Indigenous Ancestral Chao Lai Sea Gypsies, Phuket, Thailand

29th January 2021

With a second lock down in certain Provinces, heightened domestic travel restrictions, self-isolation requirements for those that had travelled from one Province to another during the New Year period, there was a significant challenge to organising any full contact or extended period of interaction for Hughes Krupica’s CSR/ESG program in 2021. However, this does not prevent a contribution being made, so a select group of our team organised some assistance to provide learning materials and to the children who occupy the Sea Gypsy Village ‘Chao Lai’ in Ratsada Phuket.

There is, as in all land, sea and resource use activities, some controversy regarding the Sea Gypsies which is reported in various media from different perspectives. Accusations have been directed to the Sea Gypsies as agents of harm to the sea on which they have lived sustainably for a period of time well exceeding the advent of modern tourism. Some of the allegations are that the fishing equipment such as the traps are damaging to coral and other sea resources. However, the traps used are made from wood and only last for around 5 months requiring replacement thereafter. Storm damage can lead to some distribution of these materials. There is no doubt that education,  motivation and alternatives are required to treatment of waste including plastics and other non-degradables, which requires a concerted effort and not just criticism.

Tourism Extractive behaviour has allowed fleeting photo-oriented visits to the village in the past, but with little or no contribution to the livelihood of the Gypsies themselves as the subject matter of a tourist ‘adventure’. Further, copycat agents mimicking gypsies setting up fish market stands and the like at tourist prices have muddied the minds of those not looking into the detail of what the gypsies do with their fish which is to eat it or sell to agents who then distort the market.

Recognition of the contribution of indigenous people to society is fortunately on the uptick but there are many challenges in many different parts of the globe, with marginalisation and exclusion of rights, and unfortunately persecution for differences still very much a bit problem to be tackled.

We recommend a visit to the Sea Gypsy village, but not just to take photos, and with some pre-thought applied to what the visitor is bringing to the table of the long standing indigenous Chao Lai people.

Indigenous Ancestral Chao Lai Sea Gypsies, Phuket, Thailand

  • Location: Seay Gypsy Fishing Village, Koh Siray, Muang Phuket, Phuket, Thailand
  • Event Organiser:  Village Headman Khun “Goy”
  • Contact Number:  +66 80 509 2868.
  • Link to information on Human Rights Watch report on the Sea Gypsies:
  • The type of assistance the sea gypsies need is varied from dried food and other items, educational items and support for their fishing activities. Avoid agents.
  • Location of the village:,98.4164914,16z/data=!3m1!4b1