The government has vowed to ensure justice over land disputes faced by sea gypsy residents living on Koh Lipe in Satun province, PM's Office Minister Anucha Nakhasai said.
Speaking after chairing a meeting of a committee set up to solve the problem, Mr Anucha said the committee will take a proactive approach towards solving the disputes and committee members will visit the island to gather information regarding the disagreements surrounding land ownership there.
"It has initially been found that there are several stakeholders involved. Therefore, the committee must handle the matter carefully.
"The government will ensure swift action and justice. We want to assure people on Koh Lipe that the government will not favour any groups and will act in line with the law," the minister said.
The committee was set up on Dec 29, with deputy national police chief Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn as chairman. Members are from several agencies, such as the PM's Office, the Interior Ministry, and the Justice Ministry.
Pol Gen Surachate said he would lead a team of investigators to follow up on efforts to tackle the problem on Koh Lipe tomorrow and insisted authorities will enforce compliance with the law without fear or favour.
The plight of ethnic groups who have occupied the island for generations is back in the spotlight following an incident in December when pupils gathered to protest against a business operator who was accused of claiming ownership and blocking a walkway locals use to access a school, a hospital and a beach.
A group of activists in the South on Friday issued a set of demands calling on the government to act, demanding the government support the issuance of community title deeds, with people sharing ownership, to prevent big businesses from buying land on the island.
They also said the PM must instruct relevant agencies such as the Rights and Liberties Protection Department to provide help and protection for ethnic residents on Koh Lipe.
Previously, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) called on the government to act on its recommendations over land disputes on Koh Lipe.
They include verification of issuance of land documents and designation of cultural protection areas.
According to the NHRC, sea gypsy residents face various problems, from land encroachment accusations made by authorities to dwindling livelihoods after the island became part of a national park and the tourism business expanded.