Sea nomads win land encroachment case in South Thailand

Students protest the fence blocking access to their school, photo by Satun Public Relations Office.

Sea nomads have won a land encroachment case in South Thailand after a month-long legal battle.

The dispute was over a fence blocking access to a school on the island of Koh Lipe. The Ban Koh Adang school is located in a community populated by Thailand’s Moken minority group. The moken are a semi-nomadic Austronesian group that lives in Thai coastal provinces and inhabits over 800 islands in the Andaman Sea.

Tensions over the land encroachment started heating up in December when students gathered outside the school to protest. Then last month, a group of Moken people took their struggle to Bangkok, rallying in front of the Treasury Department.

The company involved in the dispute has now agreed to remove the fence blocking access to the school, Bangkok Post reported.

The Treasury Department’s director-general, Sommart Maneeyan, led a team of inspectors to survey the island yesterday. The team looked to find solutions to land encroachment that would allow law-abiding businesses and local ethnic groups to co-exist.

Sommart said the school’s boundary will be clearly demarcated, with a fund to be set aside for building a new fence, after the company dismantled the fence it put up earlier.

Local authorities have also filed charges against 10 of Koh Lipe’s hotels and resorts operating without licenses.

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 National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) 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.

In December, Wasan urged all concerned to recognise the rights of the Moken people and follow the UN principles on business and human rights.

Crime NewsSouth Thailand 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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