Home Blog

Blinken’s meeting with Dalai Lama representatives riles China


By  —  Shyamal Sinha


Antony John Blinken is an American government official and diplomat serving as the 71st United States secretary of state since January 26, 2021. He previously served as deputy national security advisor from 2013 to 2015 and deputy secretary of state from 2015 to 2017 under President Barack Obama.

China on Thursday reacted angrily to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with a senior representative of the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in New Delhi, saying it is a violation of Washington’s commitment acknowledging Tibet as part of China and not to support Tibetan independence.

Blinken on Wednesday met Ngodup Dongchung, an official in the Tibetan government-in-exile and representative of the Dalai Lama, in a clear signal to China about the Biden administration’s continued support to the Tibetan cause.

In the meeting, Dongchung thanked Blinken for the continued support by the US to the Tibetan movement.

When asked, a spokesperson of the US State Department told PTI, ‘Secretary Blinken had an opportunity to meet briefly this morning in New Delhi with a representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Central Tibetan Administration Representative Ngodup Dongchung.’ Separately, another Tibetan representative, Geshe Dorjee Damdul, attended a roundtable Blinken held with around seven civil society members.

Asked for his reaction by the official media here at a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, ‘Tibetan affairs are purely China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference”.

‘The 14th Dalai Lama is by no means just a religious person but rather a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities attempting to split Tibet from China,’ he said.

China firmly opposes all forms of contacts between foreign officials and the Dalai Lama, he said.

‘Any formal contact between the US and the Dalai clique is a violation of the US commitment to acknowledge Tibet as part of China”, not to support Tibetan independence and attempts to separate it from China, he said.

‘We urge the US to honour its commitment to stop meddling in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Tibetan affairs, and offer no support to Tibet independence forces to engage in anti-China separatist activities. China will take all necessary measures to defend its own interests,” he said.

China comes up with such routine reactions whenever foreign dignitaries and officials meet the Dalai Lama or his representatives.

The 14th Dalai Lama has made India his home since fleeing his Tibetan homeland in 1959.

The Chinese government officials and the Dalai Lama or his representatives have not met in formal negotiations since 2010.

Beijing has in the past accused the 86-year-old Dalai Lama of indulging in ‘separatist’ activities and trying to split Tibet and considers him as a divisive figure.

Another US official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said: “The Dalai Lama obviously is a globally revered spiritual leader and so the gesture was gratefully received and appreciated.”

The people cited above said the meeting was being seen as a strong signal of support for the Dalai Lama and was also significant as it was held in India at a time when New Delhi and Beijing are locked in a standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

However, the Tibetan spiritual leader has insisted that he is not seeking independence but ‘genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet’ under the ‘Middle-Way approach’.

Blinken arrived in India on Tuesday on a maiden two-day visit with an extensive agenda featuring the rapidly evolving security situation in Afghanistan, boosting Indo-Pacific engagement and ways to enhance COVID-19 response efforts among others.

According to the US State Department, Antony Blinken’s trip to New Delhi is meant to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening bilateral ties with India.

Indian Embassy marks the first sermon of Lord Buddha


Thinley Namgay

To celebrate the first sermon of Lord Buddha, the Indian Embassy in Thimphu organised a dialogue on the “relevance of the teachings of Lord Buddha in the age of technology” on July 24.

Her Royal Highness Princess Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck graced the event.

President of Centre for Bhutan Studies and Gross National Happiness Research, Dasho Karma Ura and the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Bhutan, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye shared their views on the subject. The discussion was moderated by the Executive Director of the Bhutan Nuns Foundation, Dr Tashi Zangmo.

Dasho Karma Ura said that the whole essence of the Buddha’s teachings were consciousness, ethics, and bodhicitta, which were still applicable in the age of technology. He said that a calm and contented state of mind was critical.

The four noble truths of the Buddha during the first sermon are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.

Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye said that some of the essential teachings of Buddha were four noble truths, the law of Dharma and Dharma chakra (wheel of the dharma of truth), which are relevant in all walks of life.

Lyonpo also said that he used to refer kanjur (collection of sacred texts) while enacting laws.  Quoting Albert Einstein, Lyonpo said that if any religion could survive in the age of science and technology, it is Buddhism.

