Skirmishes erupted between men reportedly hired by investors and a seafarer minority group in Phuket after a two-days standoff while military officers allegedly sided with the investors.
According to Transborder News, on Wednesday, 27 January 2016, a violent confrontation between a group of 70 Orang Laut villagers, a seafarer minority group refers to as Chao Lae in Thai, and a group of men reportedly hired by investors broke out on Rawai Beach in Mueang District of the southern province of Phuket, a world famous holiday destination known for its iconic beaches.
The skirmishes began as Rawai Beach seafarer community representatives were on their way to Phuket Provincial Hall to submit a petition to the Damrongtham Centre, one of the centres established to accept public complaints, to urge the authorities to protect their community and livelihood.
Members of the Orang Laut community reported that since Tuesday a group of men came with military and police officers to the beach and surrounded an area which investors have for years been attempting to use to develop lucrative projects.
The men allegedly working for the investors used an excavator to lift big rocks to seal off the entrance to the community while the military and police officers just looked on, added the seafarers.
They pointed out that the investors are claiming ownership over the area despite the fact that the community has legitimate rights over it.
Sanit Sae-sua, the Orang Laut community representative, said that in the petition, his community calls on the state authorities to revoke land title deeds over the area and instead establish it as a protected cultural zone, because the area is important to the Orang Laut community and their tribal ceremonies.
An Orang Laut man of Rawai Beach in Phuket injured in skirmishes with a group of unidentified men on 27 January 2016 (photo from Thapanee Letsrichai Facebook page)
Orang Laut villagers on their way to submit a petition to the authorities on 27 January 2016 (photo from Thapanee Letsrichai Facebook page)