No-facemasks plea backfires

CHIANG MAI - Local reporters have criticised the governor of haze-shrouded Chiang Mai for asking them not to wear facemasks because it's bad for the province's image.

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Wichian Puttiwinyu has been at odds with media members since a meeting two weeks ago at which he claimed the air was still fresh, and that the media had a role and responsibility to help promote tourism, according to Chiang Mai CityNews.

Ar another meeting this week, the governor asked reporters, many of them wearing facemasks, to refrain from wearing masks as it would alarm people, including visitors.

Media members have taken to Line and Facebook groups to vent their outrage at the governor's comments. Most are displeased that the governor appears more concerned about the image of Chiang Mai than the health of its people.

Thick haze has been blanketing the North for most of the month and even forced the diversion of four flights en route to Chiang Mai airport on March 21.

Visibility of less than 2,000 metres on that day made landing in Chiang Mai impossible.

The Chiang Mai Natural Resources and Environment Office attributed the thick haze and high level of dust particles to a high pressure system covering the North and the continued burning of farm fields.

As many as 60,000 people in the North are said to be suffering from respiratory problems as a result of the haze. Residents and tourists were advised to wear face masks when going outdoors.

The Chiang Mai Tourism Association has expressed concern that the haze, if prolonged, could cause tourists to cancel hotel bookings during the upcoming Songkran festival.

More than 40,000 hotel rooms, or 80% of the city’s capacity, have been booked during the festival, the group said.

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