Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Field Project Assessment
A place for indigenous people in protected areas, Surin Islands, Andaman Sea, Thailand

Date of
Site visit:15-16th December, 2000 (Cambers/Kuijper).
Assessment completed: 29th March, 2001.
conducted by

Gillian Cambers, University of Puerto Rico; Hans Thulstrup, Regional Science Adviser, UNESCO/Apia (not closely associated with the project); Narumon Hinshiranan, Chulalongkorn University, (field-project leader); Maarten Kuijper, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Organization, Bangkok, Thailand (closely associated with the project).

  1. School primer.

  2. Report on stakeholder workshops held in 1998, ‘People and Parks: the Surin Islands Project’ CSI paper  (in press).

  3. Summary report on resource assessment studies (1999-2000).

  4. Proposal for ‘Re-invigoration of the oral traditions of the Andaman Sea tribes’ to be considered for funding by the Japanese Trust Fund.

  5. Project proposal submitted to the Danish Aid Agency by UNESCO/Bangkok (March 2000).

  6. Field project summary.  

Activities: A visit was made to the Surin Islands (Cambers/Kuijper), arriving there at 0930 on 15-12-00 and departing at 1000 on 16-12-00. (The Surin Islands are quite difficult to reach, firstly it is necessary to fly from Bangkok to Phuket, then to drive about 85 miles to Khuraburi, and then take a 3-4 hour ferry trip.  In addition the islands are only accessible between November and May, when sea conditions are smoother).  Visits were made to the two Moken villages and discussions were held with persons in the villages and the fisheries representatives at Sai Ane Bay on Ko Surin Nua.  Accommodation was provided at the National Park Headquarters, and a visit was made to Mai Ngam Bay via the trail. Following the assessment visit, there were detailed discussions between the four persons involved in the assessment through meetings and e-mail.
Constraints: Some constraints were encountered in carrying out this first project assessment, which point to a need for more thorough advance planning preparations  in the future.  It should be recognized, however, that to a large extent, the timing of the assessment visit was determined by the presence of the external assessor (Gillian Cambers) in the region to participate in the workshop in Samoa on ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development in Small Island Developing States’.

The main constraints were as follows:

  1. Dr. Narumon Hinshiranan, pilot project leader, could not be present during the assessment visit due to a prior meeting.

  2. Limited means to communicate with the Moken people, only through limited Thai and Malay.

  3. The Superintendent of the National Park was off-island during the visit.

  4. Only item 6 on the documentation list was available to Gillian Cambers at the time of the assessment visit, although Maarten Kuijper was knowledgeable about all the other documents.  

Field Project Assessment

The sixteen characteristics, used to define ‘wise practices’, are used here to assess this field project.  A qualitative scale is used as follows:

None  (0): The field project activities to date do not comply with this characteristic and/or the characteristic is not relevant.
Slightly (1-3): The field project activities to date have begun in some preliminary way to satisfy  this characteristic.
Partially (4-6): The field project activities to date have gone some significant way towards fulfilling this characteristic.
Fully (7-9): The field project activities to date have gone the full way to complying with  this characteristic.  

This assessment is based only on the activities undertaken to date, and does not include those planned for the future.  

Have the project activities ensured long term benefit?  

Partially (4)

The Ko Surin National Park was established in 1981, under the National Parks Act (1961). Under this legislation, settlements, other than those of the Park authorities, are prohibited in the park as is the exploitation and extraction of natural resources in the park.  However, since the Moken people had permanent settlements in the park before it was established, and since that they did not hold official Thai citizenship – which would have allowed them to be resettled elsewhere in the country - their presence has been tolerated. Through dialogue with the present Park Superintendent, the project has led to a better understanding of the way of life of the Moken people and their needs to sustain a livelihood on the island.  The project activities are beginning to improve the livelihood of the Moken people by improving their skills to produce marketable handicrafts, this will ultimately reduce their dependency on the park authorities for handouts such as rice and oil.  

Do the project activities provide for capacity building and institutional strengthening?

