It has been just over a week since the PTTGC pipe leaked an estimate of 50,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Thailand, where it washed ashore on the once a white sand beach at Ao Phrao, Koh Samet.
Small fishing boat families have been hit the hardest by the spill, as selling seafood caught in the waters around Koh Samet to restaurants on the island is their main source of income… and local restaurants are refusing to buy for fear of contamination.
Loong Suchart and Pa Lam Yai have lived on Samet for over 35 years and are one of 30 households who operate small fishing boats around the island. They mentioned that in a meeting with local government officials, PTTGC promised to compensate up to three months total income per family – but that the pledge is still being evaluated. “No restaurants on the island want to buy from us nor anyone from the mainland.”
Pi Anek has been fishing for 20 years, is still fishing every day, and is not afraid to eat the fish he’s catching. “I have to try eating the fish before I could sell them. I cannot smell any oil from the fish. I am more concerned with the chemical sprayed to clean up the spill and its effects on marine life.”
Motorbike and taxi rental businesses have also taken a hit as tourist numbers have reduced drastically. Pi Supannee Ngamla-ead, who owns taxi trucks told us, “Samet has always been a popular weekend destination even during the low season. We normally see lots of Thais visiting the island on the weekend and more farangs visiting during the weekdays. Next week is a national holiday and we will see whether both Thai and foreign tourists have regained confidence to visit Samet again.”
Pi Supannee also added that most of the returning tourists during the oil spill are familiar with the island and know that the affected area is located on the western side of the island while the eastern side which houses most of the hotels remains clear of oil.
Local businesses on Samet hope that PTTGC and the local government will keep their promises and rebuild public confidence to return Samet to popularity as a tourist island.
Photos: Zanyasan Tanantpapat
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