EARTH Thailand

Impact of Rayong oil spill will take more than a decade to overcome, say locals

The Nation 05 February 2022 


Local fishermen are worried that the oil spill in Rayong will have a far-reaching impact on the marine ecosystem, especially since the area is still struggling from the aftermath of the 2013 disaster. 

Weerasak Kongnarong, president of the Rayong fishermen association, said earlier this week that the wind and waves are pushing the slick toward Koh Samet, and it will take at least 20 years for the damage to be mitigated. He said just using dispersant chemicals is not enough.

He added that the association has also rejected the compensation offered because it’s very small and will not pay for the losses that will be incurred over the next decade or two.

Siwatt Pongpiachan, director of NIDA Centre for Research & Development of Disaster Prevention & Management, said soil samples taken from Koh Samet two years after the 2013 spill showed the presence of carcinogen polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. Judging by this, he said, the spill on January 25 will affect the marine ecosystem for at least another 10 years.

Phenchom Saetang, director of the Restoration Ecosystem Foundation, said apart from the damage caused in 2013, the huge amount of chemicals used to disperse the oil also caused insurmountable damage to marine life.

She said residents should get together and demand that the government set up a panel that can investigate and come up with fair compensation.

Sarinee Achavanuntakul, a co-founder of sustainable business accelerator Sal Forest, said the facts of the incident are not very clear. She said Star Petroleum Refining Company Limited (SPRC) and Chevron should release all the information and provide updates on the clean-up progress.

Tara Buakamsri, country director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said citizen science is lacking in Thailand as people think the issue is not related to them.

Meanwhile, Thanakrit Vorathanatchakul, a prosecutor with the Attorney General's Office, said in a Facebook post that the government can sue for damage, while fishermen, businesses and locals should come together and demand compensation. He added that locals can also take the company to court and suggested they do it as a group to keep the court fees low.

The Gulf of Thailand was last hit by an oil spill on July 27, 2013, when a pipeline owned by PTT Global Chemical sprung a leak and spilled 50,000 litres of oil that hit the north and east of Koh Samet.

A similar accident on January 25 this year spilled more than 40,000 litres of oil off the coast of Rayong, and later hit the Mae Ram Phueng Beach.

Though the slick is being slowly dispersed, local fishermen expect the disaster to have an effect for at least another 20 years.