6 June 2024

Air purifiers are running out fast in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai, as wealthier residents scramble to acquire the devices to ease the impacts of the choking air pollution from local and cross-border forest and farm fires.

A Thai PBS reporter in Chiang Rai conducted a random survey of electrical appliance shops and was told that they have run out of air purifiers and do not know when they will be available again.

One shopkeeper said that customers had bought the machines both online and in person, adding that many other people have posted on social media asking where they can find air purifiers, which cost over 10,000 baht each.

Yesterday (Wednesday), villagers in Pa Hung and Mueang Pan sub-districts were evacuated, for fear that forest fires in Doi Luang National Park could spread to their villages, as local fire fighters and volunteers try to control the burning.

Forest fires continue unabated in Lam Nam Kok National Park, in forests above the Mai Ya reservoir in Phaya Mengrai district and in Mae Puem National Park in Mueang district.

Local officials said that fires have been burning for five continuous days, with no signs of abating, due to the dry weather and accumulated plant detritus.

Chiang Rai Governor Puttipong Sirimat said that all available resources, including manpower and equipment, have been deployed to control the fires, but with little success, adding that there are still people lighting fires.

Meanwhile, in Mueang district of Chiang Mai, Dr. Rangsarit Kanjanavanich, a cardiac specialist at the Faculty of Medicine of Chiang Mai University, posted on his Facebook page saying that, since the government is reluctant to declare a disaster in northern provinces, the people should declare it themselves because, as taxpayers, they have a basic right to breathe clean air.

He then urged the people to fend for themselves as best they can until the air pollution has eased.