After the Tsunami in Thailand in 2004, numerous NGOs started to implement reconstruction and development projects in order to come to the aid of the affected people.
Especially the South of Thailand has been hit by the catastrophe:
One of the most concerned population are the Moken. These people are traditionally fishermen who have been living at the seaboard which is why they have been particularly hit by the Tsunami. After the tsunami, the Moken became a NGO priority in the region.
Photos © Marc Dozier
The Moken have been living in fisher villages at a 200km coastline between Phuket and Khura Burri. Their living space has changed drastically after the tsunami. Much territory which was populated by the Moken before has been bought by real-estate companies; entire fisher villages were rehoused.
For many decades the Moken people have been living at the seaboard. They were perfectly accepted by the other locals and the royalty. They paid property tax, but as their ground was regulated by the right of use, there are no deeds of property.
After the tsunami the Thai government has made it clear that affected people of the coastline will be resettled. This decision was also influenced by the real-estate and tourism sector.
To implement reconstruction projects, the NGOs needed these deeds of property. As there were no deeds of property, it was easier to simply rehouse entire villages than to deal with the Thai legislation. Like this the populations which have been living at the coastline were resettled from one day to the next and lost their access to the sea. The NGOs did not consider this. Reconstruction was evaluated more important – wherever it was possible.
The Moken had the choice: Staying at the coastline without anything or leaving the coast with the prospect of a new house and compensations.
Four years after the tsunami, the village of Kokhloi for example, is crowded with hotels. The fishermen are not allowed any more to put in their boats at the beaches, because they are private property now.
Furthermore, the NGOs’ work included the supply with boats at fishing equipment for the Moken. The NGOs have chosen small boats and fishing nets. For the fishermen who are used to fish offshore, the 5 meter boats were not adapted to their way of fishing. Many of the fishermen were forced to change their activity; others ran into debt because they had to buy new fishing nets and put expensive petrol into their boats.
Reconstruction without considering the needs of the local people has thus created a state of instability which has not existed before 2004.
With Omakua, we want to do things differently.
We want to help people with small projects which are adapted to their way of life. Our main point is the communication with the local population. This will take time, but we are convinced that this is the way to achieve development while respecting the local traditions and ways of life.