Sea nomads take struggle over alleged land encroachment to Bangkok

Sea nomads protest in Bangkok, photo by Thai PBS.

Sea nomads are taking their struggle over alleged land encroachment to Bangkok. The nomads are part of the Moken minority, a group of semi-nomadic Austronesian group that lives in Thai coastal provinces and inhabits over 800 islands in the Andaman Sea.

Today, a group of Moken people from Koh Lipe rallied in front of the Treasury Department, demanding justice over alleged land encroachment and intimidation.

A coordinator for the Moken of Andaman Network said that a land occupation right issued to an influential figure encroaches on the land of a school on Koh Adang. The coordinator, Wittawat Thepsong, said the encroachment blocks access to beaches and the sea.

He said that the Moken indigenous people used to have free access to the beaches and sea, but now they are being denied such access, Thai PBS reported.

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The group submitted a petition to an official at the UN office in Bangkok this morning, seeking an investigation into alleged human rights violations.

Koh Lipe and Koh Adang are both tourist hotspots in the Tarutao National Park, located about 15 minutes away from each other.

Tensions over the recent alleged land encroachment have been heating up since last month when students gathered outside the school to protest.

Moken number less than 3,000 people. They have been living in the region with land bases on Koh Lipe for centuries.

Since 2006, the commission has received 14 complaints involving local land rights and investigated nine of them.

According to the NHRC’s Wasan Paileeklee, the NHRC has made recommendations on the verification of land titles, cultural protection areas and public spaces. Little has been done to address the issues.

Last month, Wasan urged all concerned to recognise the rights of the Moken people and follow the UN principles on business and human rights. Wasan said he would ask the PM’s office to observe the situation.

Bangkok NewsThailand News

Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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