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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Thousands evacuated as toxic dump fire smog blankets Bangkok

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Thousands evacuated as toxic dump fire smog blankets Bangkok | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Dump fire creates deadly smog; locals ordered out
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Residents in Tambon Praeksa in Samut Prakan were forced to rush to grab their belongings and flee after a massive fire broke out at a garbage dump near their homes.

Inspectors from the Pollution Control Department (PCD) had advised locals to evacuate after finding sulphur dioxide levels at five times higher than normal.

Smog caused by the huge fire at the garbage dump covered at least three housing estates near the site.

Local residents had to wear face-masks to avoid the worst of the pollution.

“This is the first time in my life that I have experienced a terrible incident like this,” Kudan Boonnontae, 62, said.

After learning that a huge fire had broken out at the dump, she had to evacuate from her home and stay at the Praeksa Administrative Organisation building on Sunday night.

Another local resident, Suthep Montralak, 55, had gathered his belongings and took his family to stay at a relative’s house.

“I cannot stay here. No one can breathe,” he said.

Only a few cars were running on local roads. Many drivers had to turn on their car’s front lights due to the low visibility.

Dozens of ambulances were transferring residents suffering from chronic diseases for treatment at nearby hospitals, while fire engines were deployed to stop the fire.

Samut Prakan Governor Kanit Iamrahong said people living in three housing estates within a 500-metre radius from the burning dump had been advised to evacuate.

“No one is staying there,” he said.

‘It will take 3 to 4 days’

Provincial authorities expected it would take at least three to four days to stop the fire.

Meanwhile, smog had spread over a 5km area south of the site, Kanit said.

Jirawut Jiamsakul, an inspector from the Department, visited the area and measured the level of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) around the site.

He found the level of sulphur dioxide was 4-5 parts-per-million (ppm), well over the designated standard of 0.2 ppm.

The level of carbon monoxide was measured at 175 ppm at the dump but just 10 ppm 200 metres away. The latter figure was below the designated standard of 27 ppm. VOCs measured at 0.9 ppm to 1.0 ppm, which also was under standard level.

“This is the worst incidence of garbage disposal site that had been fired,” he said.

Moo 4 Praeksa community leader Paithoon Maisanklang, 51, said he had tried to move local residents to a multi-purpose building owned by the Tambon Praeksa Administrative Organisation, serving as an evacuation centre. He said many were choking from the smoke and had to move out for safety.

He and other leaders were monitoring nearby communities to see if the situation deteriorated last night. “If it gets worse, we will have to evacuate them too,” he said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December

The Thaiger

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Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December | The Thaiger

The point deduction system, for traffic and road infringements, is tentatively scheduled for activation for motorists and motorcyclists in mid-December. It is hoped that the system will help reduce road fatalities and injuries on Thai roads.

The deputy commander of Highways Police Command says that every licensed driver will be given an allocation of 12 points. Each time the driver commits a traffic law violation, points will be deducted. When there are no points left, the driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days, after which the driver or motorcyclist will have to undergo training administered by the Land Transport Department to get their licence back, and another 12 points.

Those who don’t attend the training, however, will have their licence returned after 90 days, but with only 8 points.

Points to be deducted differ, depending on the offence. Offences are divided into four categories:

• One point deduction

Using a cell-phone while driving; exceeding the speed limit; not wearing crash helmets for motorcyclists; not wearing seat belts; not giving way to emergency vehicles, riding on the sidewalk and not stopping for pedestrians on zebra crossings.

• Two points deduction

Running a red light; driving on the wrong side of the road; reckless driving; driving while his/her license is suspended and drunk driving.

• Three points deduction

Organising or promoting street racing without permission; hit-and run; driving while under the influence of narcotics; driving while under the influence of alcohol exceeding 150mg per ml.

• Four points deduction

Driving under the influence of alcohol exceeding 200mg per ml, drunk driving in a way which may cause serious injuries or death to the other people; driving in a manner disregarding the safety of the other people or causing trouble to other people.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Economy

Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget

May Taylor

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Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Reuters | The Business Times

The opposition is accusing the government of being more concerned with military arms than the daily struggles of Thai citizens. During a debate in Parliament on the budget bill, the government was accused of caring more about the growth in military spending than citizens’ financial woes.

The opposition levied the attack after PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered the 3.2 trillion baht bill to the House of Representatives. The debate on the 2020 budget is expected to continue for two more days and if approved by Parliament, the bill will come into force early next year.

The PM says the budget aligns with the “20 year strategy” to improve the living standards of the nation’s citizens while growing the economy, but opponents accuse him of making defence spending a priority.

The leader of the opposition, Sompong Amornvivat, claims that in the five years the PM has been in power, total spending has hit 14.3 trillion baht, with loans of 2.2 trillion baht, without any significant growth in the economy. He accuses the government of spending more than 6 billion baht on defence, with the Interior Ministry getting 25 billion baht more than last year.

It’s also understood that the government has also put 518.8 billion baht aside, which it can spend as it wishes, without the consent of Parliament.

The government’s tourism stimulus plan, whereby domestic tourists would be given cash incentives, also came under fire as Sompong declared it a waste of money that would do nothing to boost productivity.

The subject of the PM’s oath-taking fiasco reared its head again, as the leader of the Seree Ruam Thai Party, Pol General Sereepisut Temiyavej declared the PM and his government unfit to rule or propose a budget bill as a result of it.

Anudit Nakorntab from the Pheu Thai party said the government should postpone unnecessary spending on military arms while the country’s citizens battle economic hardship, accusing the previous junta-led administration of also prioritising the military in its spending.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Environment

Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals

May Taylor

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Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals | The Thaiger

The chairman of the Thai Sugarcane Farmers Association, Thongkam Cheongklad, says a ban on the weed-killer paraquat would have a severe impact on production costs. Academics and Thai sugarcane farmers have also expressed their concern over the ban, saying it could cost the industry up to 570 billion baht.

The Nation reports that up to 1.2 million people working in the sugarcane industry are understood to be against the ban, saying the proposed paraquat substitute is both expensive and ineffective.

The president of the Thailand Society of Sugarcane Technologists, Kitti Choonhawong, says Thailand has approximately 11 million rai dedicated to sugarcane plantations, generating about 300 billion baht a year.

He claims that a ban on agri-chemicals may lower sugar production, which in turn would affect sugar factories and cause the export market to lose as much as 94.6 billion baht. Thailand is currently the world’s second biggest sugar exporter, behind Brazil.

A research director from the Thailand Development Institute says the ban could ultimately mean the country is not allowed to produce enough food, unless chemical fertilisers are still allowed if chemical pesticides are banned.

Viroj Na Ranong says production costs will still rise however, along with labour costs, adding that the government needs to do its homework.

“The government has to implement measures based on research, not on social trends and politics.”

It’s understood that The National Hazardous Substances Committee will meet on October 27 to decide if a ban on three chemicals currently used in farming will go ahead. The substances involved are paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos and the proposal is for them to be banned from December 1.

SOURCE: The Nation

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