Men of the sea : Coastal Tribes of South Thailand's west coast. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย David W. Hogan   

HOGAN, DAVID W. MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST. JSS. VOL.60 (pt.1) 1972. p.205-235.

 

 

 

                                                 MEN OF THE SEA :
                COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST

                                                               by

                                                  David W. Hogan

 

Along the picturesque west coast of South  Thailand  are  found  three
tribes   of   strand  -  dwellers   of   whom  little  has  been  written.  The  Thai
Negrito or Semang people who are scattered through the jungle from Trang
to  Narathiwat  have  been  very  thoroughly  described  (Brandt, 1961, 1965).
Along  the  coast  there  are  the  Moken,  the  Moklen  and   the  Urak  Lawoi'
tribe  of  whom  little  or  nothing  has  been  written. The  Moken  have  been
described at length as inhabitants of South Burma  but  little  reference  has
been made  to  their  presence  in  Thailand  also. The  Moklen, who  speak
a variant dialect of Moken, appeared in print for the  first  time  in  Mr. Court's
article  in the  January  1971  issue  of  this  Journal, where  they  are  called
Thai  Mai. The  Urak  Lawoi'  were  referred  to  by  a  few  writers  about   the
turn of  the century under the  name  Orang  Laut, and  the  absence  of  any
more  recent reference has led one  writer  to  assume  that  they  had  died
out and  another to  think  they  were  a  disappearing  race. However  these
three tribes  are  all  in  existence, with  distinctive  languages  of  their  own
and each in its own habitat.

From the time I came to Phuket 13 years ago I have been  interested
in the Urak  Lawoi'  and  Moken  tribes  and maintained  contact  with  them.
Then four years  ago  my  wife  and  I  began  to  study  their  language  and
culture   so   we   could   communicate   with   them   adequately.  We   have
therefore made a study of the Urak Lawoi' language as being the language
of the largest of these three  tribes  in  Thai  territory  and  the  most  readily
accessible here on Phuket. In the course  of  this  work  we  have  travelled
to most of their localities from Ranong in the north to  Satun  on  the  Malay
border and so have seen something of the Moken and Moklen people as well
as   the   Urak   Lawoi'   people. This  article  will  therefore  concentrate  on
the Urak Lawoi'  people  with  occasional  contrastive  detail  of  the  Moken
and the Moklen.

 

 

 

 

 

206                                               David W. Hogan

 

In general terms these three tribes may be described as animistic
strand  - dwellers, gatherers  rather   than   cultivators,   living   in   a  "face-
to - face" type  of   community. The  Moken   are  sea - faring  nomads, the
Moklen   and   Urak  Lawoi'  live in sea-side villages. The Urak Lawoi' and
the Moklen have lost much of  their  own  distinctive culture  but  have  not
yet been absorbed into the Thai community, so that many  of  them seem
to  be  living  in a  cultural  vacuum. Those  Moken  who  are still  nomads
seem to have retained  their  own culture  to  a  remarkable  extent. Some
who have settled down in Urak Lawoi' villages seem to share the cultural
vacuum of these people to an acute degree.

 

THE NAMES OF THE TRIBES

Much confusion has been caused by the different names that have
been loosely  employed. To  Thai  people  generally  these  tribesfolk  are
all known as Chaaw Thalee (Sea People) or  in some  provinces  Chaaw
Naam (Water People). Those who have become Thai citizens are  known
as Thaj Maj (New Thai). This is a general name  for  any  tribal  man  who
has become a Thai citizen so cannot be used to differentiate between the
tribes. The tribal  people  tend  to  resent  the  name  Chaaw  Thalee  and
especially the name Chaaw Naam but are proud  to  be  called  Thaj  Maj.

Europeans tend to group all these tribes together as Sea  Gypsies,
but strictly speaking this should only be a pplied  to  the  Moken  who  are
the only maritime nomads still wandering in this area.

The Malays call them all Orang Laut (Sea People) but this is a very
general term which  can  cover  anyone  living  by  the  sea  in contrast  to
those living inland.

In Burma  the  Orang  Laut  people  are  unknown. The  Sea  Gypsy
people there are called Selungs with variant spellings Chalomes, Chillones,
Seelongs, Salon, Salones, Selongs and Chelong.

In their own language the Sea Gypsies call  themselves  Moken  or
Moklen (mɔken, mɔklen) according to their dialect. The word  Moken  has
sometimes been  written Mawken. So  far  as  I  know  the  name  Moklen
has not been  mentioned  in  the  literature  before. In  speaking  of  them-
selves to others the Moken often call themselves Bĕsing (Basing). Sopher
(p. 65) refers to this name and its variant Orang Běsin and suggests that

 

 

 

 

 

MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST    207

 

it is connected with clans among the Orang Laut Kappir known as "sinin"
but this seems very doubtful. I have found no  trace  among  the  present-
day Orang Laut of any clans  and  the  word "sinin" is  unknown  to  them.
In any case the word is not just the Orang Laut name for the  Moken  but
their   own   word  which  is  still  frequently  used  today. It  seems  more
probable that it is related to the Burmese word Selung as mispronounced
by   the   Moken,  pre-fixed  by  their  mispronunciation  of  the  Thai  word
"phuak" (group).

In Thai, the Moklen  people  refer  to  themselves  as  Chaaw  Bok
(Coastal People) in contrast to the Chaaw Ko' (Island People), meaning
the Moken.

In their own language the Orang Laut people call themselves Urak
Lawoi' (Sea People) which is their dialect's equivalent  to  the Malay  title
Orang Laut. Therefore they are referred to in this  paper  as  Urak  Lawoi'
to distinguish them from any other people who may  be  included  in  the
general category of Orang Laut.

