Contested notions of disaster justice during the 2011 Bangkok floods : Unequal risk, unrest and claims to the city

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-36
Journal / PublicationAsia Pacific Viewpoint
Issue number1
Online published5 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


The 2011 Bangkok floods, a slow onset event, flooded significant parts of the city. The state's response to flooding followed a traditional cultural and hierarchical approach to justice within Thailand, stemming from Buddhist values, an informal caste system and monarchical order. This resulted in a spatially uneven outcome, with the ‘preservation’ of the central city and two‐month‐long floods in outer suburbs, exacerbated by inadequate management and coordination. Suburban communities sought a more egalitarian notion of disaster justice, with hazard burdens shared more equitably and people having adequate access to decision‐making over the distribution of disaster risk and compensation for damage. Extensive damage, and reduced livelihoods, caused friction between the two views, and protests, contestations and conflicts during the floods, in four different community contexts in northern Bangkok. By generating alternative discourses, challenging the hierarchical notion of justice and taking direct action to removing floodwalls, protesters sought to reshape the spatiality of the floodwater and claim inclusive citizenship and their right to the city. Existing perceptions of disaster justice, usually focused on liberal state responses to understanding disasters as natural episodes, are alone inadequate to explain the outcomes of and responses to disasters in different cultural contexts.

Research Area(s)

  • 2011 Bangkok floods, disaster justice, egalitarian justice, hierarchical justice, right to the city, Thailand flood governance