Phuket sea gypsy, 59, denied hospital treatment for broken leg

PHUKET: A 59-year-old woman from Phuket’s sea gypsy community in Rawai denied treatment at Vachira Phuket Hospital for a broken leg sparked a mass visit to Governor Nisit Jansomwong by more than 30 angry villagers yesterday.

“Pohnao Bangjark broke her left leg while collecting shellfish at Rawai Beach on January 16,” sea gypsy Sanit Sae-Thua told Governor Nisit at Phuket Provincial Hall.

“She was taken to Vachira Hospital, but she was denied treatment because she couldn’t present any identification.”

Ms Pohnao is not alone in her inability to identify herself as a Thai citizen, Mr Sanit noted.

“About 20 other sea gypsies at our village still have not been issued any national ID or social security cards. We are still waiting for the government to issue them,” he said.

“Rawai Mayor Aroon Solos submitted our applications for Thai identity cards on our behalf two months ago, and we are still waiting for a response.”

Mr Sanit called on Gov Nisit to expedite the processing of the Thai ID applications in order to avoid any further incidents.

“This is very important for us. Without official Thai ID, this will happen again,” he said.

One phone call by Gov Nisit to Vachira Hospital Deputy Director Dr Somboon Wangtaetham seemed to have the desired effect.

“Dr Somboon has confirmed that Ms Pohnao can undergo surgery to her leg on February 3,” Gov Nisit said.

“And as Ms Pohnao does not have the finances to pay for the operation or any recovery expenses, Vachira Hospital will cover all the bills, which will amount to about 50,000 baht.”

Gov Nisit told the Phuket Gazette that he has asked the Phuket Provincial Health Office to compile a register of all sea gypsies on the island who have yet to be issued official Thai ID cards.

“We will keep their names on a list so that they can receive treatment from government hospitals without any problems,” he added.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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