Chulalongkorn University and Solutions to Problems in Thai Society: the Tsunami
Early Sunday morning of December 26th, 2004, there was a violent undersea earthquake off the Western shore of Sumatra, resulting in a disastrous Tsunami that devastated lives and property. Over 280,000 lives in the area around the Indian Ocean were lost. This disaster affected people in 6 provinces located along the Andaman Coast—Ranong, Pang Nga, Phuket, Krabi and Satool Provinces. Most of the damaged areas were significant to the tourist industry which had yielded a large amount of income to the country so this disaster had a negative impact on the overall health of Thailand’s economy. To provide aid and to solve immediate problems, particularly those that affected lives, health and property were considered to be priorities.
The work units and personnel of Chulalongkorn University went to help victims to alleviate immediate problems in the damaged areas and to provide long term assistance after the immediate damage had passed. Chulalongkorn University played a role in providing help and seeking solutions to the problems caused by the Tsunami in the following ways:
1. Support in Urgent Disastrous Relief Services
In collaboration with Chulalongkorn General Hospital and work units affiliated to the Thai Red Cross Society, the Faculty of Medicine sent a team of 117 doctors and nurses to examine and operate on injured people and transfer seriously ill patients for further medical treatment to hospital as well as to collaborate in performing autopsies on bodies to establish the identity of the deceased. A team of dentists was sent to establish individual identity through dental evidence.
The Faculty of Nursing and students in the Master’s Degree Programme, who were attending classes in Trang Province and other academic institutions helped to promote healthcare in the disastrous areas. The Faculty of Communication Arts set up an IT Centre to disseminate news and information to the public. Later, the Faculty of Law sent lecturers and students, together with officials of the Ministry of Justice, to give legal assistance and to provide victims with the necessary official documents.
2. Supporting the Restoration of Natural Resources and the Environment
Chulalongkorn University realized how necessary it was to support the restoration of natural resources and the environment and considered it was an appropriate time to restore the natural surroundings that had been damaged by the disaster and, at the same time, devise regulations for the protection of natural resources and the environment, which would, in turn, contribute to the sustainable development of other areas and reduce the risk of damage caused by other disastrous factors.
3. Supporting the Renovation of Communities, the Economy and Society
Chulalongkorn University was aware that social, economic and health conditions had an impact on the quality of life and the dignity of people in the damaged areas. An operational plan for an integrated and full-cycle renovation had to be set up, based upon knowledge and information that was systematically planned and managed. The University’s faculty members, students and academics from different fields thus joined hands to set up a long-term and continuing operational plan and implemented that plan to cover different dimensions in the social, economic, physical and mental health as well as environmental aspects.
4. Coordination in Order to Gain Assistance and Support from Foreign Countries and International Organizations
Chulalongkorn University, in coordinating with the government, played a leading role in setting up programmes that attracted support from foreign countries and international organizations that offered to help.