Chiang Mai sets B10,000 reward for reporting forest burners

Chiang Mai sets B10,000 reward for reporting forest burners

The centre of Chiang Mai is shrouded by thick smog on Thursday. (Photo: Panumet Tanraksa)
The centre of Chiang Mai is shrouded by thick smog on Thursday. (Photo: Panumet Tanraksa)

CHIANG MAI: The governor of the northern province has announced a 10,000-baht reward to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest of a person who sets fire to forested areas.

Governor Nirat Sitthithaworn said on Sunday the reward was a bid to control smog amid the ease of setting fire to forested areas in March, when the weather is dry.

"The reward is for each person who provides information that leads to the arrest of a person who starts a fire in a forest. When a police interrogator agrees to take legal action, meaning that there is a culprit, the 10,000-baht reward will be paid that very same day," the Chiang Mai governor said.

He hoped the measure would discourage anyone who planned to set a fire in a forest to collect forest products.

According to the governor, local officials focused on curbing burning in farmland during the first two months of this year and the measure prevented field burning in more than 200,000 rai of agricultural land in Chiang Mai.

Deliberately-set forest fires increase in March to pave the way for the collection of forest products and to clear land for corn. To mitigate the damage and emissions of greenhouse gases, Chiang Mai officials are trying to contain forest fires the same day they start.

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda) reported at 2pm on Sunday that Chiang Mai had the highest level of particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter (PM2.5) in the country.

PM2.5 accumulated at 64.0 microgrammes per cubic metre of air in Chiang Mai over the past 24 hours. The safe threshold is at 37.5µg/m3.

Meanwhile, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Pol Gen Phatcharavat Wongsuwan was on an inspection trip to Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday.

There, Pol Gen Phatcharavat, who doubles as deputy prime minister, chaired a video conference with governors of 17 northern provinces and officials from state agencies to discuss ways to deal with the PM2.5 pollution, which is affecting several provinces.

Jatuporn Buruspat, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, told attendees the ministry has discussed the problem with Myanmar and Cambodia.

The two neighbouring countries have pledged cooperation with Thailand to address the PM2.5 problem, with workshops to be organised to brainstorm solutions, Mr Jatuporn said.

He also said satellite information showed that Myanmar had 5,502 hotspots, followed by Cambodia (1,133) and Laos (664) on Sunday.

About 730 hotspots were also detected in Thailand, mostly in Chiang Mai, on Sunday, he said.

At the meeting, Pol Gen Phatcharavat laid down a policy for agencies to combat forest fires and haze pollution.

He stressed the need for officials to focus on 11 forest conservation areas, 10 forest reserve areas, as well as agricultural areas in 17 provinces in the North where forest fires have persisted.

The minister instructed local officials and soldiers to work together to monitor local hotspots and step up surveillance over land and in the air and have their aerial firefighting systems ready to combat and prevent wildfires.

Pol Gen Phatcharavat also said the forest conservation areas and forest reserve areas where forest fires are currently severe must be declared off-limits for the time being until the situation is brought under control.

Anyone who accesses the areas and is found to have caused forest fires will face legal action, the minister said.

In other news, Danuporn Punnakan, a spokesman for the ruling Pheu Thai Party, said on Sunday Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will visit Chiang Mai later this week to inspect the progress in tackling haze pollution.

The PM does not have a prior appointment with former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the spokesman said.

However, he did not rule out the possibility of them meeting in the northern province.

The PM's visit overlaps with Thaksin's plan to travel to Chiang Mai, his hometown, from March 14–16.

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