in coastal regions and in small islands
Coastal region and small
island papers 8
Indigenous people and parks 3
CONFLICTS, STAKEHOLDERS AND CHALLENGES
are many stakeholders aside from the Moken
who have an interest in the future of the Surin
efforts by several agencies in support of the Moken
have been undermined by inadequate coordination.
This chapter looks at these stakeholders and discusses the efforts that
were made to bring them together through constructive dialogue. It also reports
on the stakeholder workshops held to further this dialogue.
The Marine Parks Division of the Royal
Thai Forest Department is currently in charge of managing the islands. Other
groups also play a role; the Department
of Fisheries, for instance, is in charge of the seas in and around the Surin
Islands and therefore has a major voice in conservation decisions.
The Tourism Authority of
Thailand (TAT) is an important player in determining the type of development
undertaken in the area. Along with the TAT, it is essential that local tour
operators are co-opted into the decision-making process for the project to succeed.
Other concerned stakeholders include the Office
of Environmental Policy and Planning and the Department
of Local Administration. The Chulalongkorn
University Social Research Institute (CUSRI) administers this project and
the Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart
University, has also taken an interest.
Currently, there is a European Union funded project in Satun, Thailand’s
southern most province near the Malaysian border, which is working towards the
sustainable development of the Tarutao
National Marine Park. The islands in this park are the home of the Uruk
Lawoi, one of the many Chao Lay communities of the Andaman Sea coast. Other
NGOs that have taken
an active interest in the Surin Islands project are the Wildlife
Fund Thailand and the Hill
Area Development Foundation. Both organizations have expressed support for
the project’s objectives and intend to contribute to its development and success.
Despite such widespread interest from the various stakeholders, there has
been a real lack of constructive communication between them, until now.
In November 1998, with financial support from UNESCO,
the Surin Islands Project held two workshops that brought together the various
stakeholders who were interested in coordinating their efforts to ensure the
future of the Moken and their traditional environment. These are described in
the following pages.
participatory development options for the Moken of the Surin Islands
6 November 1998
National Research Council of Thailand, Bangkok
The first workshop, entitled ‘Identifying Participatory Development
Options for the Moken of the Surin Islands’, was held in Bangkok on 6 November
1998. It was a brainstorming session for government officials, academics and NGO
workers to identify the crucial issues to be addressed to determine sustainable
development options for the Moken. (For the workshop agenda and list of
participants, see Annex 1).
No Moken were present in this workshop which aimed to open up lines of
communication between the non-indigenous stakeholders and to develop an initial
framework for future cooperation.
Four principles were discussed that would help determine the best
possible options for Moken sustainable development.
of Moken sustainable development
Capacity building and empowerment
The appropriate form of development will enable the Moken to rely on themselves and their own community for physical and moral support. Moreover, any developmental plans should involve as much local participation as possible in order to provide the chance for future joint management.
Human dignity and cultural pride
Development should strengthen the Moken’s ethnic identity and promote pride in their cultural heritage.
Sustainable use of natural resources
Development should encourage the Moken to maintain the sustainability of their resource use practices, especially as they become more sedentary and are subject to increased socio-economic influences from outside.
Quality of life
Development should ensure that basic needs are being met and the quality of life upheld.
Recognizing the importance of these general principles, the participants
subsequently set out to identify the numerous problems and development issues
facing the Moken.
issues of Moken sustainable development
Conservation or development?
Cultural conservation and development should go hand in hand. The Moken should be able to take part in determining the kind of ‘development’that is appropriate for them.
Research needed regarding the Moken and the use of
Further research is needed that can be applied practically to Moken resource use and advances the possibility of joint management of natural resources between government authorities and indigenous communities. Concepts of human-nature interactions differ greatly between government managers and resource users. For this reason, correspondence between management priorities and mechanisms might be difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, further research may help uncover options and choices that will be useful in determining appropriate forms of joint Moken - government management in the Surin Islands.
