The north-east monsoon should have left the Thai island of Koh Samui more than a month ago, but the start of 2017 there has been greeted by a week of unremitting tropical storms.

Supposedly the high season, Mr Supit’s hotel is dripping with umbrellas and soaking towels. The rains have prevented many staff from getting to work, made his international guests miserable and washed away his organic garden.

He breaks his wai – the traditional palms together gesture of greeting – throwing his arms apart with a shrug and a shake of his head. “What more can I do?” he asks.

“We are going to cross the sea in front of us,” he jokes as he attempts to drive down Main Street, floodwater sloshing up to the gunwales of his Ford.

“This is very strange weather. We had similar storms five years ago, but that was in March. I have never known a new year like this. We are thinking this must be the result of climate change.”

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Like the scooters abandoned beside the flooded roads, many of the resorts dotted around Samui’s coast have spluttered to a stop. A few plucky guests have filmed themselves laughing on lilos bobbing down the street, beers in hand, but Thai tourism is an industry that floats on sunshine and there has been virtually none of that for a week.

The local TV news is reporting that hundreds of families on the holiday island have been left homeless, bridges are down and many roads are impassable beneath brown, malodorous floodwater. Elsewhere in the province, the unexpected deluge has killed at least 18 people.

A mile from his hotel, Mr Supit stops his car to look at a rockfall that has crashed across the ring road, red boulders brought down by the heavy rains. “We need to be focusing on green again,” he murmurs.

This is not a country that finds it easy to embrace the sacrifices of a green revolution: government figures suggest the average Thai uses an astonishing eight plastic bags a day. In the last two decades around 60 environmental activists have been killed in Thailand while campaigning against powerful logging companies and industrial polluters. Some question just how serious the military-backed government is in pursuing green policies.

 

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