Shielded by hundreds of thousands of sandbags piled shoulder high along the city’s outskirts, most of Bangkok remained dry on Sunday, allaying fears for now that the massive metropolis would be swamped by monsoon floodwaters.
But along the floodwalls, which ring the city and are patrolled by soldiers and police officers around the clock, there was a mixture of relief and resentment.
“I am just hoping this floodwall will break,” said Seksan Sonsak, 43, a factory worker. Mr. Seksan, like several million other Thais, has found himself on the wrong side of the wall.
The sandbags hastily erected to protect Bangkok have trapped a giant pocket of floodwater that extends for dozens of miles. By sparing the low-lying capital, which lies in the delta of the country’s main river system, officials sacrificed the provinces to the north.
“I understand that you want to save the majority,” said Mr. Seksan, whose house is inundated with brown water reeking of rotting fish. “But no one seems to think of us, the minority.”
The flooding, the worst in Thailand in at least half a century, has affected two million people and left close to 400 dead, many by drowning or electrocution.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra thanked the residents of Pathum Thani Province, north of Bangkok, last week for their “sacrifice.”
“If we let the floodwall collapse or if the sluices fail, the water will burst into Bangkok, the capital of our nation,” she said. “Foreigners will lose confidence in us and wonder why we cannot save our own capital.”
On Sunday, Ms. Yingluck said she was confident that the situation was improving because the floodwalls were mostly holding up.
Experts and government officials say favorable weather and the passing of peak tides over the weekend as the water moves out to sea may mean the worst is over for Bangkok.
“The situation is easing,” said Somsak Khaosuwan, the director of Thailand’s National Disaster Warning Center. “If the floodwalls don’t break, inner Bangkok will definitely be safe.”
Train service between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai resumed over the weekend after a month of interruption because of the floods. The main highway linking Bangkok to the north is now also passable.
But large swaths of provinces north of Bangkok are likely to remain inundated for several weeks, the government says. And bitterness is likely to persist long after the water has receded and the mud has dried.
Tensions were palpable in the Sai Mai district of Bangkok on Sunday, where the floodwall held back water more than three feet deep. One man whose house is submerged on the north side of the sandbags appeared traumatized as he walked along the dry side and yelled to residents, “Why don’t you take some of this water in your houses?”
On Friday, the police arrested a man in Sai Mai for trying to dismantle the wall. “He’s still in jail,” said a neighbor, Thonglor Piromsuk, 46. “I wouldn’t call him crazy. I just think he was very stressed out.”
Some flood barriers have been destroyed under mysterious circumstances in recent days despite the deployment of what the military says is 50,000 troops to guard and maintain them.
A nighttime breach last week near Bangkok’s domestic airport, Don Muang, sent floodwater pouring onto the tarmac and inundating thousands of nearby homes and businesses. (The main international airport, Suvarnabhumi, is still operating normally.) The surge also forced the government on Saturday to move its crisis management unit, the Flood Relief Operations Center, which had been based at the airport.
Still, only 7 of Bangkok’s 50 districts were heavily flooded as of Sunday, mostly along the northern and western rim of the city.
Drinking water and other essentials like eggs and rice remain in short supply, partly because panicked residents are hoarding. Many parts of the city were quiet over the weekend after residents took the government’s advice and evacuated to areas not threatened by flooding.
Thailand suffered acute monsoon flooding in 1983 and 1995, but this year’s floods have caused far greater damage, and with global repercussions.
The country is a major supplier of electronics, and the closing of factories producing computer hard disks has created a global shortage and sharp price increases. The shuttering of factories producing car parts has also disrupted the supply chains of companies like Toyota and Honda.
The flooding appears to have been caused by intense rainfall in September, possibly exacerbated by miscalculations by managers at hydroelectric dams, who reportedly started filling their reservoirs too early in the monsoon season.
The rapid expansion of Bangkok in recent years has also hampered drainage of the annual floodwaters. The swamps and canals that once absorbed the monsoon runoff and allowed it to flow to the sea have been paved over or converted into industrial parks and housing complexes.
Those who live close to the floodwall say they realize that the sandbags are the only thing keeping them from total inundation.
Kusuma Thongin, 56, a grocery store owner, says she looks toward the wall and the fetid water behind it each morning and issues an invocation.
“I pray to the water: please, don’t come,” she said.