Thailand, Myanmar and Laos are seeking to join forces to combat the transboundary haze pollution choking the region.
At Government House, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha hosted a trilateral meeting through video conference with Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone and Myanmar leader Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing to discuss the transboundary haze crisis.
Gen Prayut said the meeting was intended for the three countries to exchange information and experiences in dealing with transboundary haze and develop a constructive approach to solving the problem.
All involved have realised the importance of close cooperation as the haze pollution has become a health hazard for the people of the three countries, Gen Prayut said.
"We need to join forces to help each other tackle the problem," he said.
At the meeting, Gen Prayut proposed the Clear Sky Strategy as an effective mechanism to address the issue.
Under the strategy, each country should be committed to reducing hotspots in line with the Chiang Rai Plan of Action adopted by five countries in the Mekong Subregion in 2017.
The Chiang Rai Plan of Action sets priorities for the Mekong Subregion countries to address transboundary haze pollution.
The prime minister said that all countries involved should leverage relevant bilateral mechanisms at their disposal at all levels.
As part of Thailand's role, it will promote cooperation on transboundary haze pollution through relevant bilateral mechanisms at local levels with Laos and Myanmar, he added.
Thailand will also discuss the issue at the 42nd Asean Summit hosted by Indonesia next month.
Gen Prayut said that the countries should also support efforts to exchange information and experience and take legal action to control and contain sources of transboundary haze.
He said that governments should help farmers get rid of their waste and construct power plants based on the bio-circular-green (BCG) model to turn such waste into fertiliser and electricity.
He further said Thailand would advocate for increased cooperation among air quality monitoring networks in sub-region countries to boost efficiency in predicting air quality and in issuing alerts.
Gen Prayut said that tackling haze pollution is Thailand's national priority, with yearly meetings held to discuss measures to prevent forest fires and haze pollution.
He said the government has devised an action plan to curb the sources of PM2.5 that comes from exhaust fumes and factories as well as slash-and-burn agriculture.
Gen Prayut said that last year, Thailand was able to reduce hotspots in the North by 61% and the level of PM2.5 by 27% and the country has provided the Asean Secretariat with regular updates on its efforts to reduce the hotspots.
After the meeting of the three leaders, Jatuporn Buruspat, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, hosted a meeting of senior officials from Laos and Myanmar to discuss the implementation of the policy direction given by their leaders.
Previously, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai had also held talks with his counterparts in neighbouring countries, including Myanmar, over concerns about man-made wildfires in these countries, which are exacerbating the problem and its impact on Thailand, according to a ministry spokeswoman Kanchana Patarachoke.
She said Mr Don had also assigned the Thai ambassador to Myanmar to seek further talks on the matter with Myanmar's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
Gen Prayut and Mr Don have also called on Kao Kim Hourn, the Asean secretary-general, to support Thailand's effort to enhance regional cooperation under the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which has existed since 2003.
Dr Kao, who visited Thailand from March 29 until April 1, assured Gen Prayut and Mr Don that he is willing to help push the issue, Ms Kanchana said.