Villagers fight a second wave ... dirty land deals
(Note: This looks like a most arrogant and greedy form of property Theft, using a horrific natural disaster to rob people of their homes and businesses, after they've already lost so much to the December 9, 2004, tsunami. Is this same thing happening in the other countries that the tsunami hit? One must wonder at the high-profile American politicians who toured the area -- were they considering development possibilities? One wishes he could perish that thought, but it persists, especially in light of this article.)
March 25, 2005
By Sebastien Berger
Southeast Asia Correspondent
The London Telegraph
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Thailand - When the tsunami hit the Thai fishing village of Nam Khem it killed Ratree Kongwatmai's daughter, her father, her sister, three other members of her family, and destroyed her house.

Now she faces losing the land they have lived on for decades. Hundreds of people died in Nam Khem, at the northern end of the devastated Khao Lak area.

The disaster also gave a property company an opportunity to enforce its claim on a multi-million-pound parcel of seafront land where Mrs. Ratree and her neighbours had their homes.

According to the Coalition Network for Andaman Coastal Community Support, an umbrella organisation for post-tsunami activists, villagers in more than 30 areas face losing their land.

A spokesman for the group -- who did not want to be named because he works for a government institution -- said: "Most of the land along the coast is a tourist attraction, so it is expensive. Corrupt government officials issue land titles -- and the tsunami is a chance to clear the people from the land."

The firm that has moved for Mrs. Ratree's land is linked to a senior ruling-party politician.

"I'm not scared of anything now," said Mrs. Ratree. "This land was started by my father. If I give up this land, I have no place to live. It is the same for all my neighbours. When the first wave came into my life, I lost people from my family. Now I have to fight the second wave."

Thailand law is complex, recognising three types of title.

If someone makes use of idle land they can be eligible to make a claim for title to it after 10 years. The process is handled by local officials, leaving it open to abuse.

A few miles from Nam Khem, Atipong Thongsakul, 46, says his family has lived on the beachfront at Bang Sak for more than 100 years.

Once the coast road was built and tourists came to the area he converted his house to a shop and seafood restaurant, all [of which were] destroyed by the tsunami.

He and 42 of his neighbours do not have title to their land, and authorities have told them it is publicly owned and they will be arrested if they try to rebuild.

Nam Khem and Bang Sak are part of Bang Muang subdistrict, and its chief, Somkiat Maharae, said the residents would not be allowed back to live.

The area had been earmarked for a "big project." He described Mrs. Ratree and her neighbours as invaders.


Copyright 2005, Telegraph Group Ltd.