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Phuket sea gypsies stave off court-approved demolitions

Phuket sea gypsies stave off court-approved demolitions

PHUKET: More than 200 sea gypsies massed in front of a task force of about 50 officials, including police and civil defense volunteers, today (Feb 23) to prevent the Supreme Court-approved demolition of two ramshackle homes made of tin.

By Suthicha Sirirat

Thursday 23 February 2017, 05:42PM

The 50-strong task force arrived at at 10:30am, led by Chanothai Sukphen and Theerasak Eeadchoothong, both legal experts from the Legal Execution Department Phuket office. Also present were Lt Col Parinya Tanthasuwan of Chalong Police Station as well as district provincial and officials

Their mission: to demolish the tin-shack homes of Mahren and Arnan Bangjak, as ordered by the Supreme Court on Oct 21, 2016.

The Bangjak brothers did not present themselves during the stand-off. However, the sea gypsy community stepped in to prevent the demolitions on their behalf.

Suthep Mookdee, 71, a retired Sgt Maj First Class of the Royal Thai Army, explained that he and his younger brother, Thawee Mookdee, allowed Mr Mahren and Mr Arnan to rent the land to live on.

Mr Suthep owns land the registered under Chanote land title deed No 92823. Mr Thawee, a former Sub-Lieutenant in the Army, owns land the registered under Chanote deed No 92822.

The Supreme Court has upheld both men’s claims.

“The rental contract was renewed year by year until 2009, when I wanted to use the land. I asked Mr Mahren and Mr Arnan to move out from the area, but they stayed on on the land,” Mr Suthep said.

“We fought in court for seven years, until the Supreme Court ruled against them in March 2016. The court ordered them to remove the two houses from the two plots by Oct 21, 2016. At that time the nation was still in the 100 days of mourning, so the demolition was postponed until today,” he said.

“The title dead that I hold is legal. I inherited it from my parents. If this demolition order is ignored or obstructed, we will follow the law. If the law cannot take any action, the title deed is useless,” Mr Suthep added.

Satuern Mookdee, another younger brother of Mr Suthep and also the head of the Rawai Cultural Council, spoke loudly of his brothers’ rights to the land.

“If the demolition is not completed today, I will keep going by use of the law. I will report to police all sea gypsies who are on my brothers’ land to face charges of trespass and I will report this to the Prime Minister and to the court,” he threatened.

“The sea gypsies who stopped the officials from carrying out the demolition are not relatives of the owners of the two houses, so their actions have offended my brother’s legitimate rights to the land,” he added.

“My brothers spoke with those two rentals while the issue was in court as we were pleased to pay them if they vacated the land, but they are still here. If things stay like this, what will our society become. We need to follow the rules,” Mr Satuern said.

However, despite his younger brother’s ire, Mr Suthep called officials to survey the number of sea gypsies living in the village and to build apartments for them to rent.

One tearful sea gypsy woman, who did not give her name but claimed to live in one of the houses slated to be razed, said, “I will not move out from the house because I have lived here for a long time and I have no other place to live.”

Worse, the demolition of the homes would not result in the eviction of just Mr Mahren and Mr Arnan, she added, but of at least 20 people.

“We will be in trouble. More than 10 people live in each house,” she said.


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Kurt | 26 February 2017 - 14:24:42

Christy Sweet-  Yes, you are right, xenophobia 'covers' a lot in Thailand.
Pity that the thai not understand that xenophobia 'hurts' them more than the non thais.

But the 10 times more paying than a thai for national parks is not xenophobic. I call that otherwise.
And, talking about thai national parks, many are in a deplorable state.

Look at Phi phi island, coffers full, m...

Kurt | 26 February 2017 - 13:26:04

Foreigners can not own land in Thailand.
Just look how much the land prices went up on Phuket during last 10 years.
Went up 8-10 times or more?  All thai <--> thai deals, no foreigner involved.

Situation now on Phuket? Rocketing Land prices far beyond the reach of THAI citizens indeed.( no foreign involvement)
Foreign property prices going steadily down.

Christy Sweet | 26 February 2017 - 10:54:46

Kurt- as the law applies to other Asians, I think xenophobia is the correct term for it, not racism. One can argue it is to protect land prices from going up, but the current fashion of foreigners' creative voting shares in companies created solely to thwart the law seems to void that sentiment. And as with most laws and rules here, are (IMO) enforced sporadically so officials can reap persona...

ematt | 25 February 2017 - 17:01:28

"Just that, coz foreigners can not own land in Thailand, which is quite unique". 

This is false. There are many countries in the world where foreign ownership is prohibited or severely restricted; Mexico and Greece come immediately to mind, and there are others.

If you would look beyond the end of your own nose, you would see that the government has many reasons for this and that...

Sue Yu2 | 25 February 2017 - 13:38:54


Kurt | 24 February 2017 - 18:29:24

Eagle, spend a bit of your energy in reacting on comments...Female Russian tourist arrested feeding fish of Phuket...
Than you perhaps understand that comments here are on happenings, not on burning down comments of others.

--Respect: It has nothing to do with not having respect.
Respect is not a automatic mechanism.
Respect has to be earned.

--Uneducated. Thai education is a topic of int...

Eagle | 24 February 2017 - 17:18:56

Kurt,you are using the word racism quite often.You are some kind of -Herrenmensch-that you think you can question every law here?Day in day out you questioning everything thai people do.What ever idea they come up with is not good enough for you.You call them brainless,stupid,uneducated and so on.You never show any respect here!For me you are the racist here.Better to go back to your own country {...

Kurt | 24 February 2017 - 16:53:34

Why is landownership in Thailand so many times not secured?
Many different kind of deeds/ownership documents, all 'readily dressed' for possible  years court cases.
Many times 10-20 government officers at a piece of land with a lot of papers to discuss disputed ownership, etc.

What is wrong with thai land offices?

Why is in so many cases investigation of historical rights BEFORE is...

CaptainJack69 | 24 February 2017 - 12:55:48

Oh dear. They won control of a piece of land with their recent victory in court, but now it seems the sea gypsies have taken that to mean that they can do what-ever they want with ANY land.

If there is no debate over the legality of the land-owners title deed (?) then the people living on it are squatters, and there homes are illegal. The sea gypsies, of all people, should feel compelled to res...

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