Typhoon Fengshen devastated the Philippines over the 21-22 June 2008 weekend, causing extensive flooding and triggering landslides. Authorities stated that at least 150 people have been killed by rising floodwaters as many rivers have risen over their banks in the southern Philippines. A ferry known as Princess of the Stars, owned by Sulpicio Lines, was left adrift in rough seas after being battered by wind gusts up to 120 mph/ 104 kt. The ferry later sank, and more than 800 people are still missing.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered rescue and cleanup crews to the hardest hit areas and navy boats have already helped to rescue stranded residents. Approximately 50 flights out of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (RPLL/MLN) have been canceled and power outages have also disrupted transportation services throughout the country. However, the situation is slowly returning to normal.
Meanwhile, Fengshen has been downgraded to a tropical storm as of 23 June, according to meteorologists at Wilkens Weather Technologies, as it makes its way across the South China Sea toward the southern coast of China, mostly likely affecting Taiwan and Japan. As of 0900 UTC Fengshen was located approximately 415 mi/670 km south-southwest of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, moving northwest at 10 mph/9 kt. Fengshen has maximum sustained winds of 102 mph/55 kt, with gusts reaching up to 130 mph70 kt.
Thailand (Country threat level – 3): Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej announced on 22 June 2008 that he will be willing to resign office if his administration receives a vote of no-confidence from legislators in Parliament. Parliament is debating the prospect of a vote of no-confidence, and pressure on Samak could increase if a six-party coalition in the lower house falls apart. Many lawmakers and demonstrators have accused Samak of being a proxy of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in 2006 and is currently facing corruption charges in Thailand’s highest court. Military leaders have stated they will remain neutral and will support a political resolution to the crisis.
Meanwhile, on 23 June, opposition supporters continue to camp outside the government office in Bangkok, demanding Samak’s resignation. Police officers remain deployed around the demonstration, and witnesses stated they are equipped with only with helmets and shields. Authorities have warned that tear gas can be used to prevent the crowd from threatening any government buildings. Protest leaders have stated they will not disperse until the current administration steps down. Although the situation is still tense, there have been no reports of violence or arrests.
Thailand (Country threat level – 3): On 21 June 2008 a group of rebel gunmen attacked a passenger train at a railway station in the Ra Ngae district. Authorities stated that four railway workers on the train were shot and killed in the attack at Marubo rail station. The train was reportedly traveling from Surat Thani to Sungai Kolok when the gunmen ambushed it while it was stopped at the station. Separatist militants have been waging a guerrilla campaign against government forces since 2004 in hopes of establishing an autonomous Muslim state.
As of 23 June, all 16 daily trains on the line that was attacked have been halted with passengers being diverted from the Sungai Kolok train station in Narathiwat to the Yala train station farther north. Travelers headed to Hat Yai were instructed to travel by bus or van.