Connect with us


Phuket sea gypsies fight forced relocation




PHUKET: Fearing they will have nowhere to go if court-ordered evictions are carried out, villagers at the southern Phuket sea gypsy community in Rawai have steadfastly resolved to stay put.

“Our people have been living here for more than 200 years. Our homes once lined the length of the beach, but now we have only 19 rai to live on,” said village elder Ngeam Dumrongkaset, 68.

Put Hadthong, 48, and his family refuse to move.

“We have nowhere to go. My family has been living here for more than 60 years. Although they say they have documents to prove who owns the land, this is the land of our ancestors. No matter what happens, I will stay here. I will die here,” he said.

Mr Put learned of his eviction notice after his nephew handed him the court order when he returned from work one day in 2009.

“It was on the afternoon of March 21. I had just come home from work. My nephew said that court officers had delivered a court order requesting that I attend court two months later. It was only then that I learned the land I have been living on apparently belongs to Mr Piyawat Sa-Ngeamkul,” Mr Put said.

“Not only I, but the people living in seven other houses also received the court order,” he added.

The villagers went to court on the prescribed date, where they met Mr Piyawat’s lawyer.

“The lawyer offered us many choices. He said he would let us stay, but we would have to move out for a while so they could build row houses. Then we could move back and stay in the row house. He said we would have to sign rental agreements, but we wouldn’t have to pay any rent.

“He also wanted to build an area at the entrance to the village where we could sell fish. He said he would promote our village to tourists and persuade them to visit us to see how we live.

“We declined his offer. We did not believe him, and we do not like that kind of lifestyle. We would like to keep some privacy, instead of having tourists come through our village and our homes all the time. We like living the way we are now, we are happy enough,” Mr Put said.

After five court appearances, the court finally – on February 28, 2013 – ordered the villagers to vacate the land.

Maren Bangjak, 60, also learned that the land his family has been living on for generations may not be theirs.

“My sister was given the court order. I cannot remember the date, but it was after Mr Put and other neighbors were ordered to appear in court.

“Me and my neighbors have no idea what to do now, but we know for sure that we will never move out. I just hope that the officers from the Rights and Liberties Protection Department will be able to find a way for us,” he said.

“There are 13 people in my house. It’s a small house. We have less and less space to live in and they still want to force us to move,” he said.

Village elder Ngeam explained the court-ordered evictions arose from separate claims to land inside the village by Piyawat Sa-Ngeamkul and Chamroen Mookdee.

“Mr Piyawat’s land is about 2.5 rai, starting at the main entrance to the village. Before, the land belonged to Wan Areerob. He lived in our village, selling coffee. After he died, his son mortgaged the land, but he could not make the payments, so the bank foreclosed on the land,” said Mr Ngeam.

“The bank filed a complaint to the court, which assigned the Legal Execution Department to auction the land, which is how Mr Piyawat bought it. After the transfer of land ownership, Mr Piyawat filed a complaint that we were squatting on his land,” he explained.

Mr Chamroen owns land adjacent to the sea gypsy village, and has laid claim to land that sea gypsies now live on.

“He filed a complaint to the court. The court issued the warrant and finally ordered us to move out,” Mr Ngeam said.

Mr Put placed his faith on the Rights and Liberties Protection Department under the Ministry of Justice to provide much-needed help.

Pol Col Narat Savetanant, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, and a team of officers held a meeting with about 300 villagers on March 16 to discuss the issue.

“We wanted to talk to the villagers to let them know that we are working with other government departments so we can come up with a reasonable solution,” Col Narat said.

As testament to the sincerity of his department’s efforts, immediately after meeting the villagers in Rawai, Col Narat led a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall to highlight the sea gypsies’ plight.

“The Ministry of Interior, the Department of Special Investigation and the Royal Thai Police are cooperating to find a way to fight the claims, and to find a lawyer to represent the sea gypsies,” Col Narat told the meeting.

“Our officers will be reviewing maps, historical photos and conducting interviews to prove that the Rawai sea gypsies have been living there for generations,” he added.

Mr Put hopes the efforts pay off.

“We are hoping they will be able to help us. They told us they will set up a meeting in Bangkok to discuss our problem. After that they will come back to meet us again and tell us their agreement and solution,” he said.

“We have nowhere to go.”

— Orawin Narabal


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Video13 hours ago

Siam Paragon Bangkok International Fashion Week 2022

Thailand16 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Flash flooding to hit every region of Thailand

Thailand16 hours ago

Off-duty officer fires shots & fights with Bangkok cabbie

Sponsored24 hours ago

Starting a business and obtaining SMART Visa in Thailand is easy with Startup Booster

Thailand16 hours ago

Venomous snake emerges from parcel at sorting office in Thailand

Technology16 hours ago

Line Man Wongnai now Thailand’s largest tech startup

Thailand17 hours ago

Customer buys brand new Honda PCX motorbike with coins in eastern Thailand

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Drugs17 hours ago

Drug chase ends in flipped car, 6 million spilled Yaba pills

Thailand18 hours ago

169 Thai police officers dismissed for serious violations

World18 hours ago

Edward Snowden received Russian citizenship

Thailand19 hours ago

American told to stop riding go-kart in Chiang Mai

Thailand19 hours ago

Thailand legalises abortion up to 20 weeks

Coronavirus (Covid-19)20 hours ago

Nasal spray to prevent Covid hits stores October 1

Crime20 hours ago

China backs Philippines online gambling crackdown

Crime20 hours ago

Foreign gang allegedly extorts Russian couple of crypto worth US$50k in Thailand

Events22 hours ago

Meatfest will host meat cooking and eating contests in Pattaya

Thailand1 year ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism2 years ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11