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Surat Thani “cockle wars” are over, says navy chief

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PHOTO: Samui Times

The chief of the Royal Thai Navy says local figures wielding influence are being “neutralised” and the disruptive, sometimes violent dispute between cockle farmers and local small-boat fishermen is drawing to an end. Admiral Ruechai Ruddit says the conflict off the coast of Bandon Bay in the southern province of Surat Thani has eased, after cockle farmers began dismantling the roofed platforms they built to protect their illegal shellfish breeding grounds against raids by local fishermen. He says the various agencies involved are combining their efforts and enforcing relevant laws to tackle the problem.

“Progress is being made and the situation is improving. There will be no further disputes in the future.”

The navy chief says officials are to blame for allowing local big shots to “wield influence” over the sea, but this influence is now fading. The intervention of agencies which have teamed up as the “Sornchon task force” is creating a balance of power, and this will “naturally neutralise the influential figures.”

The admiral was commenting after inspecting the operations of the task force tackling the encroachment in Bandon Bay, in Surat Thani’s Mueang district.

Cockle farmers have been illegally occupying large areas of the sea, which is in the public domain.

The so-called “influential figures” reportedly laid claim to areas of the sea, then leased or “sold” them to people eager to invest in the profitable shellfish trade.

Investors occupied areas off Phunphin, Muang, Kanchanadit, Don Sak, Chaiya and Thachang districts, developing them as private farms breeding the profitable bivalve known as the blood clam. Coastal fishermen argue that the areas are public, and that they have the right to harvest the shellfish.

This has led to sometimes violent clashes.

Cockle farmers occupied an estimated 300,000 rai off the coast of the 6 districts, building roofed platforms in the sea, where they stood guard over their farms. There were a total of 1,010 platforms reported in the area.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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