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Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai Struggles to Combat Wildfires

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wildfires Chiang Mai

The governor of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is offering a 10,000-baht reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of someone who sets fire to forested regions.

Chiang Mai’s Governor Nirat Sitthithaworn said on Sunday that the prize was a bid to manage smog in March, when it is easier to set fire to forested areas due to the dry weather.

“The reward is for anyone who gives information leading to the arrest of someone who starts a forest fire. When a police interrogator decides to initiate legal action, indicating that there is a perpetrator, the 10,000-baht award will be given on the same day,” the Chiang Mai governor stated.

He believed that the action would deter anyone who intended to start a fire in a forest to collect forest products.

According to the governor, local officials focused on reducing farmland fires during the first two months of the year, and the action avoided field fires on more than 200,000 rai of agricultural land in Chiang Mai.

In March, deliberate forest fires intensify to make place for the harvesting of forest products and clearing ground for grain. To reduce damage and greenhouse gas emissions, Chiang Mai officials are attempting to contain forest fires on the same day they begin.

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda) stated at 2 p.m. on Sunday that Chiang Mai has the highest level of particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter (PM2.5) in the country.

haze Chiang Mai

Over the last 24 hours, Chiang Mai’s PM2.5 concentration has reached 64.0 microgrammes per cubic metre of air. The safe threshold is 37.5 µg/m3.

Meanwhile, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Pol Gen Phatcharavat Wongsuwan paid an inspection visit to Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday.

There, Pol Gen Phatcharavat, who also serves as deputy prime minister, presided over a video conference with governors from 17 northern provinces and officials from state institutions to discuss how to cope with PM2.5 pollution, which is affecting multiple regions.

Jatuporn Buruspat, permanent secretary of the government of Natural Resources and Environment, informed delegates that the government has discussed the issue with Myanmar and Cambodia.

Mr Jatuporn stated that the two neighboring nations have vowed collaboration with Thailand to address the PM2.5 problem, with seminars scheduled to develop solutions.

northern thailand air quality

On Sunday, he claimed Myanmar had 5,502 hotspots, followed by Cambodia (1,133) and Laos (664) based on satellite data, approximately 730 hotspots were found across Thailand, the most of which were in Chiang Mai, he said.

At the meeting, Pol Gen Phatcharavat established a policy for agencies to prevent forest fires and haze pollution.

He emphasized the importance of officials focusing on 11 forest conservation regions, ten forest reserve areas, and agricultural areas in 17 Northern provinces where forest fires have been ongoing.

The minister directed local officials and soldiers to collaborate to monitor local hotspots, increase surveillance on land and in the air, and have aerial firefighting systems ready to combat and prevent wildfires. He also stated that forest conservation and reserve regions where forest fires are now intense must be designated off-limits until the situation is stabilized.

Anyone who enters the areas and is proven to have sparked forest fires will face legal punishment, the minister stated.

In other news, a Government spokeswoman announced on Sunday that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will visit Chiang Mai later this week to assess efforts in reducing haze pollution. The PM has no prior appointments with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, according to the spokesman.

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