PM spokes defends ‘playing chef’ as death toll mounts in Thai northeast (Photos)

At left, monks and rescuers deliver food to flood victims. On the same day, at right, Prayuth stir-fries vegetables at a southern cooking school. Photos: Phannipamomay / Twitter, Wassana Nanuam / Facebook
At left, monks and rescuers deliver food to flood victims. On the same day, at right, Prayuth stir-fries vegetables at a southern cooking school. Photos: Phannipamomay / Twitter, Wassana Nanuam / Facebook

As the death toll rises in the storm-ravaged Northeast while the prime minister travels for light-hearted photo ops, a government spokeswoman assured the public he cares deeply about the humanitarian crisis in the face of blistering criticism.

Contrasting images of residents flooded for a second week and Prayuth Chan-o-cha palling around with his allies provoked a storm of complaints about his handling of the floods, leading government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat to say the former junta leader considers supporting flood victims his top priority. 

“We’d like victims of the flooding to be confident that the government will not, absolutely not abandon them,” she tweeted today, adding that rescuers are working to help residents evacuate, open rescue centers, tend to casualties and provide subsistence for those in need. 

Thirty-three people have been killed since two powerful storms hit the north and northeast late last month, flooding several provinces and leaving entire families stranded atop the roofs of their inundated homes.

Nearly 23,000 residents of Ubon Ratchathani, Yasothon, Roi Et and Sisaket provinces – where flooding persists –  have been evacuated. 

Narumon detailed other government response efforts she said are proof of its priorities, but that’s unlikely to blunt criticism that Prayuth was “playing chef” in southern Thailand with allies including Suthep Thaugsuban, the firebrand conservative who led the 2014 protests which cleared the way for Prayuth’s coup d’etat.

Today and over the weekend, hashtags #SaveUbon, #SaveUbon2019 and #WhereIsThePM have been trending on Twitter.

“Hey mister, Ubon Ratchathani is critically flooding. Just letting you know in case you didn’t get the memo sir,” Facebook user Rojarek Phalaburee recently commented on a political reporter’s batch of photos.

“So in conclusion, you’re a chef. You should give up being the prime minister, you asshole. You impede the parliament,” @Deadpool11ssd tweeted Saturday.

Narumon still did her best to break down the response, including financial support.

She said a variety of factors including people’s professions and sustained damage would be used to establish the amount. Families who lost someone to the flooding will get THB50,000 (US$1,600) while those who lost homes will receive THB200,000 (US$6,600), she said. 

Others would get THB15,000-70,000.

The top government disaster official told reporters today that 418,549 households have been affected and 33 killed. One of the casualties, Damgrongsak Jeadprakhone, was a volunteer rescuer in Buriram province who died from lung and bloodstream infections after delivering food and water to victims of the flood.

Prayuth has visited the affected region since the crisis began. This past weekend, he was visiting the Thai south and stopped at a cooking school.

He told military reporter Wassana Nanuam that the ingredients in his cooking were “nation, religion and the monarchy.”

The effort failed to impress some critics – especially for posing with his chef’s hat on backward.

“Why did no one tell him he wore his hat the wrong way around?” @MiNiKooNG tweeted on Saturday.

Those not distracted by the optics of Prayuth’s visit showed their support for the provinces still underwater.

Some before and after scenes from Ubon Ratchathani:

Related stories:

Thailand braces for 2nd tropical storm punch

Podul leaves at least 6 Thais dead in its wake (Photos)

‘Worst tropical storm in 40 years’ submerges Thai northeast (Photos)

Brace yourselves Thailand, tropical storm ‘Podul’ is coming and it’s gonna rain (Maps)

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