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 under the available trees towards the right side of the bay. People line up in the hot sun to bath their children. There is currently only one water hose 200 meters off the main tent area.

Food is delivered by the national park three times a day, yet many families prefer their own cooking, and prepare small meals on the few available coal stoves. Three elderly women go around the tents asking people if they have onion, garlic and salt to prepare a dip for the seafood they collected at low tide. Daily life is starting to catch up in the Moken bay, however many items are still missing. With the desire in their heart to go about their daily activities, they just sit at the beach waiting for something to happen. Boats come into the bay every once in a while, bringing goods. By now there is an excess of clothing amounting under the erected tent in front of the school building. 200 tents are still waiting to be delivered, so the front porch of the school has been inhabited by 50 people.

There is a consensus of the appreciated help while at the same time there is worry about the space. Once building materials have been delivered, the Moken have expressed a strong desire to participate in the construction process, and to have input on the design and location of their homes. The current size and placement of houses was mandated by authorities after the tsunami of 2004.  

A government construction team from the mainland have set up in the open area that was once the village and started digging holes. The old village area has been surveyed and divided into 61 sections for new houses. The villagers however are still waiting to see the village plan to approve to it. Confusion is spreading as foundation work has started, yet the final dimensions of the houses that will be permitted by authorities is not finalized. The initial plan of 3×4 meters for sleeping, living, and cooking space may not be enough for families of 4 or more people, of which there are many.

Before the Tsunami, the Moken never lived together in such a big group, as their were two villages on the Koh Surin. Constructing 61 houses in the same area as before would risk a similar fire problem in the future. The houses are too close to one another so that just as last time the fire would spread faster than the villagers could try to extinguish the flames. 

Discussions are ongoing at a national level whether the Moken might be allowed to have larger houses and expand to the west side their current bay, or even re-establish a second village.

The Moken now face an uncertain relief process. We are facilitating a Moken-led fund to address the most urgent needs of the community and the long term recovery process. 

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