The court handed down the adjournment yesterday (Sept 5) as Rawai Sea gypsy representative Bancha Hadsaithong accompanied by attorney Pasit Thawornlamlerd appeared in court to answer to a complaint filed by Chindarak Thammajak against villagers for encroachment on land in Moo 2 Rawai, where the sea gypsy village is located.
After exiting the courthouse, Mr Bancha said, “I am one of the villagers being sued for encroachment on land that our great grand parents and ancestors have been living for more than 100 years. I live not far from the area where DSI (Department of Special Investigation) found bones of our ancestors.”
The DSI in 2014 assisted Rawai sea gypsies in their claim to the land by gathering DNA evidence, as well as compiling aerial photography and school records as evidence to help them build their case. (See story here.)
Describing his fight for the Rawai sea gypsy village to stay alive, Mr Bancha explained that in the past four years he has fought off two complaints of encroachment.
The first was filed by Chamroen Mookdee, Ms Chindarak’s grandfather. The claim was dismissed by the court, but then appealed.
Since then Mr Chamroen has died, and Ms Chindarak has subsequently filed her own claim to retain her father’s land, he explained.
“The court agreed to release us without bail today, but we must appear at the next court hearing next April,” Mr Bancha said.
“The 12 rai claimed by Ms Chindarak’s today is home to about 80 families and 10 of those families have already lost their cases in court,” Mr Bancha noted.
The claim is just one of many that together jeopardise the entire sea gypsy village, he noted.
“More than 100 sea gypsies have been in court defending their right to live on the 19 rai that the Rawai sea gypsy village occupies,” he said.
Mr Bancha turned his hopes to the government to resolve the dispute so that the Rawai sea gypsies can continue to live on their ancestral land.
“The provincial government has already proposed to buy the 19 rai needed from those who claim to own the land and to develop it into a community for the villagers,” Mr Bancha said.
“The proposal is being reviewed by the Cabinet at the moment,” he said.