(New York) – Thai authorities should urgently investigate the violent attacks and forced evictions against indigenous Chao Lay, known as sea gypsies, in Phuket province and bring those responsible to justice, Human Rights Watch said today. The Thai government is obligated under international law to protect the rights of all people within the country.
There are 14 of us in this house, from age 60 to a 1-year-old. We were all born here in this village. But the document [official land deed] said the land where we have lived for generations belongs to someone else. It said a Thai businessman owns the land. Now he wants to kick us out and sell it. Where are we going to live now? I do not know. One by one, families have been taken to court and told to leave this village because they do not have ownership of the land. We are trying to prove that we came here first and should have the right to stay. We have showed government officials that our ancestors are buried here in this house. Their bones are old and that should be good evidence to back us up.
Nim, a Chao Lay man from the same village, said:
The landowner wants this land. But we get in his way. So, he filed lawsuits to evict us. The court only looks at documents. The court said, “No document, you will have to leave no matter how long you have lived here.”
“The Thai government needs to recognize and respect the rights of Chao Lay to live as they always have,” Adams said. “Protecting them from abuses, ensuring a path to citizenship and land ownership, and providing access to basic services is the best way forward for these vulnerable indigenous people.”