Daughter of the Sea’s Open Letter to Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand

Khairiyah Ramanya

Khairiyah and her friends sitting on Suan Kong beach. © Warasiri (Punnlada) Kotcharat

PM Prayut,

My name is Khairiyah Ramanya. My home is in Suan Kong, Chana District of Songklha Province. My house is on the seashore. No doubt that my livelihood is inextricably linked to the sea. So every time someone refers to me as “Daughter of the Sea,” I feel honored.

You probably have no idea who I am or that I am a descendant of local fisherfolk whose livelihood is based on land and sea resources. We catch fish using environmentally friendly fishing gears that catche only aquatic animals that can grow to size with the assistance of local knowledge. Aquatic animals caught are in high demand by the Songkhla Province market and consumers, as well as for general distribution to foreign countries. The sea is our primary source of income, and it has kept us together to this day. In fact, the Sea of Chana is a treasured gift from God for which we will be eternally grateful.

I’d also like to point out that the Chana District, where I live, has a diverse resource base that extends beyond the sea and coastal area. It is a land where we can grow a variety of plants, such as watermelon and the endemic rice species known as “look pla” in Songklha. There are also other fruit orchards that produce at various times throughout the year. The Chana District is also well-known as a breeding ground for Javanese Doves, and neighboring countries recognize it. It’s also a district from which bird cages are delivered all over the country. Make a good living for oneself.

I’m proud to be alive here on the coast of Chana, which has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Chana is a thriving agricultural community that feeds us all. Most importantly, we can continue to breathe clean air and live in a secure environment without having to purchase it.

Do you recall when members of the Chana community came to the government house in 2020? We told you that powerful corporate figures are planning to build a large-scale industrial estate in Chana. It is an industrial project that will necessarily require the use of more than 16,000 rai of land, including housing and farmland, spread across three Chana sub-districts. My house will be demolished, and industrial facilities will be built in its place. Those corporate executives claimed that this project would bring prosperity and provide us with jobs, opportunities, and income. We don’t believe it will be our future, but rather theirs.

“We don’t need that kind of development,” we said at the time. Don’t fail to comprehend me. This is not to say that we do not require development. However, development must coexist with our existing resource base. On that day, you promised to take care of the situation and send someone to look into it. Until today, it has been a year of empty promise. Your promise has been blown away by the wind. Influential corporate executives are still pushing ahead with their ill-advised plan. In reality, they never stop hammering it home.

So I asked you to make a promise to our call once again, and I also reiterated my original statement that “industrial estates are not our future.” It will have a irreversibly negative impact on our lives in the near future. In the end, we are victims of industrialization. We are the ones who have had to give up our homes, seas, and food for the sake of a few oligarchs.

I’d like to announce that starting November 29th, I’ll be coming over here (the Government House) at 16.00 pm every day until we get an answer to what we asked for last year.

“Daughter of the Sea of Chana” Khairiyah Ramanya, 25 November 2021

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