Thailand is in the international headlines again for the oil spill that has hit Phrao Bay Beach on the western coast of Koh Samet island in Rayong province. Some of the latest headlines include: “Thailand resort beach blackened by oil spill” and “Oil Spill Hits Thai Tourist Island”. An oil slick like this is not only devastating for the environment, but also for local tourism. This bay is rightly off-limits to tourists, but in any disaster like this, there is a lot of misinformation in the news about exactly how much of the island and how many tourists are affected by this oil spill.
As you can see by this map of Koh Samet, the oil spill hit Phrao Bay on the western side of the island. There are only a few resorts on this beach which are popular with more upmarket tourists. The majority of Thai and foreign tourists that head to Koh Samet stay on the east coast which has the best beaches. Thai media in Phrao Bay last night said that tourists have started to check out of their rooms. However, most have just switched to the eastern side of the island which is clear from the oil spill. The latest satellite image this morning shows the oil spill already moving away from the island. This is obviously good news for the resorts on the eastern side of the island but not so much for the beaches on the mainland in Rayong.
This is the latest picture from Sai Kaew Beach on the eastern side of Koh Samet. Local media report that both foreign and Thai tourists here have not been affected by the oil spill and are carrying on as if nothing had happened. There are no reports of people checking out of the resorts and hotels on this side of the island. If you have already booked a room for this weekend at one of the resorts on the eastern side of the island then you shouldn’t be concerned. The only place closed down by the oil slick is Phrao Bay. The other 14 bays around Koh Samet are operating as normal.
For the latest news and updates on this oil spill, please follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow.
It is sometimes very difficult to get accurate information about the extent of the damage done by the oil spill. It doesn’t help that the oil company and the government have underestimated the impact on both the environment and tourism. This isn’t something that can be swept under the carpet or cleaned up over night. There is longer term real damage to both coral and local wildlife. First reports said the clean-up will take just a few days. The truth is more likely to be weeks if not months. This is an ongoing situation, so please follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow and on my blog www.richardbarrow.com for the latest updates.