 

LITERATURE ABOUT THESE TRIBES

Sea   Gypsy   people  have  been  known  and  referred  to  since  the
seventeenth century, frequently  under  the  name  Orang  Selat (People  of
the Straits) or  variations  of  the  title (Saleeters, Celates, Selates, etc)  but
it seems doubtful whether these are necessarily identical with the present-
day   Moken.  They   are   Universally   spoken  of   as  being  wild,  piratical
nomads, subject to no form of government but  wandering  about  robbing,
looting, murdering, taking  slaves. Often  they  would  pay  tribute  to  some
local ruler so as to be allowed to use his coast as a base for their piratical
operations. It was through the help  of  some  of  these  that  the  Parames-
warra, the first ruler of Malacca, is reputed to  have  founded  his  kingdom
and he rewarded them by making them hereditary nobles.

In contrast with this, the present Sea Gypsy and Urak Lawoi' people
are a most unwarlike people, timid and disheartened, subject to authority,
anxious to avoid trouble  of  any  sort.  Possibly  in  a  former  century  they
may have been enlisted by others to man piratical boats but  it  is  hard  to
imagine them as the instigators of such raids themselves.It seems more
probable that the term has been used in a general way to refer to  various

 

 

 

 

 

 208                                              David W. Hogan

 

groups of people without any precision as to who the actual  culprits  were.
One such nest of pirates was in the area around the Straits  of   Singapore,
the Riouw-Lingga Archipelago and the south-east  coast of  Sumatra, from
where   the   term   Orang   Selat  probably   originated. Another  prominent
group were the Buginese from Southern Celebes who had a reputation as
colourful adventurers. It would  appear  more  probable  that  such   people
as these were the "Sea Gypsies" whose depredations played such  havoc
along the coasts of this area.

There has also been confusion because of the failure to realise that
the   Urak   Lawoi'   people   were  a  quite  distinct  group  from  the  Moken.
This is largely because the Urak Lawoi' are only found  in  South  Thailand
between   Phuket   and   the   Malayan  border   and   very little  about  them
appears in the literature.

In "Sea Gypsies of Malaya", W.G. White gives a sympathetic account
of his  experiences  with  the  Moken  in  the  Mergui  Peninsula, their  main
habitat. He   refers  to   four   dialects  of   the   Moken  language,  including
Orang Laut as the dialect spoken on Phuket  Island. In  this  he  seems  to
refer to  Urak  Lawoi', as  a  number  of  Moken  have  settled  at  Rawai  on
Phuket Island and inter-married with the local Urak Lawoi' people.

In "The Spirits of the Yellow  Leaves",  Bernatzik  tells  of  his  visit  to
the  Moken   in  the  Mergui  Archipelago. He  says  that  some  Moken  had
been captured by  Malays, inter-married  with  Malays, Chinese  and  negri-
toes and became Orang Laut or Orang  Lonta (pp. 41-42). No  doubt there
have been intermarriages of this sort, but  the  Urak  Lawoi' language and
culture is so distinct  tha t this  cannot  be  regarded  as  the  origin  of  the
tribe.  Orang   Lonta   is   possibly  a  reference  to  Ko'  Lanta, the  original
home of the tribe.

In   "The  Sea  Nomads", David  E. Sopher  presents  a   study  of  all
maritime boat people of Southeast Asia,based on the literature previously
published. This includes a comprehensive survey  of  the  literature  about
the   Moken   and   Urak  Lawoi'  people  and  has  a  very  full  bibliography.
He  quotes  Annandale  (1903) as  having  met  Orang  Laut  people in  the
vicinity of Trang who had  referred  to  the "Orang  Bĕsin"  from  the  Mergui
Peninsula. Sopher therefore  distinguishes   between  Moken  and   Orang
Laut but assumes the absence   of  recent  information  about   the  Orang

 

 

 

 

 

MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST    209

 

Laut   indicates   that  they  have  virtually  ceased  to  exist (p.346).  Sopher
quotes   a   distinction   between   Orang    Laut   Islam   and   Orang    Laut
Kappir   which  applied  at  the  turn  of  the  century  on  the  islands  at  the
mouth   of   the   Trang   river  (p. 62 f.). Now, there  are  no  Urak  Lawoi'  on
Ko' Mook and Ko'  Lebong  in  that  area  and  most  of  the  inhabitants  are
Thai Moslem and not referred to  as  Orang  Laut.  Possibly  this  reference
includes  Ko'   Lanta   too  where  the  Urak  Lawoi'  are  plentiful  and  quite
distinct   from   the   many   Thai   Islam  there. Most  of  the  Thai  Islam  on
this coast speak  Thai  and  few  know  the  Malay  language, except  a  few
villages in Satun Province and some along the coast near Ranong.

In "Moken  Texts  and  Word-list" (1960), Miss M. Blanche Lewis under-
takes what she calls "armchair research" into  the  language  of  the Moken,
based on various texts in that language which have been published,mainly
"A   Primer   of   the   Selong   Language" (1844) and  "St.  Mark  in  Mawken"
(1913) and   other  work  done  by  the  Rev. Walter  G.  White. In  a  footnote
on  page 41  she  states  that  she  was  informed  there  were  "Moken"  on
Pulau   Adang (Satun   Province)  and   that   the   Headman  of  that   island,
himself  a  "Moken"  said  there  were  only   three  Moken  communities,  at
Pulau Adang, Pulau Lanta and  Pulau  Sireh near  Phuket, and  that  further
north there were the  Besing  whose  language  they  found  hard  to  under-
stand. She did not visit the area herself but from samples of  the  language
collected for her she concluded that the language  of  Pulau  Adang  was  a
dialect of  Malay  and  probably in  process of  disappearing. There  seems
to be some confusion here, probably  caused  by  the  fact  that  the  people
enquiring on Miss Lewis'  behalf  may  have  used  the  Malay  word "Orang
Laut"  as  synonymous  with  "Moken". I  know  Phuujaj Banjong, Headman
of the Ko' Adang group referred to and he  is  proud  to  be  an  Urak  Lawoi'
(Orang  Laut  in  Malay). The  three  settlements  referred  to  by  him  at  Ko'
Adang, Ko' Lanta and Ko'  Sireh, Phuket  are  the  three  major  settlements
of Urak Lawoi' people. If   those  asking  him  had  used  the  word  "Moken"
I am sure he would have identified  them  with  the  Bĕsing  he  referred  to.
When staying in his house on Ko' Lipe in April last, his  son  told  me  how
there was one Moken family living  on  Ko' Adang  and  that  a  Moken  boat
from further north was then there visiting them.

