No ban on plastic bags yet, says PM
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday pledged to protect marine life from sea waste but refused to respond to growing calls for an immediate ban on single-use plastic bags.
"I have ordered related agencies to protect these sea animals. It is this government's policy that no one will not be left behind and that does not only mean humans -- we include animals like dugongs," the prime minister told media in response to the fate of Marium, the popular young dugong which died last week after ingesting ocean plastic waste.
He said he has now ordered officials to do everything to protect another baby dugong, Yamil, a three-month-old that was rescued and placed under Department of Marine and Coastal Resources' veterinary supervision in July.
"Yamil must not die," said the prime minister.
He insisted that the government will ban the use of some plastic, including single-use plastic bags, by 2022.
"Everyone has a duty to help reduce plastic waste. It is unfair and pointless to blame the government when sea animals die due to marine waste. This issue is everyone's responsibility," he said.
On Tuesday, a conservation plan dubbed the "Marium Project" was approved by the cabinet after being proposed by Varawut Silpa-archa, minister of natural resources and environment. Among similar proposals are the nomination of Aug 17 as "National Dugong Day" and the "1+11 Dugong Project".
The latter plan will create 12 dugong conservation areas modelled after Koh Libong in Trang province where Marium was cared for.
Areas to be included are Pattani, Satun, Trang, Phangnga, Krabi, Chumphon, Chanthaburi, Rayong and Chon Buri provinces, all of which have beaches rich in sea-grass -- dugongs' favourite food.