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Chiang Mai’s Bold Plan to Combat Smog Crisis: Governor Nirat’s Reward Offer Faces Skepticism

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In a landscape where the air is more toxic than an internet comment section, Chiang Mai finds itself in a haze of smog so thick, it could rival London’s infamous ‘pea-soupers.’ Enter Chiang Mai Governor Nirat Sitthithaworn, striding through the miasma with a plan so bold it could be straight out of a superhero comic. His proposition? An offer of 10,000 baht to any vigilant citizen who can bring about the conviction of forest fire felons. But, much like a tepid cup of tea, this plan has been met with lukewarm enthusiasm from those with their boots on the ground.

One of these, Rungsrit Kanjanavanit, a cardiologist and lecturer from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Medicine, shared his thoughts with the Bangkok Post, and spoiler alert: he’s not buying what the governor is selling. “In my opinion, 10,000 baht rewards could do very little,” he remarked. Let’s not forget, this isn’t Rungsrit’s first rodeo – similar schemes have been floated before, only to vanish like smoke. The doctor paints a picture of cunning pyromaniacs, setting ablaze the forests under the cloak of night, miles away from any potential witnesses.

And then he poses the million baht question: How in the world do you catch these elusive fire starters, short of turning the forest into a Big Brother episode with a network of CCTV cameras? Which, he wryly notes, would likely end up as expensive kindling in the very fires they’re meant to deter.

However, the award for the most scathing critique goes to Marisa Marchitelli, a filmmaker with a bona fide title: anti-burning crusader. She’s not just any concerned citizen; she’s the director of “SMOKE: A Crisis in Northern Thailand,” a film that dives deep into the heart of the inferno. According to Marisa, who spoke with the same publication, chasing after flame-happy individuals is an exercise in futility—an endeavor she labels “absolutely ridiculous.”

Marisa recounts her own Sisyphean efforts to stem the tide of the fires, detailing a Kafkaesque bureaucratic odyssey that involves summoning the police to play a game of catch-me-if-you-can with the arsonists. By her account, by the time the authorities arrive at the scene, the culprits are long gone, leaving behind nothing but the ashes of justice.

Her words aren’t just fiery rhetoric; they’re the product of a decade of witnessing these half-baked solutions do nothing to quell the raging fires. This tale of ineffectuality and frustration also makes a cameo in an excerpt from “Smoke,” featured in the latest episode of the Bangkok Post’s “Deeper Dive” vodcast, “Feeding the Smog.” For those intrigued by this saga of smoke, science, and scant solutions, Marisa and Dr. Rungsrit’s insights offer a compelling call to action. Now, whether this call will be answered or lost in the haze is a question only time will answer.

So, if you find yourself drawn to tales of environmental heroism, misguided plans, and the indomitable spirit of those fighting the good fight against ecological catastrophe, tuning into this vodcast might just stoke the flames of your curiosity. Just remember, as the battle to clear the air continues, it’s the voices of the experienced and the passionate, like Rungsrit and Marisa, that shine a guiding light through the smog.


  1. EcoWarrior22 March 20, 2024

    I think we’re focusing too much on the reward system and not enough on the root cause of these forest fires. Sure, a financial incentive might help catch a few perpetrators, but it doesn’t address why they’re setting fires in the first place.

    • ChiangMaiNative March 20, 2024

      Exactly! It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg. We need to look at more sustainable farming practices and land management if we’re ever going to get serious about preventing these fires.

      • Firefighter101 March 20, 2024

        Sustainable farming practices are key, but we also can’t ignore the importance of educating the public about the dangers of burning. Awareness can be as powerful as legislation.

    • SkepticalSue March 20, 2024

      I disagree. A reward system might not solve everything, but it puts immediate pressure on those considering arson for quick land clearing. It’s a deterrent, albeit a small one.

  2. TimTheFarmer March 20, 2024

    Isn’t there a risk that people might start setting fires just to catch others and claim the reward? Seems like it could backfire.

    • LegalEagle March 20, 2024

      That’s a valid point. The risk of abuse is real with any reward system. Tight regulations and oversight would be essential to prevent such scenarios.

  3. DocR March 20, 2024

    As someone in the medical field, I witness the health effects of this smog crisis on a daily basis. We’re talking about serious respiratory issues. The reward might encourage some action, but we need a comprehensive strategy that includes healthcare initiatives as well.

  4. CinemaLover March 20, 2024

    Marisa Marchitelli is doing God’s work with her documentary and activism. It’s voices like hers that can bring about real change by educating and inspiring the masses. The system needs a shakeup from the grassroots level.

    • CriticalThinker99 March 20, 2024

      True, but how many people are actually watching these documentaries and taking action? It sometimes feels like preaching to the choir rather than effecting real change.

    • CinemaLover March 20, 2024

      It might seem that way, but every big movement starts with small steps. Each person who watches her film and becomes aware of the issue is another potential advocate for change.

  5. HistoryBuff March 20, 2024

    Comparing Chiang Mai’s smog crisis to London’s ‘pea-soupers’ is an interesting analogy. It took London decades to address their smog through legislation. Maybe it’s a sign that quick fixes won’t cut it; we need long-term solutions.

  6. TechieTerry March 20, 2024

    I’m surprised nobody’s talking about technological solutions. What about drones for surveillance or AI to predict and track illegal burns? Might be more effective than CCTV cameras in the forest.

    • GreenThumb March 20, 2024

      Tech solutions sound good on paper but consider the cost and maintenance. Plus, are we really going to rely on machines over community and legislative efforts?

    • TechieTerry March 20, 2024

      Community efforts are vital, don’t get me wrong. But if technology can provide us with additional tools in our arsenal, shouldn’t we explore all options?

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