Oil slicks threatens Phuket beaches, authorities seek culprits

PHOTO: As oil slicks are cleaned off Phuket's beaches, authorities search for who caused the spill. (via Achadthaya Chuenniran)

In the Thalang district of Phuket island, the beautiful scenery was marred by the unexpected appearance of oil slicks and tar balls along four beaches. These are being carefully removed from the coastline of the Sirinat National Park by a mix of residents and authorities. The cleanup started on Friday after an alert was raised by the Layan Beach station chief.

Several beaches, including Nai Yang, Mai Khao, Nai Thon, and Layan, were swept by the oil slick and related deposits, thus sparking concern amongst park authorities. The sighting was further corroborated by hotel staff from the well-known Angsana Laguna Hotel, who noticed an unfortunate sea turtle hatchling, covered in crude oil on Bang Tao Beach. The Marine and Coastal Resources Research Centre received the news and swiftly acted to aid the distressed turtle.

The team at Sirinat National Park, led by park chief Sorasak Rananan, embarked on an expedition to rid the beaches of the oil slick. With the assistance of residents and lifeguards, the mission to remove the oil continued until yesterday. In the interest of safety, tourists have also been advised against visiting these four beaches.

Moreover, the Thai Maritime Enforcement Command Centre (Thai-MECC) in Phuket deputy director, Captain Krit Kluebmat, shared that similar oil slicks were observed in Phang Nga’s Khok Kloi, located north of Phuket. The maritime route data between Phang Nga and Phuket over the past seven days is currently under examination by the Phuket Marine Office, as investigators aim to pinpoint the source of the oil.

A formal complaint has also been lodged with the Sakhu Police compelling them to pursue and apprehend the perpetrators of this environmental offence. Captain Pichet Songtan, in his capacity as the director of the Thai-MECC Region 3’s Public Affairs Division, dispatched teams to the oil-swept beaches to remove the oil slicks and gather samples for lab testing to ascertain the type of oil present.

Visitors have been asked to stay vigilant about the oil slicks that extend across many kilometres, beginning from tambon Khuekkhak in the Takua Pa district of Phang Nnga, all the way down to Patong Beach in Phuket. The Royal Thai Navy initiated a helicopter-based inspection to look out for oil on the water’s surface, though none was found.

Inspectors from the Phuket Marine Office, including boat inspector Adul Raluekmun, believe that lab tests can shine a light on the type of vessel that could have been involved in the oil spill. Based on the law regulating boat navigation in Thai waters, those found guilty of environmental pollution could face up to three years imprisonment or a fine of up to 10,000 Thai Baht.

Environment NewsPhuket News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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