Land grab 'factor' in forest reserve blaze
MAE HONG SON: A forest reserve in the northern province of Mae Hong Son was destroyed in a bushfire believed to have been started as part of a land encroachment ploy, the local forest protection authorities said on Wednesday.
A total of eight rai of forest land was damaged in the fire, which broke out on Tuesday night and took forest protection authorities more than one and a half hours to contain, Khamnueng Kham-udom, director of Mae Hong Son's office of natural resources and environment, said.
About one rai of the damaged forest was found to be part of Mae Pai forest reserve, said Chanrak Saenphayom, a forest protection officer in Muang distirct.
Five other rai of the damaged forest happened to be next to the same reserve, he said.
A villager who witnessed the fire told authorities he had spotted firebreaks being built and several trees being cut down before the blaze erupted, suggesting the incident was a plot to encroach on more forest land in the future, said Mr Khamnueng.
The authorities are looking for potential suspects in the matter, he said.
Unsafe smog levels were reported in nine northern provinces on Wednesday: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phayao, Phrae and Sukhothai.
Even greater levels of unsafe smog were detected in Nan.
The Pollution Control Department reported hazardous levels of atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) over the previous 24 hours in the North.
The government-set safe threshold is 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air.
Meanwhile, another small forest fire in Phatthalung's Tamot district was likely caused by beekeepers who harvest honey in Khao Hua Lan Mountain in tambon Khao Hua Chang, a local community leader said.