With support from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, the International Buddhist Confederation organised the Asadha Poornima – Dharma Chakra global celebrations on July 24 to commemorate the Dharma Chakra Parvattana, the first sermon of Lord Buddha.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering also took part in the event, virtually. Lyonchhen said that the life and teachings of Lord Buddha have always given a great source of inspiration. “Celebrating the first ceremony of Buddha amid the pandemic gives us the spiritual reinforcement and to remember those who lost their beloved ones to the pandemic.”

The Prime Minister said: “Material wealth as we know has taken a central stage in most of the globalisation efforts. Is it in line with Lord Buddha’s timeless teaching on contentment and loving-kindness?”

Lyonchhen said that Bhutan was fortunate to have a Dharma King who considers well-being as his secret duty and regards problems and sufferings as his.

His Holiness to engage in dialogue on “Creating a Happier World” with London School of Economics Professor

His Holiness the Dalai Lama to engage in dialogue with London School of Economics' Professor on "Creating a Happier World".

His Holiness the Dalai Lama to engage in dialogue with London School of Economics’ Professor on “Creating a Happier World”.

By –  BT Newsdesk

Dharamshala: His Holiness the Dalai Lama will engage in a dialogue on the theme “Creating a Happier World” with Prof. Lord Richard Layard, Chair, Action for Happiness and Co-Director, Community Well-Being Program at the London School of Economics online from his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on July 28, 2021. This will be followed by a question and answer session. Viewers are requested to please follow their local social distancing rules while viewing the live webcast. Webcasts are also available in Tibetan, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, Hindi, Korean and Mongolian.

All times Indian Standard Time (IST=GMT+5:30)

July 28th: Dialogue
Time: 9:00am – 10:00am IST

For times in your area, 9:00 am IST on July 28th in Dharamsala, India is the same as 4:30 am BST on July 28th in London, UK; and 8:30 pm PDT on July 27th in Los Angeles, California, USA. Other times can be found using Time Zone Converter (http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html).

Sourced from dalailama.com

Mekong region is of great importance to India: EAM Jaishankar

Jaishankar also called for a "collective and collaborative" response to effectively deal with coronavirus pandemic, saying the virus does not respect national boundaries.

By  — Shyamal Sinha

while addressing the 11th Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) meeting, S Jaishankar India’s External Affairs Minister has called for a “collective and collaborative” response to effectively deal with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, saying that national boundaries are not respected by this virus.   Key Points India considers the Mekong region of great importance ..

India is seeking a multi-dimensional engagement with the Mekong region considering its great importance, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.

In an address at the 11th Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) meeting, Jaishankar also called for a ‘collective and collaborative’ response to effectively deal with coronavirus pandemic, saying the virus does not respect national boundaries.

The MGC initiative comprising six countries — India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam — was launched in 2000 to boost cooperation in a range of areas including connectivity, tourism and culture.

‘For India, the Mekong region is of great importance. India seeks multi-dimensional engagement with the Mekong countries. We need to broaden the base of our partnership by identifying newer areas of cooperation,’ Jaishankar said.

‘We aim to promote connectivity in the region in the broadest sense of the term including not just physical but also digital, economic, and people-to-people connectivity,’ he said.

Referring to the coronavirus crisis, Jaishankar said there was a need to find ways on how the MGC partnership can lend its strength to the fight against the pandemic.

‘We are into the second year of dealing with the pandemic-related disruption. Our experience shows that the virus does not respect national boundaries. It is, therefore, necessary that the response to the pandemic is also collective and collaborative,’ he said.

‘We need to work together to find ways how the MGC partnership can lend its strength to the fight against the pandemic,’ he added.

The external affairs minister also said that the Mekong Ganga Cooperation stands on a strong foundation of shared geographical, historical and civilizational ties among the six countries.

‘This oldest sub-regional cooperation is as much a celebration of our long and rich history of trade, cultural and people-to-people exchanges as it is a vehicle to advance modern day cooperation to bring progress and prosperity to our people,’

he said.

