March to Bangkok: Border village is Thai, not Burmese, say residents

March to Bangkok: Border village is Thai, not Burmese, say residents

Three members of a group calling itself Jit Arsa [volunteer spirit] are staging a 500-kilometre march to ask the Thai government to claim back their village.

The trio are travelling from Chumphon on the Thai-Burma border to the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, calling on the government to reassert Thai sovereignty over the border village named Ban Inthanin Kwang, which is claimed by Burma.

The activists, who originally hail from the village in Ranong Province, are Pitthaya Boonthawee, Somporn Kladsaeng and  Prathuang Klomsook.

They left the Prince of Chumphon shrine in Chumphon for the 500km trek to Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

The activists are expected to arrive at the ministry in the next two weeks. Yesterday they crossed into Prachuap Khiri Khan Province.

They want the government to claim back Ban Inthanin Kwang, which they say is located in Moo 9 of Tambon Jor Por Ror in Ranong’s Kra Buri District.

The village became the focus of a diplomatic incident in 2012 following a border dispute which saw Burmese soldiers enter the village and arrest 92 Thai people living there.

The villagers were jailed for 77 days before being released.

However, Thais had lived in the village for decades, according to Mr Pitthaya.

The Burmese army claimed the village was in Burma, he added.

Shortly after the incident the group demanded the Foreign Ministry help resolve the problem but nothing has happened since, Mr Pitthaya said.

“We will again submit a petition to the ministry. We want to make it clear that our village is located in Thai territory, not in Burma as claimed by their military,” he said.

“We lived there for a long time. But Burma only recently claimed the village as part of its territory. How come?” he said.

Mr Pitthaya said there are only three marchers heading to Bangkok because the group did not want to flout the ban on political gatherings of more than five people.

He said the ministry needs to sit down with Burmese officials and come up with some form of border demarcation in the area where the village is located.

No discussions on land demarcation have ever taken place, he said.

The ministry needs to take this case seriously or Thailand could lose a chunk of its territory, he warned.

About 1,000 Thais from 300 families settled in the area to establish the Ban Inthanin Kwang community and set up rubber plantations.

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Thai officials had warned them several times not to remain there because of uncertainty as to which country had sovereignty.

Each time they refused to leave insisting the village was in Thailand before Burmese troops raided the settlement on July 4, 2012.

Mr Pitthaya insists there is strong evidence that dates back to the reign of King Rama IV that proves that more than 200,000 around 80,000 acres of land, which includes the present location of the village, belonged to Thailand.

It is wrong for Burma to say the land is theirs, he says.

This article originally appeared in The Bangkok Post on 16 April 2015.

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