Thailand seeks Myanmar cooperation to tackle choking haze

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thailand has asked neighbouring Myanmar for its cooperation in tackling forest fires, as Bangkok fights haze which hsa blanketed the northern region of the country.

Officers also requested that Thailand be informed in advance of outdoor burning or wildfires to enable them to build fire buffer zones, officials said on Thursday.

The requests were made at a meeting of the Thai-Myanmar Township Border Committee in Chiang Rai province to discuss the haze crises, Colonel Prapat Popsuwan said.

Myanmar Lt-Colonel Tin Min Lat agreed to give the matter special attention as his country was also affected by the haze and many commercial flights had to be cancelled.

The choking smog is an annual problem in this region from January to April as farmers burn the land to clear scrub or agricultural waste. Apart from creating health problems, it also turns away tourists. Some flights have been cancelled because planes have been unable to land in selected airports.

On Thursday, situation in the northern province remained critical, with Chiang Rai reporting fine suspended particulates of less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10) at 381 micrograms per cubic metre. The acceptable standard in Thailand is 120mg per cubic metre.

Singapore has lent two helicopters to Thailand to help douse the forest fires from Wednesday afternoon, said Thai junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree.

Chiang Rai also reported a two-fold increase in the number of people having respiratory difficulty; 120 people sought medical treatment for haze-affected illness a day.

Two national parks in Chiang Rai - Lam Nam Kok National Park 2 and Doi Luang National Park - were also closed until next month in a bid to prevent wildfires, said park official Boonta Saennang.