The    publication    "Ethnic    Groups   of   Mainland  South-East Asia"
(1964) groups the Moken and Orang Laut together and describes them

 

 

 

 

 

210                                           David W. Hogan

 

as one group, but distinguishes them in the accompanying map. Based
on this publication, the National Geographic Magazine published a  map
of the "Peoples of Mainland Southeast Asia" (March 1971) but used only
the name "Moken" to cover both the Moken and the Orang  Laut  peoples.
It also followed the "Ethnic Groups" map by showing them as located on
Ko' Terutao and Pulau Langkawi, straddling  the  Thai-Malaysian border.
Ko' Terutao is practically uninhabited and has no Moken  or Urak  Lawoi'
residing on it.Pulau Langkawi has been named as a possible traditional
origin for the Urak  Lawoi'  people (Sopher, p. 67)  but  it  seems definite
that none of them have lived there for many years.

In  the  Journal  for  January  1971, Mr. Christopher Court told  of  a
brief encounter with the Moken and gave a  list  of  words, some of  them
from a Moklen informant referred to by him as Thai Mai, and  some  from
a Moken man,referred to by him as Chao Koh Thae (True Island People).

 

DISTRIBUTION AND POPULATION OF THE TRIBES

The   distribution   of   the   Moken, Moklen  and  Urak  Lawoi'  people
along the west coast of South Thailand is as shown on the accompanying
map.

The native habitat of the Moken  people  is  the  Mergui  Archipelago
in South Burma. Sopher states that their wet season rendezvous is found
on all the large islands from St.  Matthews  in  the  south  to  Tavoy  Island,
with crude  settlements on  the  mainland  at  Bokpyin, Victoria  Point  and
Mergui. Some of these people range down into Thai waters in the  course
of their nomadic wanderings. Their normal range for this seems to be as
far south as Ko' Phra Thong in Amphur Khuraburi  of  Phangnga Province
and out to Ko' Surin and the adjacent islands, 30 miles out in the Andaman
Sea. The   territory  within  which  they  wander  is  indicated  on  the  map
by arrows. Occasionally their  boats  travel  south  as  far  as  Ko'  Phuket,
Ko' Pipi and even Ko' Adang to visit relations there but as this is not  part
of their regular territory it is not shown on the map.

There are small settlements of Moken on Ko' Sin Hai and Ko' Luuk
Plaaj off Ranong and in Urak Lawoi' villages at Rawai on Phuket and  at
Ko' Pipi, Krabi Province. In  both these  two   last  villages  intermarriage
with the Urak Lawoi' has occurred as mentioned   above. Those  on  Ko'

 

 

 

 

 

MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST    211

 

877486

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

212                                             David W. Hogan

 

Pipi are reported  to  make  their base occasionally on Ko' Ngai,  south  of
Ko' Lanta. These Moken  settlements  are  indicated  on  the  map  by  the
Letter "M".

The Moklen tribe live in villages on the islands  adjacent to Ko' Phra
Thong, Amphur Khuraburi, Phangnga Province as  stated  by  Court,  then
in several villages and settlements along the coast from Ban Thung Nam
Dam, Amphur  Takuapa  down  to Ban Lampi, Amphur Thai Myang. There
are also two villages of them at the northern tip of Ko' Phuket  in  Tambon
Tha   Chaatchai,  Amphur  Thalang,  Phuket. The   approximate  extent  of
their settlement is indicated on the map by the letters "ML".

The  Urak  Lawoi'  tribe  live  in  villages  at  Ko'  Sireh,  Rawai   and
Sepum in Phuket Province, on Ko' Pipi, Ko' Pu and four  localities  on  Ko'
Lanta Yai in Krabi Province, and on Ko' Bulon and  the  Ko'  Adang  group
of islands in Satun Province. In the Ko'  Adang  group  they  live  on  three
islands,  Ko'  Adang  itself, Ko' Lipe  and  Ko'  Rawi. These  locations  are
indicated on the map.

It is difficult to be accurate as far as the population  of  these  tribes
is concerned. The nomadic  Moken  people  would  not  be  Thai  citizens,
while those who have settled at Rawai and Ko' Pipi would  not  be  listed
separately from the  Urak  Lawoi'  there. Mr.  Court  estimated  70-110  in
the Ko' Phra Thong—Ko' Surin area. The settlements at Ranong,  Rawai
and Ko' Pipi would probably be between 200 and  300, so  that  the  total
would be between 270 and 400. When the monsoon season sets in, some
of the nomads might settle on the islands near Ranong, but  some may
very well return to Burmese islands for that period.

In the case of Moklen and Urak  Lawoi'  people, as  they  are  now
officially Thai Mai, their figures would be included with  the  other  inhabi-
tants of their respective villages. A rough count  I  made  four  years  ago
showed over 160 households of Moklen, comprising, at  a  conservative
estimate, some 800 people. This figure was incomplete as far as Amphur
Khuraburi was concerned and Court quotes the Palat  Amphur  as  saying
there   were   300  of  them in  that  district. In  view  of  this  I  think  1000
Moklen would be a more reasonable estimate.

Similar estimation for the Urak Lawoi' places their population  as
over 2,000, probably nearer 2,500.

