(warning this contains images which may be regarded as sacrilegious in Thailand)

It seems pilots of the airline Nok Air are having problems finding the runway in the northern town of Mae Hong Son and local citizens in Chiang Mai are having real difficulties breathing. But now disaster prevention officers are tackling the problem.


Naturally. they’re not tackling the notorious northern air pollution, which is in many places well in excess of safety limits set by the World Health Organisation.

They’re tackling the problem of people talking about it now they can no longer pass off the smog as early morning mists. They last all day.


In a move reminiscent of the time members of the Thaksin Shinawatra government publicly ate a meal of KFC chicken with the message ‘What Bird Flu? Not here there ain’t’ an investigation has been ordered into the publication of a school girl’s painted picture of the city centre statue of the ‘Three Kings’ (founder of Chiang Mai) with the kings all wearing smog masks, and its appearance on the Facebook page of the city’s glossy magazine ‘City Life’.


The Provincial Governor of Chiang Mai, Pawin Chamniprasart, the northern voice of the military junta, ordered Sirirpon Nampa head of the city’s Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Agency to investigate. Staff members have been ordered to wake up.



Clearly waking from a sopor himself, Pawin commented to the Nation newspaper:


 “It’s sacrilege. It’s a disrespectful act. It seriously hurts the feelings of Chiang Mai residents.”  

What’s more, he added, it could hurt tourism and the image of the city, which has seen the northern Thai capital competing with Dhaka as the world’s worst city for air pollution.

So, the publisher of City Life, Pim Kemasingki, could face charges of libel under the 2007 Computer Crime Act and face jail of up to 7 years, or sedition under country lese majeste laws and qualify for a 15-year stretch.

Perhaps the schoolgirl will be hanged, drawn and quartered.

I have been talking to people in Chiang Mai, but I can’t reveal their names. They might meet a similar fate. They report that it’s not so often you can see Doi Suthep, Thailand’s second highest mountain, which dominates the city.

Not the first time northern Thailand’s
three wise men have donned masks.

Protesters have already had to cancel a rally which they had organized at the city’s Thapae Gate because they had been subjects to threats.

“Grab your mask and bring your friends and family to come together and have our voices heard. 

We all have the right to breathe. This is a gathering organised by concerned citizens of Chiang Mai with no political agenda but to plead with the authorities to please provide air quality information to the public following WHO standards. 

We will be handing a letter to both the governor and the mayor, though there will be no ceremony at the event itself. It will be a casual gathering and we hope that with the press we invite, our message will be heard by those who need to hear it. BRING A SIGN.”

The government has placed a ban on all meetings of five or more persons for political purposes, but you can still dress up as a Nazi on your school Sports Day.

Of course, this is all ridiculous.

It’s not the first time these three kings have been depicted wearing smog masks.

I don’t think many people think that the latest picture, painted by a young student at a local international school, is sacrilegious.


But, of course, the city fathers will find someone if it suits them.

A few years ago the Governor of Chiang Mai at the time wrote to me saying that there was no place in Thailand for ‘human zoos’, that is camps for Burmese long-necked Padaung families which were set up for tourist cash by, in his words, ‘unscrupulous businessmen’.

The last I heard there were more than ever. He obviously got straight onto the problem Thai-style.

Here’s the text of the petition to the Governor.

A plea to find solutions to the annual air pollution danger to the people of the north of Thailand.

To the Honourable Governor of Chiang Mai Province HE Prawin Champrasart

To the Honourable Mayor of the City of Chiang Mai HE Tassanai Buranupakorn

To the Honourable President of the Provincial Administrative Organisation HE Boonlert Buranupakorn

We are the citizens and residents of Thailand and other countries living here in Chiang Mai, who are concerned about the ongoing environmental crisis and health impacts of the haze and the air pollution which is affecting Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand each year.

We acknowledge the efforts made by the government and independent organisations all working towards solutions, however, given the health issues that are the result of the aforementioned issues, we wish to ask for more urgency in finding solutions so that citizens can protect themselves appropriately from the many health dangers we face due to this problem.

We therefore ask you, as the governor and mayor of Chiang Mai, to request that the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand to urgently take these three important steps to provide this information.

1. We humbly request that the Pollution Control Department, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Government adopt the World Health Organisation (WHO) Standard for the identification of dangerous levels of particulate matter for both PM 10 and PM 2.5 and include both readings in every official document published so that this information is widely available to the public.

2. We humbly request that the Government urgently install, with international assistance if necessary, more monitoring stations in Chiang Mai city and other regional centres and rural centres, to monitor both PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels.

3. We humbly request that the Government provides accurate information regarding the hazards of haze and air pollution on public health, especially children and the elderly while also educating those on effective dust masks that protect at the level of PM 2.5.

4. We humbly request that the relevant agencies and authorities measure pollution levels from vehicles in Chiang Mai and publish this information to the public. We also ask that all vehicles have their emission levels measured, and must not exceed that standard level before registration is approved.

We hope that your excellencies will seriously consider this petition and that our proposal is forwarded to all the relevant agencies, at all levels.

Thank you for your kind attention.

The citizens of Chiang Mai

According to the Nation but don’t take their word for it. Suck it and see.


“The amount of PM10 dust particles – measuring more than 10 microns in size – hovered at 159 micrograms per cubic metre of air in Chiang Mai’s Muang district yesterday, well above the safe limit.  According to Thailand’s Pollution Control Department, health will be affected if PM10 soars above 120 micrograms per cubic metre of air. By the World Health Organisation’s standards, the amount of PM10 should be much lower for people to be safe.”

About the Author

Andrew Drummond

Andrew Drummond is a British independent journalist and occasional television documentary maker. He is a former Fleet Street, London, journalist having worked at the Evening Standard, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Observer and The Times.

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