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Phuket Opinion: Forest fires up the Asean

Phuket Opinion: Forest fires up the Asean

PHUKET: The haze smothering Phuket earlier this week was not the first, and likely will not be the last time we suffer from Indonesian forest fires. Thankfully the winds soon changed for our island and we were blessed with some rain to clear the skies within a few days, but Songkhla and Hat Yai had already suffered heavily.

opinionhealthenvironmenttourism
By The Phuket News

Sunday 29 September 2019, 09:00AM


Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha represents Asean members while addressing the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York on Monday (Sept 23). Photo: via Government House

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha represents Asean members while addressing the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York on Monday (Sept 23). Photo: via Government House

What did come as great irony this week was Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha standing in front of the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday – literally while all Southern Thailand provinces from Phuket and Surat Thani to the Malaysian border were choking on forest fire haze – saying, “Asean stands ready to advance partnership with the global community on climate action to ensure sustainability for present and future generations.”

That’s a tough sell when the annual Indonesian inferno – entirely man-made to burn off plantations – is an event so great that it is easier to track its effects from space.

Worse, literally while PM Prayut was uttering those words, the UN’s own Unicef arm announced that 10 million children were at risk from the smoke caused by the fires.

Making it even harder to swallow is that Asean was founded on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of any member state. If Asean are going to stand by that while Rohingya are being hunted to the Bangladesh border, it is very unlikely they are going to take any action over Indonesia’s annual bonfire gone bad.

Laguna Golf Phuket

The response from the local health office in Phuket was quick and appropriate, but what we can do better is try to give people a little more warning. Regional alerts for Songkhla and Hat Yai were being issued up to a week before the haze hit Phuket, and a haze warning for Satun came a couple of days before it arrived on the island.

Those who were watching its progress northward would have been little surprised, but most people in Phuket are either unfamiliar with annual weather patterns or tourists who wouldn’t have had a clue until they woke up last Sunday morning.

Weather warnings for storms are issued at the drop of a hat, and we are most certainly not suggesting anything as alarming, but an advisory that haze might arrive sooner than expected – if it arrives at all – would benefit everyone.

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Kurt | 30 September 2019 - 09:48:25

...Making important words as 'sustainable' empty talks. 

Kurt | 30 September 2019 - 09:32:09

Pascale, you miss the point. It is not about the tourists who already here. ( pity them)
Present tourists suffering toxic smog in Thailand probably indeed will wear masks, and make/send selfies to family/friends in home countries. These 'selfies' are already a negative travel advice for potential future tourists.

Kurt | 30 September 2019 - 09:21:49

Well, the deal behind the ASEAN curtains is clear. 'We don't complain and ignore that Sumatra is man-made on fire'. And from December till March other countries not complain about the same happening in ChiangMai province. Indeed, not interfere in each other internal affairs. The speech of the thai PM at UN therefore can be seen as 'empty'. Making important words as 'sustain...

GerryT81 | 29 September 2019 - 14:20:57

Interesting to read that"Dual pricing"is" for not disrupting the all ready smaller tourist flow for sake of money". I thought it would be the opposite way.

Pascale | 29 September 2019 - 11:17:18

The unnamed writer{as usual} of this opinion is complaining about not enough warnings about possible haze/smog.What to do with such a warning ? Leaving this place immediately? Stocking up on face masks? Should tourists cancel their holidays  without a refund? Sorry Mr.Writer,but no "Greta"award for this one.BTW.when will the PN give the serial poster his own daily column on here?

Kurt | 29 September 2019 - 10:56:05

...many potential tourists think twice now before spending holiday money here and not go to Bangkok ( hazardous air conditions), 3 southern Provinces, as many foreign Governments give a negative travel advice for going there. Now cultural Attache's on Embassies watch/monitor the Phuket water crisis. We can wait for a negative travel advice for Phuket.

Kurt | 29 September 2019 - 10:43:54

'Sweeten' matters, minimise it, calling terrorists in southern provinces 'insurgents', calling toxic smog 'haze' en warning very late for it, denial of the Phuket water crisis. Dual pricing. It is all for not disrupting the all ready smaller tourist flow for sake of money.
Short sighted, Officialdom not realise that tourists home again share negative experiences. Many pote...

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