Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Thai Gulf oil spill; Special Admin Zone on cards for Deep South; Drug lord extradited; School caught in mudslide

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Legal action sought over oil spill
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Environmental activists are pushing for legal action and compensation against PTT Global Chemical following an oil spill in the Gulf of Thailand, which experts say could cause severe damage to the marine ecosystem.

PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) is seeking help to control the crude oil on the sea surface and has employed specialists to address the environmental impact.

At the same time environment agencies – Bangkok-based Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) – yesterday called for state agencies to take legal action and seek damages from the company.

Ply Pirom, campaign manager for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said PTTGC must take responsibility and compensate for all cleaning up processes, the environmental impact and damage to tourism industries and local fisheries caused by the crude oil spill.

He said the company must also disclose all information related to the cleanup process as well as the chemical substances used to remove the crude oil from the sea surface.

The environmental watch agency also called for a fresh study of the establishment of new oil platforms, like on Surat Thani province’s Koh Samui Island, that could cause environmental risk to marine ecosystems in the future.

SGWA’s president Srisuwan Janya said he would file a lawsuit against four government agencies if they neglected to comply with the Environmental Quality Protection and Promotion Act BE 2535 to take legal action and seek compensation from the alleged polluter.

This compensation should be used to establish a special fund to help the public who might be affected by the crude oil spill, he added.

Rayong provincial Governor Wichit Chatphaisit said the surveillance team, standing by around the clock to monitor spread of the crude oil, had reported that, as of Sunday afternoon, the spill covered 500 square metres of the sea surface. It was only two kilometres from Samet Island, a popular destination for tourists.

The Democrat MP for Rayong, Sathit Pitutecha and a group of local fishermen had called for PTTGC to take responsibility for the damage to fisheries in the short and long term. Aggrieved local people might also file lawsuits against the oil company, he said.

PTTGC has asked the Singapore-based Oil Spill Response Limited to send a jet boat to spray solution to disperse spread of the crude oil on the sea. The company has also sent environmental specialists to collect seawater samples to analyse the impact on the marine environment.

Marine and Coastal Department director-general Noppon Srisuk said he had instructed his officials to set up a surveillance centre to monitor the impact on the marine ecosystem and aquatic animals. But due to heavy seas and strong winds, he said he could not send his officials out yet.

“When the waves and strong winds [ease], we will send the officials [out to make inspections],” he said.

The Marine and Coastal Department would also consider asking for compensation from the oil company after the clean up process, he added.

The Pollution Control Department’s director-general Wichien Jungrungruang said he had asked the PTT to collect samples of seawater. The department will take the samples to analyse the quality of seawater and toxic contamination.

Special admin zone possible solution for South
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: National Security Council chief Lt-General Paradorn Pattanathabutr hinted during his latest interview with Sunday Nation‘s Pakorn Puengnetr that a “Special Administrative Zone’ could be the last resort to end the decades-long Muslim separatist insurgency that escalated since 2004 in the four southernmost provinces. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Has there been a visible reduction in violence during Ramadan?

There have been four insurgency-related incidents [as of July 23], the rest were to do with drugs and local political conflict. This is actually a normal pattern of events. We always have two main hypotheses – violence either involves the insurgency or there are other motives, however, security officials tend to sway towards insurgency as the motive so that they can [quickly] close the case. Once the case reaches court, it is dropped. We have to “improve” this mindset.

What do you mean by improvements exactly?

The Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre appointed a joint security panel to promote peace during Ramadan this year, chaired by Fourth Army Region chief of staff Maj-General Charin Amornkaew. The panel asked the BRN via the Malaysian peace facilitator, if the BRN was responsible for the incident in question.

They either accept responsibility for the incident or report that groups opposed to the peace process were responsible for the incident. We use this approach, as jointly agreed in peace negotiations, to find out who is responsible.

During the first 7 days of Ramadan, an insurgent suspect was injured in a shooting and a teacher was shot dead. Security officials concluded that personal conflicts were a possible motive, but the BRN told the Malaysian peace facilitator that state officials were responsible for the two cases. How will this be resolved?

It was not so. The BRN knows what really happened. With regard to these two cases, the BRN believed it might have provoked other groups to take revenge although the motive was personal conflicts, both are sensitive to security.

Are you sure that Hassan Taib is the real leader of the BRN?

Hassan is the ideological leader. If he had the ability to link every group, our burden would be reduced. He can talk to most of them, but some people or local leaders are still a problem.

Do security officials have problems with local leaders?

Yes, they fight about issues not related to the insurgency.

What is the final outcome of the peace dialogue?

Our last hope to end the insurgency is [an independent] administration but we must adhere to our Constitution. Surveys done locally indicate that people do not support separatism so the BRN has to alter their model of independence. They have five to six models but details of these have not been revealed.

Conservative BRN members believe they cannot be independent from Thailand as they must depend on both Thailand and Malaysia, so they think having a special administrative zone would be better. However, younger generations of BRN believe they can be totally independent.

The difficulty is to make Thai people understand because we would have to pass it (a special administrative zone) into law.

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra has played a big role in bringing about this peace dialogue. Does he have any special model?

His way is to live together peacefully.

Do you know who is who at the operation level of the BRN?

We know the operation level in local areas.

What do you think is the recipe for success?

The leader of the peace talks must be open-minded like an ocean that can take both good and bad water.

How do you describe the relations with the BRN and have you gained more trust in them?

It is good.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News
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