The six are accused of illegally catching marine life in a national park area. (See story here.)
Mayor Aroon along with Rawai sea gypsy representative Niran Yangpan handed a notice to Phuket Vice Governor Snith Sriwihok at Phuket Provincial Hall at 10am yesterday (Jan 10).
Joining them were the six sea gypsies arrested on Monday: Panya Kohngam, 46, Pichit Bangjark, 42, Anan Bangjark, 56, Thanongsak Kohngam, 41, Thaweelert Hanthalae, 50, and a minor aged 14.
The notice, signed by Mayor Aroon, said, “On Jan 8 at 10am to midday, Sirinath National Park officials arrested six sea gypsies at Nai Thon Beach in Sakoo. They were accused of catching marine life in the Sirinat National Park area. They were taken to Sakoo Police Station. They were bailed out for B50,000 each.
“They told national park officials that they did not catch marine life in the national park area. They caught marine life in Phang Nga with sharp iron rod. They were forced to stop at Nai Thon Beach because one of them need to go to Thalang Hospital for decompression sickness (DCS) treatment. National Park officials arrested them and would not listen to their explanations,” the statement continued.
Regardless, Mayor Aroon in the statement called for sea gypsies to be exempt for laws preventing persons from entering national parks and other protected areas under a Cabinet resolution announced on June 2, 2010 that ordered the Ministry of Culture to uphold a policy to allow sea gypsies to live their lives in their traditional manner.
“The policy stated that sea gypsies can fish and search for resources at islands. Under this policy, this is a special request for (sea gypsies to be allowed) to fish in national parks and other protected areas by using their traditional equipment in order to make a living,” the statement read.
“Also (the request calls) to provide an entrance and exit area for where boats can stop and be repaired because most (traditional fishing) areas overlap with tourism areas. Conflicts have happened several times. Also, (the request calls for officials) to control trawlers and net fishing following an agreement (on inshore fisheries encroachment).
“Rawai Municipality is requesting fairness from the Phuket Governor to consider providing assistance in the case of the six sea gypsies because they are exempt (from the national park and protected areas preservation laws) under a Cabinet resolution,” the statement continued.
Mayor Aroon said, “The six sea gypsies who were arrested on Monday confirmed that they did not catch marine life in the national park area as accused. They dropped anchor to stop a boat for one of them to be treated for decompression sickness. The marine life in their boat was caught in Phang Nga and caught by using only a sharp iron rod.
“The national park officials did not listen to the truth, so today Rawai Municipality comes here to ask for a fairness,” Mayor Aroon added.
“These people are facing legal action that affects their daily way of life and their way of making a living. They had to find the money to post bail, which makes their lives more difficult. We also want to ask for clarification about the Cabinet resolution to restore the sea gypsies’ traditional way of life so sea gypsies know what they have to do in order to not break the law,” Mayor Aroon explained.
V/Gov Snith received the request in person.
“We will hand this to Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong. Fairness will be given to everyone. As for the Cabinet resolution, we have to discuss this with relevant government officers for clarification. After that we will inform sea gypsies,” V/Gov Snith said.