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Thailand’s smog crisis continues in Bangkok and other provinces for a second week, with pollution readings at hazardous levels, while the spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office has insisted that the situation has yet to reach a crisis level and asks the public not to panic.

Bangkok's skyline now covered in a thick blanket of air pollution

On Monday afternoon (20 January), AirVisual recorded the air quality at 167 AQI, with a PM2.5 level of 86.2 micrograms per cubic metre, while the World Air Quality Index Project Team recorded the air quality at 170 AQI, both unhealthy levels.

The Pollution Control Department’s Air4Thai website reported a range of air quality from around 100 to 205 AQI and an average PM2.5 level of around 50 – 60 micrograms per cubic metre in Bangkok districts. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), on the other hand, reported a PM2.5 level of 50 – 89 microgramc per cubic metre.

Health-hazardous pollution levels were reported in 34 out of Bangkok’s 50 districts, with the worst being in Phra Nakhon district.

Unsafe PM2.5 levels were also reported in 23 other provinces: Ayutthaya, Chachoengsao, Chiang Rai, Chonburi, Kanchanaburi, Lampang, Loei, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Sawan, Nan, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phayao, Phrae, Prachinburi, Ratchaburi, Rayong, Sa Kaeo, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Saraburi, and Suphan Buri.

The Thai government’s set safe limit for PM2.5 is 50 micrograms per cubic metre, while the guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) state that the annual average PM2.5 level should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre or a 24-hour average of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

The government has yet to issue any concrete long-term plans to tackle air pollution, but among the measures planned in a meeting between the Pollution Control Department, the Department of Land Transport, and the Department of Highways is to set up more checkpoints for cars which release black smoke, to ask truck drivers not to come into Bangkok between 6.00 – 21.00 on odd-number days until the end of February, to reduce the price of diesel oil, and to tighten factory regulations, among others.

These measures will have to be approved by the cabinet before they are implemented. Meanwhile, Narumon Pinyosinwat, spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office, insisted that the smog situation has yet to reach crisis level, and asked the public not to panic.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is currently on a mobile cabinet meeting trip in in Narathiwat, said during a meeting with the public, that the people themselves are the cause of the air pollution problem, and that he does not want to punish people, but the government needs their cooperation. He also told those in sensitive groups to “wear face masks if you think you are in danger.”

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