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.