Threatened seafarer tribes demand rights over their home

Seafarer tribes in southern Thailand facing eviction have submitted a petition to the Ministry of Justice calling for rights over their home.     

Members of the seafarer community in Mueang District of the southern province of Phuket on Thursday, 11 February 2016, met Tawatchai Thaikeaw, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Justice Ministry.  

The group travelled to the Ministry to submit a petition to Gen Paiboon Koomchaya, Minister of Justice, to urge the authorities to investigate the land dispute between their community and Baron World Trade Co, an estate development company, which claims ownership over a disputed 33 rai on Rawai Beach in Phuket, where about 2,000 seafarers from three groups, the Moken, Moklen, and Orang Laut, have settled.

The seafarers claim that their ancestors settled in the disputed area over 300 years ago.

In the petition, the group demands that the Justice Ministry order the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to investigate the land dispute and protect them from at least 100 men who allegedly used violence against them and destroyed their property in order to evict their community.

They also called for compensation for 34 members of the community who were injured in the recent violent skirmishes which broke out on 27 January between them and a group of unidentified men who were allegedly hired by Baron World Trade Co to guard the company construction site adjacent to the community.

According to a leaked document circulated on social media, the company contacted the Royal Thai Army before the violence skirmishes broke out last month, to deploy military personnel to guard company workers as they started to construct villas on the disputed land plot.    

The group said that they will also travel to the Department of Lands to urge them to revoke the land title that was issued to the company, saying that it was illegitimate.

Representatives of the seafarer community from Rawai Beach in Phuket at the Justice Ministry in Bangkok on 11 February 2016