CityNews – On 10th Oct. 2019, at Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre, Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan acted as chairman at a meeting on setting policy and preparations to handle next year’s expected haze problem in Northern Thailand. The meeting included the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, the Army Area Commander, and 9 provincial governors along with many other relevant offices. They discussed lessons learnt from last year’s haze and how to mitigate the problem in 2020.
The deputy PM confirmed that the government was treating this as an urgent national priority, pledging the commitment of every ministry and office in tackling the problem for the sake of people’s health. The aim is to control the air quality index (AQI) so that it remains at a normal standard throughout 2020. To that end, the Ministry of Interior will act as the single command centre, working with governors and various ministries to monitor and employ integrative and strict measures to prevent the burning in their province. If the AQI is higher than normal, strict orders must be implemented to stop burning. The stress would be on districts, especially those with records or risk of repeated burning; district chiefs, local administrative staff including sub-district chiefs and village heads who must monitor their areas closely.
The Ministry of Defence will support efforts by patrolling by land and in the air, and discuss cooperative frameworks with a border committee. As for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, they have pledged to help reduce hotspots to zero between 15th March and 30th April 2020, working alongside all Mekong sub regional countries to mitigate this regional crisis.
As for the Ministry of Transport, they will ensure that burning along highways are strictly forbidden, while the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives will speed up the change in all agricultural land in the nine northern provinces to become burn-free areas within three years, forbidding businesses related to maize for animal feed from buying products from forest encroached areas. The Ministry of Agri. and Coop. will also be tasked with preparing artificial rain during the haze crisis.
Every office is ordered to help educate the public not to be panic and to distribute information about hotspots and air quality with easily accessible information for ordinary people in a way which is streamlined and orderly, so as not to be confusing to understand. The government hopes that the people will trust that the government are fully behind solving this problem and that it is a national level agenda which hopes to achieve its aim of permanently reducing particles in the air to acceptable level within as short a time frame as possible.