Chonthee Changruenkul, the coordinator of the Phuket Community Rights Development Network, explained that the camp comprises some 50 residents.
Mr Chonthee said that the residents were pursuing their right to be granted a place to live under rights already given by the Ministry of Natural Resources following a Cabinet resolution in 2010.
The Sa Ton Pho community derives its name, meaning “Bodhi Tree Pond”, from where the residents once lived near Phuket Zoo in Moo 3, Chalong, said Mr Chonthee.
The residents lived on unused land around a natural pond in the area, which is primarily mangrove swamp, but were evicted by the landowner, he explained.
The residents then were granted permission to move to 50 rai of unused land on Sri Suthat Rd, near the monkey viewpoint near Rassada Pier, but are now being asked ‒ through legal action ‒ to vacate the area by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO) as there is no legal provision to allow them to stay on that particular land, Mr Chonthee said.
The residents have appealed to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Director-General of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources to change the official designated use of the land to allow them to stay.
“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment responded and officials came down to discuss with the provincial government to create an MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] between the Ton Pho community and related agencies to allow the residents to stay,” he said.
Of the 34 households that comprised the original Sa Ton Pho community in Chalong, only 23 are left. The rest of the people moved away during the COVID pandemic, Mr Chonthee noted.
“That still leaves 23 households, comprising 78 people, in trouble,” he noted.
“They have no place to go, so they are asking for permission to stay at the Phuket Community Rights Center network at the entrance of Rassada Pier by building temporary housing only,” Mr Chonthee said.
“But the land there is under the care of PPAO, and the PPAO has taken legal action against the villagers who tried to set up homes there as the official permission from the Director-General of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources given is still not being upheld,” he added.
“So we have come here, where we will stay because we have no place else to go,“ Mr Chonthee said.
The residents will submit yet another formal request to Phuket Governor Narong Wonciew to resolve the long-standing problem today (May 5).
“Of the 50 rai of state land not being used, we are asking to use only four and a half rai,” Mr Chonthee said.