By SALINEE PRAP
ABOUT 200 members of the sea-gypsy community in the Rawai area of Phuket’s Muang district yesterday morning blocked the demolition of two homes in Soi Mukdee, while 100 policemen, Navy officers and administrative officials were stationed at the scene to prevent clashes.
The homes were to be demolished after the Supreme Court ruled on December 30, 2015 that homeowners Maren Bangchak and Anan Bangchak, who leased the plots and were formally notified to move out in 2011, were to be evicted from the properties.
Since Maren and Anan were not present to receive the demolition notices, official Theerasak Eiad-chuthong told the landowners, brothers Suthep and Thawee Mukdee, that the demolition could not be carried out due to fears of clashes with protesters.
However, the landlords and their authorised representative Satheun Mukdee insisted on going ahead with the demolitions because they had already brought workers and tools to perform the task. But when they faced the protesters, Satheun capitulated, saying that the demolition could not proceed and that he would have to file a police complaint.
Protesters, many of whom carried a portrait of late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, began crying and singing the Royal Anthem after the capitulation.
Last month, the Phuket Court rejected a separate land-encroachment case against four sea gypsies in Rawai based on evidence, including a photograph of the late King during his visit to the community in 1959.
Kwanjai Bangchak, 27, who lived with 10 others in one of the two houses marked for demolition, said tearfully that she had been living in the house that her father built many years ago and would not know where to go if evicted.
Another resident Juree Krasaechonthan, 52, said the landlords had let them live on the land, but had changed their minds later and were now trying to evict them.
Landlord Suthep, 71, said the four-rai (0.6-hectare) plot, which was later divided into six plots, had been inherited by him and his younger brother Thawee. They leased the land to sea-gypsy people on a year-to-year basis, but when they wanted the land back in 2009 and asked them to leave, they had refused. The refusal led to a lawsuit, in which the court issued a verdict saying the houses could be demolished in October.