Koh Surin Story

The Story of Koh Surin

koh surin - moken spirit pole

Large Bon Bay on South Surin Island is home to a community of Moken (Chao Lay in Thai), or sea gypsies. These traditionally nomadic people have lived between the Mergui archipelago of Burma and the islands of Thailand's North Andaman coast for thousands of years. Most of their time would be spent at sea on their traditional boats known as Kabang. During the monsoon season, the Moken would moor in sheltered areas. the community now leads a semi-nomadic lifestyle in stilt bamboo houses built directly on the sand. Their language, culture and lifestyles differ greatly from Thai society.

Traditionally, the Moken people were subsistence hunter-gathers, trading these products for rice and other necessities. They use over 80 species for food, 28 for medicinal purposes, 53 for shelter and 52 for other purposes including making handicrafts. Their traditional low impact lifestyle was in harmony with their surroundings. The Moken are animists and have great understanding and respect for their environment and natural resources.

koh surin - moken children

Under National Park regulations, the Moken no longer have the right to live their traditional hunter-gather lifestyle, as concerns were raised that these would disturb the ecological balance of the island. These restrictions pose a great threat to their social fabric and the continuation of their culture which may be perceived as at odds with conservation and tourism development.

Despite the perceived threat of their traditional subsistence methods of hunting, the Moken are an integral part of Surin and any development or conservation efforts need to take into account their welfare. Previously, tourism on the island has had little or no benefit to the Moken.

koh surin - traditional moken boat

koh surin - moken village