Moken’s quality of life
From the Moken’s point of view, what do they feel is an appropriate standard of living and what do they need in order to achieve this?
Moken’s impact on marine and territorial resources
What is the impact of the Moken’s daily activities on the Surin Islands’ natural resources?
Park regulations and enforcement on the Moken
The problem of the Moken violating national park regulations is a difficult one to resolve. When should park regulations be strictly enforced and in what cases may certain levels of tolerance be appropriate? To what extent should the Park Authority apply disciplinary measures on a non-literate indigenous population? Moreover, what measures can be adopted to prevent the reoccurrence of these problems?
Middlemen and entrepreneurs
What will be the most effective way of preventing the exploitation of the Moken and the marine environment by middlemen?
Effort should be made by relevant agencies to find alternative occupations for the Moken, such as selling fresh fish to the park kitchen, being hired as park labourers, tending turtle nests, mariculture and organizing eco-tourism activities. Alternative occupations should build on traditional skills and encourage cultural pride.
Impact of tourism on the Moken
There should be research on the impact of tourist activities on the Moken’s way of life and on the possibility of their participation in these activities, such as guiding visitors on snorkelling or hiking trips.
A zoning system should be used in the management of the national park, and the Moken should be able to subsist in ‘special use zones’, with due consideration of the Moken habit of occasional resettlement.
Moken arts and crafts promotion
The Moken should be encouraged to earn extra income by producing traditional crafts such as mat and box weaving. The major concern is the supply of raw material such as pandanus leaves, the harvesting of which is currently not tolerated by the Park Authority. Craft skill development training may be provided for the Moken, but a further point to consider is whether this will undermine the traditional style, color, patterns and technologies of Moken crafts. Would the harvesting of Pandanus leaves be acceptable to the authorities if it can be demonstrated that it is sustainable? Another solution could include the use of alternative materials, although this may create dependence on an outside source.
The suggested establishment of an indigenous museum will promote a sense of cultural pride and build community strength.
The migration of Moken groups from Myanmar and the subsequent increase in the Moken population living on the islands, are problems that are difficult to resolve.
Nationality and identity card
The Moken do not have nationality or identity cards, so their citizenship status is ambiguous. Moreover, there is no census record of the Moken in the Surin Islands.
The Moken could be organized to establish a cooperative or form a savings group, and participate in national park management planning.
The Moken are in need of better health services. They should be instructed in appropriate health care, especially maternal and infant care. Campaigns should be mounted to raise Moken awareness of the damages wrought by substance abuse.
Will non-formal education provided by the Thai authorities have a negative impact on the Moken’s traditions and cultural identity? The courses offered should be directly relevant to their way of life. The children should be encouraged to learn from Moken elders so that traditional wisdom and practices are passed on, and not disrupted or discontinued by the introduction of other forms of education.
Using the first workshop as a springboard, more concrete strategies were
developed during the second workshop, held in the Surin Islands from 21–26
project coordinator buys
Towards the strategic goal of sustainable development for the Moken: Commitment and support
21–26 November 1998
Surin Islands National Park, Phang-nga
The purpose of this workshop was to bring the various stakeholders
together, to meet with the Moken, to share ideas and identify the aspirations
and needs of the indigenous population. (For the workshop agenda and list of
participants, see Annex 2).
Twenty-five participants attended the workshop and various activities
were organized to familiarize participants with the Moken way of life, such as
village and school tours, snorkelling and hiking expeditions led by Moken guides
and a cultural show by Moken children. A ‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities
and Threats’(SWOT) analysis in which the Moken people actively participated,
was also conducted (see Annex 3).
Setting the scene
A major concern facing the Moken is that, like so many indigenous groups,
they are not recognized as Thai citizens and therefore are not allowed to own
land or attend public schools. This is a very complex issue that will not be
resolved in the immediate future. However, to help alleviate some of the
problems that arise from the Moken’s ambiguous status, both the Local
Administration and the National Park Authority should try to develop and draft
policies on tribal minorities to raise awareness among their local staff about
the Moken and their needs.
