in coastal regions and in small islands
A place for indigenous people in protected areas, Surin Islands, Andaman Sea, Thailand
|18-23rd December, 2001.
Assessment completed, 17th April, 2002.
| Mr. Derek Elias, UNESCO-CSI, Paris (not closely associated with the
Ms. Narumon Hinshiranan, Chulalongkorn University (Field project leader);
Mr. Ajaan Jirayudh Sinthuphom, Chulalongkorn University (closely associated with the project).
The assessment was considerably enhanced by the contributions of the following staff and students of Chulalongkorn University: Ms. Ajaan Thiranan Anawaji Siniwongsi, Mr. Paladej na Pombejra, Ms. Sukanya Sompiboon, Mr. Preeda Akarayantachote, Ms. Praputsorn Chansatitporn, Ms. Wipavee Patoompong, Mr. Jintapat Thammacote, Ms. Soimaas Rungmanee and Ms. Yaowalak Srisuksai. Additional work, complementary to the assessment, was undertaken by Ms. Arporn Ukrit of the Krabi Cultural Center.
Arrangements for the visit were excellent.
There were two minor constraints:
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
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?
The Ko Surin National Park was established in 1981, and is administered
by the Royal Forestry Department through the National Parks Act (1961).
Under this legislation, settlements, other than those of the Park
authorities, are prohibited in Parks as is the exploitation and extraction
of natural resources. However, because the Moken people had permanent
settlements in the Park before it was established, and considering that
they do not hold official Thai citizenship – which would have allowed
them to be resettled elsewhere in the country - their presence in the Park
is tolerated. Continued dialogue with the present Park Superintendent and
academic researchers regarding the project has helped pave the way to a
better understanding of the way of life of the Moken people and their need
to secure a sustainable livelihood on the islands.
The project objectives are essentially long term and while some
progress has been made, further efforts are required to ensure tangible
results. Long term benefit for the Moken of the Surin Islands necessitates
securing their right to occupy land and waterfront, use resources and
ensuring meaningful involvement in the operation of the Park.
|Do the project activities provide for capacity building and institutional strengthening?||
The project activities are contributing to capacity building by
beginning to change the attitude of the Park authorities towards the Moken,
through workshops, interaction with visiting students and researchers, and
informal discussions. Another factor relates to the limited ability (due
to language constraints) of the Moken people to negotiate through official
channels, such as with the Park Superintendent. Efforts have been made by
the current Superintendent to provide employment opportunities for the
Moken in programmes such as egg collection and hatching during the turtle
nesting season. Another positive development is the increasing interest
and support of researchers and professionals (e.g. doctors and dentists)
in making their expertise available to the Moken. However, the real
challenge remains to develop appropriate dialogue and mechanisms to
address the relationship of the Moken with the policies and management of
the Park at the level of the Marine Park Division of the Royal Forestry
|Are the project activities sustainable?||Partially (4)|
To date, all the activities have been, to a large extent, dependent on
the advocacy and patronage of the field project leader, Ms. Narumon
Hinshiranan. She is one of a handful of people who can effectively
communicate with the Moken and has developed a very close working
relationship with them over a number of years. Yet, the sustainability of
the activities is also in large part determined by the approach and
attitude of the Park Superintendent who holds a very important position as
regards the Moken on the Surin Islands. The present incumbent of the
position is due to leave mid-2002 and there is a need to formalise
arrangements and relationships between the Moken and the Park authorities
so that there is not a major interruption of communication each time a new
Park Superintendent is appointed.
