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Thailand oil spill: legal action sought

Publication Date : 29-07-2013


Environmental activists are pushing for legal action and compensation against PTT Global Chemical following an oil spill in the Gulf of Thailand, which experts say could cause severe damage to the marine ecosystem.

PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) is seeking help to control the crude oil on the sea surface and has employed specialists to address the environmental impact.

At the same time environment agencies - Bangkok-based Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) - yesterday called for state agencies to take legal action and seek damages from the company.

Ply Pirom, campaign manager for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said PTTGC must take responsibility and compensate for all cleaning up processes, the environmental impact and damage to tourism industries and local fisheries caused by the crude oil spill.

He said the company must also disclose all information related to the cleanup process as well as the chemical substances used to remove the crude oil from the sea surface.

The environmental watch agency also called for a fresh study of the establishment of new oil platforms, like on Surat Thani province's Koh Samui Island, that could cause environmental risk to marine ecosystems in the future.

SGWA's president Srisuwan Janya said he would file a lawsuit against four government agencies if they neglected to comply with the Environmental Quality Protection and Promotion Act BE 2535 to take legal action and seek compensation from the alleged polluter.

This compensation should be used to establish a special fund to help the public who might be affected by the crude oil spill, he added.

Rayong provincial Governor Wichit Chatphaisit said the surveillance team, standing by around the clock to monitor spread of the crude oil, had reported that, as of Sunday afternoon, the spill covered 500 square metres of the sea surface. It was only two kilometres from Samet Island, a popular destination for tourists.

The Democrat MP for Rayong, Sathit Pitutecha and a group of local fishermen had called for PTTGC to take responsibility for the damage to fisheries in the short and long term. Aggrieved local people might also file lawsuits against the oil company, he said.

PTTGC has asked the Singapore-based Oil Spill Response Limited to send a jet boat to spray solution to disperse spread of the crude oil on the sea. The company has also sent environmental specialists to collect seawater samples to analyse the impact on the marine environment.

Marine and Coastal Department director-general Noppon Srisuk said he had instructed his officials to set up a surveillance centre to monitor the impact on the marine ecosystem and aquatic animals. But due to heavy seas and strong winds, he said he could not send his officials out yet.

"When the waves and strong winds (ease), we will send the officials (out to make inspections)," he said.

The Marine and Coastal Department would also consider asking for compensation from the oil company after the clean up process, he added.

The Pollution Control Department's director-general Wichien Jungrungruang said he had asked the PTT to collect samples of seawater. The department will take the samples to analyse the quality of seawater and toxic contamination.


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