Although the spilled oil disappears from sight, it doesn’t really vanish from the environment. And now PTTGC’s responsibility seems to be fading with the oil’s disappearance.
It has been just over one month since July’s devastating oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Thailand, stemming from the PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) operated pipeline. The spill has caused a wide range of impacts on marine environments, marine life, fishermen, and many many lives in the affected areas. Fisherfolk and local people are suffering from tragic impacts on tourism and fisheries, but the worst part is not yet revealed. People are worried about what they don’t see and what they don’t know. Underneath the clear water and the cleaned pale beach, PTTGC is still hiding the untold truth of the spill.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia in Thailand has documented and monitored the impact of the spill in Rayong province, including Koh Samet and nearby areas. As well we are coordinating and providing help to the local networks and communities. Greenpeace has brought the support of people around the world to Thailand via an online petition demanding that PTTGC be held financially liable for the cost of cleaning and fully restoring the natural environment - as PTTEP Australasia Limited (PTTEP AA), a subsidiary of PTT did in the case of the Montana incident in Australia in 2009. That incident resulted in the establishment of an independent “Commission of Inquiry”, set up by the Australian government, which played a vital role in holding PTTEP Australasia accountable. The result was that PTTEP Australasia was additionally fined 510,000 Australian dollars for its action in relation to one of Australia’s worst-ever oil spills.
Compensation Claims Form against PTT Oil Spill – Another way to take advantage instead of “recovery”
Attempting to appease people and communities affected by the oil spill disaster, the provincial government of Rayong has offered compensation claims forms – however these are simply not acceptable according to those who are affected. Additionally another compensation claims form was provided by Chulalongkorn University, a renowned academic institute in Thailand, but this was not accepted by the provincial government!
“The compensation claims form that the provincial government provided lacked people’s participation. It doesn’t even mention ‘primary compensation’. What’s worse, the last three lines that describe unless the above information is proven true or false, the case will be considered under both civil and criminal procedure and the government can demand more evidence, however, it doesn’t specify clearly the kinds of evidence. Most importantly, this sounds threatening and it is not how recovery is supposed to be. The claims form is a legal document by laws and it needs no more description. This shows doubtful and insincere pledge to solve problems. It is totally unfair for the victims of the incident”, said Jaturat Aimworaniran, the president of Rayong Artisanal Fisheries Association.
Given this untenable situation, Greenpeace decided to work with community fisheries networks and over 600 affected local people and, together, we created three new claims forms that properly included income analysis and primary recovery covering three categories -- fisheries, aquaculture fisheries and beach vendors. Meanwhile, the provincial government of Rayong and PTTGC have continued spreading the 30,000 Thai baht (around 700 Euros or 900 US dollars) compensation claims per person, as final “no more claims permitted”. Around 400 fisherfolks signed this agreement to receive that small amount of unfair compensation as of August 31st, not realizing they could file an appeal on this case within the effective date. Needless to say, this small amount of compensation from the reckless richest oil company means nothing comparing with fishermen’s lives that are completely destroyed.
On August 19th, the local networks of over 800 affected people from the oil spill disaster demanded primary compensation from PTTGC for 120,000 Thai baht per person - according to the three acceptable claims forms.
Aimworaniran also pointed out another important matter, that of non-transparency and unfairness in the relationship between PTTGC and the Thai Government itself. The investigative committee merely consisted of government officers and one or two people’s representatives. The few people’s representatives were set up to fail. “The investigative committee should include at least half of people’s representatives, PTT representatives and some independent, non-governmental committees to research and develop plans together with local people in order to restore natural resources. Also, oil spill prevention, control and planning should be prepared and implemented to make sure that such crisis will not happen again.”
Only the visible mess was cleaned up. The non-visible impact lasts for fisherfolks and the sea
“One obvious impact that we witness is many dead marine animals washing ashore including dolphins, starfish, wedge shells, cuttlefish, seaweed and plankton. We can see the chemical characteristics of sea foam. And that is the reason why we do not want others to eat those fish caught in this area. This is our responsibility as fishermen. Now we can hardly fish and we have no other jobs. We must fish even though we know it is not worth it. Tourists are still not certain about the seafood and its effects. We cannot sell them at all. Countless impacts on our life from the oil spill,” a Rayong fisherman explained about his problems
“The Rayong fisherfolk care a lot about the seafood that people eat. Recently, krill that they have been fishing from the sea are black. Although we cannot confirm that it is because of the oil spill, fisherfolk know that this is not normal and no one would like to buy them for shrimp paste. When we analyze sea anemone we found out that there are black spots inside. After we put them in the alcohol, the black material comes out. We can assume that it is oil as we know that alcohol dissolves oil. We also find black crab inside fish stomachs, and when we cut the fish we again find out that its liver - the organ of detoxification - is black,” said Prof.Dr. Renu Vechrachpimol, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Silpakorn University about the marine life condition after the disaster, even after the oil is no longer visible on the shore.
“If we don’t look close enough we would never know that this beach was blacked by the oil spill before, but that’s what only visible to our eyes. If we dig down the sand on the beach using our hands, we can see the sand and water underneath about 5-to-10-centimetre-deep are blacked with oil. When we analyze the yellow water with the oil film, we find the results from the water containing mercury and arsenic.” Prof. Dr. Vechrachpimol also added that PTTGC’s management requires transparency about the impacts, “PTT should not clean up only the visible part but need to establish EIA and EHIA report to analyze the impacts on the environment and health as the oil spill effects communities severely. PTT needs to implement their mission: “The Company operates responsibly for the benefit of communities, society, and environment for safety, living quality and environmental conservation.”
The acts of PTTGC towards the completion of clean up have been to convince people that out of sight is truly out of mind. Rayong fisherfolks and all Thai people are patiently waiting for PTTGC’s more sincere acts towards addressing long-term impacts. Apart from the clean up, PTTGC must be held financially liable for the cost of cleaning and restoring the natural environment that belongs to fisherfolk and all Thai people.
To put an end to the endless greenwash of this huge oil company, just one or a few groups of fisheries and NGOs alone cannot possibly succeed. It requires alliance and people power from everyone of us to work together. Right now, over 32,000 people are demanding the government establish an independent panel to investigate the massive oil spill disaster caused by PTTGC. Of course, it is not over until the oil company comes clean to restore the public trust, restore the life in the ocean and stop destroying our oceans.