Further postgraduate research work with the Moken is being undertaken
by students from Chulalongkorn University. Awareness of the predicament of
the Moken has been raised considerably during the course of the project
activities and will continue through exhibitions, radio interviews,
articles and the plans for development of a website.
|Have the project activities been transferred?||
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 (Moklen and Uruk Lawoi). As a result of Ms. Hinshiranan’s
participation in a seminar in Batanes, Philippines, there has been
considerable interest in the primer. The need to transfer project
activities to other indigenous people’s communities along the Andaman
Coast is being investigated by Chulalongkorn University Social Research
Institute and UNESCO.
|Are the project activities interdisciplinary and intersectoral?||
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, and visitors to the Park. There is a real opportunity to raise awareness among these visitors regarding Moken ways of life on the Surin Islands and their circumstances within the National Park.
|Do the project activities incorporate participatory processes?||
In Thailand the participatory process is rather uncommon. In
consultative workshops, the Moken people tend to use intermediaries such
as Ms. 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. One of the greatest
obstacles is the absence of any non-governmental organization (NGO) or
experienced Moken representatives who could contribute to stakeholder
dialogue and raise broader issues.
|Do the project activities provide for consensus building?||
At the briefing session ‘Commitment and support towards Moken
sustainable development’ held at Kasetsart University, Bangkok in 1999
there was general agreement among the participants that the Moken should
be allowed to continue to live in the Park, even if the law dictates
otherwise. The challenge remains 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. The project activities seek to find a
foundation for consensus building, which is thwarted by linguistic
barriers, administrative procedures and the absence of Moken
representatives experienced in negotiation.
|Do the project activities include an effective and efficient communication process?||
Ms. Hinshiranan, who is based in Bangkok (a considerable distance from
the Surin Islands), can only spend limited time on the project. She
remains the driving force for discussions between the Moken and the Park
authorities. Direct communication between the Park authorities and the
Moken is limited. Often the Moken voice their concerns to the fisheries
officials, who do not always relay them to the Park authorities. In many
ways the Moken remain uninformed about the activities of the Park and
communication between the two parties, when it exists, flows in the
direction of the authorities to the Moken rather than vice versa.
Although there are a number of Moken who can communicate effectively in
Thai there is little opportunity, and no forum, for them to do so
|Are the project activities culturally respectful?||
All activities to date have taken into account the traditions and
culture of the various stakeholder groups. The challenge that remains to
fully satisfy this characteristic is to further develop the role of Moken
input into the project. Such an approach needs to take into account
identity formation, cultural/linguistic maintenance and improvement of
communication skills in Thai. Of equal importance is the issue of allowing
the Moken to develop sustainable economic livelihoods.
|Do the project activities take into account gender and/or sensitivity issues?||
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 (as well as men), by buying their products and trying
to find suitable markets. Further training is needed, particularly in
improving the quality of the craft products, which will raise their market
value and also require less raw materials (pandanus), a concern to the
Park authorities. The ability of the men to produce staple foods
economically is hampered due to the fact that they are forbidden to
harvest traditional staple resources such as trepang (sea cucumbers),
which are protected by law.
There is a need to address gender and cultural sensitivity issues.
These issues have not been raised since the stakeholder meetings were held
in 1998. An appropriate time for another meeting might coincide with the
appointment of the new Park Superintendent in 2002.
|Do the project activities strengthen local identities?||
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. However, this is a complicated issue, as the Moken need to
be able to continue to travel across national borders visiting relatives
and using their traditional territory.
|Do the project activities shape national legal policy?||
The 1997 Thai constitution calls for strict enforcement of 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.
The new Thai constitution has been passed by Cabinet, but the Law on
Community Forestry is still under debate. This law proposes
community-based resource management, but there are fears in some quarters
that protected areas may be declared community forests and that some
communities may be pressured into bargaining this resource away. The State
will guarantee the rights of local communities, and policy decisions will
not remain exclusively with the Royal Forestry Department. Even if this
law is adopted, the situation of the Moken will remain unclear as they are
not Thai citizens. The numbers of Moken are too small to shape national
policy but avenues should be explored to address their situation along
with other sea tribes.
|Do the project activities encompass the regional dimension?||
This project has a somewhat unique regional perspective in that many of
the Southeast Asian 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, are not unique to the Moken. Indeed the Moken
receive relatively little attention because of the small population and
the fact that they do not raise issues of national importance as do hill
tribes in the north of Thailand. The lessons learnt in this project have
the potential to be transferred to other areas. In January 2002 the Marine
Park Division of the Royal Forestry Department requested copies of the CSI
publication (CSI Papers 8) and the school primer produced by the project,
to be distributed to marine national parks throughout Thailand.
