Phuket’s majestic beaches, the pearls of Thailand’s tourist industry, were tainted last Friday when clumps of tar and oil slicks were spied adorning their otherwise pure, white sands. Varawut Silpa-archa, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, swiftly commanded a vigorous pursuit to ferret out whoever is culpable of this environmental blunder. Specifically, the central authorities channelling their efforts into this investigatory campaign are the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR).
These investigative bodies are centering their attention onto a few key sites: Nai Yang, Mai Khao, Nai Thon, and Layan — all renowned beaches situated majestically on Phuket’s northwestern shoreline. The Minister expressed his indignation at the selfish actions of seemingly indifferent business enterprises, accusing them of callously wounding an environment that had only recently begun to breathe easily again after the crush of mass tourism was lifted due to the Covid-19 health crisis.
Mr Silpa-archa issued a clarion call to state institutions, such as the Marine Department and the Tourism Ministry, encouraging them to advocate for responsible conduct among business operators. His motivation: to preserve the natural beauty of Thailand and protect the nation’s prestige as a forest-themed paradise for holidaymakers.
Puripat Thirakulpisut, the deputy director-general of the Marine Department, relayed an interesting theory, suggesting that source of the slicks might be none other than the bunker fuel commonly found on seafaring vessels. Out of the four victimized beaches, he identified Mai Khao beach as bearing the brunt of the damage. According to him, these unwelcome streaks of black have invaded an area of roughly 10 square kilometres.
Puripat also revealed plans for the department to involve law enforcement, seeking their assistance in tracing the offending vessel. Once identified, the culprit will be facing some serious consequences. These could include a prison sentence of up to three years, a hefty fine of up to 60,000 baht, and on top of it, they would be obligated to cover the costs of the restoration undertakings.
Shedding further light on the situation, it was divulged that Phuket’s marine office is diligently collecting information about maritime vehicles that have recently journeyed along the Phuket’s western periphery. They are especially interested in data gleaned from the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) system serving the Andaman Sea. After this disturbing event, authorities sprang into action and a meticulous clean-up operation rolled out over the entire weekend.