Only negotiating with neighbours can solve Thailand's pollution woes: Pheu Thai
Pollution in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district, which sits on the border with Myanmar, hit hazardous levels on Monday morning, soaring to almost 11 times Thailand’s safe limit.
“It’s killing people and parties involved should take immediate action. We can’t just let it go,” said Plodprasop Suraswadi, chairman of the Pheu Thai Party’s environmental policy committee.
He said the Thai government should call on Myanmar to control hotspots and the burning of farm waste as it is choking the North.
According to the Geo-Informatics and Space Development Agency, 12,581 hotspots were detected in Myanmar on Saturday, compared to 4,376 in Thailand, 8,535 in Laos, 744 in Cambodia, 720 in Vietnam and 31 in Malaysia.
The burning of farm waste has become a scourge for most of Thailand, especially the North, with a haze of PM2.5 descending on it during the dry months.
PM2.5 stands for fine dust particles that are 2.5 micrometres in diameter and can remain suspended in the air for long periods.
These particles are particularly dangerous for people with chronic respiratory and heart disease.
Thailand’s safe limit for PM2.5 is 50μg/m3 compared to World Health Organisation’s 12μg/m3.
“I am very worried about people in the North. Today can be considered an air pollution crisis for Thailand, with PM2.5 readings hitting 656μg/m3. It’s a life-threatening number,” Plodprasop said.
“According to facts currently available, most of this pollution is coming from Myanmar.”
To overcome this problem, Plodprasop offered several solutions, one of which was Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha calling his counterparts in Myanmar and other countries sharing the border in the North to control the fires.
The other solutions offered were:
• The Public Health Ministry distributing N95 face masks among people
• The Interior Ministry closing all businesses and schools as well as prohibiting people from going outdoors
• Providing households with fans to blow out the PM2.5 fine dust
• The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry flexing its legal power against companies to ensure they do not cause pollution
• The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry revoking permission for villagers to raise large cattle herds in national parks as they burn the grass to make hay for cattle feed, as well as banning the hunt for mushrooms as villagers set fire to grass to get these mushrooms to pop up
• Ensuring that devices reducing PM2.5 pollution reach people as it has become a matter of life and death.
“Immediate action is required in Mae Sai and other areas where PM2.5 levels have risen beyond 450μg/m3. I hope the prime minister will have some empathy,” Plodprasop said, adding that if his party were elected “these things will not happen”.
Pheu Thai’s secretary-general, Prasert Chanruangthong, also echoed Plodprasop’s call, saying Prayut should urgently coordinate with neighbouring countries.
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