Governor Chamroen’s call for clemency came yesterday after 200 sea gypsies gathered at the site after hearing rumours that Baron World Trade workers were to return to work yesterday morning (May 30).
“We heard a rumour that the company will send more workers and bring more backhoes into the area, so villagers gathered at the site to monitor the situation,” said Niran Yongpan, a spokesman for the sea gypsies.
“In the morning, there were 200 of us at the site, but now we have left a group of only 10 to 20 people to work in shifts to keep an eye on them if they decide to show up,” he said.
Tensions flared last Wednesday (May 25) when more than 200 sea gypsy villagers confronted 50 workers who arrived with a backhoe and began moving boulders into place to block access to the sea gypsies’ sacred Balai shrine, which sits on part of the disputed land.
The confrontation escalated into clashes, with workers and sea gypsies throwing rocks at each other for 30 minutes. The rock fight stopped when Chalong Police arrived with more than 50 officials. (See story here.)
Following the rock fight, Chalong Police Chief Col Nopadon Thiraprawat said that more than 200 officers from the Chalong Police and the Phuket Provincial Police were on standby to respond to any reports of another confrontation breaking out between the two parties.
However, Mr Niran yesterday warned: “If they come back for the backhoe that they left behind, they must remove the boulders out of the area too, otherwise not we won’t let them have the backhoe back.”
Meanwhile, Governor Chamroen confirmed that he has sent a formal request asking Baron World Trade to stop work in the area until the issue is resolved in order to avoid any further conflict.
“What we can do for sea gypsies now is to prevent any violent conflict from happening between the villagers and workers from the land developer,” he said.
“At this time, all we can do is follow the law since both the company and the villagers claim to have rights to the land in dispute,” he added.
In February, Gov Chamroen explained that his office was still waiting for the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to respond to an official request to buy 19 rai in dispute for B253 million. (See story here.)
He has yet to clarify whether or not he has received a response to that request.
Meanwhile, following the clashes last Wednesday (May 25), National Human Rights Commissioner Gen Surin Pikulthong announced that a National Human Rights committee was still investigating the Chanote land deed used by Baron World Trade Co Ltd to claim land within the sea gypsy village where the Balai shrine is located. (See story here.)
“When they have concluded their investigation, the National Human Rights committee will forward its findings directly to the Prime Minister’s Office for review,” he said.