A court in Chiang Mai issued a directive on Friday instructing the government to formulate an immediate plan to combat air pollution within the next 90 days, as the country prepares for its annual surge in harmful haze, according to news agency AFP.
During the initial months of the year, Thailand experiences a decline in air quality due to a combination of agricultural burning, industrial emissions, and vehicle exhaust.
Last year, both Bangkok and Chiang Mai, in the north, repeatedly ranked among the most polluted cities globally, prompting concerned citizens to file a legal case compelling government action.
About 1,700 people, including activists, academics from Chiang Mai University and local residents, brought a lawsuit in the Administrative Court against the prime minister and the National Environment Commission for failing to tackle the annual dense smog over the region, which they said is shortening their lives by about five years.
They demanded the prime minister use Section 9 of the 1992 Environmental Quality Promotion and Protection Act when a serious disaster occurs by ordering concerned agencies to tackle the problem.
They also demanded that the commission abide by the government’s action plan to tackle the dust problem that was announced in 2019.
The Chiang Mai Administrative Court, in its ruling on Friday, mandated the National Environmental Commission to propose "preventive methods to solve pollution both short and long term" within the stipulated 90-day period.
The court concluded that the previous government, led by junta leader-turned-Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, faced accusations of "neglecting his duty" by not responding swiftly enough to address the pollution issue, AFP reported. The ruling stated, "After consideration, the defendants neglected their duties and acted too slowly."
The current administration under Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, which assumed office in August, has pledged to make addressing air pollution a "national agenda". A proposed Clean Air Act, endorsed by Mr Srettha's cabinet with the aim of tackling the problem, successfully passed its initial reading in parliament on Wednesday.
As of early Friday morning, Bangkok ranked 10th on the global list of cities with the poorest air quality, according to data from air pollution monitoring firm IQAir.