Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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The Kingdom of Thailand

One person from Thailand participated in the intersectoral workshop ‘Towards Wise Coastal Development Practices’ held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in the beginning of December 1998. A report on the workshop was published in English and French as CSI info 10 (2000): ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development. Results of an Intersectoral Workshop and Preliminary Findings of a Follow-up Virtual Forum’. The delegate from Thailand presented a paper (English/French) on the Moken people.

CSI, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and UNESCO’s Culture Sector jointly run a field project on ‘A Place for Indigenous People in Protected Areas, Surin Islands, Andaman Sea, Thailand’ (old name: ‘A Place for People in Protected Areas: the Indigenous Moken and Park Authorities along the Andaman Sea Coast’). The goal is to plan sustainable development options that blend environmental conservation with the Moken aspiration for a secure future in the Ko Surin National Park. As part of this a series of workshops was held in Bangkok (November 1998, March 1999) and Surin Island (November 1998). They involved staff from government agencies, universities, research institutes, NGOs and local community members and were intended to encourage dialogue and reinforce partnerships between the Moken people, government and other stakeholders. As a result of the workshops an interdisciplinary resource assessment study has started on Surin Island to look at the interaction of the Moken people with their environment. Social science and natural science students are collaborating in the study. A workshop, that brought together the research findings, was held in May 2000. It produced a set of recommendations to the park authorities.

An expert from Thailand, associated with the Surin Islands project, attended the Man and the Biosphere-CSI ECOTONE IX interdisciplinary workshop ‘Wise Practices in Coastal Tourism Development in Protected Areas’ in the Philippines in May 2000. The Puerto Galera 2000 Declaration ‘A Charter for Ecotourism in Biosphere Reserves’ was adopted.

A project document was prepared for consideration under Thailand’s DANCED programme; an environmental assistance programme funded by the Danish Government. A mission was undertaken by the Danish Government to assess the feasibility of the project. The project leader participated in the mission.

The field project has produced a primer, in conjunction with the UNESCO Culture sector, for use in the school on Surin Island and elsewhere in southern Thailand, through which the Moken and other indigenous people can learn about their culture and language. This will help to preserve the cultural identity of native peoples.

The project contributed to a nature interpretation guide for use in Ko Surin Marine National Park. The guidebook features the natural characteristics of the island and exemplifies the life of the indigenous Moken people.

Monitoring of Surin Island’s marine reserves continued through 2000. A summary of the project – its goals, achievements and future direction – was issued in October 2000. A team of four experts visited the project area in December 2000 and in March the following year produced an assessment of the project; its activities, achievements and restraints; and gave advice on its future. A second assessment visit was conducted in December 2001. At the same time recordings of songs in the indigenous language were made.

In August 1999 a paper on ‘Improving Communication and Preserving Cultural Heritage / Surin Islands - Thailand’ was posted on the web-based ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development’ Forum. A second paper that discusses Thailand was posted in October 2000: ‘The Future of the Wise Practices Forum – an Asia-Pacific Regional Perspective’. More were added in 2003: The Plight of Sea-Nomads in the Andaman Sea, Thailand’ and People in Parks: Raising Awareness’.

As part of the ‘Second World Water Forum’, a special thematic session was held on ‘Water and Indigenous Peoples in The Hague, The Netherlands in March 2000. Two speakers from northern Thailand participated.

In July 2000 pilot project leaders, UNESCO Chair holders and UNESCO staff met in Bangkok to discuss strategies for advancing and networking the field projects and university chairs in the Asia-Pacific region. Six universities in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Thailand signed an agreement to set up a UNITWIN (university twinning) network to reinforce interdisciplinary teaching and training in coastal matters in February 2002.

The Moken and their traditional way of life features in the July-August 2000 issue of UNESCO Sources as ‘Thailand’s Sea Nomads’. A group of doctors and dentists volunteered to do medical checks on the Moken throughout 2000. They both assessed and improved the health of these people.

In 2001 ‘Indigenous People and Parks. The Surin Islands Project’ was published as CSI papers 8 in collaboration with Chulalongkorn University, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and UNESCO’s regional adviser for culture in Asia and the Pacific. The following year it was translated into Thai.

An Asian-Pacific UNITWIN workshop on ‘Exploring Wise Practice Agreements’ was held in Khuraburi, Thailand in November 2002. It was attended by members of the Surin Islands project team, representatives of the Marine Parks Division of the Royal Forestry Department, Moken people from Ko Surin and the local media. During the workshop UNESCO suggested that the Thai Government should grant citizenship to the Moken of the Surin Islands. A work shop focusing on Moken citizenship and a field visit to the Surin Islands were organised, and reported in the local press.

A paper ‘Coastal Land Tenure: A Small-Islands’ Perspective’ was published in March 2003. The situation in Thai islands was compared with that in other small island states and territories.

The Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems’ LINKS project to integrate indigenous knowledge into development and conservation, was initiated in 2002. As part of this project a representative of the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta attended the Pacific Science Congress in Bangkok, Thailand in March 2003, and presented a paper on ‘Community-Based Marine Resource Management in Vanuatu: Past, Present and Future’. The LINKS project also contributed to the Asian Civil Society Forum on United Nations / Non-Governmantal Organization Partnerships for Democratic Governance (Bangkok, December 2002), where particular attention was paid to the theme of cultural diversity and biodiversity.


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