Phuket hopes clouds will lift for next week's vegetarian festival

Poisonous grey haze caused by illegal Indonesian forest fires has engulfed the popular Thai holiday island of Phuket.

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Thai holiday island of Phuket engulfed in fumes. @SuchatPK

Flights to Phuket have been delayed or cancelled due to reduced visibility, with naval vessels also being issued a warning for caution. The fumes have been spreading across South East Asia for several days, causing the swimming world championships to be closed down in Singapore and causing travel delays in cancellation across Thailand.

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Flight delays and cancellations can be expected due to the smoke @SuchatPK

The smoke is the result of the recurring phenomenon of illegal forest fires in Indonesia which has been going on for decades. Plantation owners are known to slash-and-burn land in Sumatra during the dry season, which has been exceptionally dry this year.

The Thai foreign minister on Thursday met Indonesia’s ambassador to discuss the forest fires, which are a yearly problem. Indonesia has continually ignored pleas to convict plantation companies, and refused the help of Singapore in controlling the fires, but on Thursday a foreing ministry spokesman said that Jakarta would work “with a number of countries including Singapore” to fight the fires.

On Wednesday evening pollution around Phuket rose to almost 200 microgrammes, which is classed as dangerous and unhealthy. The damage caused by the pollution to countries such as Malysia, Singapore and Thailand, as well as Indonesia, is huge, with Greenpeace estimating that pollution caused by the noxious fumes kills 110,000 people every year.
Phuket is due to launch its very popular Vegetarian Festival next week, and tourist operators and local authorities alike are hoping the fumes will have gone in time for the celebrations, which draw in big crowds to celebrate good health and meat-free peace of mind.

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