In the early hours of Saturday July 27th, in an area no more than 20 kilometers off the coast from one of Thailand’s most traveled island destination, an estimated 50,000 liters (13,000 gallons) of crude oil leaked into the sea.
The source was a pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical, a subsidiary of PTT PLc., the country’s largest and most powerful oil and gas Company. By Monday July 29th the untouched beach of Ao Prao on Samet Island was soaking with crude oil that had washed ashore.
For over a week the company worked on shoveling the oil-soaked sand from the beaches of Samet Island and started making promises of compensation but it was few and far between as reports of bleached coral colonies and dying marine life suggested that adverse affects of the oil spill will be long term.
“PTT OIL SPILL WATCH” a network of Thai non government organisations set up to monitor the situation is calling on the government to take a stand and set up an independent committee to investigate the TRUE COST of the PTT oil spill.
Until now, the government has been content in letting PTT run the show with their own internal investigation committee and so far the company has only frustrated the public with ambiguous information regarding chemicals used to disperse the oil and the actual amount of oil that was let loose into the sea.
In 2009, an independent “Commission of Inquiry” set up by the Australian government played a vital role in holding PTTEP Australasia (PTTEP AA), another subsidiary of PTT Plc., responsible for one of the worst oil spills in Australian history. The commission found that as much as 34 million litres, not 4.5 million as PTT earlier claimed, of crude oil leaked from the company’s off-shore rig in Montara oil field, Timor Sea.
As a result PTT was fined AU$510,000 and the company also agreed to fund an environmental monitoring programme as part of the clean up process for up to 5 years.
On the other hand, the Montara oil spill had also affected Indonesia’s marine ecosystem and thousands of its fisherfolks and the Indonesian government demanded PTT take responsibility for what happened. However, without an independent investigation, the company denied all responsibilities claiming lack of evidence.
PTT must pay for the true extent of the damage. Over the past 20 years oil spills have taken place unnoticed throughout Thailand, this has to stop. The cabinet must take up the challenge and set up an independent committee to investigate the country’s largest ever oil leak and protect the livelihoods of not just people in the tourism industry but hundreds of fishing communities whose lives depend on the balance of life in the ocean.
To read the petition in Thai click here.