Altogether about 100 villagers attended the meeting, including sea gypsy leaders.
Lt Col Prawut said, “We have been in court with the Rawai gypsy community for 7-8 cases, and most recently – yesterday – we went to court to take evidence for the court’s consideration.
“We done so as we have found some flaws in the presentation of evidence.
“We came to talk to the community and make suggestions in order to bring the witnesses to testify more effectively. Because if the villagers forget their own content, it will be detrimental to themselves. Therefore, I came to advise and oversee some aspects,” he said
“It is important to acknowledge to the group of sea gypsies and build trust. There is more trust now for them to take our advice. The villagers have also communicated this advice to other communities such as in Laem Tukkae. This is a very good development… We encourage this kind of thinking,” he added.
Lt Col Prawut also discussed some development plans for the gypsy community – which currently hosts a population of 2,000 people in 250 households – after the court ruled their decision.
The DSI have been investigating the legality of the Chanote issued in relation to sea gypsy land after the gypsies faced issues with providing evidence in their trials. (See story here.)
“We now have enough evidence to prove the sea gypsies have been living on this land. With the Ministry of Justice, the DSI, Central Institute of Forensic Science, Right and Liberties Protection Department and Fine Arts Department, we have analysed aerial photos from 1950, and used skeletal remains excavated from the village to find genetic evidence for the connection with sea gypsies, and for what amount of time. Also, attendance data at Wat Sawang Arom School from prior to the Chanote, in 1954, supports this,” Lt Col Prawut explained.
“There are currently a further 7-8 cases in court for which we’ve submitted the required evidence and documents. Now, we must wait for the court’s decision.
“Now that we have evidence, the main problem is the Chanote title deed on the land that hasn’t been revoked. This depends on the Land Office. We have, however, advised the sea gypsies to submit their evidence to the Administrative Court, which they are undergoing,” he said.
The community consists of the Urak Lawoi peoples and the Moken peoples living on 19 acres of land. Around the year 2011, the villagers began facing legal issues when they were sued for land encroachment. In 2013, the sea gypsies submitted their case to the Ministry of Justice and the Prime Minister’s Office for help with legal proceedings.