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Paetongtarn Shinawatra’s Family Battles COVID-19 and Haze Pollution after Chiang Mai Retreat

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Imagine a serene getaway to Chiang Mai, where the fragrant scent of Thai cuisine lingers in the air and the ancient temples stand majestically against the backdrop of verdant mountains. This was the picturesque scene envisioned by the Shinawatra family, a name synonymous with Thai politics, as they embarked on a leisurely three-day retreat to the beautiful northern city last week. However, what was meant to be a delightful family bonding experience quickly turned into a health ordeal, shedding light on an environmental crisis that has been clouding over the region.

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, a vibrant leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party and the youngest progeny of the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, shared a rather unwelcomed souvenir the family brought back from their trip. It appears that the chilly breeze of Chiang Mai was not the only thing the Shinawatras caught, as several family members came down with a pesky respiratory illness. The cold Chiang Mai air, mingled with a more sinister guest, COVID-19, decided to hitch a ride back with them. Paetongtarn, with a hint of concern in her tone, revealed that while the rest of the family grappled with colds, her son and daughter were greeted with positive COVID-19 test results upon their return.

“I’m now afraid [that I might have contracted the COVID-19 virus as well], but my dad is feeling okay,” Paetongtarn remarked, trying to find a silver lining amidst the health scare. Their visit coincided with Chiang Mai facing one of its worst haze pollution spells, etching a gray streak in what was supposed to be a colorful family canvas.

The scenic city, known for its lush landscapes and tranquil vibes, was shrouded in a thick blanket of haze, with the air quality plummeting to dangerous levels. Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital saw a staggering surge in patients, recording 30,339 individuals seeking treatment for ailments tied to the menacing PM2.5 dust from January 1 until March 15. This figure was a whopping double the count from the previous year, painting a grim picture of Chiang Mai’s battle with air pollution.

Conditions ranging from allergic reactions to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have been linked to the tiny yet treacherous particles of PM2.5, underscoring the severity of the haze pollution. Despite Chiang Mai’s skies clearing up somewhat following a few days of merciful rain, certain areas continued to gasp under unhealthy PM2.5 levels. The city’s governor, Nirat Phongsitthithawon, noted that while the situation had lightly abated, areas closer to the Myanmar border were still suffocating under transboundary haze.

The governor elucidated that alongside cloud seeding operations, a vigilant eye is being kept on manmade bushfires to curb the thick smoky veil enshrouding the region. In a surprising twist, amidst this environmental conundrum, Mae Hong Son, a neighboring province, boasted the best air quality index seen in a month. This breath of fresh air, both figuratively and literally, came despite the detection of numerous thermal hotspots and fire activities across the border in Myanmar.

However, the pollution plight led Bangkok Airways to suspend flights to and from Mae Hong Son up until March 30, showcasing the far-reaching impacts of the air quality crisis.

The Shinawatra family’s unexpected ordeal in Chiang Mai offers a poignant reminder of the environmental challenges facing our beautiful planet. It underscores the urgent need for concerted efforts to combat air pollution and protect the health of communities and the sanctity of our natural wonders. As for the Shinawatras, their Chiang Mai escapade will be remembered not just for the familial bonding but also as a stark encounter with the realities of environmental degradation, serving as a clarion call for action in preserving our world for future generations.


  1. EcoWarrior March 22, 2024

    It’s unfortunate that the Shinawatra family had to experience this, but maybe it’ll bring more attention to the air pollution crisis in Chiang Mai. High profile cases like this can often spur action. It’s about time we see some real change!

    • ThailandForEver March 22, 2024

      Honestly, it’s a bit rich to think that the attention will change anything. The problem has been there for years and it’s not just because of some high profile visit that things will suddenly improve. It’s an ongoing issue that needs continuous effort, not just temporary hype.

      • GreenFuture March 22, 2024

        I think what @EcoWarrior means is that publicity can spark dialogue and awareness among people who were previously uninformed. It’s true that one visit won’t change everything overnight, but it’s about building momentum towards a solution.

    • EcoWarrior March 23, 2024

      Exactly @GreenFuture! It’s all about stepping stones. Every bit of awareness counts towards the bigger picture of environmental conservation.

  2. SkepticalCitizen March 22, 2024

    Is it just me or does this story seem a bit exaggerated? I feel like the Shinawatra family using their situation to gain sympathy is a bit manipulative. People deal with pollution and viruses every day without such drama.

    • EmpathyEngine March 22, 2024

      While I understand where you’re coming from, I think it’s important to recognize that this scenario can serve as a good wake-up call for many. The Shinawatra family’s experience highlights problems that affect us all, regardless of social status.

    • Realist101 March 23, 2024

      Manipulative or not, it’s clear that the air pollution issue needs more attention. If this story gets people talking about it, then I’d say it’s served its purpose.

  3. NatureLover March 22, 2024

    The PM2.5 problem in Chiang Mai is disastrous not just for humans but for wildlife as well. We often forget how air pollution affects animals. It’s high time for more comprehensive policies aimed at curbing pollution levels for the sake of all living beings.

  4. HealthGuru March 23, 2024

    COVID-19 along with severe pollution is a lethal combination. It’s a stark reminder that we should not be complacent. Both of these issues require our immediate attention and a cohesive action plan to ensure the safety of our communities.

  5. ThailandForEver March 23, 2024

    While I sympathize with the Shinawatra family’s situation, isn’t Chiang Mai’s pollution problem a known issue? Why visit there now amidst the pandemic and haze crisis? Seems like a preventable situation to me.

    • MindfulTraveler March 23, 2024

      I think it’s not always about avoidance. People should be able to visit beautiful places like Chiang Mai without fearing for their health. The focus needs to be on addressing and solving the root causes of the pollution.

  6. GlobalNomad March 23, 2024

    Interesting how Mae Hong Son has better air quality despite everything. It goes to show that solutions exist and can be effective. We need to learn from what they’re doing right and apply these strategies on a broader scale.

  7. PolicyPundit March 23, 2024

    The governor’s measures like cloud seeding and monitoring bushfires are steps in the right direction but are clearly not enough. We need sustainable solutions that tackle the problem at its core, including better regulatory frameworks and international cooperation on transboundary haze.

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