India considers the Mekong region of great importance and hence seeks a multi-dimensional engagement with Mekong countries.India wants to identify newer areas of cooperation and doing so will broaden the partnership of the countries.Addressing the meeting, S Jaishankar has said that India wants to promote better connectivity in this region through economic, digital and people-to-people connectivity.In the meeting finding ways to the fight against the pandemic through better MGC partnership was reflected upon. S Jaishankar said that the partner nations need to work together in addressing the crisis.India said that Mekong Ganga Cooperation stands on a strong foundation based on shared historical and geographical ties and cooperation among the countries should be improved to bring progress and prosperity.

sourced – PTI

China developing new fighter aircraft base near Ladakh

Rafale fighter jet operating in Ladakh area (File Photo)
Rafale fighter jet operating in Ladakh area (File Photo)

By  —  Shyamal Sinha

China is building an airport for fighter aircraft operations near the Eastern Ladakh area in Shakche, Xinjiang province. This aims to dissolve obstacles in its fighter aircraft operations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.

Seeking to overcome limitations in its fighter aircraft operations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India, China is developing an airbase for fighter aircraft operations close to the Eastern Ladakh area in Shakche town in the Xinjiang province.

“The base is coming up between the existing airbases of Kashgar and Hogan which have been carrying out fighter operations along the Indian borders for a long time. This new base for fighter operations will fill up the gap for the Chinese Air Force in this region,” government sources told ANI.

Shakche town already has an airbase and that is being upgraded for fighter aircraft operations, they said.

The sources added that the base would be ready for fighter aircraft operations in near future and the work has been expedited on it.

The gap between the existing air bases in China close to the LAC for fighter aircraft operations was around 400 kms but this would be bridged with the operationalisation of the Shakche airfield.

The Indian agencies are also keeping a close watch on an airfield near the Uttarakhand border in Barahoti with China where the Chinese have brought in a large number of unmanned aerial vehicles which are continuously flying in that region.

Recently, the Chinese Air Force held an exercise in the new inning of the summer near the Indian territories and the sorties were undertaken by them mainly from the Hogan, Kashgar and Gar Gunsa airfields.

The drills were watched closely by the Indian side and the Indian side was at a high state of readiness during that period.

The Chinese Air Force has traditionally been weak in this part of the LAC with India which has a number of airfields in the relatively short distance airfields along the LAC and has an adage over the Chinese Air Force in terms of strike capability.

The Chinese side has strengthened its air defence further in the area with the deployment of their S-400 air defence systems imported from Russia even as India has deployed a large number of systems to take care of the Chinese fighter aircraft fleet, in case it is required ever.

The Indian side has also deployed a number of fighter aircraft at the Leh and other forward airbases which can take on both China and Pakistan simultaneously from its bases in Ladakh.

The deployment of the Rafale fighter aircraft at the Ambala and Hashimara airbases and their operationalisation has also given a boost to India’s readiness against the Chinese.

Senior government sources told ANI that one such camp is coming up few kilometres inside the Chinese territory opposite the Naku La area in north Sikkim area, which is barely a few minutes distance from the area where Indian and Chinese troops had clashed last year when the confrontation started and also in January this year.

New US Under Secretary of State appointed, expected to be next Tibet coordinator

Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya (Photo/Business Recorder)

By –Shyamal Sinha

Uzra Zeya worked as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service for 27 years. During the Obama administration, Zeya served as the acting assistant Secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. She also worked in the Embassy of the United States, Paris from 2014 to 2017.

The US senate on Tuesday confirmed Uzra Zeya for the State Department’s Under Secretary of State Bureau of Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights . The American diplomat is expected to also be appointed as the next US Special coordinator for Tibet, as the post has traditionally been assumed by the Under Secretary of the state. Republican Robert Destro served as the Tibet coordinator previously.

The Kashmiri-origin diplomat spoke of Chinese repression during her nomination in April, “The [Chinese government is] repressing Tibetans, Christians, and other ethnic minorities.” She also noted her work experience with Chinese dissidents and criticised the current genocide against the Uyghur community. Zeya also wished to use congressional tools such as the Global Magnitsky Act and the Uyghur Human Rights Act during her tenure as Under Secretary.

“Based on her credentials, Ms. Zeya could be a formidable Special Coordinator, and we look forward to the possibility of working with her soon,” Representative Ngodup Tsering said of her potential as the new Special Coordinator under the Biden Administration.

Uzra Zeya has previously served as the acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor under the Obama administration. She would become the first Asian American to serve as the Under Secretary of State, with 73 votes in favour and 24 against, who was sworn into office by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman on Wednesday.