 

 

 

 

 

MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST        213

 

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE TRIBES

In   personality   and   general   cultural  characteristics  there  is  much
similarity between the three groups. Much  of  Sopher's  description  of
the Moken people and their ways (Sopher p. 71ff) can be applied to the
Urak Lawoi' people. They regard themselves as being one people and
inter-marry freely but  yet  recognise  their  tribal  distinctions. Points  of
resemblance are as follows :

        1. Personality characteristics Many of them show timidity and even

 fear,regarding modern civilisation as a hostile environment with which

 they cannot cope. Those who have mixed more with the outside world

 show less of this, yet often display reserve and embarrassment in the

 presnce of people of other cultures. They seem to regard themselves as

 not only poverty-stricken,but also as being quite incapable of bettering

 their position.Basically the majority of them are good-natured and law-

 abiding citizens. Those who  have  employed  them  in  the  tin-mining

 industry speak  highly  of  their  industry and trustworthiness, and they

 display resourcefulness and ingenuity in any problems  connected  with

 the sea.

         2. Marine livelihood : They are all strand-dwellers as  Sopher  says,

 living either on boats or on the beach.The main exception to this seems

 to be some of the Moklen whose settlements are  a  kilometre  or  more

 from the sea. The Urak Lawoi'  however  say  that  they  cannot  sleep  if

 they cannot hear the waves. They are  excellent  swimmers  and  divers,

 with exceptional breath control, willing to work at depths and for periods

 that European experts consider dangerous.They are good boatmen and

 skilled fishermen with an eye for the weather and the ability  to  navigate

 to off-shore islands beyond the horizon.

        3. Gatherers not cultivators : Their   whole   culture   is   based   on   the

 gathering of sea produce, tripang, shellfish, fish, lobsters, coral  and  shells

 of   different   types. The   only   shore   produce   they    normally    gather   is

 Pandannus leaves which they use to make sleeping-mats and a concertina

 type of matting called "kajak" which  is  used  as  tenting  on   their  boats  or

 ashore and was  formerly  used  as  a  sail. The  difference  between  tribes

 is   apparent   here  in  that  the  Moken  adhere  to  this  pattern  of  life  even

 

 

 

 

 

214                                              David W. Hogan

 

when they settle down on shore as a group at Rawai have done, while the
Moklen and Urak Lawoi' have  taken  to  cultivating rice-fields,  coconuts
and other garden produce when they have had the necessary land and
capital. Possibly the Moken would do the same if they had the land and
capital, but the habit of "What you gather in the morning  you  eat  in  the
evening" seems engrained. They clean and smoke for sale the  tripang
that they gather, but do not dry fish to lay by for a lean period,  preferring
to buy dried fish in the market. The result of this  is  that  many  of  them
really feel the pinch if bad weather prevents them putting out to sea for a
while.

       4. Handicrafts and arts : They seem to  have  very  little  handicraft

 except that which is directly  related  to  their  livelihood. Most  of  them

 erect their own houses, of varying standards, but only a  few  display  any

 skill in carpentry. Some are skilled boat-builders, building boats up to 25

 feet long, which they say is the biggest boat that can be propelled by a

 "long-tailed" engine. They make their own  fish-spears, harpoons, and

 fish-traps. There seems to be little indigenous decorative art and even

 their sacred spirit-houses are rather crudely fashioned. They have  no

 dancing of their own, dancing either the Malay "ronggeng" or  the  Thai

 ramwong. The Urak Lawoi' say they have no songs but Thai  or  Malay

 ones. The Moken claim some rather simple songs as   indigenous  to

 them.

        5. Liquor and drugs : In Burmese waters and possibly down as far

 as Ranong, many of the Moken used to  be  addicted  to  opium. I  have

 found no trace of it   among  either  group  although  many of  them  are

 addicted to liquor, that is to say to the cheap local spirits as they do not

 brew any of their own.

CONTRASTING DWELLINGS

The Moken people who still live in  their  boats  make   these  boats
their home as described by White and Bernatzik,and more recently Court.
They spend most of the time wandering around in these boats  in search
of food, with the towkay (Chinese entrepreneur) who has advanced them
goods acting as  the  focal  point  for  their  wanderings. They  only  come
ashore when the monsoon season compels it and then live in poor  huts
near the beach until the monsoon clears. While living there  they  engage

 

 

 

 

 

MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST    215

 

in gathering sea-produce and work on their boats. Sopher refers to some
of them in Burmese territory as having gardens in this  period  but  I  have
not seen any but the most elementary types of these in Thai territory.

In contrast  the Urak Lawoi' people  are  strand - dwellers,  normally
living   in   houses   near   the    beach. They  often  travel  away  from  their
village on expeditions to gather shells or other sea-produce and may stay
away   for  several  days,  sleeping  either  in   their  boats  or  under  kajak
shelters  on  the  shore. This however is only  temporary  and   they  return
to their home when  the  expedition  is  over. Sometimes  a   considerable
number  from  a  village  will  move  to  a  more  favourable  location  for  a
period to gather tripang, when they will  erect  a  little  village  on   the  new
site, and then later return to their original village.

 

CUSTOMS AND RELIGION

The Moken do not appear to have any distinctive ceremonies apart
from   those  connected   with   their "lobong", two  square  poles, crudely
carved,  which  their  shaman  invites  the  spirits  to  inhabit.  Associated
with  this  is  a  little  spirit-house. The  group  at Rawai had two poles  of
this  type  when  I  first  met  them 13 years ago, but these have gradually
rotted  away  until  now  there  is  only  the  stump  of  one  pole  left. They
have not replaced  this  as  they  say  they  have  no  shaman  who  could
perform the  necessary  ceremony. They  have  however  erected  a  new
spirit-house  in  the  last  few  years  alongside the original one, which is
still  intact. A  number  of  informants  stated  that  they  prayed  every day,
but I have not been able to confirm this, although  I  have  seen  a  group
of   them  having   a  drinking  party  beside  the  spirit-house  apparently
communing with the spirits of the deceased.

The Urak Lawoi' have many customs and religious practices which
parallel   those  of   Malay  folk-religion, but   with   practically   no  trace  of
Islam  evident. Weddings  are  celebrated  in  a  simple  way  with  a party
of   the   bridegroom's   friends  bringing  three  gifts  to  the  bridal  house,
including   a   complete    betel-nut   tray   and   gifts  of   money. The  party
parades around the house three times before presenting the gifts  to  the
bride's   relations.  The  wedding   is  then  celebrated  with  drinking  and
dancing.

