Brief skirmishes erupt between indigenous sea nomads, unidentified men

Brief skirmishes between a group of unidentified individuals and an embattled community of sea nomadshave reportedly erupted again in the presence of public officials.

Maitree Jongkraijug, a citizen journalist, reported that at about 1 pm on Wednesday, 25 May 2016, a large group of unidentified individuals equipped with an excavator used big rocks to block the entrance to a disputed land plot on Rawai beach of the southern province of Phuket.

The disputed land is claimed by Baron World Trade Co, a real estate development company, and the indigenous seafarer community of about 2,000 people, which includes three sea nomad groups, the Moken, Moklen and Orang Laut.

Maitree reported that some of the unidentified men tried provoke the sea nomads by throwing rocks at them.

After a standoff of about 30 minutes of between the sea nomads and the unidentified men, around 10 police officers intervened and the indigenous sea nomads removed the rocks which blocked the entrance to the disputed land plot.

The incident occurred in the presence of Gen Surin Pikulthong, a military officer tasked to solve the conflict over the land plot, and Komsan Pohkong, sub-committee member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Maitree reported.

The battle between the sea nomad 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.

Confrontation between the sea nomad community and a group of unidentified men who attempted to block the entrance to the disputed land plot on Rawai Beach in Phuket on 25 May 2016 (Photo from Maitree Jongkraijug’s Facebook)

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