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Phuket Sea Gypsy sued again in new land dispute case



PHUKET: Rawai Sea Gypsies are facing yet another fight over their right to remain in their century-old village, which offers splendid views across the Andaman Sea.

Rawai local Bancha Hatsaithong is being sued over allegedly encroaching on land owned by Jindarak Thammajak. This latest Sea Gypsy land dispute came to Phuket Provincial Court on Monday for its initial assessment, with the court expected to convene again in April 2017.

“I am one of many Rawai locals who have been sued over land encroachment,” Mr Bancha said. “We have been living there for over 100 years. My dad is 70 years old, I am 45 years old and we’ve always lived there on the same 100 square wah.”

“Over the past four years, I have been sued twice already,” Mr Bancha said. “The first time, the court dismissed the case, but the prosecution appealed. Then, the court dismissed the case again, after the plaintiff [Chamroen Mookdee] passed away. Now I’m being sued again by Ms Jindarak, who is the grandaughter of Mr Chamroen.”

Ms Jindarak claims that she possesses land ownership documents covering more than 12 rai of land, on which more than 80 sea gypsy families are living.

“In total, there are more than 100 sea gypsies that have been sued so far,” Ms Jindarak said. “Ten of them have already left the land, but I am still working on getting the land back.”

Land disputes between title-holding land owners and the century-old Rawai sea gypsy community have continually dogged provincial authorities. Officials have advanced a plan for the government to buy the land from the title document owners and to develop the area for the sea gypsy community. The plan is currently under consideration by the central government (story here).

— Kritsada Mueanhawong


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