The appointment of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues is mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 and is also an indication of the US government’s commitment to a negotiated resolution on Tibet and for the preservation of religious, cultural and linguistic heritage of the Tibetan people. The first Tibet coordinator Gregory Craig, Director of Policy Planning, was appointed on Oct 13, 1997.

Ms. Zeya is a Life Member of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) and co-authored a 2020 CFR report on Revitalizing the State Department and American Diplomacy. Her insights on U.S. diplomacy, human rights, and national security policies have been highlighted in Politico, Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and international media.

Ms. Zeya speaks Arabic, French and Spanish. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgetown University and is the recipient of several State Department Superior Honor and Senior Performance awards, the Presidential Rank Award, and the French Legion d’Honneur.

Wheel Turning Day July 14



By – Staff Reporter

Rejoicing in the Buddha’s first teaching, when he set the wheel of Dharma in motion.

All merit created on this day is multiplied 100,000 times.

Close-up of golden Buddha for Lhabab Duchen

“The essence of the Buddha’s teachings is expressed in the Four Noble Truths. By understanding them, we’ll enter the path to liberation and enlightenment.” Ven. Thubten Chodron, Taming the Mind

With these words, Abbey founder and abbess Venerable Thubten Chodron sums up the significance of the Buddha’s fundamental first teaching when he explained the Four Truths of the Aryas, beings who have broken through innate ignorance to see reality as it is.

Thes four are also well known as the Four Noble Truths.

If we understand even a little why this teaching is so precious, we’ll understand why we celebrate Wheel-Turning Day.

Four Truths

In Buddha’s first teaching he described the unsatisfactory nature of our lives and the causes of our suffering.

He also explained the possibility of freedom from these sufferings and the paths to bring it about.

These Four Truths of the Aryas give us encouragement, hope, and inspiration.

In her book, Open Heart, Clear Mind, Venerable Chodron quotes Juan Mascano, Spanish academic and educator, lecturer at Cambridge University, who writes:

“The message of the Buddha is a message of joy. He found a treasure and he wants us to follow the path that leads us to the treasure. He tells man that he is in deep darkness, but he also tells him that there is a path that leads to light. He wants us to arise from a life of dreams into a higher life where man loves and does not hate, where man helps and does not hurt.

“His appeal is universal, because he appeals to reason and to the universal in us all: ‘It is you who must make the effort. The Great of the past only show the way.’ He achieved a superior harmony of vision and wisdom by placing spiritual truth to the crucial test of experience; and only experience can satisfy the mind of modern man. He wants us to watch and be awake, and he wants us to seek and to find.”

Thus we can see why Wheel Turning Day is a very auspicious occasion to engage in virtuous action!”

Buddha and flowers.

Learn more with these teachings


Venerable Thubten Chodron seated before the Buddha while she teaches.

Wheel-turning Day Practices

  • Make special offerings to the Three Jewels on your altar.
  • Early Wednesday morning, take the 8 Mahayana precepts for 24 hours where you especially refrain from negativities and distractions from the Dharma.
  • Continue your morning practice with the Meditation on the Buddha. Listen as Ven. Chodron leads an extensive guided meditation on Shakyamuni Buddha. Or follow this step-by-step guide to the Abbey community’s full morning practice.
  • You can also do the beautiful and inspiring Extensive Offering Practice..
  • Make offerings to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha in gratitude for the precious teachings.
  • Make offerings to help those in need
  • Go here to include the Abbey in your Wheel Turning Day offerings
  • You could help Build the Hall on Wheel Turning Day, too.
  • sourced  – Sravasti Abbey

Chinese Soldiers Enter Ladakh’s Demchok, Object to Dalai Lama’s Birthday Celebrations


By  —  Shyamal Sinha
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, turns 86 on July 6. It has been over six decades since he started living in India. He calls himself a “son of India” and somebody who has lived the longest in India as a “guest”.

China has striked  India yet again. This time over His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday celebrations in Ladakh. Officials have confirmed to CNN-News18 that on July 6, Chinese army entered the Indian territory in Demchok with banners and objected to locals celebrating His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday. “The incident happened on July 6 at Doley Tango near Koyul which is around 30 kilometers southeast of Demchok,” a source told news18.

In Ladakh, there is a place called – Shiwaye-Tsel (a palace in Leh). There the celebrations used to go on for three days to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday. People from border areas would come and participate in a horse race; dance performances are held by artists from Kargil, Nubra, Zanskar, and Leh. Similar celebrations are also held in Arunachal Pradesh as well.

