The tsunami that struck Thailand on 26 December 2004 was the greatest natural disaster in the country's history.
It left in its wake unprecedented damage and destruction. A year after the tsunami, this report looks at the
impact of the disaster, Thailand's response, and the role of international partners in relief and recovery efforts.
The tsunami affected six provinces along the Andaman Coast of Thailand, leaving more than 8,000 dead, a third
of them foreigners. It impacted 407 villages, and completely destroyed 47, including well known tourist destinations.
Vulnerable fishing communities, ethnic groups, migrant workers and workers in the tourism industry bore the
brunt of the disaster; communities were destroyed and livelihoods lost. Children suffered the loss of parents or
guardians, and survivors were left to cope with the psychological trauma of the disaster. The impact on the
environment included damage to coral reefs and marine and coastal habitats. The intrusion of sea water affected
water quality and agricultural land. The total financial impact of the tsunami is estimated at more than USD 2
billion. This makes Thailand the second most affected country in financial terms. It is estimated that the tsunami
reduced overall GDP growth by 0.4 %. The sectors most affected were tourism, fisheries and agriculture.
It is widely acknowledged that the Royal Thai Government (RTG) led an effective emergency response to the
disaster including a massive forensic operation to identify the bodies of thousands of foreign visitors and Thai
citizens. The basic humanitarian needs of the affected communities were addressed within days. One of the
striking features of the relief operations was the contribution of the Thai public, the Thai private sector and local
NGOs. The RTG put in place special assistance programmes and compensation schemes for the victims through
eight national Sub Committees, which had provided assistance to 285,000 people by November, 2005.
The longer term recovery of the affected communities and the local economy are now the focus of the national
response. The RTG, with support from NGOs and the private sector, is assisting in the recovery of livelihoods in
the fisheries, tourism, business and agricultural sectors. The RTG has put in place social protection measures for
children, especially orphans, and is providing psychosocial support for survivors of the disaster. The RTG, in associa
tion with national and international technical institutions and NGOs, is working to restore the environmental
damage caused by the tsunami. This includes legislation to protect and rehabilitate natural resources in the
affected region. The RTG has focused considerable attention and resources on the establishment of an early
warning system and putting in place a national disaster preparedness plan.
Relief and recovery operations on this unprecedented scale have called for strong and effective coordination
mechanisms. The RTG, led by the Prime Minister, has been at the helm of the relief and recovery operations,
coordinating the national and international effort. NGO networking and coordination has been an important
feature of Thailand's response to the disaster.
As of November 2005, the RTG has provided upwards of USD 1 billion in direct and indirect assistance to 442,460
affected people. This has been strongly reinforced by the contribution of the Thai private sector and NGOs, which
can hardly be overstated.