Residents of Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, gathered on Monday afternoon, in front of the district office to demand that the government address the worsening air pollution problem. Protesters carried placards reading “Stop the Fire” and “Save Mae Sai.”
On Monday, March 27, 2023, PM2.5 microdust particle levels put Chiang Rai districts in Thailand among the top four most polluted places. Mae Sai came in fourth, which made the dust hang low in the air, look orange, and block the view for only 1 kilometre.
According to the Air Quality and Noise Management Bureau, Pollution Control Department, PM 2.5 pollution in downtown Chiang Mai is 232 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) and in Mae Sai district, Chaing Rai, it is 542 µg/m3 PM 2.5.
When people have to travel to work or run animal-related errands, they are confronted with pollution that irritates their eyes and nose. Some residents said they were having trouble breathing.
Noppadon Pattama, the vice-chairman of Pheu Thai Policy Strategy, said this year has seen the worst PM2.5 levels and this has become an ASEAN issue. However, he does not see the government using all its resources to solve the problem or find a long-term solution. He said the issues in Chiang Rai stem from burning in the area as well as neighbouring countries. And it has a terrifying hot spot.
Phue Thai, a political party, suggested the government 4 measures:
- Go on the ground to understand the plight of the locals and use all resources to tackle the root of the problem, such as burning the fields and helping local farmers better harvest their produce.
- Send a minister to negotiate with neighbouring countries and solve the problems in each other’s territories.
- Demand an urgent meeting and raise the point in the ASEAN Forum to find a solid solution.
- Talk to large companies that hire farmers to grow these crops, such as maize under contract farming, to prevent the burning of fields and find modern technological tools to harvest them.
Watcharapong Khamla, a public health doctor in Chiang Rai province, said the number of patients with respiratory issues increased to 3,478 cases between 19 and 26 March 2023.
During this time in Mae Sai district, it is reported that 372 patients experienced irritation in the nose and soar throat. They were outpatients who came to check their symptoms and then went back home. Another group of patients took medication online.
For patients with severe symptoms, Watcharapong stressed that there is a capacity to admit patients and are ready 24 hours.
“I would caution people against wearing masks to avoid PM 2.5. This could help avoid respiratory symptoms, even if you are in a house or a building that is an enclosed space. If you have an air purifier, use it,” Watcharapong said.