In videos which have now surfaced, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can be seen standing across river Indus with banners. A second video shows villagers holding the Dalai Lama’s portrait atop a vehicle as a small cavalcade rallies around the village. Officials said while the festivities were on, Chinese kept a vigil from distance and conveyed their objection. “They didn’t enter the village but did transgress a bit into Indian territory,” an official told News18.

According to officials, Chinese troops stayed on the Indian territory for about 30 minutes. At least five vehicles can be seen in the video. Locals said Chinese troops were accompanied by civilians.

The banner that Chinese carried said, “Tibetans living on the other side of the LAC bordering India are fully supported by the Chinese,” a source said. Another officer told News18 that the Chinese were reiterating their oft-repeated message that Tibet and China are one.

India and China have been locked in a dispute over eastern Ladakh since the Galwan incident of June 2020. While India at commander level talks has sought restoration of status quo as it existed pre-April 2020, the Chinese side have refused to discuss Demchok and Depsang flashpoints, according to officials. Two sides have had 11 rounds of military talks to resolve the eastern Ladakh flashpoints but friction points remain over Gogra, Hot springs, Demchok and Depsang.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had greeted the Dalai Lama on his 86th birthday last week. Since becoming Prime Minister in 2014, this is the first time Narendra Modi has openly confirmed communicating with the Dalai Lama.

In a tweet on Tuesday morning, PM Modi said, “Spoke on phone to His Holiness the @DalaiLama to convey greetings on his 86th birthday. We wish him a long and healthy life.”

“Most importantly, all Tibetans are urged to recite the Chenrezig mantra, Om Mani Padme Hung, over 1000 times, or at least 10 rounds of the rosary. The six-syllable mantra is associated with the Bodhisattva of compassion and the patron saint of Tibet, Chenrezig. For Tibetans, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the human manifestation of Chenrezig. Every year, Trungkar is celebrated with grandeur, glory, and festive spirit.

sourced – News 18

Team Modi’s Women Ministers Gave a Push to India’s Handloom


By  —  Shyamal Sinha

Women in India now participate fully in areas such as education, sports, politics, media, art and culture, service sectors, science and technology, etc. Indira Gandhi, who served as Prime Minister of India for an aggregate period of fifteen years, is the world’s longest serving female Prime Minister

Displaying India’s women power, nine leaders from Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s council of ministers were seen donning handloom sarees in different styles. While some were spotted in ‘ulta pallu’ saree, some others draped the ‘palla’ over both shoulders.

Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman shared photos of Smriti Irani, Darshana Jardosh, Pratima Bhoumik, Shobha Karandlaje, Bharati Pravin Pawar, Meenakshi Lekhi, Anupriya Patel and Annapurna Devi on Twitter. She also thanked BJP chief JP Nadda and said, “Grateful to National President @JPNadda for graciously joining us.”

In the photo, Darshana Jardosh, Lok Sabha MP from Surat, Gujarat, could be seen donning an ‘ulta pallu’ blue and teal coloured sari paired with a brown and golden watch. Next to her was Pratima Bhoumik, who chose a simple look by wearing a yellow saree with a red border.

Next was Shobha Karandlaje donning a silk saree, which was grey in colour with a pink border. Smriti Irani, who was shifted from Textile Ministry on Wednesday, was seen in a stunning embroidered Chanderi handloom saree with floral patterns and a bronze border.

Last year, on National Handloom Day, Irani had urged people to be ‘vocal for local’ and request them to choose clothes made by local brands. Bharati Pravin Pawar wore a plain cream coloured saree paired with a pendant.

Meenakshi Lekhi looked gracious in a pink Gadhwal saree that had a striking blue border with embroidery on it. Lekhi is the second-term MP of Bharatiya Janata Party from Delhi.

Anupriya Patel also wore a yellow saree, standing beside Annpurna Devi, who looked elegant in a polka dot print Madhubani saree.

Sitharaman caught everyone’s attention with her simple cotton saree. Her sartorial choices have made headlines on many occasions – from donning beautiful handloom sarees to sporting silk sarees.

For the unversed, she likes wearing subtle yet classy handloom and silk sarees to work and it is safe to say that it is her wardrobe arithmetic that gives her appearance a distinct stamp. Seven women MPs took oath as union ministers on Wednesday in the expansion of the council of ministers.

