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Pattaya Daily News

27 January 2013 :: 11:01:59 am 70971

Villages Getting 10 Million THB To Fight Fires

The Department of Forestry will distribute 10 million THB among 100 Thai villages to help prevent and fight forest fires. Each village will receive 100,000 THB to spend on equipment and hiring local volunteers. An estimated 10,000 volunteers would be recruited as part of the plan.
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THAILAND – January 25, 2013 [Pattaya Daily News]; an ambitious plan to help prevent forest fires was discussed at a meeting of organizations responsible for protection against forest fires and hazardous smoke. The chairman of the meeting was Mr. Boonchob Sutthamanuswong from the Department of Forestry, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

As part of the plan, the Department of Forestry will distribute a total of10 million THB among 100 villages, which will each receive 100,000 THB to spend on equipment and training and personnel costs for fire prevention.

Villages were selected by the Forestry Department to keep them safe from burning, and they will receive training manuals that describe effective methods to prevent and also fight forest fires. With its share of the money, each village will make its own budget to purchase equipment and set the training schedule for volunteers.

In choosing the villages to be protected from forest fires, the Department of Forestry used the ratio of incidents that occurred in certain “hot spots” where fires are more likely to occur, based on several factors. The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Plodprasop Surassawadee, has indicated that hiring local people to assist to take care of the forest and in assisting to fight forest fire is the trend of thinking that has evolved.

In many provinces, the locals who live there know who are the people that are likely to cause forest fires, so the government must let local residents assist to take care of the forest, and the Department of Forestry should be hiring local residents who live in the targeted areas of prevention, he said.

In the budget year 2013, the Department of Forestry had received 103 million THB to help solve the problem of forest fire and smoke. However, there is an additional budget request of 200 million THB from the Committee for Managing for Water and Flooding. This money would be used to hire 10,000 people to patrol more than 1,000 high-risk forested areas to help prevent fires for a duration of 90 days to take care of the area.

The Department of Forestry said that such people would be the first line of defense to stop any fires, with about 10 people assigned to any given point who are able to react as a fast-moving unit to solve problems in any area as quick as possible. The committee is still waiting for its additional budget request to be approved by the government.

Since January 21, the Department of Forestry has begun the first steps in its plan to protect against forest fires, by emphasizing to the officers of Department of Forestry to coordinate with the local villages and soldiers that will join together to solve this problem, according to the policy of the government.

The Deputy Minister Mr. Plodprasop Surassawadee, Deputy Minister, said there will be the setting up of a central command center to stop forest fires in 9 provinces. The Department of Forestry will be responsible for the four provinces of Chiagrai, Phayao, Phrae and Narn.

The other five provinces will be overseen by the Department of the Park of Wild Animal and Plant Breeding, which will responsible for the provinces of Chiangmai, Maehongsorn, Tak, Lamphoon and Lamparng.

The command center will share information with a direct link to the Office of the Prime Minister, which will be able to quickly monitor the 9 provinces to see whether there are any forest fires in the provinces and help coordinate to ensure that the responses are quick enough to be able to stop any serious fire in time, according to the policy of Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, the Prime Minister, who has issued directives to forbid the burning of forest areas.

Mr. Boonchob also said that the Ministry of the Interior will coordinate with the Department of Forestry and Department of the Park of Wild Animal and Plant Breeding to let the 9 provincial governors have single central command, or a commander of events in the area, which will be coordinated with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and Ministry of Transportation and Communication in preparing to handle situations of forest fires and hazardous smoke.

The Forestry Department assured that their 10 million THB allotted for fire prevention will not be susceptible to corruption by government officials.

However, one person at the meeting voiced his concern about the likelihood of money being skimmed from the budget. Mr. Samak Donnapee, the director of the Office of Allocating Forest Land, stood up to give his opinion that he is worried about the amount of money in the budget and the likelihood of corruption.

He pointed out that in the past, there were many government officers who had corrupted the budget allocated for forest fire prevention, and there were clear documents that showed evidence of their wrongdoing. However, in those cases, the guilty parties were given very light punishment, consisting of a 5 percent deduction from their salaries for three months, or else a reduction of their salary by one level.

Mr. Samak then requested that Mr. Niphon Chotibarn, Deputy Director of the Department of the Park of Wild Animal and Plant Breeding, take punitive action against Lt. Khamneung Nanthaphodech, the expert forestry officer who was found guilty of corruption in the course of his duty while he was the head of controlling forest fires at Nam Nao, Petchabul province from the year 2000.

Until now there has not been any action taken against him and several other government officers guilty of corruption, said Mr. Samak, who then gave a 15-day ultimatum to Mr. Niphon to set up a committee to investigate the illegal actions of Lt. Khamneung and the related government officers guilty of corruption.

If Mr. Niphon does not take action by the end of 15 days, Mr. Samak said he will inform the mass media immediately to expose the wrongdoing that is not being addressed in the department.

The journalist had previously reported that the case of corruption of the forest fire budget occurred when Mr. Plodprasop Surassawadee, the Deputy Prime Minister, was the director of the Department of Forestry. But Mr. Plodprasop used to insist that there was no corruption within the department’s budget to stop forest fires.

Photo : Internet   Category : Thailand News

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