BANGKOK — Netizens on Wednesday are demanding that a top pollution control official resign after he accused people of overreacting to the smog crisis that reportedly sent 40,000 Bangkokians to hospital.
Despite the growing outrage and anxiety from the public over the surge in PM2.5 levels, the head of Pollution Control Department insisted in an interview that the current air quality levels are still healthy to breath, and dismissed health concerns expressed by netizens as mere “drama.”
“Although the current PM2.5 levels across Bangkok are above the standard, most of them are within the range of 60 to 80 microgrammes per cubic meter, which is not high enough to cause health problems,” Pralong Dumrongthai said during an online interview with the former editor of The Nation, Suthichai Yoon.
When Suthichai asked about social media photos of nosebleeds and rashes said to be caused by air pollution, Pralong said that people are just dramatizing their underlying diseases.
“Those who felt ill are those who already caught the diseases, but for healthy people, the doctors said it’s not causing health problems,” he said. “Those who share their photos of nosebleeds and rash are just trying to stir up dramas.”
He also downplayed the smog-filled sky that hangs over Bangkok, saying that it was just a “natural phenomenon” and comparing it to the picturesque sunrise scenery commonly seen in the northern provinces.
“I asked the Meteorological Department about the fog and they said that it’s just a natural phenomenon,” Pralong said. “This period saw a gentle wind, causing air humidity to accumulate. When it reflects to sunlight, it scatters and causes the sky to appear murky, like the misty sunrise in the north.”
He continued, “PM2.5 has been with us since we were born, but it has become a popular topic in recent years because now we have air monitors.”
Viewers were angered by the interview, which has been watched at least 33,000 times, sending the hashtag #BangkokDust to one of the top trendings on Thai Twitter in no time.
“Hopeless! The head of Pollution Control Department’s comment is just amazing,” user @CrazyRichTH tweeted. “Not only did he refuse to accept that the dust pollution is hazardous, he also blamed the people for dramatizing it for personal gains.”
Many of them demanded Pralong to step down from his post.
“He should resign, if he doesn’t know the role of his department,” @RsmlP wrote.
“If he’s not resigning, then we should kick him out. Staying there would be a burden on the ministry,” @YingNuiC9 wrote.
As of today, independent and government air monitoring services indicated that PM2.5 levels still reached “unhealthy” levels at multiple locations across Bangkok Wednesday.
The City Hall ordered 437 schools under its management to close down today. The administration also asked its officials to come to work later than usual, in a bid to reduce the number of cars on the road and dust levels during the rush hour.