Chiang Rai on Thai-Myanmar forest fire alert

ChiangRai on Thai-Myanmar forest fire alert

9 March 2007

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Thailand — A large-scale forest fireraging out of control for three days is carrying  dust, dirt and darkness from Myanmarto wide areas along the Thai-Myanmar border and Thai authorities are preparingfor a possible spread of the conflagration across the mountainous frontier.

Seen from the Thai side, heavysmoke has been filling the skies of Mae Sai, Mae Fa Luang, Chiang Saen andMae Chan districts for three days and ash has been deposited across a widelandscape.

As a result, many local residents at Thai-Myanmar border are suffering from eyeirritation and fear of respiratory ailments from dirt, dust and possible toxicpollutants.

The fire broke out in a forest in Myanmar territory on the opposite of HuayNam Rin village, Viangphangkham sub-district, Mae Sai district and spread to anarea of about 200 rai or 320,000 square metres.

The severe fire has been raging through bamboo forest and dry deciduous forestleaves, which are tinder-dry before the onset on the rainy season, according toforestry observers.

Provincial officials are expressingconcern that the wide-ranging blaze appears to be moving closer to Thaiterritory, prompting Thai officials to prepare for firefighting duties,especially near the Thai Army’s 3rd Cavalry base in Chiang Rai province.

Many soldiers have been assigned todig fire blocking trenches and to prepare for other possible fire-fightingduties.

It has been speculated that the ongoing forest fire may have been caused by villagerswho may have negligently lighted a fire during land clearing andpreparation for the new planting season, or irresponsibly burning foresttracks to drive wildlife out of the forest for hunting purposes.

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