 

 

 

 

 

216                                          David W. Hogan

 

In dealing with sickness and misfortune  shamanism  and  related
practices  are  sometimes  invoked but the Health Clinic  and the  Govern-
ment  Hospital  are  becoming increasingly popular. One shaman claims
to  have  travelled  many  miles  to assist  in curing  the  mentally  afflicted
but sought regular  medicine  for  the care of his own conjunctivitis. There
does not appear to be any overriding fear of the spirits such as is evident
in  some  cultures  and they seem to observe little in the way of taboos or
fetishes.

Urak Lawoi' houses do not have spirit shelves or spirit houses but
instead  have  one  spirit house for the village, which they call the "rumah
dato' " (house  of  the  tutelary  spirit) or "balai dato' " (court  of the tutelary
spirit). These  spirit  houses  seem  to incorporate decorative features of
both  Thai  and  Chinese cultures. It appears the people only  worship at
these spirit-houses during the spirit festivals described below,or at other
times  as  required  by  the shaman. They  are called " kramai' " (place of
supernatural power) as are certain capes and other places regarded as
being sacred.

Twice a year, in the sixth month and  the  eleventh  month  by  Thai
reckoning, they have a spirit  festival  which  lasts  for  two  or  three  days.
This varies from place to place, according  to the "bumol" or  witchdoctor
in the village, and in many places seems to have  practically  died  out. It
is  still  kept  up  at  Ko' Sireh and many come from as far as Ko' Lanta to
attend  the  festival. At Ko' Sireh  they  first  make  a  boat, about  five  feet
long,  principally   of   "kumal " ( the  zalacca  palm, maj  rakam  in  Thai ).
Every house in the village places in this boat crudely shaped "dolls" made of
wood, one for each member of the household.With this are placed other
objects  such  as  small  red  peppers, fish  paste,  cakes,  candles, nail
parings and hair clippings. The children rub puffed rice on  their  bodies
and put it  in  the  boat  to  take  away  their  bad  luck. On  the  fourteenth
day of the lunar month,this boat is taken out to sea and released to take
away the 'bad luck' of all the villagers. The day is then  spent  in drinking
and dancing on a platform in the  centre  of  the  village. This  part of  the
festival is called "hari bĕlajak" (meaning uncertain).

Then on the fifteenth day of the month in the morning  they  gather
wood from the jungle and make seven wooden crosses which are left on

 

 

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the beach at  one end  of  the  village. After  drinking  and  dancing  all  day,
a party goes along the beach late in the afternoon and brings the crosses
to  the  village  where  they  are  planted  at  intervals  along  the  beach   to
prevent the bad luck, which has been sent away in the boat, from  coming
back  to  trouble  them. This  part  of  the  festival  is  called "hari  pahadak"
(day of protection) and  the  crosses  are  called  "kayu  pahadak" or "kayu
hadak" (the  wood  that  protects).  The   drinking   and   dancing   is   then
continued until funds are exhausted.

Enquiries in various centres have failed  to  produce  any   coherent
account of the origin of this festival or how long it has been practised,  but
apparently it has been done as long as any of them can  remember. They
are very insistent that it cannot be abandoned as they say that their whole
existence as"Sea People" depends on its continuance.No-one has  been
able to tell me how long the use  of  crosses  has  been  included  in   the
festival and it is interesting to speculate  as  to  whether  it  is   something
they have borrowed from a Christian source.

The festival as practised in  Ko'  Sireh  involves  a  fair  expenditure
of   money. Most  of  this  is  obtained  by  requesting  various  employers
and  other  benefactors  for  a donation. Sufficient  is raised in this way to
purchase  all  the  necessary drink, and  to  hire  a  generator, lights  and
amplifier. Everyone in  the  village puts on new clothes for   the  occasion
and  the  children  all  get  a  new  toy. The  last  few  years  all   the  older
girls  and  young  unmarried  women  turned  out for  the  occasion   in  a
uniform   type   of  blue  mini-skirt, quite  a  departure  from   their  normal
sarongs. Apparently these were produced by a local  dressmaker   on  a
pattern similar to that used for ramwong girls.

I have not been able to observe a funeral ceremony but understand
that  burial  is  carried  out  the  same  or  the  next day as the death. The
burial ground is at a point near the village, where  the  dead  are  buried
with a stake or stone at head and feet. A  canopy  of  corrugated  iron  or
kajak is put over  the  grave  to  protect  it  from  the  rain. The  Headman
of Ko' Adang has told me that the people in  that  island  group  used  to
bury their dead in caves. I have  had  no  opportunity  of  finding  out   the
normal Moken practice but those  living  at  Rawai  bury  their  dead   the
same as the Urak Lawoi' do

 

 

 

 

 

218                                              David W. Hogan

 

They do not seem to have any highly developed ideas concerning
such issues as  the  location  or  state of the soul after death, or the exis-
tence of 'heaven' or 'hell' which appear to be concepts unknown to them.
However, if a member of the  family  is  sick they may make a vow to  the
spirit  of  a  dead  ancestor with  a view to obtaining a cure. If  the patient
recovers they then carry out the vow as by making a trip to the  cemetery
and presenting some food and spirits at the grave of   the ancestor  con-
cerned. Speeches are made to him praising him  for   his  help  and  all
present drink in fellowship with him.

