Minister Insists Koh Samet Seafood Unaffected By Oil Spill

Mr. Chuwit Kamolwisit swimming near Ao Phrao Bay

(5 August) The Thai
authorities are intent on assuring consumers and tourists alike that seafood fished off the coast in
Rayong province, the centre of a recent oil spill crisis, is perfectly safe.

The leakage
from an underwater pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical in the Gulf of Thailand blackened parts
of the popular resort island of Koh Samet last week. Numerous tourists left the island, while many
others cancelled their visits.

Its effect on the environment and tourism eventually spilled
over into seafood businesses. Reports suggest that fear about contaminated seafood has forced local
fishermen to cut the price of their products by as much as 50%.

In a bid to placate such
Vichet Kasenthongsri,
Minister of Natural Resources with his associates visited Rayong province where
he was received by
Mr. Vichit Chartpaisit, governor of
Rayong province, and a number of other officials.

At lunch time, the provincial
authority arranged the meal for Mr. Vichet and his companions to be served with seafood,
particularly the sea crab which is the delicacy of the province. The delegates ate the meal in front
of the press, reassuring the reporters that the food was “fresh” and “free from chemical residue”
from the oil spill.

Later in the day, the team travelled to Samet Island. They landed on Sai
Kaew beach, famous for its night clubs and restaurants. The beach had not been affected by the
incident and is still visibly crowded with tourists.

The team then visited Ao Phrao Bay, the
area severely affected by the incident, and talked to residents there. They found out that tourists
were not yet confident of the clean-up procedures that PTT and the authorities had carried out, but many
were relieved to see that the beach is nearly back to its previous condition.

Mr. Vichet,
Natural Resources Minister, said that the clean-up procedures are divided into 3 stages and would
take about a year to fully revive the beaches back to their conditions.

He said the
Ministry and Rayong authority will continue to cooperate with PTT to observe the situation and
handle the oil stain left in the sand by chemical treatment. The process will take a while, Mr.
Vichet said.

The minister expressed his belief that Ao Phrao Bay will regain its fame as a
popular tourism spot within the week. He told our correspondent he had instructed PTT to arrange
activities to promote tourism business at the island to build trust among visitors.

Vichit, the Rayong governor, said that at least 6 groups of fishermen in the region had asked for
compensations, and at least 560 more people have filed complaints. He said he had appointed the
Provincial Fishery Authority to manage the compensation and rehabilitation procedures in this

Meanwhile, a prominent MP went even further in his attempt to reassure the public
about the condition of Koh Samet – by swimming in the sea off Ao Phrao  Bay.

Mr. Chuwit
Kamolwisit of Love Thailand Party posted a photo on his Facebook profile showing him topless and
swimming in the sea. He wrote that he was swimming around 30 metre away from the shore and that
while there are traces of oil spill left in the shore, the seawater felt clean enough.