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Samet Island closes beach to clean up oil spill

Rescue workers, volunteers and PTT officials try to clear oil spill at Phrao Beach.//Pongpon Sarnsamak

Rescue workers, volunteers and PTT officials try to clear oil spill at Phrao Beach.//Pongpon Sarnsamak

Authorities closed a beach on Samet Island in the Gulf of Thailand Monday to clean up an oil spill from an offshore pipeline leak.

"We closed off Prao Bay on Samet to tourists so authorities can clean up the water and beach," said Chuchart Oncharoen, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) director for Rayong province.

Samet Island, about 3 kilometres off the coast of Rayong and 150kilometres south-east of Bangkok, is a popular getaway for Thais and foreigners living in the capital. The island attracts about 1 million visitors a year, mostly on weekends.

"Prao Bay is on the west coast of Samet, but most of the island’s hotels and resorts are on the east coast, which has not been affected by the spill," Chuchart said.

The leak sprung Saturday in an offshore pipeline belonging to PTT Global Chemical Public Limited Company, releasing about 50,000 litres of oil into the gulf, about 20 kilometres off the coast of mainland Rayong province.

The company, with the assistance of the Thai navy, had contained much of the oil spill by Saturday evening, although portions evaded the booms.

Greenpeace South-East Asia said the spill highlighted the need for the government to end oil drilling and exploration in the gulf, a major source of revenue from fisheries and tourism.

"The Gulf of Thailand, the nation’s food basket, has long beenunder threat from oil spills along oil transport routes," said Ply Pirom, the group’s Thailand programme manager.

"Drilling that puts livelihoods and our natural heritage at risk is unwarranted when measures to shift to clean, sustainable energy already exist," he added.

Greenpeace called on PTT Global Chemical, a subsidiary of the PTT PLC which is 67 per cent government owned, to clean up the spilland do a follow-up study on its environmental impact on marine life.


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