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Laos, Myanmar, Thailand Hold Talks to Address Transboundary Air Pollution

Source: Vientiane Times

Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone on Friday held talks online with his Thai and Myanmar counterparts, General Prayuth Chan-ocha and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in a joint effort to address transboundary haze pollution, which has risen to dangerous levels in many parts of the three neighbouring countries.

The Lao premier proposed that the three parties draw up a joint action plan to tackle cross-border air pollution, according to a press release from the Lao Prime Minister’s Office.

In this regard, a working group should be formed to draw up the action plan and realise it, along with working out a coordination programme to address transboundary air pollution cause by agricultural burning.

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The Lao leader also proposed creating cooperation mechanisms to exchange lessons learnt and best practices to be pursued by the three countries.
The three premiers agreed to work more closely with each other and with the seven other Asean member countries.

Prime Minister Sonexay committed to work with Myanmar and Thailand to address transboundary haze in compliance with and realisation of the the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution and Asean Regional Haze Action Plan.

The meeting noted that Laos, Thailand and Myanmar are all suffering from severe air pollution as a result of slash and burn cultivation, which has triggered forest fires and caused air pollution to worsen.

Given that air pollution has risen to dangerous levels, posting a health threat for people in affected areas of the three countries, a joint effort to deal with the issue is urgently needed, the press release said.

PM Sonexay thanked General Prayuth for initiating the tripartite talks.

In Laos, haze has covered large parts of the country. Airborne particulate matter (PM), with particles having a diameter of 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or less, has risen to unsafe levels in many places.

In light of this issue, the Lao government has instructed ministries to work with local authorities to tackle the problem, with forces deployed to contain and extinguish forest fires. Authorities have been told to be on the lookout for fires and to arrange patrols in forest areas that are potential fire hazards.

A public campaign is underway to raise awareness of the issue, its causes and dangers, and ways to stay safe during times of severe air pollution, PM Sonexay told his counterparts.

The Lao premier admitted that rising temperatures and the dry environment increased the risk and spread of forest fires, making it harder to control burning and extinguish fires.