Smith Dharmasaroja is best known for warnings about the 2004 tsunami. The retired director of the meteorological department discusses incompetence, corruption and a scary future.

I am not the most knowledgeable person about the tsunami. But I am the one who dared to announce his findings.

I wasn’t scared. Other people might be, because if they get their predictions wrong, then it could ruin their reputation or even anger certain organizations that benefit from tourism or investments in a risky area.

The government should have believed me—then nobody would have died in the tsunami. There was a report clearly stating which provinces would be affected and all six affected provinces were mentioned. I also reported solutions and survival tips in sequential order to the Department of Local Administration.

I was wrong about the location of the earthquake, but the most important thing is that it did happen and caused a tsunami.

People in the travel industry might hate me but, if tourists die, that’s my responsibility.

Some provinces even banned me from holding seminars educating people about disasters.

Several wrong predictions are better than zero predictions. In developed countries they announce the chance of possible catastrophes.

More people will die unless Thais change their perceptions. Just look at the recent floods in Korat and Hat Yai.

Those responsible for broadcasting warnings to the public are simply useless. The local government in Korat and Hat Yai had been warned but they just ignored the warning. And look at the result.

Bangkok will be flooded. Building a dam to fence off the water must be national policy. The government can build seven train lines worth B70 billion but not my dam project, which costs just one train line. If we started now it would only take five years to complete.

Things are changing. The flood in Samui, for example, was unusual. The United Nations already warned us that some islands are disappearing, like the Maldives.

We can’t do anything to stop sea levels from rising. As snow keeps melting at both poles, the water is expected to rise about 1.5–5 meters. Bangkok is only about a meter above sea level. Some parts of Bangkok, like Ramkamhaeng, are even lower than sea level.

Nobody listens. Well, there are some people who are interested, judging by the long queues for my seminars.

I am just an old, retired man who tries to warn people. I feel I have a duty to save people’s lives.

The current Director General of Meteorological Department is incapable. It’s the result of political intrusions. My ex-subordinates are useless, too.

The National Disaster Warning Centers are ruined. There’s no maintenance and the staff are inefficent. It was one of the world’s best when it was established six years ago.

Changing governments has caused the center to be downsized, taking out the experts and bringing in amateurs. It’s like letting an accountant do a doctor’s job. The head of the center should receive a high salary to attract educated professionals. But it politicians just gave the job to their cronies.

Disaster warning is a small department under the Ministry of ICT. When they need to urgently warn the public, they need at least six people to approve the warning first.

The cost of recovery and rescue is much, much greater than investing in a preemptive warning system.

The level of natural disasters will increase because of global warming. We’ve never had such heavy storms before but now they come annually.

Yours days of living peaceful lives are over. Nobody can escape natural disasters, they can happen anywhere now. Don’t argue whether it will happen or not, just prepare and find out what to do to survive.

Heading north doesn’t guarantee survival. Each region in Thailand faces different kinds of disasters. If you’re in Chiang Mai you could encounter earthquakes, in Isaan you could face droughts.

What you’ve seen in Hollywood movies are not all exaggerations; it could be for real.


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