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Chiang Mai residents have declared their province an air pollution zone after the government failed to exercise its legal powers to announce an air pollution crisis to address the problem in the northern region. Meanwhile, a significant increase in respiratory diseases is reported in the region.

A dozen Chiang Mai residents gathered on Thursday (4 April) at the Faculty of Law, Chiang Mai University, to declare Chiang Mai an area with a risk of lung cancer after the air quality in several provinces in the region reached levels that are dangerous to health, leading most people to suffer from respiratory illnesses. The Northern People’s Network filed a lawsuit against the Prime Minister, the National Environment Board (NEB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SET), but the latter was dismissed. The Administrative Court ruled that the PM must apply his legal powers to address the pollution while the NEB has decided to appeal the Court’s decision, delaying legal measures to solve the issue.


Public Statement: Chiang Mai is an Air Pollution Zone

Since late March 2024, the level of PM 2.5 dust in Chiang Mai has continuously increased to a level that significantly impacts public health. Many people have suffered respiratory illnesses, as reported widely by the media and modern communication channels.

Recently, the Northern People's Network filed a lawsuit against the Prime Minister and the National Environment Board. The Chiang Mai Administrative Court ruled in January 2024, directing the Prime Minister to use existing legal powers create a plan to address the pollution problem. However, the National Environment Board has appealed the court's decision, delaying the legal measures to solve the problem.

Despite the severe air pollution situation, the government and responsible agencies have not utilized their legal powers to show or declare that Chiang Mai is in an air pollution crisis. Basic precautions such as warnings, distribution of protective equipment to the public, and efficient operations against forest fires have not been adequately implemented.

This negligence of the government towards declaring and implementing an emergency plan to tackle PM 2.5 pollution in Northern Thailand, due to concerns solely for the economic and tourism impacts, are serious violations of human right of citizens to a healthy, safe, and clean environment. It is the Prime Minister's responsibility to urgently address this issue. However, it does not appear that any measures have been implemented. Even though the Prime Minister visited Chiang Mai in March of this year, it did not lead to any increased efforts to solve the problem.

Medical data shows a significant increase in respiratory diseases among the population. In the long run, studies indicate higher mortality rates from asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the Northern provinces than in other regions, confirming the severe impact of PM 2.5 dust on people's lives.

It is therefore necessary to declare that Chiang Mai as a city experiencing severe air pollution, without the need to wait for the government or state agencies to do so. It is clear that we should not hope to rely on them. This public statement that we are in a city facing severe air pollution aims to raise public awareness that the current environmental situation is severely harmful to the lives and health of the people in both the short and in long term, and to warn them to take as much care of themselves as possible. Leaving vulnerable groups like children, the elderly and labourers outdoors, without any warning, is cruelty. This will also raise awareness for tourists visiting Chiang Mai to safeguard themselves against the ongoing pollution.

In the name of the people of Chiang Mai, we hereby declare that Chiang Mai is now an air pollution zone, in order to raise awareness regarding the severity of the PM 2.5 situation. We would like to request people in other provinces who are similarly facing PM 2.5 pollution to announce that their provinces are also air pollution zones, as Chiang Mai has done.

These joint declarations would not only raise awareness of the dangers of PM 2.5 pollution but also pressure the government and relevant state agencies to take more effective actions in solving this problem.



People's Dust Lawsuit Network

April 4, 2024

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