It was also decided that the Park Authority, which is in much closer
proximity to the Moken than the Local Administration, would be in a better
position to begin keeping and maintaining records on population growth,
migration, health and other issues affecting the Moken.
The Moken hunt and gather for subsistence as well as for trade. The Park
Authority worries about these practices, which are against the national park
decree. As far as the park authorities are concerned, the resources that are
being extracted by the Moken should be for their use only. They actively
discourage the purchase of marine products from the Moken – by middlemen as
well as by tourists. This rigid stance of the authorities motivated by the
existing park decree, is not necessarily justified from a view-point of
ecological sustainability. Even though they live within a protected area, the
local population could be given the right to harvest natural resources for
subsistence and trade, so long as this is done in a sustainable manner.
Furthermore, it should be noted that as middlemen are a crucial factor in the
Moken’s exploitation of valuable shells and sea cucumbers, they too are
‘stakeholders’ and should be involved in this project.
While participants felt that the Park Authority may have valid
environmental reasons for restricting Moken settlements, they nonetheless
insisted that several sites should be allowed. This is because the Moken still
move their settlements to escape epidemics, alleviate disputes or in response to
a bad omen. Periodic movement is significant for former nomadic groups like the
Moken and it facilitates local ecological recovery as foraging patches are
allowed to revive. Over the past ten years, the Moken have shifted their
settlements to five different beaches on Ko Surin Nua and Ko Surin Tai.
Any attempt to consolidate the Moken villages into one settlement will
definitely have a profound and negative impact on both the Moken and the local
environment. Consequently, the government agencies involved in this project
should investigate multiple areas in the islands where the Moken can establish
The Moken village does not
Occupational development for the Moken
The Park Authority hopes that the Moken will remain a significant part
of the Surin Islands and eventually become partners in national park protection.
At present, however, the Park Authority still carries the burden of providing
the Moken with alternatives to their hunting and gathering activities in order
to prevent environmental damage. The Park Authority usually hires some Moken
as manual labourers during the peak season. However, since the tourist season
lasts for only six months (November to April), the income from these activities
is limited. The daily wage paid to the Moken is about the equivalent of US $ 1–2
in addition to free meals from the park kitchen. This wage comes from voluntary
contributions to a special fund established by the Park Authority. Formally,
the Royal Forest
Department cannot hire any Moken if they lack Thai identification cards
or other important legal documents.
Other relevant agencies and organizations should provide support for the Moken by offering arts and crafts skills development training and providing market outlets for the craftwork. The Park Authority already allocates space in the convenience shop for the display and sale of Moken crafts. To gain exposure in external markets, the Office of Rural Development could coordinate with the Provincial Office to set up a Moken craft booth at various festivals and annual fairs.
Based on activities in this workshop, it was found that the Moken had
limited experience in guiding and presenting information to tourists. When the
Moken led a snorkelling excursion for the workshop participants, they swam far
ahead of the rest of the group. On the forest trail, the Moken tended to walk
very fast as well, and they did not have the language skills to present
information about the geographical significance of the islands and the uses of
forest plants in their culture. The Moken will need further language training
before they can manage tourist activities on their own. In the meantime, the
Park Authority can help organize tourist activities (eco-tourism, cultural
tourism) with the Moken, using park rangers as guides and presenters.
The Moken could also generate income during the turtle-nesting season by
maintaining turtle nests. This would provide an income for the Moken, as well
as assist with the environmental management of the islands. The park can coordinate
Wildlife Fund Thailand (WFT) to provide funding for Moken turtle conservation
The Park Authority should also coordinate with the
Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Association of Hotels and Tourism
to draft guidelines for tourism management in ‘special areas’ such as national
parks. In addition, tourism in national parks should offer basic services and
simple facilities in order to avoid exploitation by developers. There should
also be a serious campaign to discourage tourists buying products made from
wildlife or plants found in protected areas. If, however, it can be demonstrated
that specific resources (e.g. Pandanus leaves) can be harvested sustainably
without detriment to the environment, then the park’s stance against sale could
perhaps be reconsidered.
