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Poor Visibility due to forest fires causes Flight Delays
Thick smoke from forest fires forced several airlines to cancel or postpone domestic flights to Chiang Mai and neighbouring Mae Hong Son provinces yesterday. Several flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai were cancelled due to thick smoke shrouding northern provinces. Some Mae Hong Son-bound flights from Bangkok were delayed.

Sansanee Chaichiangpin, of the Chiang Mai-based Northern Meteorological Centre, said the situation in several northern provinces was getting worse. Visibility was down to 1,500 metres in Chiang Mai, 1,000 metres in Chiang Rai and only 900 metres in Mae Hong Son. Such poor visibility posed a risk to flights in and out of the affected provinces, she said. Satellite images showed thick smoke has blanketed wide areas in the North, especially Chiang Mai where bushfires and weed-burning have been blamed for causing the haze. Forest fires have also been spotted near remote northern areas bordering Laos and Burma.

Ms Sansanee called on residents to stop burning garbage or weeds as the smoke would hamper artificial rain-making operations, set to start this week, which it is hoped will help tackle the haze.
Some residents of these northern provinces have complained of respiratory problems from the smoke.
In Chiang Rai, residents have been staying indoors as much as possible, due to thick haze that has been covering large parts of the province for the past week. People living in municipal areas have complained of sore eyes due to the smoke.

Kamolroj Chiangwong, chief of Chiang Rai's Mae Lao district, yesterday joined 500 residents and local leaders in an oath-taking ceremony swearing they would not cause bushfires. Forest fires were yesterday reported near the Burmese town of Tachilek opposite Mae Sai in Chiang Rai district.
People living along the border have sought medical treatment for smoke-inflicted ailments Vichai Thaweepvoradet, mayor of Mae Sai tambon municipality, said the thick smoke has badly affected tourism and cross-border trade between Tachilek and Mae Sai.

Chiang Rai authorities have threatened to get tough on anyone found lighting forest fires, with the situation in the province becoming critical. So far this year, Chiang Rai has seen the highest number of forest fires in the country.

From the Bangkok Post, 12th March 2007.
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