PHUKET: In a breakthrough for environmental protection, a national government spokesperson said today that Phuket's polluted canals must be made pure for the sake of Thailand's tourism industry.
The Pheu Thai party's Prompong Nopparit said: ''We want Phuket to be a role model for all kinds of international standards.
''There have been many complaints from tourists about the quality of the water in Phuket's canals. We know that pollution damages the beaches and coral reefs and kills marine life.
''If these problems are not fixed, Phuket will lose its tourism industry.'' Phuket, he said, was ''the window for the country.''
Phuketwan understands some misguided officials would prefer to suppress data that proves Phuket has pollution problems at some of its most famous beaches.
Khun Prompong's message today is clear to those officials who believe in secrecy. The government's message: fix the pollution. A coverup won't work.
Phuket Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak told the meeting at Cherng Talay council offices: ''The latest problems with pollution are not just at Bang Tao's canal, but at canals all across Phuket.''
The meeting followed an official tour upstream at the Bang Tao canal, where at the weekend Phuketwan photojournalists revealed a black murky streak stretching for more than a kilometre along the famous beach.
Local residents say pollution from the canal begins with hotels or restaurants and has caused some of them to fall sick. They have decided not to continue with the conspiracy of silence.
Hiding the issue means it will grow with time and eventually kill Phuket tourism.
While the problem is plain, Phuket remains an appealing destination - provided tourists steer clear of the polluted canals.
Vice Governor Somkiet said that Phuket Governor Maitree Intusut had inspected more pollution at Phuket City's main canal yesterday while the vice governor had looked at the notorious Patong canal.
Virtually all of Phuket's canals are polluted, Phuketwan can report, although the levels of bacteria in them have never been publicly revealed.
The ones that pose an immediate risk to residents and tourists are those on Phuket's popular west coast, extending from Mai Khao in the north to Nai Harn in the south, including the beaches at Surin, Kamala, Patong, Karon and Kata.
Spokesman Khun Prompong said today that he had seen enough to know that reports by the media at the weekend about Bang Tao's pollution problem - including Phuketwan's powerful photos - were accurate, and that it was time for government action.
He said he would begin urgent talks with environmental officials as soon as he returned to Bangkok.
Phuketwan has called for the perpetrators of the pollution to be imprisoned and fined. Enforcement and education are essential.
PHUKET: Governing Pheu Thai party spokesman Prompong Nopparit led officials on a hunt up a canal today for the source of the pollution that has blackened Bang Tao beach and Phuket's reputation.
One resident, Willi Tiegelkamp, who lives near Willi Bridge, told Phuketwan that the canal had been on the nose from bad pollution for three years.
''At times it's awful,'' he said. ''Really, people should not use a public waterway to dispose of their waste.''
Residents of Bang Tao have taken their complaints about the Bang Tao canal public following a weekend when a murky strip of ''black'' water extended more than a kilometre along the famous beach.
Virtually every canal on Phuket is polluted, according to experts who prefer to remain anonymous at this stage. Residents in Bang Tao and around the main canal that drains through Phuket City have decided it's time to speak out.
Hotels and restaurants are probably to blame for the pollution in Bang Tao, according to locals. Some have been made sick by the bad water.
Other canals at Kata, Patong and Karon are also said to stink because of their contents, said to sometimes include human excrement.
With Khun Prompong today were Phuket Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak, Cherng Talay Mayor Ma-Ann Somran and local officials and residents.
The group went to a meeting at Cherng Talay council offices that began about 10.40am.