Indigenous sea nomads threatened with guns over disputed land

A group of men have threatened indigenous sea nomads in southern Thailand with guns in an attempt to force them off disputed land.

A group of unidentified men on Sunday night, 10 July 2016, physically abused Ta Hanthalae, a 42-year-old indigenous sea nomad (Chao Lay or Orang Laut), and Klahan Hanthalae in theTupo Community on Lipe Island of the southern province of Satun, Green News TV reported.

The unknown men, who claimed to be staff of a company claiming ownership of the land on which Ta’s house is located, ordered Ta to demolish his house and move away from the area.

When Ta refused to concede to the demands of the unknown men they reportedly threatened Ta and Klahan with guns and slapped the two in the face many times in an attempt to evict them, saying that the land belongs to the company.

After the incident, the sea nomad community filed a complaint at the local police station on the island.

Green News TV reported that the police were at first reluctant to process the complaint, but accepted it after soldiers stepped in to assist the sea nomad villagers.

The police have so far arrested five men who admitted that they physically abused the two sea nomads, but told the police that the abuse was not ‘serious’.

Land disputes between sea nomads and private companies over lucrative beachfront estates occur often in islands along the southern coasts of Thailand.

While some companies, most of whom plan to develop beachfront land into resorts, claim that they possess title deeds over disputed land plots, the sea nomad communities usually claim that the lands are their ancestral home where their communities have settled for many generations.