Asean to tackle haze crisis

Asean to tackle haze crisis

PM talks cooperation with top bloc official

Authorities in the northern province of Chiang Mai hand out face masks to help protect locals from dense smog in front of the Chiang Mai provincial administrative organisation on Thursday. (Photo: Panumet Tanraksa)
Authorities in the northern province of Chiang Mai hand out face masks to help protect locals from dense smog in front of the Chiang Mai provincial administrative organisation on Thursday. (Photo: Panumet Tanraksa)

The secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has pledged to support efforts to combat transboundary haze pollution in the region.

Kao Kim Hourn on Thursday paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House during an official visit to Thailand.

They discussed a wide range of topics including the hazardous haze blanketing several Asean member countries.

During the meeting, Gen Prayut emphasised that the transboundary haze crisis has posed a serious regional challenge that needs an urgent solution and requested support from the Asean secretary-general.

Gen Prayut asked that Kao Kim Hourn coordinate efforts to tackle the problem and hold an urgent meeting with member countries to discuss a solution, particularly measures to reduce hotspots in the region.

The problem poses a health hazard and disruption to tourism not only in Thailand but also in neighbouring countries, Gen Prayut told Kao Kim Hourn.

The Asean secretary-general agreed that the issue needs to be addressed urgently and said that Asean has a set of mechanisms to secure cooperation from member countries.

Asean is ready to provide support for concrete and timely cooperation, Kao Kim Hourn said.

Other topics under discussion include the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, digital transformation, climate change and the volatility of the global economy.

Meanwhile, the Chiang Mai Administrative Court yesterday dismissed a petition by a local resident accusing Gen Prayut of negligence for failing to take action to solve the PM2.5 pollution problem in the northeastern province between January and February.

The court ruled that the prime minister was not negligent as alleged, as the PM2.5 levels during the period were not considered a serious public disaster.

According to the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, there were 215 hotspots detected in Chiang Rai province yesterday morning, with the highest number (35) in Phan district, followed by Mae Suai and Muang (32) and Mae Chan (25).

The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation deployed a number of helicopters with 5,000 litres of water to battle forest fires in the northern province.

Chiang Rai governor Phuttipong Sirimart said that forest fires were detected in Muang, Thoeng, Wiang Pa Pao and Mae Suai districts.

Mr Phuttipong noted that a check found that some of the fires were caused by burning along routes used by drug smugglers.

The government prohibits outdoor burning between Feb 15 and April 15. So far during the period this year, about 15 people have been arrested for allegedly conducting activities that caused forest fires, Mr Phuttipong said.

In Chiang Mai, forest fires occurred in several districts, including Chiang Dao, Mae On, Samoeng, Hang Dong, Doi Saket, with winds blowing the smoke into downtown areas in Muang district, which is surrounded by mountains that trap the smoke.

Chiang Mai was again listed yesterday as the city with the worst air pollution in the world by the pollution monitoring website IQAir.

At 8am, IQAir reported the US AQI (air quality index) value for Chiang Mai was 222, which exceeds standard safety levels.

According to the Pollution Control Department, the province's tambon Muang Na in Chiang Dao district, where most forest fires occurred, saw the worst level of PM2.5 at 364 microgrammes per cubic metres with an AQI value of 474.

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