As Chiang Mai burns, its farmers are again scapegoats

Photo: Phurinat Singthorat
Photo: Phurinat Singthorat

Firefighters have been battling raging forest fires just west of Chiang Mai city that are threatening the lives of mountain residents.

Teams of firefighters supported by two helicopters were attempting to contain the blaze, which began last night, said Samoeng Fire Station chief Chakkara Ditsayanan. It comes a year after massive fires scorched the mountain area, killing at least seven.

Chakkara said foragers and farmers who burn their crops are responsible. Though wide blame is routinely assigned to these individuals, less is said of the fact they do so at the behest of major agricultural corporations, which pay so little the only cost-effective way to dispose of waste such as corn husks is to incinerate it. 

Chakkara also said the hot season is partly to blame as waterways that serve as sources of water and fire barriers have dried out. 

#ChiangMaiForestFire was a top trending hashtag on Thai Twitter this morning, where people were fielding donations to help those affected.

Chiang Mai has burned every summer in recent years, further boosting its atrocious air pollution to record highs that are occasionally the world’s worst. 

Officials last year were accused of grossly mismanaging the response, and one forest firefighter committed suicide in protest.

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