By The Nation
Most were in Mae Hong Son, which counted 100.
Citing the safety risk, Bangkok Airways has cancelled its morning flights between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son until next Sunday (March 24), extending the deadline from on Sunday.
The thick haze has significantly reduced visibility at Mae Hong Son Airport.
On Sunday morning visibility was just 1,600 metres, whereas Bangkok Airways requires 6,000 metres.
The Pollution Control Department reported the level of PM2.5 – particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter – in Mae Hong Son well above the safe limit of 50 micrograms per cubic metre.
It averaged 85mcg in Muang Mae Hong Son.
The World Health Organisation deems PM2.5 a carcinogen linked to several serious health problems.
Deliberately set brushfires are the main cause of the air pollution. With Mae Hong Son topping the list, Chiang Mai had 83 hotspots on Sunday, Phayao 54, Tak 49, Nan 38, Chiang Rai 37, Lampang 31, Phrae 24 and Lamphum 20.
Authorities in several provinces have declared total bans on outdoor burning, but farmers often risk the threatened fines because they have no other viable way to clear their land.
The PM2.5 in Nan stands at 119mcg, potentially harmful to everyone, not just children, the elderly and the ailing.
Several outdoor activities have been cancelled in Nan, such as sports tournaments, as a result of the danger to health.
Meanwhile in the North, a village head manning a temporary fire lookout in Muang Mae Hong Son “arrested” three illegal immigrants on Sunday morning. He was on watch in front of Mae Surin Waterfalls National Park, wary of anyone entering the woods to start fires.
“They can’t speak Thai,” Suwit Singkha, head of Ban Hua Nam Mae Sakeud, said of his captives. Three other people behaving suspiciously fled on two motorcycles.
Suwit and his team have taken 20 illegal migrants into custody since setting up their checkpoint, all of whom claimed to be on their way Chiang Mai to find jobs.