Thai govt offering cash for photos of forest fires

By Supat Saengdok | Source: ANN
Anyone who takes a photo of a forest fire and sends it to the authorities will be rewarded with 500 baht (US$17.24) in cash under the pilot phase of the Thai government’s “Hunt the Smog” project.

“We will take tough action against those lighting fires in forest zones to clear land for farming. Fires cause smog, which endangers the health of others,” Science Minister Woravat Auapinyakul said yesterday.

“We have found that most forest fires are started by people,” he said during a trip to this northern province to monitor the haze crisis and to launch the public campaign.

If the picture leads to the arrest of arsonists, the reward will jump to 5,000 baht. If it is among the first 10 submissions, the reward will double to 10,000 baht.

Violators will face a fine of up to 50,000 baht and up to six years in jail.

Woravat said air pollution from fires could seriously harm children whose lungs would not grow properly.

People in Phrae could alert authorities about manmade fires by calling a given number (086 420 1968). The ministry is planning to integrate activities and communications networks to end fire-induced pollution.

“We will use unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite images, Skype and smartphones for reporting fires, coordinating efforts to extinguish them and facilitating rehabilitation,” he said.

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency has been assigned to explore technical solutions to the problem, which also disrupts transportation and deters tourism in the North.

Smog has spread widely over Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. Many residents in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district put on face masks and sunglasses to protect their eyes and noses.

*US$1=29 baht