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Rehabilitation of Traditional Communities and Municipalities in Tsunami Affected areas in Thailand

The recent tsunami has affected the six southern provinces of Thailand along the Andaman coastline namely Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi, Ranong, Trang and Satun. Living along the Andaman sea coast, the sea gypsy communities (Moken, Moklen and Urak Lawoi) are distinctive groups of people whose lifestyle, languages and cultures differ markedly from the rest of Thai Society. These people were severely impacted. A recent assessment undertaken by Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI) indicates that approximately 1,000 sea gypsy households have been affected by the tsunami. The extent of the destruction in both sea gypsy and traditional fishing communities varies and in some cases entire villages have been washed away, leaving households both without shelter and livelihoods.


Due to their semi-nomadic lifestyle and substantial differences in culture and language, many sea gypsy communities have not actively participated or been involved with relevant local government organizations in the planning and sustainable development of their settlements or livelihoods. Much of the territory traditionally inhabited by the indigenous sea gypsy groups has been lost to tourism development. The subsequent designation of many of remaining areas as marine protected areas has meant that the people have had to contend with the regulations which are intended to ensure environmental conservation rather than respect of cultural diversity. This disenfranchises these communities from any potential benefits derived from either tourism development or from enhanced conservation. The recent tsunami has compounded these problems and communities are now faced with the challenge of accessing the necessary resources and engaging relevant local level government administrations for their rehabilitation and recovery needs.


Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Chulalongkorn University and UNESCO will lead the project on Rehabilitation of Traditional Communities and Municipalities in Tsunami Affected areas in Thailand. The project will be implemented in Phang Nga, Ranong, Phuket and Satun involving the two sea gypsy groups: the Moken in the Surin Islands and Lao Island and the Urak Lawoi in Lipe Island, Rawai and Sirea Beaches. To promote cultural heritage and build capacity of indigenous people to actively participate in the post-tsunami development of conservation regulation, various activities will be carried out. These include:

  • Constructing of traditional boats and nature trails to transfer sea gypsy knowledge and skills and for community use. 
  • Rebuilding huts exhibiting on traditional culture of Moken people.
  • Workshops with relevant stakeholders to explore options and provide recommendations for co-management in protected areas.
  • Developing booklets for tourists on indigenous people and their natural resources.
  • Developing local school curricula with an emphasis on sea gypsy traditional cultures.
  • GIS mapping of part of the Surin Islands and Adang Archipelago.
  • Collecting household data of Lao Island to prepare personal documents for the development of human security.

The project will document best practices and lessons learnt by both communities and local government organizations and disseminate the information to enhance and build support networks for communities and relevant local government institutions.