 

LEGENDS AND ORIGIN

Few people amongst either the Moken or Urak Lawoi'  appear  to
have detailed knowledge of the ancient legends of their people. All that
most of them know is that "Tuhat bĕsar  de'  atas" (Great God above) is
God  over  all, and  the  Creator,  that  "Adap"  and  "Hawa"  (Adam   and
Eve)were the first man and woman who ate some forbidden fruit which
poisoned   them. In   addition   most  older  Urak  Lawoi'  know  that  Ko'
Lanta  is  the  original  home  of their tribe. It is hard to find anyone who
knows more than this. The Moken at Rawai tell me that there is  an  old
Moken man on an island off Victoria Point, called Kaseh, who is skilled
in telling legends  and  stories  and  singing  their  songs. "He  can  tell
stories for three days and nights without stopping",several of them have
assured me. As this is in Burmese waters I am unable to follow up this
lead. Several times the Urak Lawoi' have told me of an old man  who is
skilled in the old stories, but when I have asked where 1 can find him,it
is usual to find that he died some years ago!

When  visiting  Ko' Adang  in  April this year I met Risi',an old man
of 87 and Napet who must be between sixty and seventy years old.They
told me there was an older man, Hitap, on the adjoining island  who  knew
the   old   legends   but  I  was  not  able  to  visit  him. Risi' said  that  his
grandfather had been a Buginese who had come with a group of Buginese
who travelled up the coast as far as Ranong and back. Some members
of the group had settled in various places along the coast and  his  grandfa-
ther had settled on Adang and apparently married  into the  Urak  Lawoi'.
Napet supplied in an aside the fact that the Buginese  trip had been  for

 

 

 

 

 

MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST                219

 

piratical   purposes. Risi'  said  they  travelled  in  a  kind  of  boat  called  a
"jukok"    which    was  "sharp   like   a   duck".  The  Malay  dictionary  gives
one  meaning  of  "jongkong" as a  short  beamy boat, so no doubt he was
describing  the  Buginese type of  boat  from  Southern  Celebes  which  is
broad-beamed for its length and could be regarded as shaped like a duck.
He  gave  the  origin  of  the  tribe  as  Ko'  Lanta, but  said "sĕmiya  duhulu"
(the men of old) came from the mountain Gunung  Jerai (Kedah  Peak  on
the  coast  of  Kedah  north of Penang). He said that was a long while ago,
then   they "bĕrpĕchah  hanyoi' " which  means  either   they  "drifted  apart"
or "floated apart". Some settled in  the  forest  of  Kedah, some  settled  at
Baw   Jet Luuk (in  Amphur  Langu, Satun  Province), some  settled  at  Ko'
Lanta. He said the  reason  they  dispersed  like  this  was  because  they
were a  fearful  people  and  fled from  opposition  and  trouble  they  were
experiencing.

Napet   then  supplemented  this  with  the  story  of  "Nabi  Noh"  (the
prophet  Noah).  He  said   Noh  was  a  servant  of  God  who  dwelt   above,
not   on   earth   nor   yet   in  the  sky, but in  the  middle. He  would  fly  back-
wards  and  forwards  on  God's business. God sent him to ask men if they
would submit to him, but men did not like to do  this  as  Noh  was  covered
with  skin-disease  which  made him  dirty, smelly  and  ugly. The men said
they  would  not  submit  to  God  or  to  Noh, so  Noh  cursed   them. So  the
men  moved  their  houses  right   away  (from  where  was not  stated)  and
came  down (came  ashore) at Mount Jerai. Some  entered  the  jungle and
became jungle men, some became monkeys (of two different kinds) some
became squirrels, and some became the Urak Lawoi', the Men of  the  Sea.

When asked further, Napet said that Noh was the last prophet  of
the Urak Lawoi' people and he knew no  stories  of  any  later   prophets,
which makes it doubtful  whether  he obtained  this story  from  Moslem
sources. It  certainly  does  not  seem  to  owe  anything  to  the  Biblical
accoun t of  Noah. He said that  Nabi  Noh  was the prophet of the Urak
Lawoi' people, the one who  watched over them, but  I  have  not  heard
him  mentioned  elsewhere. It  is  interesting  to note that Evans (1937)
quotes Schebesta as saying that some of the Kintak Bong group of  the
Semang tribes of Northern Malaya believe they originally came from the
west near  Mt. Jera i and  were  originally  one  tribe  with  the  adjoining

 

 

 

 

 

220                                              David W. Hogan

 

Kensiu group of Semang. The Kensiu in turn have a story that they once
lived on an island in the west.

The only other  origin  legend  we  have  had  is  from  Nai  Mae, the
leading Urak Lawoi'  man  of  Rawai  village, Phuket  Province. Nai  Mae's
old father, now deceased, was one of the old leaders of the village and is
said to have known all the  old  stories. In  discussing  the  origins  of  the
tribe with Nai Mae, in Thai, he  told  the  following  story  which  he  claims
is a "true legend", "it actually happened".

"Many long years ago a wonderful teacher came  from   God   with
the book of God. He  had  twelve  disciples  whom  he  taught  all  about
God and how to read the  book, so they could  teach  others. When  they
had finished studying, the twelve disciples went  in a boat with the book
to  take  it  to  others. A  big  storm  came  up  and the boat sank and the
twelve disciples were all drowned and the book was lost.

"Seven years and seven days later a Thai boy was by the sea-shore
when he saw something had been washed up by the waves. When  he
went and looked he found it was one of the twelve disciples who had been
washed up from the sea. He was all covered with shells and barnacles
and sea-growth from his time in the sea, but was still alive. His  tongue
was stiff however  and  at  first  he  could  not  speak  at  all. Some  Thai
people took him to live in a Thai temple where they  tried  to   teach  him
Buddhism and how to till a ricefield. However he could  not  learn  these
things and could not speak Thai but just wanted to get  back  to the  sea-
shore.So the Thai people looked down on him and would not  help  him
any more. Then some Malay people took him  to  the mosque and  tried
to teach him Malay  and  the Islam  religion  and  ways. Again  he  could
not learn these things  and  could not live away from  the  sea-shore, so
they would not help him any more.

"So he went back to live on the sea-shore and resolved to be  an
Urak Lawoi' (a Man of the Sea) and that was the start of the Urak Lawoi'
tribe. That is why the Urak Lawoi' do not  like  being  dominated  by  the
Thai people. They submit to it  but  they  do  not  like  it.  But  if  the  Thai
teacher hits their child in school, they take the child  away  from  school
so he can live as a true Urak Lawoi'."

