The alarm was raised by villagers posting on Twitter and Facebook pages that police and military personnel were allegedly confiscating mobile phones form the villagers “so they could not record what is happening”. (See here and here.)
“There are about 60 officials, including 30 Chalong policemen, at the Rawai sea gypsy community this morning,” Col Nopadon told The Phuket News.
“We are there to look after people’s security, both sides, as representatives of Baron World Trade Co Ltd are starting to install pins to mark their land in the area,” he said.
Col Nopadon denied that policeman had confiscated phones from sea gypsies at the village.
“People taking photos with their phones is a human right. Police have no right to take their phones from them. Policemen won’t do that,” he said.
However, he added, “Please understand that there are many other officials there for security this morning, not just police.”
Col Nopadon noted that Chalong Police have been at the village since 8am.
“Also, I have not received any reports of fighting at the village – for now,” he said.
The move by Baron World Trade Co Ltd to mark out land that it has claimed within the village follows after sea gypsies filing an appeal to keep their village intact.
However, Phuket Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada on February 15 announced that 45 rai in Rassada, north of Phuket Town, has been allocated for sea gypsies in Rawai to move to if a court judgement rules against them, forcing them to vacate land claimed by private developers. (See story here.)
Baron World Trade last month moved ahead with its plans to develop 33 rai alongside the village into a villa resort. Fights broke out when workers blocked off sea gypsies’ access to their Balai shrine, sparking the current Governor-led resolution process and a contingent of military personnel to keep the peace at the village. (See story here.)