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Special Report: Phuket sea gypsies fight for their rights

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Phuket sea gypsies fight for their rights | The Thaiger

PHUKET: More than 70 representatives from 30 sea gypsy communities across the six Andaman provinces met officials in Phuket earlier this week to voice grievances and defend their way of life.

The meeting, at Phuket Community Hall followed the arrest and release of 17 sea gypsy fishermen of the Pramongkit clan arrested in late December for fishing inside Had Jao Mai Marine National Park in Trang.

Kantang Police, who arrested the men after receiving a report from a park official, seized as evidence 3,100 kilograms of spiny Murex shellfish, one pickup, three longtail boats and other fishing equipment.

Vehemently denying having fished in park waters, the sea gypsies said they showed the arresting officers a copy of a Cabinet resolution passed on June 2 last year, stating the official government policy to protect the sea gypsies’ traditional way of life.

After further investigation, Kantang Police dropped the charges on January 4.

“Those shells were not protected species and we have the right to collect them. No matter how hard we tried to explain this to the officers, including showing a copy of the Cabinet resolution, they didn’t care. They said they wanted to put us in jail anyway,” one of the fishermen told the meeting.

The Pramongkit sea gypsies, from Rassada and Rawai, have yet to return to Trang to reclaim their boats. Without them they cannot make money to cover living expenses, one said.

The Cabinet resolution set short- and long-term policies and measures to ensure the sea gypsies could continue their traditional hunter-gatherer way of life in a sustainable way.

These included the continued use of old-style fishing equipment; access to traditional fishing grounds that have since been declared as inside marine national parks; fast tracking citizenship requests and issuance of ID cards to ensure access to public education and health services; and maintenance of local culture and traditions.

Sea Gypsy representative Sanit Saechua of Rawai told the gathering there are about 12,000 sea gypsies in more than 30 groups scattered across Thailand’s Andaman Coast waters.

Despite some publicity about their way of life in the wake of the 2004 tsunami disaster, they still live as second-class citizens and don’t have the full rights enjoyed by other Thai citizens, he said.

Land rights issues were the biggest concern. Most sea gypsy communities are located in coastal areas and many do not have land title deeds. Some sea gypsy cemeteries are now located inside marine national parks or other areas designated for tourism purposes, Mr Sanit said.

Sea gypsy Yupa Chaonam of the Phi Phi Island community said, “We are not allowed to do anything [in the surrounding area], which we are told belongs to a developer. We just want to know what is our territory and what is not. It’s as if we are a forgotten people with no public development for us.”

On the topic of citizenship, Mr Sanit said about 30 per cent of sea gypsies living in Thai territory had yet to be issued National ID cards. Most, about 3,200, were living in areas off Ranong, while some 900 were in Phang Nga. Only about 10 sea gypsies in Phuket lacked ID cards, he said.

“These people lack access to public health services and can’t even travel without fear of being arrested as illegal aliens,” he said.

There to hear the grievances in person was Preeda Kongpaen, a member of a government-appointed advisory panel on how to best restore and maintain the traditional sea gypsy way of life.

She told the meeting that all the concerns she heard that day would be reported to the Cabinet through the Ministry of Culture, which would push to make the measures specified in the resolution have an impact on the problems.

“The government must pay more attention to solving the problems faced by these people. They inhabited these areas long before the tourism boom, so their livelihoods should not suffer as a result of government tourism development policies,” she said.

Mr Sanit said sea gypsies were disappointed with the failure of the June 2 resolution to translate into real change.

“At first, the Cabinet resolution seemed like a good policy to support our rights, but in the end it is just a piece of paper. Government officers don’t put it into practice,” he said.

But he did acknowledge the gathering itself as a positive step for the sea gypsies.

“It will at least present us as ‘somebodies’ in this society, not ‘nobodies’ as we were before,” he added.

— Pimwara Choksakulpan

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Environment

Phuket’s water bosses claim there will be enough water

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s water bosses claim there will be enough water | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Bang Neow Dam in Thalang, just a few muddy ponds

Well into the second half of the Phuket wet season and the three main dams are well below capacity, Bang Wad Dam just over 13% capacity and the Bang Neow Dam in Thalang district around 5%, mostly unusable muddy ponds. The newer Khlong Katha in Chalong is at a much higher level, about 30% of capacity.

But this time of the year the three dams need to be well on their way to full capacity if the island is to get through the high tourists season and dry season without a repeat of last year’s muddle where provincial obfuscation and confusion put the health of thousands of residents at risk by cutting off their water supply and water trucks became more populous than passenger vans.

The lack of water also co-incides with increased development and more tourists arriving each year.

Now the Director of the Phuket Provincial Irrigation Office, Somsawat Chaisinsod, is calling for province administrators and the Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority to begin water saving campaigns as the annual heavy rains in October may not arrive or be less frequent. The suggestion of water ‘restrictions’ was not mentioned in the meeting.

At a meeting attended by Phuket’s Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana, Mr. Somsawat claimed that the island’s annual rainfall, for the first seven months of 2019, has only been 10% less than average.

But the dams are a LOT more than 10% lower in capacity. In the case of the Bang Neow Dam in Srisoontorn, it’s virtually empty.