 

 

 

 

 

MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST  221

 

Unfortunately I did not take  this  story  down  on  the  tape-recorder
and when subsequently I  have asked  Nai  Mae  if  he  would  repeat  the
story   in  his  language  he  has  always  excused  himself. This  may  be
because he has to be in the mood to tell a story, or because he is embar-
rassed at having passed on a treasured story. On the other hand he may
have made the story up as he went  along  and  be  afraid  to  repeat  it  in
case his facts did not agree. No-one else has told us a story resembling
this, and it has notable resemblances to stories common among  others
such as the Karen people.

On the basis of this, it would seem that the  tribe  comes  from  the
locality   of  Ko'  Lanta  with  considerable  admixture  from  intermarriage
with  Malays,  Thai,  Chinese  and  some  Buginese. The  ultimate  origin,
however, may have been in the locality of Mount Jerai in North Malaya.

 

TYPES OF BOAT

The Moken who have retained their nomadic habits continue to  use
the  distinctive   type   of   boat   described   by   White   and   Bernatzik,  the
"Kabang". The   basis   of   this  boat  is  a  tree - trunk  hollowed  out   and
spread out in the middle until it  is  very  wide  and  almost  flat, but   rising
to  a  peak  at  the  ends.  A large U-shaped cut is made in the front of   the
bow and the back of the stern to provide a step for climbing  into  the  boat
from the water. The sides are built up  with  lengths  of  the  zalacca  palm,
held between light uprights notched into  the  edge of  the hull at  intervals,
and lashed down tight with jungle withes. A length of bamboo  is inserted
between the lengths of zalacca palm at deck  level, and  then  the  zalacca
lengths continue for  a  short  distance  above  that  to  provide  a  bulwark.
They say that when the zalacca palm becomes wet  it  swells  up  and  so
seals itself without the need for  any  damar  or  caulking. However  it  has
the disadvantage that it only lasts about six  months  before  it  has  to  be
renewed. This makes a very light and  seaworthy  boat  which  the  Moken
build from jungle produce with an absolute minimum of tools.

These kabangs are decked with split bamboos or similar decking on
which the family lives, using the space  beneath  for  storage  or  refuse
disposal, as White says. There is a notched upright a little way from the
bow and another one aft of midships  to  carry  the  pole  for  their  kajak

 

 

 

 

 

 222                                         David W. Hogan

 

roofing. This makes a  flexible  cover  which  can  quickly  be  removed  or
renewed as necessary. In one case the after upright  was  carved  for  the
full length visible, but the owner of the boat said that  this had  no  special
significance. Court says he has seen one of their boats with a long-tailed
engine, but those I have seen used sails or paddles.

The Urak Lawoi' and the Moken  who  have  settled  with  them  use
boats similar to the Malay people of this area,  with  a  regular  framework
and plank sides.There is a spade-shaped piece of wood projecting up at
stem and stern, called a "boya" (Malay "buaya" = stem  and stern  pieces).
The boats may be  painted  or  oiled  but  are  not  normally  decorated  or
garlanded.   They   usually   put  a  light  decking  of  split  bamboo  at  the
level of the thwarts  and  put  their  goods  or  catch  below  while  they  sit
cross-legged on top, unless they are rowing. I have seen  no  boats  with
sails but they say that they used to use sails made out of  the  kajak  mat-
ting  referred  to  above, or  canvas. Most  of  the  larger  boats  nowadays
use a "long-tailed" outboard engine for propulsion.

The Moken kabangs have forked sticks rising above their bulwarks
fore  and  aft  to  provide  a  cradle  for  laying masts, poles, oars, etc. The
Urak  Lawoi'  boats  often  use  a  similar  device  if   they  are  going on a
longer trip. They also make splash-boards  of  attap  which  extend  from
near the middle of the boat to near the stern  so  as  to  protect  the  occu-
pants and  goods  from  spray.  If  they  are  sleeping  out  in  the  boat  at
night this provides the walls on which  they  stretch  a  section  of  "kajak"
to make a cover for the night.

I have checked with some of the older men for recollections of the
type of boat used by Orang Laut Kappir as quoted from  Annandale  and
Smyth by Sopher (pp. 190-192). They  cannot  recall  seeing  one  of  the
type sketched by Smyth with a raised stern, but agreed that in the  olden
days they used dugout boats with sides made of the zalacca palm as do
the Moken, but without the raised bow and stern with  the  step  cut  in  it.
From the age of two of the men I discussed this with I would judge  that
these boats were still plentiful sixty years ago,  but  more  or  less  went
out of fashion about 40 years ago.

 

 

 

 

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MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST    223

 

ACCULTURATION

As far as the Moken are concerned  the  only  place  where  I  have
been able to observe them in detail is at Rawai, where they live as "poor
relations"  of   the   Urak   Lawoi'. Their  houses   are   poorer   and   their
surroundings very dirty. Few of them have an engine  for  their  boat  and
those there  are  are  very  dilapidated. Very  few  of  their  children  go  to
school as they just cannot afford the small expense involved.

For both Moken and  Urak  Lawoi'  the  main  handicap  to progress
lies  in  their  view  of  themselves  as  "Urak  haja' " which  may  be   trans-
lated    as   "  poverty  -  stricken   people  ". They   are   certainly  extremely
poor   but   it  is  unfortunate  that  they  regard  this  as  inevitable. The old
Thai viewpoint was to  regard  them  as  "prĕt",  those  living  in  a  state of
punishment  or   suffering  on  account  of  sins  committed  in  a previous
existence and so incapable of improving their lot. This view of themselves
seems to have sunk deep in their souls. When in  October  the  Buddhists
go to the temple to make merit for the  souls  of  the  departed, the  Moken,
Moklen and Urak Lawoi' go  to  line  up  at  the  temple  as  beggars  do  to
receive a handout. Now  they  are  Thai  Mai,  some  are  embarrassed  at
this and prefer to  go  to  a  temple  in  an  adjoining  province  where  they
won't be recognised. Others take toy blowpipes and bangles  made  from
tortoise-shell to sell but receive charity with the others.

