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Chiang mai Burning: A Crisis in Northern Thailand (video)

SMOKE: A Crisis in Northern Thailand, the Health Effects and a Solution…

This film was presented as a work in progress at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Agriculture on January 8th, 2016 to create awareness and begin a dialogue about the yearly smoke crisis in Northern Thailand.

Note: There are subtitles for people who don’t speak Thai and/or those studying the language.

Burning in Chiang mai…

When I arrived back in Thailand after the Xmas holidays this year, the Chiang mai air already had the telltale signs of burning. One day the smoke was so strong we walked around to the backyard to see what was on fire (nothing – just another day in paradise?)

It’s not even February (typical burning season) yet I’m already housebound due to coughing. When I checked on Asian air quality forecast to see about any possiblities of escaping the boredom, it was quite apparent what with all the oranges and reds, it’s not looking good for me.

A Crisis in Northern Thailand

Orange: 101-150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
Red: 151-200 Unhealthy

For 2016 the powers that be ‘officially’ started the burning in early January. The changes were announced in the New Burning Schedule Ordered in an Attempt to Tackle Smoke Issue.

  • 1–10 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Doi Tao, Mae Taeng, Mae Wang, Doi Saket, Hod
  • 5–15 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: San Pa Tong, Chom Thong, Sameng, Wiang Haeng
  • 11–20 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Mae Jam, Mae On, Phrao, Fang
  • 16–23 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Om Koi, Chia Prakarn, Kanlayaniwattana
  • 26 Jan– 5 Feb: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Doi Lo, San Sai, Muang Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao
  • 6–16 Feb: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Hang Dong, Saraphi, Sankampaeng, Mae Rim, Mae Ai

From what I’ve know, not many are following the schedule set out by the governor. But if caught will any be prosecuted? Only a handful were charged during the recent disaster in 2015.

Here are two posts on the subject from last season. One by me (where I was still struggling to keep a positive outlook), and one by Hugh Leong walking you through useful vocabulary.

Chiang mai Burning: Could You Survive Thailand’s Polluted North?
Thai Language Thai Culture: Breathing in Chiang Mai

Chiang mai smog

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

16 Comments

  1. Hi! This is the best info I’ve found yet on the 2016 burning season, but I’m wondering if you think the burning will end early this year? I’m booking a trip to Thailand, and the best time for me is mid March, which initially looked like the worst time to visit Chiang Mai, but if the burning season has started so early, maybe it will be ok by then? I’d just hate to move my trip up only to have it be worse… I really appreciate any info (even though I know you probably don’t have anything concrete!)
    Thank you!

  2. Hi Cydney. This is my third burning season in Chiang mai and each one has been different. The first year it wasn’t much of a problem but the second left me with lasting health problems. This year I’m contemplating heading down to Bangkok (the rain only gave a bit of a reprieve).

    The end of the burning season could be April or May. But looking back, I couldn’t really guess. From what I understand they are putting in more fields so logically the burning will just increase each year.

    If you have breathing problems (like asthma) then I wouldn’t bother coming out until the burning season is officially over. And if it’s like last year, even then sporadic burning will continue.

    Good luck!

  3. It rained last night and we were under 50 and in the green for less then 12 hours and people started burining again… this is the worst I have seen in 12 years and it is not ending. Thailand is loosing billions in tourism.

  4. Chris, I hope it’s not as bad this burning season. I don’t mind going to Bangkok for the duration but what about everyone left in the North?

  5. Living here in Phan, Chiang Rai. The burning here begins in mid October and goes on for 6 months. Where people get the idea that the season lasts only 3 months is beyond me. The one and only best time to be here is during the rainy season, when you can actually SEE the horizon and the beauty of the countryside. Even when Thais are not burning the rice fields and the forests for mushroom harvesting, they are still burning garbage and PLASTIC and yard waist. In Jan. of this year I landed in the hospital with a lung infection coupled with a heart attack it was so bad. I almost died because of it. I’ve lived here for almost 7 years and it isn’t getting any better. Despite the massive billboards that say; STOP BURNING….! Thais, for the most part, don’t give a hoot about their environment. There isn’t any room for argument there. One day, they will be sorry.

  6. Ted, we’ve lucked out with a long rainy season this year. Fingers crossed …

    So sorry to hear about your health. I also get sick during the burning (but nowhere near as bad) and have no option but to move away until the air is clear. I was housebound in Brunei during the ‎1997 Southeast Asian haze but I stuck it out. And now I wish I hadn’t.

  7. When doe is usually start…is there a fixed time??

  8. No fixed time. I sometimes notice it on October but for me it doesn’t get bad until February.

  9. This just in: Chiang Mai Governor Prepares for ‘Don’t Burn for 60 Days Campaign’

    Quote: Each year Chiang Mai suffers from smoke problems and severe smog as farmers and industrial businesses begin the traditional slash and burn agricultural clearing techniques each year.

    Anyone caught burning between these two dates will be arrested and those who are able to identify and inform the authorities about those who burn will receive 5000 baht for each successful arrest made as a result of their report.

    People are encouraged to report burning by calling 053 112236 or contacting emergency services by calling 191 for 24 hour support.

  10. When I’ve visited Chiang Mai in the Nov. thru Jan. period, its always real bad once it gets dark; maybe, they
    can’t catch them for violation so easily; the smog is so bad in the evenings, you can only see about 1 block away.
    Its going to damage their tourism greatly.

  11. I have a friend here from Bangkok and she asked why there was smoke in my house. When I explained, she was surprised as she didn’t realise it was that bad up here. But it’s not bad yet – could be next week or the week after.

  12. Do you not have air purifiers running in your house? If Beijingers can breathe clean air in their homes then Chiang Maiers can too.

  13. I have six + Hepa purifiers (spent a pretty penny getting them), plus all my AC’s have extra filters and my car as well. Houses up here are not sealed (not like in the UK).

    I haven’t heard about clean air inside houses in China – are their homes made any better than ours in in Thailand?

  14. Chiang Mai is really bad at Nov.

  15. No, but those who can afford it go to great lengths to seal their homes and run air purifiers. You can buy draught excluder strips on Lazada and Aliexpress, or even try duct tape.

  16. Lucky people. I doubt my landlord would approve of me running duct tape throughout a large four bedroom house with wall to wall windows up and down. I did it in Brunei during the 2006 haze and the tape plus humidity ruins the paint/wood treatment. It’s easier to just move to Bangkok for the duration.

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