Background of the Moken
The Moken people are a nomadic group, originally migrating from South China, who now reside on islands and villages off of the mainland of Thailand and Burma. Often referred to as “Sea Gypsies”, their culture has always mainly been characterized by the ocean. They are known to live off the sea, collecting food, free diving, and living on boats separated from the mainland. In the past, they would live for many months on their boats “kabang”, only coming ashore to sell their catch, replenish their supplies and return to the sea. When the monsoon began, they would shelter on islands along the coast and spend this time repairing their nets and boats.
The Moken live simply and do not take more than they need when out fishing. They have a relationship with the ocean like no other culture and understand the importance of sustainability to provide for their future. The sea is their home, they are most happy when on their boats.
The Moken have the ability to remain under water for long periods of time whilst keeping their eyes open. This makes them excellent free divers & spear fisherman, enabling them to catch only what they need. They believe in letting the small sea creatures grow up large and strong – “save them for another day”.
Life is changing rapidly for the Moken People. They spend more time living on the land than on their boats. One of the biggest challenges facing the Moken is the loss of their culture. Moken is not a written language; they are storytellers. As the younger generation become more involved in the western world, the stories are simply not being heard as in the past.
The other major issue the Moken face is the lack if National Thai ID Status. As many dont have any records of their birth (given they were always nomadic), its a long and difficult process. Its slowly happening but will take many more years before we see all of them recognized as the original inhabitants of the Andaman Coast.
Moken Sea Gypsy Village – Koh Phayam.
The Moken Village on Koh Phayam numbers around 160 people; around 45 families and 50 children under the age of 15. All the Moken children are now attending the local school where they are intregrating with both Thai & Burmese students.
Access to services on Koh Payam has always been extremely challenging for the Moken Community, but thanks to the generosity of a Thai Non Profit organisation, a bamboo bridge was constructed and completed in April, 2021. Children no longer need to wade through mud, swim through the high tide or pull themselves across the river mouth on a makeshift raft to attend school. Also much easier for the elders to come into the local village to sell their catch or buy supplies.
How All for Villages are supporting the Moken Community on Koh Payam
With your support, we are able to provide basic needs to the Community, some of them being:
- Cost of transportation for those needing to seek medical attention in Ranong.
- Provide basic medications ie; asthma sprays, cold and flu syprup for kids, antibiotics & female hygiene products.
- During this challenging time of Covid, providing meals for up to 50 people in the Village 3 times per week, especially while school is closed.
- Purchasing a small boat that all the Community has access to.
- Purchassing string and beads so the children can learn to produce hand made bracelets and necklaces, very popular in the past.
- Purchased a sewing machine for the women and children to learn how to sew. Normally they would make beautiful recycled shopping bags, paint them and see them across the island. Obviously no tourists means even less of extra income.
- Giving the Moken access to my home in the main village on Koh Paym where they can come, rest, eat, relax or the kids can simply play.
What we try to provide are the pratical things that can support them in the future.