Mae Hong Son’s decision to bar entry to woodlands in a bid to curb forest fires and haze does not apply to local people who daily forage there for food and other necessities villagers, Deputy Governor Prachuap Ajarapong clarified on Monday.
Even locals would be checked to make sure they weren’t carrying matches or similar kindling materials, he said, but the forests are chiefly off-limits to hunters and other outsiders.
Forest fires continue to spring up in seven districts of the northern province despite a 60-day ban on outdoor burning imposed in mid-February.
In the past three days, the fires contributed to a rise in hazardous small-particle dust in the air beyond the safe level of 120 micrograms per cubic metre.
The Pollution Control Department reported the level at 128 micrograms on Saturday, 136 on Sunday and 133 on Monday.
Neighbouring Chiang Mai province has conditionally closed forests for seven days, from Sunday through March 31, similarly fearing woodland fires set deliberately or accidentally.
Chiang Mai Governor Pawin Chamniprasert announced the closure on Sunday at a City Hall meeting of relevant officials and representatives of 25 districts.
The only people who will be allowed into forests during those seven days will have the permission of a designated official and must have given advance notice of intended plans, schedule and route. They will not be allowed to take in any fire-starting materials.
Chiang Mai had 407 reports of “hotspots” between January 1 and March 24 – forest fires and field-clearing fires. There were 125 hotspots reported while a ban on outdoor burning was in effect from March 1-24.