'Insincere' PTT Compensation Adds To Samet Island Woes

Thai officials during the clean-up operation of the oil spill in Koh Samet, July 2013.

(21 October) Hotel and restaurants in the popular tourist island of Koh Samet have complained that their businesses are still suffering from the oil spill crisis which hit the island′s picturesque beaches in July.

The business owners have also accused the PTT Global Chemical, the oil enterprise which operated the leaked oil pipeline, of coercing them into unfair settlements.

The oil leak in Gulf of Thailand had blackened stretches of the popular beaches in Samet, sending many tourists home in panic, although much of the damages had been addressed, according to PTT reports.

However, Mr. Pariya Tantakasem, the owner of a hotel in Samet Island, told our correspondent that his business is still in limbo despite the recovery effort and the compensation handed out by the PTT, which is partially owned by the Thai state.

Mr. Pariya said his hotel revenue has fallen by nearly THB 1 million from same period last year, resulting in only THB 2 million in September 2013, and half of that amount derives from PTT compensation money.

In comparison to last year’s THB 2.8 million revenue, Mr. Pariya said that the real earning for this year is much lower that it appears.

The hotel owner said that he is among the fortunate hotels receiving compensation from PTT, as he had spoken to representatives of other hotels which were refused compensation by the PTT.

"Presumably, their revenue is much less that what I have earned," said Mr. Pariya.

He also explained that the settlement made by PTT to businesses in Samet Island only cover their damage in the single month of August, while statistics show that the result from the incident remains harmful to their business in much longer terms.

"If PTT is sincere to the enterprises, it should take the leading role in monitoring the situation and help the entrepreneurs get through the compensation process," Mr. Pariya is quoted as saying.

He added, “I received several letters from tour agencies stating their concerns about their customers’ stay in Samet. They asked [my] hotel to add [free] lunch and dinner into the package, in order to persuade the visitors. However, in the end they decided to go somewhere else”

“I would like to ask PTT: is it my fault that we have to endure this situation?”

Meanwhile, Mr. Pitsanu Khemaphan, president of Restaurant and Hotel Association in Samet Island lamented that the islanders feel like they are slowly waking up from a nightmare.

The president concluded that during this time of the year, hotel reservations in the island should have reached over 80% already, as many tourists, especially from Scandinavian countries, would be flocking to visit the island during the High Season.

However, the booking from September to January 2014 still stays lower than 15% of full capacity, Mr. Pitsanu said.

According to Mr. Pitsanu, PTT has helped the businesses for only 30% of their income in August. But much of the enterprises on the island are still struggling to make ends meet, he sad, because their main target groups – the foreign tourists – have barely shown up at the island.

“PTT reserved 25% of the rooms in September, and 20% in October” said Mr. Pitsanu, “however, they forced several businesses owners to strike such deals with the condition that the businesses must not proceed with any further complaints or legal action against the PTT about the matters".

Mr. Pitsanu continued, “I wonder why PTT enforced such conditions, as no one knows whether the situation will get better after they had been settled. I think the offer is rather unfair and insincere. We [the business owners] will discuss the incident again, and see what options the majority is going with”.

In the aftermath of the oil spill crisis, PTT Global Chemical has been purchasing space and airtime in numerous Thai media outlets, including Khaosod newspapers, to broadcast extensive advertisements which claim that all is back to normal in Samet Island.

However, critics have accused the petroleum giant of using its well-funded public relations mechanism to refurbish its tainted reputation and to cover up the full extent of environmental damages causes by the oil spill.

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