11 July 2024

About 300 villagers in the Muang Chet Ton sub-district of Thailand’s Uttaradit province rallied today (Saturday) to put voice to the hardships allegedly caused by powder from tapioca flour factories.

The protesting villagers claim that many of them have been suffering from respiratory conditions, lung problems and skin rashes, allegedly caused by airborne tapioca powder.

Children, in particular, have been affected, many of whom have missed classes because their parents do not want them to attend, especially at a child development centre located next to a tapioca flour yard, due to their concerns for the health of their children.

A Thai PBS reporter visited the child development centre, in Ban Muang Chet Ton, and found that most of the children who attend class often confine themselves to an air conditioned room, because the other rooms and centre’s compound are covered in a fine powder.

One young student told the reporter that she had previously developed an itchy rash all over her body and her mother took her to see a doctor. She has since recovered.

A teacher named Sasithorn said that both students and teachers have been affected, most of whom suffer from coughs and rashes, adding that many trucks stop at the tapioca yard every day to unload flour.

Mayor of Muang Chet Ton Tambon (sub-district) Administrative Organisation (TAO), Suton Doangtanoi, said that officials from the province, industrial works offices and the TAO have asked operators of the tapioca flour factories to improve measures to prevent the fine powder from spreading from their factories and to stop drying flour in the open air.

He said that officials will return to the factories next Wednesday to check that they have made improvements. If not, they may have to temporarily suspend operations.