Importantly, the Moken exist on the geographical and political
peripheries of Myanmar and Thailand. The Moken’s lack of political
leadership and representation and relatively small population
(approximately 200 on the Surin Islands and 3,000 overall) make it
difficult to place the project activities at the National Park within the
regional dimension. This is compounded by the fact that the local
situations of other indigenous sea peoples, vis-à-vis interaction with
marine parks, are within very different social, economic and political
|Do the project activities provide for human rights?||
The project activities are centred upon the right of the Moken people to make their home on the island and to use its resources for their livelihood provided under Articles 22-25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 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 allow the Moken to live 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:
This question of human rights in the trans-border case of the Moken is complicated given the possible imposition of travel restrictions in the event of identity cards or citizenship papers being issued. There will of course be many other serious consequences to consider.
|Have the project activities been documented?||
The project activities
have been fully documented in English (see list at the beginning of the
summary). However, there is a pressing need to translate and provide
information on the project to policy makers, researchers, NGOs and other
interested parties in the Thai language. This is critical as one of the
major objectives of the project is to communicate with these key
stakeholders and decision-makers regarding the place of the Moken within
the Surin Islands National Park.
|Have the project activities been evaluated?||
|The present project assessment and evaluation is the second such
exercise and builds upon the earlier assessment (completed 29th
March 2001) undertaken by Mr. Maarten Kuijper UNESCO-IOC/Westpac and Ms.
Gillian Cambers, University of Puerto Rico, based on site visits conducted
on 15-16th December 2000.
Synthesis of main issues from the assessment
Revised Future Project Activities
Proposals to expand project activities:
Determine the feasibility of
expanding certain elements of the project under the UNESCO-LINKS (Local and
Indigenous Knowledge Systems) cross-cutting project. Investigate the possibility
of incorporating elements from previous draft proposals concerning the
reinvigoration of the oral traditions of the Andaman Sea tribes and the Coastal
Zone Management project developed by the Danish Cooperation for Environment and
Development for southern Thailand.
Document the re-construction
of a Moken boat.
Specific activities with Moken:
Continue and build upon the
dialogue between the Park authorities and the Moken via Ms. Hinshiranan and
identify and involve other intermediaries, such as Moken representatives from
the two villages who might become spokespersons.
Discuss direct contributions
to the Park that may include the provision of permanent signs and media
presentations to be used by the Park authorities for tourists to raise awareness
on the Moken’s use and occupation of the Surin Islands.
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. Investigate marketing and distribution
of the handicrafts.
Evaluate the usefulness of the
school primer that is about to be released; assessment forms have already been
prepared for distribution.
Finalise arrangements for one-day inter-school exchanges between children from the adjacent mainland provinces of Phang-Nga and Ranong and the Moken children during the turtle nesting season on Ko Surin between November and February.
Information dissemination activities:
Publish ‘Indigenous People
and Parks: the Surin Islands Project’ Coastal Regions and Small Islands Papers
8, UNESCO Paris 2001 in Thai for distribution to government departments and
Finalise a second contribution
to the ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum’ on
the contribution of the private sector (Nissan Car Manufacturers) to the
Design and establish a dedicated website for the project to include the report on the consultative workshops, a summary of the initial resource assessment studies and all other project documents in English and Thai.
Analyse the pros and cons of
Thai citizenship for the Moken people and related issues in consultation with
national authorities and international agencies such as UNESCO.
Conduct additional resource assessment surveys of certain over-exploited edible fish species and sea cucumbers. These surveys will be conducted by university students using carefully designed protocols. Previous assessments produced some conflicting results due in part to non-standardised methodology.