January 23, 2014 00:00 By Deutsche Presse-Agenture
The temperature in the Thai capital Bangkok fell to its lowest in decades Thursday, during an unusually cold winter that has already claimed 63 lives in northern parts of the country, the government said.
"Bangkok hit its coldest record in 30 years Thursday morning when the temperature fell to 15.6 Celsius," said Songkram Aksorn, Deputy Director General of the Thai Meteorological Department.
This year's cool season has been the longest for a decade, lasting for almost three months, Songkram said.
Temperatures in north and north-eastern Thailand have dipped to single digits, claiming up to 63 lives in 24 provinces, the Ministryo f Health said Thursday.
Most of the dead were suffering from diseases that were exacerbated by the cold weather, ministry officials said.
The youngest victim was one month old and the oldest was 83 years old.
During last year's cool season there were only 25 weather-related deaths reported, according to Health Ministry data.
The unusually long cool season, blamed on a cold front coming from the north, has also had an impact on Thailand's rice crop.
"The new rice harvest coming in is not of good quality, because it has flowered too early with this cool season's unusually low temperatures," said Vichai Sripraset, an honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association.
"When temperatures are low, the fertilization is bad, and then you get a lot of empty rice husks," he explained.
The unusually long cool spell has coincided with three months of almost daily protests in Bangkok.
Leaders of anti-government protests said the low temperatures had not deterred people from joining the demonstrations, some of whom sleep out on the streets.
"It's been cold but not freezing, and Thai people generally enjoy cool weather the same way Westerners enjoy sunny skies," said Akanat Promphan, spokesman for the anti-government which has been leading protests in the capital since early November.