Partially (4)

The project activities are contributing to capacity building by beginning to change the attitude of the Park authorities to the Moken.  This is being gradually achieved through workshops, interaction with visiting students and researchers, and informal discussions.  However, many of the Park workers are impatient to see quick and concrete results from the project such as the start-up of giant clam farming and handicraft training for the Moken.  Another factor relates to the limited ability of the Moken people to negotiate through official channels, such as with the Park Superintendent. Usually the Moken prefer to voice their concerns and complaints to others, e.g. fisheries officials, park staff, visiting researchers and occasionally tourists.  
Are the project activities sustainable? Slightly (2)
To date, all the activities have been very dependent on the pilot project leader, Dr. Narumon Hinshiranan, since she is the only person who can communicate properly with the Moken and whom they appear to trust.  Improving the livelihood of the Moken is one of her main research and personal interests, however, she is also a very busy person. In Dr. Hinshiranan’s opinion, the Moken people appeared to trust the students who were involved in the resource assessment study.  Dr. Hinshiranan has one student who will do a thesis on the Moken of the Surin Islands in 2002, and another student who plans to do a thesis on the Urak Lawoi of Lanta Island in Krabi Province (part of this island also  belongs to the National Park) in 2001.  As these students spend time in the villages and learn the languages, they will gain more trust from the Moken and Urak Lawoi.  In addition, Dr. Hinshiranan took seven students and four volunteer doctors/dentists to a Moken community in Lao Island in October 2000.  (This visit was originally planned to see the Moken in the Surin Islands, but it had to be cancelled because of bad weather). Most of these volunteers have promised to support the project when they can. This points to the need for a good public relations programme and a website.  
Have the project activities been transferred?

Partially (4)

One of the project activities, the production of the school primer on the Moken way of life, has been transferred to other sea tribes in the Andaman Sea. (This particular activity also has potential application to the field project on the Motu Koitabu people in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea).
Are the project activities interdisciplinary and intersectoral?

Fully (8)

The project activities involve several different disciplines: environmental and social sciences, culture, education and communication. They also involve several different sectors of society: government officials, the Moken, researchers, students, visitors to the park.
Do the project activities incorporate participatory processes?

Partially (4)

In Thailand the participatory process is rather uncommon.  In consultative workshops, the Moken people tend to use intermediaries such as Dr. Hinshiranan as their advocate. Moreover, in such meetings, the majority of government officials demonstrate a high regard for the hierarchical system and are unlikely to oppose the views/statements of their superiors. Academics have greater freedom to voice their opinions, and as such are often used as intermediaries by government officials to voice particular points.  Thus the project has had to develop appropriate techniques of communication and participation by organising separate as well as combined consultations for different groups.  
Do the project activities provide for consensus building?

Partially (4)

All the participants in the stakeholder workshops understood that the Moken should be allowed to continue to live in the park, even if the law dictates otherwise.  The challenge is to build on this consensus and to find ways to reconcile the different interests of the park on the one hand and the Moken people on the other.  
Do the project activities include an effective and efficient communication process?

Slightly (1)

Dr. Hinshiranan, who is based in Bangkok (several hours away), can only spend limited time on the project. She is the ‘middle-person’ negotiating with the Moken and with the Park authorities.  Direct communication between the park authorities and the Moken is limited and is not actively pursued by the authorities.  Often the Moken voice their concerns to the fisheries officials, who do not always relay them to the park authorities.
Are the project activities culturally respectful?

Fully (9)

All activities to date have fully taken into account the traditions and culture of the various stakeholder groups.
Do the project activities take into account gender and/or sensitivity issues?

Partially (6)

During the stakeholder meetings in 1998, Moken representatives, both men and women, had the chance to voice their concerns.  Sexual harassment (physical and verbal) by temporary Park workers was one of the issues raised.  The Park Superintendent was informed and the workers in question were fired. Similar stakeholder meetings need to be held regularly, perhaps every two years, so as to provide a forum for voicing concerns and promoting understanding.  

There are many widows in the Moken community, since the men’s work is hard and risky and they are more susceptible to substance abuse. The widows have few ways to earn an income. The project supports handicraft work by the widows, by buying their products and trying to find suitable markets.  Further training is needed particularly in improving the intricacy of the craft products, which will raise their market value and also require less raw materials.  

Do the project activities strengthen local identities?

Slightly (3)

The project activities seek to strengthen the Moken’s ethnic identity and promote pride in their cultural heritage. However, it is going to take a considerable time to realise this goal.  Future activities, such as issuing the Moken with identity cards, will guarantee their local identity as native residents of the Surin Islands.  
Do the project activities shape national legal policy?

