City Hall joins flap over pigeon-feeding

City Hall joins flap over pigeon-feeding

City Hall ordered Bangkokians to stop feeding the birds - or face a 25,000-baht fine and 3 months in jail. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)
City Hall ordered Bangkokians to stop feeding the birds - or face a 25,000-baht fine and 3 months in jail. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

City Hall is vowing to impose a three-month jail term and a 25,000-baht fine on people who violate the law by feeding pigeons in public places amid concerns over their increasing number and serious health risks.

The warning came Thursday after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday ordered City Hall and other local administrative organisations nationwide to tighten regulations on feeding birds in public places due to concerns about hygiene, but added that any measures to regulate feeding must not harm the birds.

Livestock officials also started capturing a large flock of pigeons which crowded a pier in front of Wat Rakhang, a well-visited riverside temple by the Chao Phraya River in Thon Buri.

Some visitors continued to give food to the birds despite signs asking them not to, which observers say puts boat passengers at risk of catching diseases like lung infections caused by fungi from droppings, and disorders such as meningitis, an acute brain infection, also carried by the birds.

These people are apparently breaking two laws -- the 1992 Public Health Act and 1992 Act on the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country, according to City Hall.

Feeding animals, including pigeons, in public places is viewed as a violation, said deputy city clerk Wanthani Watthana.

It is not the first time city officials have been alerted to health risks brought by the pigeons.

In 2010, officials from City Hall and Dusit Zoo jointly trapped pigeons at Sanam Luang with nets.

After the operation at the temple, the birds were disinfected and are now being quarantined in a "closed-system area" to prevent them breeding, Ms Wanthani said. But a solution to this issue that promises the most success is to stop feeding pigeons, she said.

The degree of punishment imposed on violators can also help, but "the city, in fact, doesn't want to enforce the laws", Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang said. "We just want to use them to warn and educate people."

Following Gen Prayut's order, the city has told all 50 district chiefs to survey areas with a large number of pigeons, including the 37 public parks in Bangkok, and find ways to reduce their numbers, the governor said.

Officials are keeping the birds out of these areas by putting up signs to warn people against feeding them, deputy Bangkok governor Chakkaphan Phewngam said.

However, a similar method appears to be failing at Chiang Mai's Tha Phae Gate, a popular attraction in Muang district, where tourists ignore the signs and continue to give food to the birds.

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