Thailand: Floods and Social Media

Many parts of Thailand are still flooded as the country continues to face the worst flooding disaster in the past half century. The flood waters are higher in the provinces although Bangkok remains under threat especially its low-lying areas.

Blogger Bangkok Pundit warns residents living close to these low-lying areas and Chao Phraya River:

Although, a lot of money has been invested in drainage systems for Bangkok over the last 20-30 years so overflows are generally drained quickly, we still have a couple more days of high tides to go.

The two key factors that BP (Bangkok Pundit) has been able to determine on which areas will flood are whether they are low-lying areas or not and whether they are near the Chao Phraya River and other canals. It is not an exact science. Whether you live near or close to the river and canals is usually fairly obvious, but how do you know whether you live in a low-lying area.

Below is a map showing the land elevation in Bangkok which identifies the low-lying areas in the city:

But some bloggers believe the flooding disaster has been exaggerated. Tasty Thailand criticizes those who are spreading panic and wrong information:

You have to laugh when you read the Twitter posts from some westerners in Bangkok. They're tweeting and retweeting every rumour they hear about the latest floods in Bangkok (most of which are not true) and desperately trying to figure out if they should leave.

The reality is, most flooding in Bangkok is still around the same level as yesterday and most Bangkokians are getting on with their lives. Some areas close to the Chao Praya River have seen small amounts of ‘flooding’ this morning (around a foot or less), but that's because high tide came in at 9:09am. By now, most of it is already receding as the high tide lowers and the water gets sucked back out or dries off by itself. But, there are still those twats on Twitter trying to make more of it than it is

Photo from @RichardBarrow

Bangkok Bugle reacts when this picture was uploaded:


No doubt the audience seeing the subsequent report will only see the flooding in the background. In my opinion this reporter is breaking the most important rule in journalism – to report the truth. What viewers saw was not the entire picture. I'd love to know which television station this reporter works for, and indeed what the editor would say when presented with this image. No doubt the report was dramatic – floods lapping at the walls of one of Bangkok's tourist icons – but is that really what was happening at the time? It just goes to show you shouldn't believe everything you see – or read for that matter.

Greg to Differ thinks social media can also contribute to the confusion:

The flood crisis in Thailand is, as of right now (and probably for the next few weeks), still a big problem, but it’s a very strange big problem. If I wasn’t watching the news and monitoring the internet, I’d have no idea anything was amiss at all. Inner Bangkok remains dry, sunny, and business as usual (except now when I'm writing this, and it's raining). However, we are very, very lucky; many parts of Bangkok’s outer areas are disaster zones, with chest-deep water, abandoned homes, random electrocutions and hungry crocodiles swimming around.

One thing that’s both exacerbating and helping the situation is the ubiquity of social media. I’ll start by saying that the net positive effect far outweighs the negative effects, as vital information is able to flow freely and instantaneously to the community and the world, alerting people of dangers and creating wide and effective support networks.

But it can also have a negative effect. The beauty and curse of social media like Twitter or Facebook is that it's unfiltered and unverified. Rumors and misinformation can travel quickly and cause panic

Sakon Nakhon asks if the disaster is natural or man-made:

Word in the media is that all this flooding is not really a natural disaster, but the result of man made stupidity. Supposedly a decision was made to not release water from dams to insure sufficient water for farming. When the heavy rains did arrive, water from the dams had to be released in large volumes to avoid bursting of the dams.

This is really just speculation, but the decision definitely was at least a contributing factor.

The Cross-border Programme writes about the situation of migrants in flood-affected villages:

We travel across the university campus to a quiet corner, and come upon a large football stadium where some 200 migrant workers and their families are provided shelter separately from the Thai population. There are many Cambodians here, and we meet with friends from other NGOs who are also supporting migrants affected by the flood with access to services. The floods have served to further marginalize migrant workers.

Below is a video animation which provides helpful information about the floods:

Some netizens insist the flooding is not only limited to certain areas of Bangkok:

@wayne_hay: Many headlines saying things like “Bangkok escapes flooding” Please correct. Large parts of Bangkok ARE flooded, just not CBD

@thai101: Everyone thinks they're part of inner Bangkok until their house floods and people are still talking about how dry inner Bangkok is.

The government has published a special report informing residents how to cope with the floods. The Thai Red Cross Society continues to receive donations for flood victims.


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