Choking Smog Reminds Northern Thailand Another Year Has Passed Since Last Time

People wear masks to protect themselves from the haze in northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai province.

BANGKOK — Summer has arrived in the north of Thailand and that means a return of canceled flights and coughing fits brought on by the seasonal smoky haze blanketing the region.

Dust levels Monday rose to unsafe levels in every northern province except Lamphun, as local carrier KanAir canceled flights between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son because visibility fell to nearly 1 kilometer.

Air pollution was above safe levels at 13 of 17 monitoring stations operated by the Pollution Control Department. Authorities said they are closely monitoring illegal forest fires which have reached critical levels several times since 2007.

Despite annual government campaigns to stop the slash-and-burn farmers blamed for the smoke, air quality and visibility in the north plummets each burning season, which usually lasts February through April.

Authorities in Chiang Rai city today distributed masks to people and used 30 fire trucks to spray water in the air in the hope of relieving dusty conditions there.

 

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A fire crew sprays water Monday in Chiang Rai city.

 

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