An assessment of the problems facing the Moken was needed before a framework for the project could be drawn up. During the five-day visit to the islands, participants conducted many interviews with the Moken, park staff, local authorities and individuals from both the Department of Fisheries and the Royal Forest Department.
Moken make use of
Education, learning and social values
At present, Suraswadee School in Ko Surin Nua offers courses that aim to
enable Moken children to speak, read and write the Thai language. The children
are also taught introductory mathematics and about the local environment and
basic health care.
The biggest challenge for the educators is how to provide education to
Moken children without disrupting the transmission of traditional wisdom and
knowledge within the community. Moken elders should be encouraged to take an
active role in the school, so that children will be proud of their cultural
Dr Narumon Hinshiranan of CUSRI has developed a reading guide for Moken
children, which will work as both an educational tool and a means of reinforcing
Moken culture. The book contains short stories, myths, poems and illustrations
depicting the history of the Moken. Moreover, these tales are written not only
in Moken, but also in Uruk Lawoi and Thai as a means of strengthening ties
between the Chao Lay and wider Thai society.
Sanitation and health
Officers from the Khuraburi Malaria Control Unit visit the island every
year and conduct a blood check of all the inhabitants. At the time of the
workshop, medical examinations revealed that a malaria epidemic had recently
affected a quarter of the islands’ inhabitants. Occasionally, the Moken
receive physical examinations from naval medical units and voluntary doctors.
Health problems persist, especially among adult males, due to physical hardship
and substance abuse. Excessive drugs caused the death of one Moken man while he
was visiting the mainland. The training of Moken health volunteers to provide
emergency aid and other health advice may also help alleviate some of these
Infant and maternal care is another serious problem. Moken mothers lack
knowledge about proper infant care; most of them nurse their babies with sweetened
condensed milk mixed with water. The
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) may be able to suggest suitable
infant and maternal health care programmes. In addition, Suraswadee School may
be able to provide milk and other nutritional food items to supplement the children’s
Other problems to be addressed
A major problem among the Moken is substance abuse. Suraswadee School has
started a campaign against drug addiction involving the youths, but adult
education is important as well. The Park Authority should have access to
educational videos and posters explaining the deadly effect of substance abuse. NGOs may be able to provide assistance. The Park Authority should seek help from
the Narcotics Control Unit and exert restrictions over fishing vessels, as they
are blamed for trafficking drugs in the area.
There are other problems affecting the community which cannot easily be
solved , for example, population pressures stemming from the migration of Moken
groups from Myanmar. Because the Moken are a semi-nomadic people, they often
travel across national boundaries and occasionally settle down in another
country’s territory. However, if too many groups settle in the Surin Islands,
this may seriously disrupt the islands’ delicate ecological balance.
Educating the public about Moken ways
It is also very important that the wider Thai community, as well as
tourists visiting the area, are educated about the Moken way of life and develop
an understanding of the balance between cultural and environmental needs. Surin
Island stakeholders, namely park officers, tourists, tour service providers, TAT, middlemen, and the Moken themselves, should join together to support the
development of a sustainable lifestyle for the Moken. The mass media should be
encouraged to offer a genuine portrayal, thus providing a positive image of the
Moken, and not depict them as an exotic back ward race far removed from the Thai
The Park Authority has suggested the creation of a Nature Interpretation
Programme which is culturally sensitive towards the Moken. The myths, names and
traditional tales of the Moken will be used in these programmes. Furthermore, a
park exhibition will include the unique cultural aspects of the Moken who have
long been a significant part of the Surin Islands.