The women MPs who took the oath of office on Wednesday are Anupriya Patel, Shobha Karandlaje, Darshana Vikram Jardosh, Meenakshi Lekhi, Annpurna Devi, Pratima Bhoumik and Bharati Pravin Pawar. The swearing-in ceremony, which took place at Rashtrapati Bhavan amid COVID-19 protocols, came days ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament. It was the first expansion of the union council of ministers by PM Modi in his second term.

(with inputs from ANI)

Bangkok Chemical Fire: 2nd Factory Blaze in Thailand’s Capital Highlights Health Risks


By – Staff Reporter

Chemicals at a factory just outside the Thai capital burst back into flames briefly on Tuesday, sending up another cloud of toxic black smoke and highlighting the continuing health danger from an industrial accident that killed one and injured dozens more.

Extinguishing the first blaze took more than 24 hours after it started with an explosion about 3 a.m. Monday that could be heard for kilometers (miles) and blew out the windows and doors of nearby homes.

Firefighters continued to douse the site with water and foam to keep the highly flammable chemical styrene monomer from reigniting, but flames broke out again and burned for about an hour Tuesday afternoon.

Little was left of the Ming Dih Chemical factory other than the twisted metal frames and charred remains of its warehouses that were destroyed in the explosion and fire.

More than 60 people were injured in the disaster, including a dozen emergency responders, and more than 30 of them were hospitalized. An 18-year-old volunteer firefighter was killed in the blaze.

Police questioned the factory manager in their investigation of the cause of the explosion, who told them that he and eight staff members were woken from their sleep on the site by a strong chemical smell and fled just before the blast, said Maj. Gen. Chumpol Poompuang, the district’s police commander.

Authorities ordered a 5-kilometer (3-mile) area around the foam and plastic pellet manufacturing factory, near Bangkok’s main airport, evacuated as the factory burned, telling residents to avoid inhaling any fumes and warning that they could cause dizziness and vomiting, and cancer in the long term.

On Tuesday, Attapol Charoenchansa, who heads the countrys pollution control department, said teams were testing the air quality and water in the area of the factory, and were considering narrowing the evacuation zone to allow some residents to return home.

He cautioned, however, that rain which fell Tuesday afternoon could wash the chemicals into water sources, which would be difficult to control.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, a regional advocacy group, urged the Thai government to provide the public with more information on the chemicals that had been released, as well as all of its findings on possible contamination.

It also stressed that firefighters and others working at the scene, many of whom wore only the masks required by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or none at all as they battled the blaze, had to be outfitted with better protective equipment during the cleanup.

Now is the time to understand what the impacts of the fire and explosion might be, and ensure that all those still operating in the vicinity are adequately protected, said group member and Philippine lawmaker Sarah Elago.

Seeing firefighters with surgical masks fighting against potentially cancerogenic chemicals was an atrocious sight. The government should urgently provide adequate material for all those still at risk, she said.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered authorities to gather as much information as possible on contamination of soil, ground water, the city’s drinking water and air so as to mitigate the health impact in both the short and long term.

Although the fire is under control, our work has not yet been completed, he said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Officials said shockwaves from the initial explosion damaged about 100 houses and 15 cars.

It wasn’t clear how much monetary damage the fire caused to the factory.

Styrene monomer is used in the production of disposable foam plates, cups and other products, and can produce poisonous fumes when ignited.

The chemical itself also emits styrene gas, a neurotoxin, which can immobilize people within minutes of inhalation and can be fatal at high concentrations. Last year in the Indian city of Visakhapatnam, a leak of styrene gas from a chemical factory killed 12 people and sickened more than 1,000.

The area around the Thai factory is a mixture of older industrial complexes and newer housing developments that were built after the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2006.

A fire at another factory broke out Tuesday evening in eastern Bangkok, with no casualties reported, said Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang. The cause of the fire at the Floral Manufacturing Group Co. in the Lat Krabang Industrial Estate was not immediately known.

It was put under control, though not totally extinguished, after several hours. No highly toxic chemicals were involved.

Veeris Ammarapala, governor of the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, was quoted by the Bangkok Post news site as saying the fire spread quickly because of the large quantities of alcohol on hand used in making perfumes, shampoo and hand sanitizer. He said his agency needs to review fire protection measures for industrial estates.

sourced – News 18