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Sea Gypsies Hold Own Ceremony

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COMMEMORATION: Sea gypsies hold own ceremony

Published on December 25, 2005

Morgans reclaim traditional cemetery after good-luck rite. Morgan sea gypsies in Phang Nga’s Takua Pa district yesterday held their own commemoration of the December 26 tsunami last year and reclaimed a cemetery that had been occupied illegally by landlords. Sea gypsies from all over the South gathered on a beach near Baan Thung Wa, a small Morgan village, to hold ceremonies for the 42 Morgans who lost their lives to the giant waves.

The ceremonies were performed without the presence of government representatives and state officials, who were busy preparing for the official tsunami commemoration ceremony tomorrow. However, about 10,000 villagers from around the country attended the ceremony under the auspices of the Assembly of the Poor, Four Regions Slum Network and Federation of Small-scale Fishermen.

A boat containing flowers, incense, candles, tobacco, salt, chilli and trimmings of human nails and hair was released into the sea in accordance with the Morgan belief that all evil and bad luck will float away from their lives and community along with the boat.

The villagers then marched to the village cemetery about a kilometre away to pay respects to the 42 tsunami victims buried there. Samut Nawarak, a Morgan from Baan Thung Wa, said the 10-rai plot had been the villagers’ cemetery for almost a century. However, years before the tsunami businessmen from outside encroached on the land and developed it.

“The tourist boom brought them, and they took over the land where our ancestors rested in peace. All resorts were wiped out by the waves, so we have decided to take our land back today,” he said.

The Morgans’ commemoration ceremony will continue until today.

Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop said all seven sites for the government’s commemoration ceremonies were almost completely ready.

He expected about 10,000 people, including 2,000 from abroad, to attend the ceremony in Phang Nga, which will also be attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Suwat said domestic and foreign journalists had registered to attend. He said 1,000 police would be on duty.

Prathan Baanperng, a villager of Baan Nam Khem, Takua Pa, said he had written an open letter asking the premier to disclose the budget and the amount spent on tsunami recovery.

He said many villagers were wondering why some had received a lot of aid and others very little.

“The government is going to impress the world with its commemoration, but behind the scenes we are still suffering with many problems,” he said.

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