Recommendations on commitment and support
In the final session of the workshop, the participants gave the following
recommendations on the type of commitment and support needed to facilitate the
environmental and cultural sustainable development in the Surin Islands.
The Surin Islands Marine National Park Authority was
find supporting funds to hire the Moken for turtle conservation
continue to support the Moken through tourist activities;
conduct cleaning and garbage collection;
organize Moken village tours;
organize boat holidays as a form of eco-cultural tourism;
promote the sale of Moken handicrafts to tourists;
develop a national park nature interpretation programme to recognize
the significance of the Moken’s myths, language, etc.;
keep and update records on the Moken;
cooperate with the police force in a drug prevention and intervention
The Surin Islands Project Coordinator was recommended
present the outcome of the workshops to relevant agencies and
organizations in order to recruit their help and support;
determine the feasibility of conducting inter-disciplinary research to
identify zoning areas for Moken settlements;
draft an overall plan for Moken sustainable development;
encourage more publications on Moken life and traditional wisdom.
Universities and research institutes (Andaman Institute,
Kasetsart University and
University Social Research Institute) was recommended to:
promote interdisciplinary research in order to establish a zoning
promote research on tourism and its impact on the environment;
support studies on the potential of mariculture as an occupational
option for the Moken;
seek funding from the
National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) and
the Thailand Research Fund
to conduct research on the Moken and anassessment of their resource use;
contact UNICEF for
support on maternal and infant care training.
The Office of Environmental Planning and Policy was
provide data on World Heritage Sites.
The Department of Fisheries was recommended to:
coordinate with the Phuket Marine Biological Centre to use existing
data to help formulate development options for the Moken.
The National Elementary Education Office was
adjust the Moken Studies Course to incorporate additional forms of
provide arts and crafts training for Moken women; the Vocational
Department should also help provide the raw materials necessary for any arts and
pass on traditional tales and myths to the Moken children through
teach with the aid of multimedia resources (TV, video, etc.);
implement a drug prevention programme in the school;
provide courses on maternal and infant care;
publish an information booklet on Moken culture.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand was recommended to:
promote forms of tourism which enhance environmental protection; and
environmental awareness in a serious and continual manner;
publicise information on the Moken lifestyle;
campaign against the buying and collecting of marine products;
promote the appreciation of natural and cultural sites.
The Department of Health was recommended to:
send in volunteers to provide basic health care knowledge, especially
maternal and infant care, to the Moken;
support a plan on the prevention of substance abuse.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were recommended
initiate a savings group amongst the Moken;
help build community strength;
seek funding and support for occupational development for the Moken.
The Sub-district Office was recommended to:
coordinate and exchange information with other sub-districts that have
Chao Lay communities;
draft appropriate policies regarding the Moken;
coordinate with the Rural Community Development Office to find markets
for Moken arts and crafts.
Commitment and support towards Moken sustainable
11 March 1999
Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University
In March 1999, stakeholders met at Kasetsart University for a briefing
session to update each other on the activities undertaken thus far and to reaffirm
their commitment and responsibilities to the
Surin Islands Project.
In order to ensure that these problems are addressed, the participants
committed themselves and their organizations to the future of this project. Each
stakeholder took on a number of important tasks to help alleviate some of these
urgent problems. (For a list of the participants, see Annex 4).
Dr Richard Engelhardt reiterated the importance of this project as a flagship
that could be considered a ‘wise practice’ for protected areas inhabited by
indigenous people. The ‘International
Decade of the World’s Indigenous People’ is another valid reason for encouraging
the participatory effort in the project.
The project co-ordinator summarized the past activities and reflected on
certain points. For example, the ‘eco-tourism’ attempts (trail and
snorkelling activities led by the Moken) have fallen short of success because of
their inexperience in displaying their culture and traditional knowledge to
strangers. Yet the SWOT analysis reflected that the Moken’s ‘strengths’
lay in their being friendly, gentle and honest, and in their maritime skills
(see Annex 3).