A representative from the PWA said that the Authority is currently buying 45,000 cubic metres of water per day from undisclosed “private sources” to top up the island’s potable water needs.

“The PWA is in the process of securing water supply from a new supplier to improve the water supply and reduce the volume of water drawn from the dams.”

Meanwhile Prapan Kanprasang, chief of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation in Phuket, told The Phuket News he “believes Phuket has enough water to the island through the next dry season, after the annual rains cease early November”.

“We have enough water to use.”

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Crime

Norwegian out on bail following death of British man at Centara Grand Resort in Phuket

The Thaiger

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Norwegian out on bail following death of British man at Centara Grand Resort in Phuket | The Thaiger

SCREENSHOT: bbc.com

The bbc.com are reporting that a British man died at the Centara Grand Hotel in Phuket in a fight after telling another guest to “keep the noise down” as his wife and son tried to sleep, according to the man’s family.

The details in the BBC report conflict with earlier local reports out of Phuket.

The BBC report says that 34 year old Amitpal Singh Bajaj from the UK complained about noise from the next room at the five-star Centara Grand Hotel on Karon beachfront in Phuket.

The man’s family claims that another man forced his way into their room via the balcony early on Wednesday, August 21. The family claims that the man strangled Mr Bajaj.

In a statement Amitpal’s 34 year old wife Bandhna Kaur Bajaj described to police how the attacker “barged” into their room naked and attacked her husband.

“My husband sacrificed his life to save my son’s life and mine. He will always be our hero.”

“My husband tried to block the man and move me and my son away. As the man was kicking, punching and just, beating him up, my husband told me to please leave and save our son,” according to the BBC report.

The rendering of the report from the BBC is quite different from Phuket’s local news reports.

In Phuket reports it stated that a fight started at 4am, when the British man Amitpal Singh Bajaj confronted Norwegian Roger Bullman over the amount of noise coming from his room.

“Mr Bullman was drunk, and security had already visited his room twice to ask him to keep the noise down. When Mr Bajaj confronted him, he stabbed Mr Bullman in the shoulder with a steak knife.

Mr Bullman, trained in martial arts, then got the British man in a choke hold and maintained his grip on him. He says he did not mean to kill him, and did not think he had.”

The BBC report says that Mrs Bajaj grabbed the couple’s 2 year old son and fled the hotel room to look for help. She says she ran down a staircase and hid under a tree with her son in her arms while calling the reception from her mobile to tell them what had happened.

“I asked the reception to please make sure someone attends to my husband… “please give him some medical help, I’m very scared, I’ve escaped”, according to the BBC report.

“I could still hear the attacker screaming. I didn’t want to be attacked.”

Mr Amitpal was taken to Patong Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry has confirmed that a Norwegian citizen has been arrested in Thailand and is being provided consular assistance.

According to Phuket News, Karon police said that “Mr Bullman had been released on bail posted at the court, but was unable to confirm how much bail was posted at. Reports in the Norwegian media said that bail was posted at about 200,000 baht.”

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Phuket

Huawei technology working with the ‘smart city’ project in Phuket

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Huawei technology working with the ‘smart city’ project in Phuket | The Thaiger

Huawei Technologies impressed participants at this week’s ASEAN Smart Cities Network Conference & Exhibition in Bangkok with its white paper on smart city development in Phuket.

The paper aims to drive Thailand 4.0 initiatives to pave the way for major digital and infrastructure development in Phuket, one of Thailand’s pilot smart cities, and to provide insights and guidance on an integrated framework needed for a successful and sustainable urban transformation.

Inspired by Thailand 4.0 economic development program launched in 2016, the paper focuses on a practical ideas that helps empower Phuket communities for digital future.

Huawei conducted an assessment and case studies on the services and utilities required for a fully-developed smart city. The resulting white provides comprehensive insights into action plans to transform Phuket into a smart city by 2020.

The services include smart energy and utilities, smart mobility, smart environment, smart living and smart economy while the enablers are smart governance, smart infrastructure and smart people.

In his opening address, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa)’s president Dr. Nuttapon Nimmanpatcharin noted that thanks to the support from the National Smart City Committee and organizations from both public and private sectors, the smart city developments have already begun in 6 prioritized cities: Phuket, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and 3 EEC provinces.

“As one of our pilot cities, Phuket needs a clear development plan and a sustainable management model in order to fully transform into a smart city in 2020, this white paper will surely help facilitate smart city project for Phuket and other smart city candidates as well.”

Chanchai Tanatkatrakul, Principal, Roland Berger Thailand added: “We looked at global best practices and analysed local issues and requirements to develop this Smart City Framework for Phuket. Talking to various stakeholders helped us tailor our recommendations that can address the needs of Phuket and its people very well:”

Deng Feng, Managing Director of Huawei Thailand agreed, saying: “At Huawei, we promote industry development at all levels. As Thailand embarks on the journey to become one of the first countries in the region to develop a smart city scheme, we will provide practical recommendations and solutions to ensure a smooth and complete city development for Phuket and the rest of Thailand.”

SOURCE: The Nation

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