The extent to which the  Urak  Lawoi'  have  adapted  themselves to
the   Thai   culture   varies   from  village   to  village. For  instance, here on
Phuke t we  have  the  three  villages  of   Ko' Sireh, Rawai and Sepum.Ko'
Sireh is quite handy to the town of Phuket and has  made  most  progress.
There has been a school there for about 30 years and most of the children
are   now   enrolled   there,  although  all  are  not  regular  students. Many
of the men are in regular employment  at  one  of  the  tin  companies, the
council quarries or on fishing boats. Quite  a  percentage  of  the  houses
are better  constructed  with  mill  timber  and  corrugated  iron, and  have
fitted   windows  and   doors.  Some  of   the  houses   are   painted.  Little
fishing for sale is done by the villagers as the sea  in  front  of  the  village
has been  fished  out  by  commercial  fishing  boats. A  few  families  are
engaged on  gathering  shellfish  for  the  Phuket  market, often  travelling
twenty miles on  their  gathering  expeditions. The  ground  on  which  the

 

 

 

 

 


224                                           David W. Hogan

 

village is located is a barren spit of sand with mangrove swamps behind
and a mudflat in front  and  is  owned  by  the  local  towkay. The  villagers
have no gardens and no rice-fields. A few years  ago some  people  tried
growing hill-rice but later decided that they lacked  the  necessary  capital
and,  furthermore, that  it  was  not  practical  if  they  were  to  continue  to
make the sea their source of livelihood. On the whole  the  village  has  a
good spirit and seems mildly prosperous.

Rawai is at  the  southern  tip  of  the  island, about  16  kilometres
from Phuket. There  has  been  a  schoo l there  for  about  12  years  but
the percentage of children attending  is  much  smaller  and  adults  who
can    read    are    comparatively    scarce.  There   is   little   employment
available   locally   and   few  have  regular  jobs. The  Moken  end  of  the
village is desperately poor and many in the Urak Lawoi'  end  seem  little
better   off.   Only  a  few  have  houses  of  a  better  type  of  construction.
Many  of  the  villagers  go  fishing among  the islands off  Rawai, selling
some locally and  some  to  agents  from the Phuket market. Shellfish is
collected   for  their  own  consumption  rather  than  for  sale. One of  the
villagers has a prosperous business as a middleman for the sale of shells,
corals,  sea  growths, and   more   recently   tropical   fish. The  village  is
situated  in  a  coconut  plantation belonging  to a  local   towkay, but  the
villagers claim that they  were  living  there  first.  Some  years  ago   they
were given the island of Ko' Bon, just across from Rawai, so  they could
move there, but they preferred  the  convenience  of  staying  on   Phuket
Island.  A   few   families  have  gardens  on  Ko'  Bon,  growing   hill-rice,
coconuts, bananas, etc.

The village of Sepum is  seven  kilometres  north  of  Phuket  town,
located on an  unattractive  piece  of  mudflat  which  is  often  flooded  at
high-tide. The villagers seem depressed and dejected and most of their
houses are very crude. No one in this village is  in  regular  employment
and  none  of  the  thirty  children  go  to  school.  Most  of  the  income  is
derived from gathering shellfish and from making "kajak" roofing at which
they work very hard  for  a  small  return.  Their  houses  are  surrounded
by rubbish and shell middens. None own gardens or land and only  one
person seems to be at all prosperous.

On the island of Ko' Lanta Yai, the Urak Lawoi'  have  two  villages
near Sala Dan at the north of  the  island.  Here  the  people  have  been

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MEN OF THE SEA : COASTAL TRIBES OF SOUTH THAILAND'S WEST COAST              225

 

given good-sized blocks of land and many have settled  down  to  build
comfortable little farms with their own wet-rice fields and coconut trees
etc. My one  brief  visit  there  suggests  that  they  are  more  integrated
with the local Thai community than any  other  Urak  Lawoi'  community.
Two other settlements near the south of the island have not received so
much land and do not seem so well integrated.

The third major settlement of Urak Lawoi' is  found  in  the Adang
group, 80 kilometres west of Satun. Under the sponsorship of a former
governor of Satun  Province,  Adang  Island  was  given  to  the  tribe  for
their use and there are little settlements of  them  all  round  the  island.
Most of the 500 inhabitants of the group live on  the  adjoining  Ko'  Lipe
however, and others live on Ko' Rawi. This group is quite isolated from
normal Thai life, their main contacts being the  handful  of  traders  who
have settled on Ko'Lipe and the fishing craft from Satun on which many
of them  work.  They   have  more  contact   with  Malaya  than  the  other
Urak Lawoi' settlements so that many of them speak Malay as  well  as
their own dialect and they tend  to  mix  Malay  words  in  with  their  own
dialect.My visits there have been too brief for me to be able to comment
on the degree of acculturation but it seems that the community is thriving
because they own their  own  land  and  are  able  to  find  remunerative
employment on the fishing craft.

Also in Satun Province there  is  a  small  group  of  perhaps  forty
people  living  on  Ko'  Bulon  opposite  Pak  Para  in  Langu  District.  In
Krabi Province there is another village situated on Ko' Pipi, which I have
not yet visited.

Among the children who are enrolled in schools the rate of absen-
teeism is very high. There are several contributing factors. Apart  from  a
normal disinclination to study, many of the parents are not convinced  of
the necessity of schooling and do  not  compel  the  children  to  go.  The
children are frequently embarrassed before their schoolmates by the lack
of good clothing and because  they  lack  money  to  buy  food  at  school.
This  applies  to   the  Moklen  people  too  and  an  experiment  is  being
conducted in Thai Myang Amphur with a small school  for  triba l children
only. Of those who have been  through  school  few  are  able to maintain
their reading as very few have books in their homes.

 


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