In the prolonged land conflict between private landowners and the native Urak Lawoi and Moken people, who have been residing at Rawai Beach in Phuket, the two sides were unable to find a mutual agreement to the problem.
Phuket Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada’s solutions to the problem were rejected.
Urak Lawoi community leader Ngim Damrongkaset said the reason for the refusal was that they believe the land deed was unlawfully acquired in the first place and demanded that the Lands Department revoke the deed first.
The area that Phuket province intended to purchase for the sea people was a 19-rai plot of land, already inspected by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), where the sea people had supposedly settled for 300 years.
“It is clear that the land was ours and we have a rightful claim over the land, so we do not agree with the province’s decision to buy the land,” Ngim said.
Preeda Khongpan, commissioner on the sea people’s land and spiritual area problem-solving board, stated that the province’s plan to purchase the disputed land was unclear.
“There were no details at all on how the province would buy the land from the landowner. It would have to be passed on to the Cabinet for consideration, as they would be using the country’s money to purchase this land. And if the land is bought using the land bank mechanism, the sea people will have to pay back the debt to the land bank in instalments, which they will not agree to,” Preeda explained.
“It would be inappropriate to buy this land, as the DSI has already proved that the land belongs to the sea people and the Land Department should just do their job and revoke the land deed.”
She suspected that the offer was just a plan by the landowner to avoid losing the land outright.
The offer was presented by Chamroen on Monday. He said the province would coordinate with the Social Development and Human Security Ministry to acquire 19 rai of contested land from the private owner to develop housing with a budget of Bt313 million.
Meanwhile, in the conflict over 33 rai of land owned by Baron World Trade Company, which has laid claim to the religious area of the sea people and access to the beach, he said the province had set up a team to measure the land between the disputed land to the sea around three metres wide and asked for three more metres of land in width to make create a right of way for the sea people.
Ngim said the sea people had also turned down this offer from the province and insisted on using the original way to the shrine and the beach.
“We urge the Land Department to inspect the land deed of this plot as well. We do not mean to reclaim all the land, but we want our original path, the shrine and the beach access to be excluded from this plot of land,” he said.
Meanwhile, following investigation into the assault on the sea community, the Phuket police have issued 14 arrest warrants for people from Baron World Trade. Six of them have surrendered to the police and have already been released on bail.