Welcome to the Moken Islands

This website is a gateway to the Moken people and the Surin Islands National Park.

Many visitors to Koh Surin come and go unaware of the islands’ original inhabitants, their way of life, and their struggle for autonomy.

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Updates from Koh Surin

The Moken fire relief campaign has concluded. Thanks to everyone who helped to provide household items, solar lights, books, and support for attending government meetings. The focus has now shifted from short term recovery to long term cultural and economic empowerment.

In exciting news, the last Moken houseboat in Thailand has set sail on a journey to connect Moken communities and inspire hope for the future.

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Where?

Turquoise waters full of brightly colored fish surround the jungle-clad hills of the Surin Islands. Located in the Andaman Sea between Myanmar and Thailand, the group of five islands features the most extensive coral reef in Thailand. With the creation of a national park, beach camping and snorkeling have become very popular here. Manta Rays and whale sharks are known to frequent the area, and the islands are a nesting site for three species of turtle. Getting to Koh Surin is relatively easy, with boats departing from Kuraburi between mid-November and mid-April.

Who?

This is the home of the Moken, an ancient sea-faring people who have roamed the Andaman Sea for thousands of years. Traditionally, the Moken lived on their Kabang houseboats in the dry months and banded together in temporary villages during the monsoon. Possessing a rich knowledge of the reefs, the Moken have exceptional underwater skills such as free diving and spear hunting. More recently, the traditionally nomadic Moken have responded to growing socio-economic pressures by settling permanently in their formerly seasonal monsoon settlements.

Why?

The Moken are a fascinating people with a unique, and very photogenic, lifestyle. Unfortunately, the widespread media coverage and visits from foreign tourists over the last few years have not empowered the Moken in developing their community and maintaining their culture. This website is a bridge to meaningful interaction with the Moken.

If you want to get involved from afar, you can connect with several inspiring projects.

If you are coming to Koh Surin, you can join tours exploring the Moken way of life. Faced with the challenges of a vanishing culture and a lack of good jobs, the Moken established a Village Tourism Team in 2011. Respectful visitors can now discover the beauty and depth of the Moken connection to the reefs and jungles of Koh Surin.

Close to Surin Island, several nearby villages have also formed tourism teams.

Recent Posts

  • The last Kabang

    Houseboat Revival – high hopes on the high seas

    After a decade of absence, there is a Kabang sailing the North Andaman Coast again. Moving with the wind and waves, we embrace the past to look ahead. Trusting the same ancient knowledge that [...]

  • Moken Village Update - May 2019

    Moken Fire Recovery Update, May 2019

    The Rains Have Come, The Park is Closed The National Park on Surin closed 5 days before the official end of the season due to bad weather. The Park is open for tourism from [...]

  • Moken viullage rebuilt. Now preparing for the monsoons

    Two Months After the Fire – New Houses are Complete

    All Moken have moved from their temporary shelters into new homes. In total there are 61 new identical houses, built of wooden beams and thatch walls. In addition to housing, the government has also [...]

  • Long periods of waiting. Updates from the Moken Village

    Long periods of waiting. Updates from the Moken Village

    Although the houses are almost ready, they are still waiting for the third and final delivery of nipa palm leafs. The leafs are used to cover the roof and the sides of the houses. [...]

  • Moken Village Fire - After one month

    Moken Village Update – One Month After

    The first houses are finished. A team of soldiers has been staying in the bay with the Moken, and together they have been working hard every day in the burning sun. The National Park [...]

  • Moken village fire - Guardian newspaper article

    Reconstruction disregards Moken wishes, reintroduces fire risk – The Guardian

    An article published by the Guardian recounts the burning of the Moken village on Koh Surin and its aftermath. As amenities are still lacking and must be shared among the 273 people whose homes [...]

  • Moken Village Fire - Day 16

    Moken Village Fire Update Day 16 – The struggle over land

    The use of land is the center of the ongoing struggle between the Moken people on Surin and the National Park. While Moken have an unwritten right by ancestry, the National Park claims with [...]

  • Moken Village Fire Update Day 12

    Moken Village Fire Update Day 12

    Hook rushed to Bangkok on Monday to attend a meeting with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plants (DNP). The topic of the meeting was actually the issues facing an indigenous people living [...]

  • Rebuild Moken Village

    It’s time to listen to needs of Moken sea gypsies

    According to an article in the Bangkok Post the fire that destroyed the Moken sea gypsies' village on Surin should be an opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of the Moken people. "While the state [...]

  • Rebuild Moken Village

    Moken Tribe of Seafaring People Ask to Expand Their Village

    Moken Tribe of Seafaring People Ask to Expand Their Village, As Previous Structures Were Too Congested. Committee Member Agrees, Citing Their Ancestral Rights to the Land On 07 February, General Surin Pikulthong, in his [...]

  • Moken village fire 2019

    Community Members Call for Patience Amid Rush to Rebuild Moken Village on Koh Surin,

    Community Members Call for Patience Amid Rush to Rebuild Moken Village on Koh Surin, Noting Densely Packed Homes Exacerbated Fire Conditions. New Proposal Seeks to Widen Layout to Ensure Future Safety for Villagers 11 [...]

  • Moken Village Fire Relief

    Moken village fire update day 7

    If there wasn't this empty burned space in the middle of the Big Bon Bay, the set up tents would look like a cozy gathering. Shaded spaces are limited and so the tents accumulate [...]

  • Moken village fire 2019

    Koh Surin Fire Disaster update Day 3

    There has been an impressive national response to immediate fire disaster relief. Many different parties organized to help to the Moken people on Surin, who lost all their possessions after the fire and were left [...]

  • Fire at the Moken Village on Surin

    Fire at the Moken village on Surin

    This time it was not a tsunami but a fire, which took everything the Moken owned. No one was injured, but the village burned completely to the ground. “It is worse than after the [...]

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