Mar 08 2012

Haze in North Thailand update: March 8, 2012

Published by at 9:55 am under Haze in northern Thailand

Having been further out and about today we have to state with all honesty that the haze situation is worse than we thought and worse than we may have made it appear in our recent post — and we’re certainly not going to be going out and about anymore in the near future unless we can avoid it. Visibility in downtown Chiang Mai today was down to a kilometre and we hear it is worse in Chiang Rai. And Thai meteorological services now admit that dust particles in the air in some areas of the north (such as Mae Sai, Chiang Rai and Lampang) are over twice the Pollution Control Department’s acceptable levels.

Downtown Chiang Mai 12.00 today

Downtown Chiang Mai at midday today.

After yesterday trying to blame slash and burn farmers in Burma and Laos, the Natural Resources and Environment Department admitted it was 99% due to farmers burning stubble and forest clearance by agro-business and have promised radical steps to solve the problem. (Note that this is from the government whose health minister recently blamed the rise in dengue fever cases to the increase in Thai women wearing hotpants and thus making easier targets for mosquitoes. It’s also the government that just received stinging criticism for failing to act after last year’s floods devastated much of the nation.)

Anyway said radical steps involve the really radical action of actually enforcing the existing non-burning and non-forest encroachment laws! How did they think of that? Anyway upon stating their intent to apply existing environmental protection laws, ones that they presumably thought up in the first place, the Ministry for the Environment have confidently claimed all haze problems should be over within a week. (We’re not making this up!)

Unless you are particular fans of sore throats, stinging eyes and respiratory illnesses we do advise against any unnecessary travel to the following provinces for at least the immediate future: Mae Hong Son, Tak, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Phayao, Phrae, Nan, Lampang, Lamphun and Uttaradit. Watch this space and we’ll watch the wastes of space down in government house.

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5 Responses to “Haze in North Thailand update: March 8, 2012” ...

  1. Michael Lindenon 08 Mar 2012 at 1:53 pm

    We’ve been in Chiang Mai for ten days now and, yes, it hasn’t been fantastic air quality but otherwise we haven’t had too much trouble breathing. Admittedly we’ve spent a lot of time indoors mostly venturing out for a suite of dental appointments and a little shopping.

    Tomorrow, however, we’re off to Tha Ton, Chiang Rai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Kong, Huay Xai, Luang Prabang.

    The long range weather forecast is predicting thunderstorms and perhaps a little rain in that region for the weekend (in the case of Luang Prabang extending into next week).

    If this bears true hopefully we can all look forward to things being dampened down a bit.

    Will keep you posted.

  2. Markon 08 Mar 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Well that’d be just what’s needed – fingers crossed! Cheers Michael and enjoy your trip!

  3. kirebon 10 Mar 2012 at 12:27 pm

    The haze and smog in Chiang Rai was unbearable today! For weeks we have been choking on trash and plastic smoke, rubble and slash and burned rice fields. The people here complain, but most of them chip in and burn their trash as well. My neighbor is doing that while I am typing this response! I’ll give it 2 more days, pray for rains, but if this doesn’t go away, we’ll move to Bangkok. I have a sore throat for weeks and all, but it is the annoyance and anger towards those responsible that make me want to leave! Shame, because Chiang Rai is beautiful!
    Dont come to Chiang Rai till this is solved!

  4. carambaon 19 Mar 2012 at 3:59 am

    Thanks for this article: at least someone says that highlanders, who rely mostly on slash-and-burn agriculture for their living in Thailand, Laos and Burma are NOT responsible for this haze!

    I came back yesterday from Luang Prabang, where the air quality, though not fantastic, was acceptable, despite many slash-and-burn activity in the nearby mountains, and I arrived in Chiang Mai to see a very thick haze, even worse than when I left at the beginning of March! I discussed with my taxi driver, who complained that very few travellers were coming to Chiang Mai those days. He told me that when he was a kid (he is now 61), there was some smoke during that season too, but nothing comparable in quantity and in duration to what we are experiencing those days. So, this phenomenon IS RECENT. Other (Thai) people told me that most of the burning is done to facilitate the growth of the mushrooms (which are coming with the very first rain, like in European early Autumn).

    Thai authorities are doing aboslutely nothing, and this is quite understandable if, as you say, most of the burning is done by agro-industry. They obviously think that the opinion of local people, especially the Farang, is not important. You can read in the local newspapers that the “royal rainmaking operations units” (please don’t laugh) are trying to make rain with special planes and that they also spray water at the border to “sprinkle water in an attempt to block haze from the neighbouring country” (full article at Once again, please, don’t laugh, this is not funny, it just shows how incompetent and cynical those people are.

    So, well, what to do? First, for all those who read this blog regularly, just don’t come here between, let say, mid-February and mid-April. If tourists don’t come anymore here, then the economy will suffer and then local officials will react. This is how it works. Second, if you have to come, avoid physical activity outside and spread the word around you, to both Thai and Farang, that this haze is truly unacceptable because it is recent and has nothing to do with upland farmers activities but relates only to agrobusiness.

    Thanks for reading me until the end. Remember, if you want to help, then don’t come here now, and talk about it around you.

  5. Markon 19 Mar 2012 at 5:40 am

    Thanks for that Olivier! Big fire up by Huay Tung Tao a couple of days ago and that area is either army land or national park so both the responsibility of Thai govt! Disgraceful state of affairs and maybe you’re right – if the ‘farangs’ stop coming they will think again? Cheers!