RAYONG – Crude oil that leaked from a pipeline in the Gulf of Thailand over the weekend has reached Prao Bay on Samet Island, about 3 kilometres off the coast of Rayong and 150kilometres south-east of Bangkok, is a popular getaway for Thais and foreigners living in the capital. The island attracts about 1 million visitors a year, mostly on weekends.
“Prao Bay is on the west coast of Samet, but most of the island’s hotels and resorts are on the east coast, which has not been affected by the spill,” Chuchart Oncharoen,(TAT) director for Rayong province. said.
The slick has affected the entire beach of the small bay and PTT Global Chemical Plc and navy personnel soldiers deployed to the area on Sunday were cleaning it up. It was hoped the clean-up would be complete later on Monday, he told Inside Thailand news programme on FM97.0 radio station.
Clean-up crews were also working to further contain the main slick and prevent it moving to Phae beach on the mainland of Rayong’s Phae district, as the wind is moving it in that direction, he added.
Accordingto the Bangkok Post, Democrat MP Satit Pituthecha for Rayong Province has claimed if the company’s figure was correct, then the quantity of dispersants authorities have been using should be enough to clean up the spill.
On the contrary, the oil slick from the incident has spread over a large area, reaching Mae Ramphang beach and parts of Samet island.
Mr Satit said it was not true that the oil spill had been contained. The incident had caused severe damage to Rayong’s tourism and to the environment, which would take at least six months to recover, he said.
He said that in addition to not coming clean about the extent of the leak, PTTGC also did not have any clear plan on how to combat it.
The oppostion MP also lashed out at the government, saying it had not taken a needed hands-on approach to the problem. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment did not take any action, asserting that PTTGC had the situation under control, he said.
“When there’s an oil spill in the United States, its president addresses the problem himself. In Thailand, we can’t even find a minister who will take charge,” he said.
Mr Satit said the government needs to step in because PTTGC, being the one that caused the oil spill, would probably try to conceal information regarding the incident in order to protect itself from lawsuits.
PTTGC and the Royal Thai Navy on Sunday said the oil slick off Rayong province had been contained and was unlikely to cause environmental damage. That has proved to be incorrect.
Oil leaked from a PTTGC pipeline that supplies crude to its refinery when a tanker was unloading its cargo of crude on Saturday morning, 20km southeast of the Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong.
OIL SPILL PHOTO’S GULF OF THAILAND AND SAMET ISLAND