Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Parallels between Chiang Mai and Hua Hin

A reader forwards the below.  It was a Letter to the Editor in the Bangkok Post.  As the reader states "Some parallels.  Good we have sea breezes here."


Living in Chiang Mai these last two months has been a bit like living in a garage with the car engine running, with the front port closed and with only small windows open high up for ventilation.

I use the garage analogy because it seems fashionable to blame the wood smoke from burning of forests and fields, to blame the Burmese and the Lao, the minorities and the farmers, rather than another major culprit for Chiang Mai's dreadful air _ the dust and toxic gases created by traffic.

Developers have been and remain busy along the new middle and outer ring roads, tearing up rice fields in one place and filling them in another for housing projects, factories and shopping malls. A belt of new suburbia girds the city, and its inhabitants almost totally depend on the use of private motor transportation.

No one has yet been able to overcome the red songthaeo operators and the shadowy cooperative that organises them; apparently its members do not even have to have their vehicles checked.

This group and the powerful figures behind them present a major obstacle to setting up a rational bus system.

Chiang Mai has no organised mass transit bus system. No government has ever tried to set up an alternative to the use of private cars by massively funding a transportation agency and ensuring it has the powers to cut through the morass of different agencies and areas of administration within the city and the surrounding districts.

Thus, attempts to reduce traffic flow into the city and consequentially toxic emissions, have been almost non-existent, and the City Planning Department officials can only propose more road widening.

Micro-particles (particles of less than 10 microns) thought to seriously affect respiratory health, are increasingly reaching levels over 4 times the European safety standard of 50 microgrammes (per cubic metre/24 hours; the Thai standard is 120mg) during the dry and hot seasons.

With tens of thousands confirmed sick with respiratory problems and the numbers thought to be suffering from breathing ailments in excess of 100,000 people, and with lung cancer running at rates more than twice that of Bangkok and increasing, the medical facts speak for themselves.

Yes, the rains should come, the winds should blow, and for another season government officials will announce that p-10 levels are below the Thai safety standard.

Housing estate billboards portraying a dreamy green suburbia surrounded by mountains will continue to give public face to the ever growing lie.

The truth is breathing on Chiang Mai's streets and arterial roads is unpleasant at most times year-round. For months on end you can barely see the mountains from the ring roads, if at all.

From sometime in January till whenever the rains start, the air in the city and much of the valley becomes extremely unhealthy, if not life-threatening. And it's getting worse every year.

The problem of air pollution from motorcycles in Hua Hin was addressed in 1996 by John Laird in the Observer and reprinted as One Man's Opinion on The Hua Hin Pages at that time. The article by Laird remains the page with the most external links on The Hua Hin Pages. Things haven't improved in 13 years.

h/t to the reader

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posted by Falang Bo Fai @ 2:52 PM   0 Comments Links to this post

Saturday, March 21, 2009

US chemical weapons testing scandal in Thailand

I did a Google on Bo Fai today and discovered this little gem. I vaguely remember the story but in 1999 I had my mind on things other than Bo Fai.

This is from The World Socialist Web Site and I'm sure they don't have any axe to grind...

US chemical weapons testing scandal in Thailand

By Steve Dean
25 June 1999
Details are continuing to emerge from Thailand of a growing scandal and cover-up involving the US and Thai military, environmental agencies and the Thai government, concerning US chemical weapons testing in Thailand in 1964-65.
Science, Technology and Environmental Minister Suvit Khunkitti has received documents from the US Ambassador to Thailand confirming that Agent Orange and other chemicals were tested by the military in Pran Buri and Bo Fai. US officials, however, insist that no chemicals were dumped haphazardly after the tests were completed.
Khunkitti said details of the Thai Defense Ministry's involvement in the operations would remain secret. PCD chief Saksit Tridech backed his minister, saying, “it is the Defense Ministry's policy not to reveal details about these chemical tests to the public”.
The scandal began to develop in late February, when a chemical dump was unearthed at Bo Fai airport in Hua Hin, during the construction of a runway. Immediately the government and its official environmental agency, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) went into damage control, denying that there was any evidence to suggest that Agent Orange was present in the soil. The greater likelihood, they claimed, was that the chemicals were paint solvents.
When soil samples were sent to the US and Canada for dioxin tests (Thailand does not possess the technology for these tests) contradictions began to appear in the official media releases. Director General of the Department of Medical Sciences, Renu Koysuko, confirmed that derivatives of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, two major dioxins contained in Agent Orange, were discovered in soil recovered from Bo Fai airport. This conflicted with earlier claims from the Agricultural Department and the US Environmental Protection Agency that no such chemicals were evident in the soil.
The US dumped more than 19 million gallons of Agent Orange, a defoliant, on Indochina during the Vietnam War. Nearly three kilograms of such toxic chemicals were used per head of the Vietnamese population. Health authorities estimate that up to 50,000 children have been born with birth defects as a result.
This chemical saturation was one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the US military, dwarfing the use of poisonous gases in World War One. The US military aimed not just to defoliate the jungle but also destroy the crops that fed the Vietnamese people. The entire country's environment was destroyed and is still recovering to this day. US soldiers were also affected, with 250,000 suspected cases of toxic harm.
The comprehensive use of chemical weapons violated the 1925 Geneva Protocol that prohibited “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases”. The 1907 Hague Convention also forbade the use of poison or poisoned weapons.
Agent Orange and other dioxins are extremely hazardous to human beings. The US EPA has admitted that there is no safe exposure level. US National Cancer Institute tests have proved that dioxins cause fetal death and deformity, miscarriage, chromosome damage and cancer. In a recent study, the Cancer Institute proved that humans with a high exposure to dioxins (TCDD) have a 60 percent greater risk of dying from cancer. The presence of other herbicidal chemicals magnified the effects.
There is evidence of birth defects in Thailand. A textbook Environment and Ecology, written in the early 1970s by Kasetsart University lecturer Somchit Pongpangan, who participated in the research at Bo Fai and Pran Buri, shows that 20 local villagers were employed at the test site. One of them, a woman, who used to collect filters known to be contaminated with Agent Orange, gave birth to a child with an abnormal chest bone.
The identity and whereabouts of the woman and her family are unknown, but this evidence begs the question of how many more victims there are in Thailand, particularly among those who worked in and around the various military bases. Further chemical dumps are likely to exist. Agent Orange was sprayed from light planes, so that runways and chemical supply bases could have been set up anywhere. Thailand was also one of the US military's most important supply routes during the war.
Moreover, the land at Pran Buri has been turned into prime agricultural land, raising serious health concerns for the inhabitants. Recent events in Belgium have shown how easily dioxins can be spread throughout the food chain.
In addition, Hua Hin is an extremely busy tourist resort. Among Thais it is the most popular holiday destination. The Tourism Authority of Thailand expressed its horror but, fearing a backlash from tourists and damage to the business community, suggested that the chemicals in the soil could not be “as nasty as some people imagine”.
In an attempt to contain the scandal, the Thai government has established a working group, containing government scientists and PCD officials. Its ability to unearth the truth has already been thrown into doubt by the Thai military's insistence on keeping secret its part in the operations. As for Washington, its interests in ensuring a cover-up are all the greater in the light of the toxic damage inflicted on Yugoslavia over the past two months.

It's been 10 years so it's probably all dissipated by now, right? And we know that TAT is looking after our best interests...

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posted by Falang Bo Fai @ 7:12 PM   0 Comments Links to this post