Web of relations: the way of giving, taking and reciprocating in the Moken’s world
This talk reflects diverse worldviews of different groups towards a cluster of islands in southwestern Thailand, namely Surin Islands in Phang-nga Province. It also reflects how government policies are based on certain set of worldviews about “nature”. Surin Islands have been a home, stopover point, foraging ground and burial site for the Moken indigenous people for centuries. The Moken have mobile homes and their residence are on different islands in the Mergui archipelago, from the present day southern Myanmar to southern Thailand. At the start of Thai state dominant power on the Surin Islands, the surrounding waters fell into a concession of petroleum exploration issued to a private foreign company. Later it was proposed as a site for Indochina refugee camp, but the proposal was rejected by the Royal Forestry Department. In 1984, state power is more apparent as the Islands have been declared a Marine National Park with supporting budget and resources. Later a unit under the Department of Fisheries and another under Royal Thai Navy have been established. Though all of these groups share their lives (or part of their lives) on Surin Islands, their worldviews and their missions/mandates towards “nature” on the Islands are quite different. Through looking at the web of relations, especially the way of giving, taking and reciprocating in the Moken’s world, we can understand the mode of thinking, practicing, and policying of other units and groups undertaking their “duties” on the Islands as well.