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Phuket sea gypsy children at play at Koh Sireh: the sea is their life

Phuket's Sea Gypsies Struggle to Find a New Home

Friday, June 8, 2012
PHUKET: Efforts to save one of Phuket's sea sypsy communities are not working out, leaving the Rawai group locked in a battle for survival.

Phuket administrators had offered the Rawai group, barely existing without electricity on land claimed by a property developer, a new home in mangroves on Koh Sireh, east of Phuket City.

But the villagers say the 20-rai site opposite the monkey sanctuary in Rassada district is too far from the sea, making the move from the shorefront in Rawai difficult if not impossible.

And besides, some of the area - perhaps the highest and driest six rai of land - has already been allocated to World Vision, a children's hostel and a third NGO.

Phuket's sea gypsies number about 5000 in 900 families and live in five communities - one on Koh Sireh, another at Sapham with two at Mai Khao and the under-threat community at Rawai.

Recognition of their culture has led to a turnaround in official approaches with their nomadic sea-dependant lifestyle now seen as a cultural influence that should be preserved.

Help may be coming too late for the Rawai group.

They are not as stricken by poverty as a Phuketwan writer recently reported from Ranong, where the children are riddled with intestinal worms and stilt villages have no septic systems or electric power.

There have been positive outcomes for sea gypsies along the Andaman coast.

One group transferred successfully from outlying islands to the mainland at Kuraburi in Phang Nga following the 2004 tsunami after an abbot at the local Buddhist temple found a charity who gave land and a village without requiring the sea gypsies to convert to christianity.

So far, the Phuket sea gypsies have proven to be resilient, with the exception of those at Rawai.

Phuket's Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak chaired the meeting yesterday aimed at finding solutions for the Rawai community, with the plan now to examine alternatives even if it takes six months or a year to find a solution.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


The poor always suffer and no one sticks up for them. I remember a report a long time ago, which proved they lived and owned the land when they had a photo taken of them with the King.

What happened? Money bought the people with power... probably

Posted by Tbs on June 8, 2012 17:08


they will be missed if have to go, i loved getting my fresh seafood from them when in town. i sad for them xx

Posted by nikki on June 11, 2012 09:06


Bloody Christians. Always want you to convert don't they !?! Can't just do a charitable act.

Well, good luck people. You're gonna need it.

And thank you to Phuketwan for again highlighting the issue.

Posted by James on June 11, 2012 10:51

Editor Comment:

Not all Christians are like that, James. Generalisations interfere with sound logic.


No, not all of them.

Posted by James on June 11, 2012 11:44

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