Leader of embattled sea nomad community accused of violating junta order

The military has summoned the leader of an embattled indigenous seafarer community in the southern province of Phuket for a discussion, accusing him of violating a junta order.

The Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) reported on Friday, 22 April 2016, that a document has been circulated on Facebook summoning Nguem Damrongkaset, the leader of the sea nomad community on Rawai Beach in the southern province of Phuket, to a military camThe document was signed by Maj Gen Teenachat Jindangeon, Commander of the 41st Military Circle in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. It was issued on Wednesday.

In the letter, the military cites National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 3/2015, which gives almost absolute power to soldiers with the rank of sub-lieutenant upwards to maintain national security, to order Nguem to report to the 41st Military Circle at 1 pm on Friday.

The order states that Nguem was involved in gatherings of the indigenous sea nomad community which violated NCPO announcements and orders. The document, however, did not specify which orders or announcements Nguem violated.     

According the Manager Online, Nguem in 2014 participated in an event where the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) returned the bones of sea nomad ancestors buried on Rawai Beach to the community after the bones were taken for forensic examination in order to prove that the sea nomad community has been living on the disputed land plot for many generations. The Manager Online reported that Nguem is the leader of the community.

The 2,000-strong indigenous seafarer community on Rawai Beach, which includes three sea nomad groups, the Moken, Moklen and Orang Laut, continues to face uncertainty in a standoff with Baron World Trade Co, a real estate development company which claims ownership over the plot.

The battle between the community and Baron over the plot of land on Rawai Beach made headlines on 27 January after a violent confrontation broke out between 70 seafarers and a group of men reportedly hired by the company.

The skirmishes began as the 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. 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 reportedly just looked on.

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

The document summoning Nguem Damrongkaset, the leader of the sea nomad community on Rawai Beach in the southern province of Phuket, to a military camp in Nakhon Si Thammarat.