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Urak Lawoi Koh Lanta people protecting cemetery land from capitalist

Urak Lawoi people are protecting the cemetery land after the capitalist claims overlapping the Chao Lay Cemetery. They stated that their ancestors had been buried for 200 years and refused to give up the land.

The officials from the Krabi Provincial Land Office have visited the area at Village No.1, Saladan Sub-district, Ko Lanta District, to survey the boundary line of the Chao Lay Cemetery “Khlong Song Pak” and the surrounding lands after a dispute because different parties claim rights of the land. A group of Urak Lawoi people is keeping an eye on the surveying of the land boundary closely. 

Mr. Un Changnam, 45, a representative of the Urak Lawoi villagers, said that the problem between the boundary line of the Chao Lay Cemetery, Khlong Song Pak, and the land owned by nearby investors has been around for 14 years. Originally, the land was a cemetery for Urak Lawoi people, which Mr. Buden Chang Nam dedicated, the area of ​​1-1-30 rai, to the Urak Lawoi locals. The ancestors had been buried in this plot of land for a long time, but suddenly a capitalist claimed some of the lands of the cemetery as their own. They probably would not give up the land to the capitalists, but requested an investigation on where the neighboring land came from and whether they got it right.

This conflict is said to have yet not been solved ever since despite the government’s attempts to do so. “The problem is that the cemetery has an unclear boundary, and the development is advancing every day to the point that the land is expensive. Thus, the invasion occurs everywhere, not even the cemetery, while the people are always viewed as second-class, third-class citizens,” said Gen. Surin Phikunthong, from The Prime Minister’s Office who visited the place four years ago.

For the local residents, a cultural area like “cemetery” has a very spiritual meaning. They worship ghosts, respect their ancestors, and believe that when someone passes away, they must be buried in an area that is not blocked by any walls or fences. Otherwise, the spirit will not be set free.

Urak Lawoi, one of the three ‘Lay’ tribal people or ‘Chao Lay’, lives next to the sea of both Koh Lipe, Koh Adang, Satun Province, and Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi Province. The nature of ‘Chao Lay’ is in harmony with nature; their lives are tied to water living with environmental dependence, self-reliance and no accumulation of wealth such as possessing an object or a land.

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