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Fishermen in Rayong to sue PTTGC for Bt300 million

Officials say seawater in the area is clear; fishermen say catches are down

Seawater along the Koh Samet and Rayong coast is normal and clear with no trace of oil, Supoj Towijakchaikul, deputy permanent secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, told a press conference yesterday - the first anniversary of last year's oil spill in that part of the Gulf.

Wichien Jungrungruang, director-general of the Department of Pollution Control, said mercury and another heavy metal had been detected on Samet beaches but they were within a safe level.

Coral bleaching caused by the spill had reduced to only 10 per cent. A surge in bleaching in April was caused by a seasonal increase in seawater temperature, Wichien said, not the oil spill.

Meanwhile, a group of fishermen in Rayong decided yesterday to file individual civil lawsuits against PTT Global Chemical Plc, demanding a total of Bt300 million in compensation for damage caused by the oil spill. They claim it affected their way of life and capacity to earn a living.

Another group of fishermen gathered outside the Provincial Administrative Court yesterday to check on the progress of PTTGC's environmental restoration efforts.

A leader of the group, Sutharak Kijthawee, said pre-spill conditions had not been reinstated despite restoration efforts and PTTGC paying Bt30,000 each to some 455 fishermen.

Civil lawsuits will be filed individually at Rayong Provincial Court once the necessary documents were completed, he said.

Yesterday's meeting, led by a group of small-scale fishermen based in Muang district, heard how the marine environment deteriorated and this had led to a decrease in catches and a subsequent drop in their income.

A similar meeting was held on Thursday, although provincial officials largely avoided the gathering despite receiving an invitation to attend.

Only one senior environment official attended the event and was briefed on the latest updates.

Another leader of the fishermen, Lamom Bunyong, said problems had not been fully dealt with and National Human Rights Commission lawyers would soon file lawsuits against either PTTGC or relevant state agencies - the Pollution Control, Marine, Fisheries, and Coastal Resources departments.

Lamom said a lawsuit might also be filed against the Rayong governor because he was duty-bound to uphold the law and protect people from pollution and the affects of an oil spill.


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