Slightly (1)

The 1997 constitution calls for strict enforcement of the laws that are concerned with natural resources, including the National Parks Act under which the Ko Surin National Park was established.  This law (as described under the ‘long-term benefit characteristic’) prohibits settlement within national parks as well as the exploitation and extraction of natural resources.  Changing the legislation is not the goal of this project, but seeking pragmatic solutions that will shape the implementation of the law is one of the goals.  
Do the project activities encompass the regional dimension?

Partially (4)

This project has a somewhat unique regional perspective in that many of the Andaman Sea tribes move between Myanmar and Thailand with little regard for political boundaries.  The problems created by indigenous people residing in protected areas, under the Royal Forestry Department’s jurisdiction, is not unique to the Moken.  Indeed the Moken receive relatively little attention because of the small population and the fact that they are not a threat to national security, unlike some of the hill tribes.  The lessons learnt in this project have the potential to be transferred to other areas.  
Do the project activities provide for human rights?

Slightly (3)

The project activities are centred around the right of the Moken people to make their home on the island and to use its resources for their livelihood.  However, since the Moken people at present have no rights to live on the islands, there is a long way to go. It is hoped that the Park authorities will continue to tolerate the Moken living in the park and thus acknowledge this basic human right* to freedom of movement and residence within the area.  
* Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Have the project activities been documented?

Fully (9)

  1. School primer.

  2. Report on stakeholder workshops held in 1998, ‘People and Parks: the Surin Islands Project’, CSI info (in press).

  3. Summary report on resource assessment studies (1999-2000).

  4. Proposal for ‘Re-invigoration of the oral traditions of the Andaman Sea tribes’ to be considered for funding by the Japanese Trust Fund.

  5. Proposal submitted to the Danish Co-operation for Environment and Development (DANCED).

  6. Field project summary.  

Have the project activities been evaluated?

None (0)

This present evaluation is the first such exercise.

Revised Future Project Activities 

  1. Evaluate the usefulness of the primer: Conduct a simple evaluation, with the assistance of local teachers, before distributing the primer, and again six months afterwards, to determine its effectiveness in developing an understanding locally about the Moken people. (The results of such an evaluation will also be useful for other pilot projects such as the Motu Koitabu in Papua New Guinea).  

  2. Continue the dialogue between the park authorities and the Moken via Dr. Hinshiranan and through other intermediaries if they can be identified, such as Moken representatives from the two villages who might become spokespersons for the villages. 

  3. Assess the health situation and needs of the Moken people and improve their awareness of health and dental care.  Conduct a social survey to understand the population size and dynamics.  This activity was scheduled for late 2000, but was rescheduled to early 2001 due to weather conditions. 

  4. Conduct a vocational training workshop to enhance the Moken’s ability to produce good quality handicrafts based on their traditional skills, patterns and techniques, and to provide for the proper storage of the handicraft products. 

  5. Arrange one-day inter school exchanges between children from the adjacent mainland province and the Moken children.  This may generate a spin-off effect such that relationships between the fisheries officers, the park rangers and the Moken are improved. 

  6. Conduct additional resource assessment surveys of certain over-exploited edible fish species and sea cucumbers, with university students and carefully designed methodology to supplement the earlier resource assessments. (These earlier assessments produced some conflicting results partly due to non-standardised methodology). 

  7. Design and establish a dedicated website for the project, this could include the report on the consultative workshops and a summary of the initial resource assessment studies.  This would help recruit volunteers for the project and would help networking with other projects involving indigenous people in Thailand’s protected areas. 

  8. Investigate ways for the Moken to sell handicrafts directly to the park visitors, such as establishing a handicrafts selling point combined with boat building activities for visitors at the beach opposite Park Headquarters at Ko Surin Tai.  This would reduce the need for visitors to go to the Moken villages to buy handicrafts. 

  9. Prepare two contributions for the ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum’ on aspects of the field project. 

  10. A proposal has been prepared by CSI/Culture for funding with Japanese Funds in Trust to reinvigorate the oral traditions of the Andaman Sea tribes, including the Moken and the Urak Lawoi, through the analysis of old legends and animated discussions.  This proposal focuses on intangible culture, e.g. dance, legends, language.  Following a radio programme by Dr. Hinshiranan, related activities have already commenced, in particular some students from the Department of Mass Communications at Chulalongkorn University are planning to produce a cassette tape on Moken children’s stories and folk tales. 

  11. A Coastal Zone Management project developed by DANCED for southern Thailand will include among other things, a master plan for Ko Surin.  Contacts between this CSI field project and the larger initiative need to be enhanced, so as to supplement and advance activities on-the-ground, without duplication.  

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