news about impacts on tourism, business, stimulation of investment, as well as plan to rebuild tourist attractions as soon as possible.

From the date Tsunami hit the coast until now, we have seen conflict of interest between value of people's life and income generation from tourism, which is co-operation between the government, business people and local and national influential people.

People in tourism industry and local and national politicians promote tourism industry along Andaman coast to generate income for their own pockets without considering its adverse impacts.

Allocation of interest from manipulation of resources is crucial, especially among local people. Participation of people significantly contributes to sustainable development. If it is possible, lessons from Tsunami disaster should help us to review state policies. The government has stimulated greed and selfishness in human life rather than happiness in people's daily life. Yet, this is the most difficult thing to do.

The government could spend time to rebuild the environment for tourism and it would take time to stimulate tourism to earn foreign currencies. However, the more the government focuses and implements policies along this line, the more serious and faster damage and crisis will be in the future.

Until now, news on Tsunami disaster hitting the 6 Southern provinces would fade away from headlines as time goes by, in the impacted areas there are still many problems that need to be addressed and disseminated to all Thai people.

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