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Sushma Swaraj on two-day Thailand visit

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New Delhi: Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during a programme organised on the culmination of Indio-Nepal Car Rally at India Gate in New Delhi, on March 8, 2015. (Photo: Sunil Majumdar/IANS)

New Delhi/Bangkok: Taking forward India’s Act East policy, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is on a two-day visit to Thailand from Saturday during which she will attend the 16th World Sanskrit Conference and the India-Thailand Joint Commission meet.

Sushma Swaraj’s visit comes more than two months after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited Bangkok during which both sides agreed to boost cooperation in defence, strategic, maritime security and counter-terrorism efforts.

The minister, who addressed a gathering of the Indian community in Bangkok after her arrival, is expected to call on the Thai leadership and co-chair the 7th Joint Commission Meeting with Gen. Tanasak Patimapragorn, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Thailand, on June 29. The meeting will review the progress of the bilateral relationship in its totality.

On Sunday, Sushma Swaraj will attend the inaugural ceremony of the 16th World Sanskrit Conference as guest of honour.

She will address the over 600 Sanskrit scholars from around 60 countries.

The minister will also call on Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who is the patron of the conference.

Sushma Swaraj’s visit comes as two Indian warships, the INS Satpura and INS Shakti, entered Sattahip in Thailand on a four-day visit earlier this week.

The visit by the warships is “aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and fostering inter-operability between navies of the two friendly nations”.

During their stay at the harbour, various activities are planned, including official calls, receptions on board, guided tours for Indian naval personnel, and professional interaction between personnel of both the navies.

India’s excellent relations with Thailand are an important and integral component of India’s strategic partnership with ASEAN.

India’s Act East policy is complemented by Thailand’s ‘Look West’ policy in bringing the two countries closer. Sustained high-level bilateral exchanges and regular meetings of bilateral institutional mechanisms have provided a major fillip to India-Thailand relations and achieved progress in key areas of cooperation such as security, defence, commerce, science and technology and education, said a statement from the external affairs ministry.

India and Thailand have strong economic synergies and the diversifying profile of growing bilateral trade and investment reflects the growth and maturity of the two economies.

Extensive people-to-people contacts are central to the India-Thailand relationship.

In 2014, around one million Indian tourists visited Thailand and over 100,000 Thai tourists visited India, said the statement.

(IANS)

 

 

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Thailand’s Prime Minister Urge Residents of Bangkok to Wear Face Masks after Smog Cover Parts of Capital

He also asked the construction and manufacturing sectors to reduce activities that release pollutants

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Thailand, Prime Minister, Bangkok
A thick layer of smog covers Lumpini Park in central Bangkok, Thailandy, Sept. 30, 2019. VOA

Thailand’s prime minister urged residents of Bangkok to wear face masks on Monday after smog covered parts of the capital in what some fear is a harbinger of more pollution to come.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned in a statement on his Facebook page that the concentration of tiny dust particles called PM2.5 in the air had reached unsafe levels and said he has ordered government agencies to expedite anti-pollution measures. He also asked the construction and manufacturing sectors to reduce activities that release pollutants.

Smog levels are expected to stay high for the next two or three days.

The head of the country’s Pollution Control Department, Pralong Damrongthai, said the visibly dirty air was not caused by smoke originating from forest fires in Indonesia. Since last month, haze blown by monsoon winds from fires in Indonesia has affected nearby countries including the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and parts of southern Thailand, raising concerns about aviation safety and health.

Thailand, Prime Minister, Bangkok
Thailand’s prime minister urged residents of Bangkok to wear face masks on Monday after smog covered parts of the capital in what some fear is a harbinger of more pollution. Pixabay

Indonesian officials say they have made progress in containing the fires, including successful efforts at rainmaking, which they say reduced the number of fire “hotspots” from more than 5,000 about two weeks ago to 491 on Sunday.

Thailand’s Pralong told Thai PBS television that the problem in Bangkok is due to still air and high humidity becoming loaded with ultrafine dust from vehicle emissions, construction sites and other pollutants. He said it was then trapped close to the ground by a blanket of warm air in what meteorologists call an inversion.

Thailand’s government has set a safe level of 50 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air, although other countries have lower limits. The Pollution Control Department’s website put Monday’s level as high as 79 micrograms.

PM2.5 particulates are small enough to be sucked deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, and can cause respiratory problems and may raise risks of cardiovascular disease and cancers.

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It’s the second time this year Bangkok has been blanketed with a cocktail of pollutants. Smog levels also spiked back in January.

Pralong acknowledged the pollution levels might shoot up again in January and February, during the dry season, when farmers burn fields to make way for new planting, another factor that contributes to the problem. He said his department and other units are preparing more stringent measures to better handle the problem than earlier this year.

As the noxious smog settled over Bangkok, many residents fished out masks from drawers and went about their business.

“A lot of my friends are saying they come to the office, their noses are running. Their eyes really hurt. All of them are really coughing today. It’s not normal anymore,” said Piyavathara Natthadana, an office worker who was wearing a mask.

Thailand, Prime Minister, Bangkok
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned in a statement on his Facebook page that the concentration of tiny dust particles called PM2.5 in the air had reached unsafe levels. Pixabay

“There’s not much we can do. We have to monitor the news and protect ourselves,” said Chakrapong Sanguanjit, another Bangkok resident walking downtown with a mask on.

Some environmentalists blamed the government for failing to act fast enough, despite being well aware of the issues.

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“The cause of the problem is the same. The sources of the pollution are the same. But measures to control the sources of pollution are not implemented yet because they said that takes time,” said Tara Buakamsri of the environmental group Greenpeace. (VOA)