Today is August 12th and in Thailand that means the birthday of Her Majesty the Queen. The day also serves as Mother’s Day and it is a Public Holiday. Throughout the Kingdom, areas have been set aside for portraits to be put up and visitors’ books placed for people to record their good wishes to HM on her 76th birthday.
In a speech last night, HM spoke about environmental problems in Thailand in particular, focusing on the lack of water resources, fewer fish in the river and the need to preserve the remaining forests. The damage has been done to the environment of a period of decades – since economic modernization began in the 1950s really when improved technology enabled people to harvest the trees at a much higher rate. So much of the forestland has gone now that there is a greatly reduced ability for the land to retain water when it passes through – the result has been increased flooding.
It seems that every year, when the floods come, there are farmers who have lost everything and then feel themselves forced to resort to suicide – and not just that but they will kill their wives and children first. It is a very terrible phenomenon and a reminder of how narrow the margin is between survival and misery for the many subsistence farmers that populate the country.
Thailand, in common with all the countries of mainland Southeast Asia, is watered by a series of north-south flowing rivers with their origins in the Himalayas. They include the Mekong, Chao Phraya, Irrawaddy, Salween and Hong (Red) Rivers. The frozen ice on the mountains regulates the flows of the rivers and enables 50 million people to rely in whole or in part on the River Mekong for protein or income. Reports from scientists suggest that the ice in the mountains is melting at a rapid rate – some suggest it will all have disappeared within thirty years. If that happens, there will be alternate floods and droughts and millions will be at risk of starvation. Action is really needed now.