Thailand Seeks ASEAN Help to Combat Air Pollution

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Thailand to Seek ASEAN Cooperation on Transboundary Pollution
PM 2.5 pollution engulfing Bangkok (photo: Getty image)

Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has announced that his government will collaborate with ASEAN countries such as Laos and Myanmar to combat transboundary haze pollution.

The Thai PM made the statement after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, emphasizing that solving the haze issue should be an ASEAN agenda. He acknowledged that air pollution problem during the dry season is longstanding, and it is necessary for countries in the region to work together to find a solution.

PM Prayut added that Thailand has information about the haze both within its borders and in neighboring countries. While the government has made efforts to tackle the issue, the reoccurring situation every year remains a concern. The leader also appealed to farmers to cooperate by refraining from slash-and-burn practices, a significant contributor to the concerning smog engulfing entire cities.

During the cabinet meeting, Anucha Burapachaisri, the Prime Minister’s Office spokesperson, shared the latest situation report from Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), which revealed that Thailand had 5,396 air pollution hotspots, while Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam had 6,877, 4,066, 739, and 626 hotspots that reported high PM2.5 levels.

The Thai Foreign Affairs Minister, Don Pramudwinai, said in the meeting that Thailand has been in regular contact with Myanmar and Laos in recent years to reduce transboundary haze. Last Tuesday, Mr. Don met with the ambassadors from the two countries and emphasized the crucial importance of working together on this pressing matter. The ambassadors from Thailand in Laos and Myanmar also met with the respective authorities of their host countries to discuss the issue at hand.

Additionally, the Thai PM has written to his counterparts in Laos and Myanmar, hoping for cooperation in the matter, while also asking relevant officials for a swift resolution on the issue within the country.

He said, “I signed the letter myself. We want to seek their cooperation, particularly in dealing with slash-and-burn agriculture. Meanwhile, Thai farmers must also cooperate [by avoiding such activities].”

Wijarn Simachaya, president of the Thailand Environment Institute and a former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said that the persistent problem of cross-border haze results from inadequate legal enforcement among Southeast Asian countries. Due to this failure, the situation remains unchecked despite efforts to curb it.

“All they can do is seek cooperation. While we are trying to ban the burning of plants, there are also some Thai businessmen investing in monoculture in neighboring countries,” Mr. Wijarn said.