“If we do nothing now, in 10 years Phuket will still have this problem and the sea gypsies’ livelihood will not improve. If we solve the land issues, other issues will be easy to tackle,” Phuket Vice Governor Prajiad Aksornthammakul told the NRSA Committee on Social Reform members at a meeting at Provincial Hall.
The committee officials, led by Chairman Anothai Ritpanyawong, were in Phuket to hear the latest status of the ongoing dispute involving claims by Baron World Trade Co Ltd and 13 other individuals to land at the sea gypsy village on the Rawai seafront. (See story here.)
Among the many people present at the meeting were Preeda Kongpan of the Committee for Sea Gypsy Problem Integrating Solution and Baron World Trade Co Ltd representative Chatri Mardsatul.
“There are five sea gypsy communities in Phuket – at Hinlukdiew, Leam La, Sapam and Laem Tukkae and Rawai – and they all face different issues in their areas,” V/Gov Prajiad said.
Speaking specifically about the sea gypsies at Rawai, V/G Prajiad explained, “The land that the Rawai sea gypsies are living on is claimed by many people. This land issue has been discussed in court. In some cases, the court has already ruled against the villagers, while other cases are still being heard.
However, he added, “Besides the land issue, villagers are also facing other problems, such as they have to pay higher rates than other areas for electricity. The villagers need to be the rightful owner of the land they live on and need public utilities in place.
“Right now, we cannot help them with their living condition issues because of the problem with the land ownership,” he said.
“We have proposed that the central government buy 20 rai of land from the people whose claims to the land are upheld as one possible solution to the problem, and suggested to develop the area into a community for sea gypsies,” V/Gov Prajiad added.
“After many meetings, the people who claim the land agreed to sell ‘their’ land (sic) to the government for more than B90 million.
“If we decide to develop the area with public utilities, we will need a total budget of more than B250mn for this,” he said.
NSRA Committee Chairman Mr Anothai said, “I am in favour of the proposal for the central government to buy the land to settle the land dispute and pay the rightful owners of the land. I have already proposed this idea to the committee once, which they all favoured.
“I will bring all the information from this meeting today back to my next meeting with them. I think it will take too long to wait for the investigation into the land ownership, so we must work on both projects (buying the land and installing public utilities) at the same time,” he added.
“Regarding the specific dispute with Baron World Trade Co Ltd, we will have to discuss this again at a later date.”