One of the things I have seen over and
over is this belief or attitude on the part of the government (and this is
true in many places, not just Thailand) that once a crisis is over there is
no need to deal with it until it hits again later. This is evident in not
only the smoke and smog issue, now that the skies are clear we no longer
hear about it, but also with the road accident death tolls that occur twice
a year; Songkran and New Year.
It is as if once the crisis is over it is believed that there is no need to
tackle the issue until the next time round. This, of course, is very short
sighted and goes nowhere to finding long term solutions to the problems that
plague Chiang Mai. The smoke issue is more than just mushrooms and rice
farmers. It is an attitude that the only thing that matters is my bottom
line and whatever happens to others is not my problem. This attitude needs
to be changed and it cannot be done by a month or two of billboards put up.
It requires long term education; it requires long term enforcement, not just
in the dry season but in all seasons. Burning is a fact of life in Thailand
but it does not have to be. It is possible to change agricultural practices
to eliminate burning; it is possible to change attitudes so that people no
longer think it is ok to burn.
Tackling drunk driving requires pretty similar solutions; long term
enforcement, not just at holidays but every single day. What is required is
enforcement of the law, stiff penalties including jail time for repeat
offenders and an education campaign that teaches people why it is not ok to
drive drunk. Many years ago, in the United States, it was common for people
to drive drunk and get slaps on the wrist for it. Now, however, police set
up roadblocks, Breathalyze drivers and arrest, fine and even jail offenders.
Public opinion towards drunk driving has also changed, from a blasť attitude
towards the understanding that those who drive drunk are putting innocent
lives in danger. These changes did not come overnight but with continued
effective enforcement and education, the changes did come.
Thailand can do the same and it needs to do the same for the sake of
people’s health and lives.