Panel probes sea gypsy land rows


A committee has been set up to look into a land conflict between businessmen and sea gypsy communities along the Andaman Coast.

PM’s Office permanent secretary ML Panadda Diskul signed an order on Tuesday to set up a committee to tackle land tenure problems facing the sea gypsies, who reportedly face eviction and intimidation.

The move followed a complaint by a network of local fishermen living in southern Andaman coastal provinces that many sea gypsies, known as chao lay, are facing eviction from the land they have lived on for generations.

Under the order, the 35-member committee, made up of experts, academics, representatives from state agencies, non-governmental organisations and residents, is chaired by Gen Surin Pikulthong, former president of the Community Organisations Development Institute.

The panel will investigate disputes between businessmen who claim ownership of the land and sea gypsies who have long been settled in communities along the coastal provinces.

Gen Surin said he would call the first meeting of the committee in three days to work out guidelines to solve the land disputes.

A conflict at a sea gypsy community in tambon Rawai of Phuket’s Muang district would be the first case to go before the panel, he added.

It would also follow up the results of the Department of Special Investigation’s DNA testing of human skeletons from tambon Rawai.

The skeletons were found to belong to sea gypsies.

The DNA results could affect legal action by a businessman who claims ownership of the community’s land, Gen Surin said.

The businessman has been seeking a court order to evict the sea gypsies who claim ancestral rights.


Bangkok Post
25 Jul 14

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