The government has stepped up efforts to prevent outdoor burning, warning those who start fires that they can face prison sentences.
The move comes as air quality in the Northern Region reaches critical levels, with PM2.5 dust readings exceeding safety limits. Forest fires have been cited as the main cause of air pollution in the North. The fires are generally started by foragers looking to gather items in forests and farmers who want to clear out crop stubble
Athapol Charoenshunsa, Acting Director-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, noted that Thailand has entered its wildfire season. He added that the El Nino phenomenon may extend this year’s wildfire season past its usual late March or April end, all the way into mid-May.
Currently, penalties for individuals who burn down forest areas inside national parks include prison terms of 4-20 years, or fines of 400,000 to 2 million baht. About 100 criminal cases relating to forest fires are processed every year.
The acting director-general said fire breaks are being set up to reduce the intensity of forest fires, while manpower is being allocated to areas with recurring wildfires. Communities are also being asked to help monitor the blazes and put out fires that haven’t spread beyond their capacity to manage.
Those witnessing forest burning activities are urged to report them to the 1362 hotline. (NNT)