6 June 2024

The private sector and civic groups in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai have formulated short and long term measures to address airborne pollution, which is threatening livelihoods and the physical health of residents in the district and elsewhere in northern provinces.

In the short term, they want the authorities to declare Mae Sai district a public disaster zone, so that relief and help can be mobilised, such as face masks, medications and air purifying devices.

They also want Chiang Rai governor to coordinate with authorities in Myanmar and Laos, asking them to instruct their people to cease lighting or to reduce forest fires and the burning of farm waste, in strict compliance with the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which was approved by all ASEAN member countries back in 2002.

Moreover, they want officials to get tough with people who light fires in forests or on farmland and to provide more equipment to help firefighters and volunteers.

Long term, the civic groups and the private sector want the Commerce Ministry to lift the zero-rated import tax requirement, under the ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement, on maize imported into Thailand from neighbouring countries, as they blame maze farmers for most of the fires caused by farm waste burning.

They recommend that the government and agencies concerned address this problem with maize importers, in the hope that they will cease or reduce the burning of their farm waste.

The measures are to be submitted to the district chief officer of Mae Sai, for forwarding to the government and other relevant agencies.

PM2.5 levels in Mae Sai district have exceeded safety levels for about a week now, mostly caused by fires in forests and on farmlands both locally and in Myanmar and Laos, as people in the district have been left to fend for themselves.