The Surin Islands Project could thus consider focusing on this point and begin
by developing the Moken’s potential based on their strengths instead of trying
to correct their weaknesses. The Moken should be recognized as a significant
asset to the management of the Surin Islands. Their traditional knowledge of the
marine and territorial environment should be explored and incorporated into the
management of the national park.
All over the world, there have been many successful examples of how
indigenous people maintain their sustainable livelihood in protected areas.
Surely some of the ‘lessons learnt’ can be adapted for Thailand. Examples
National Park in the Northern Territories, Australia. This park has
a large human population of mostly Aboriginal people who have a traditional
association with the area and are allowed to settle and establish new living
areas at appropriate locations.
The Great Barrier
Reef is an area where Aboriginal people have lived for several thousands
of years and where they continue to have access to marine and near-shore
or Ayers Rock where approximately 150 Aboriginal people still live in
the rock’s vicinity and engage in hunting and gathering activities.
Commercial activities such as Aboriginal arts and crafts shops are allowed.
Some Aborigines are employed as park staff.
vicinity and engage in hunting and gathering activities.
Commercial activities such as Aboriginal arts and crafts shops are allowed.
Some Aborigines are employed as park staff.
Several national parks in Malaysia (Non-World Heritage Sites). The Malaysia
Government has set aside
Mulu National Park, Sungai Magoh, Ulu Sungai Tutoh and Sungai Adang
for the 400 nomadic Penan to pursue their way of life. Likewise, the Melana
Protected Forest and Ulu Seridan offer Penans the right to practise their
After various examples were presented of indigenous people living in
protected areas, the Surin Islands Park Superintendent made a short report on
the park’s commitment and support to the Surin Islands Project.
The park kitchen usually buys surplus fish from the Moken to help them
earn a little income.
The park hired some Moken as boatmen to take tourists to different
Moken widows who have little means of making a living were hired as
unskilled labour – collecting garbage, cabin cleaning and for kitchen help.
The Park Superintendent used to ask Moken children to sing their
traditional songs for some tourist money. Recently, this type of entertainment
for tourists has been discontinued as Moken children, after having been educated
in Thai, resort to singing for tourists in Thai. As a result, this activity has
become unpopular among tourists.
The park is now shouldering a heavy responsibility of locating the money
to hire the Moken. The money cannot come from the government budget because the
Moken do not have Thai citizenship; it is thus illegal to hire them.
The biggest problem for the Moken is not so much earning an income to
sustain a living, but saving what they have already earned. As hunter-gatherers
who have been used to daily subsistence living, they are not familiar with the
concept or practice of saving. The money is rapidly spent on packaged food,
tobacco and liquor.
Emergency medical assistance
Emergency assistance for the Moken also comes at a cost. In one case, a
Moken man was bitten by a snake and the Park Authority took him to the Khuraburi
state hospital by boat. That one-way trip cost 5,000 baht worth of diesel. The
superintendent suggested that an ‘emergency fund’ be established, perhaps
from island boat and tourist taxes.
The Surin Islands Project, Phase II
The first phase of the Surin Islands Project has been a success due to
the strong commitment and support of several parties, including the
Royal Forest Department, the
Department of Fisheries, the Department of Health, the
Department of Local Administration, the
Office of Environmental Policy and Planning, as well as the involvement
of NGOs such as
Wildlife Fund Thailand and the
Hill Area Development Foundation, and of academicians, including art professors
from the Bangkok Arts and Crafts College who produced samples of possible crafts
to be made by the Moken.
The second phase of the Surin Islands Project should soon be launched to
keep up the momentum of the first one. Some possible small projects are as
Resource Assessment Studies
Handicraft Learning Project
Mariculture Pilot Project
Basic Health and Welfare Project
Turtle Conservation Project
Moken Primers Project
Stakeholder Workshop for Lanta/Adang National Parks
Illustrative Moken/Moklen/Thai/Malay/ English Dictionary Project