The Moken sea gypsies or Chao Lay, as the Thais call them, are a nomadic tribe of people who travel and live among the islands of the Mergui Archipelago. They have settled on the southern tip of this range, on the Surin islands and islands off Ranong and Krabi. The Moken originate from Indonesia.
"Moken gypsies left alone without help," screamed the headlines of the Bangkok Post, explaining that the Moken community in Ranong had survived the tsunami, but many were starving and sick. Reminded by the adage "Compassion cannot pass by a needy situation without doing anything about it," we set out to see how we could help and make a difference for these folks.
Calling on several of our sponsors, we were able to produce a humanitarian food shipment and to travel the 700 kilometers to deliver it to the Moken. Arriving, we located a boatman who would take us to the Lao Island to bring these goods to this needy community.
The familiar sight of Moken houses on stilts, built of bamboo and caryota palms above the sea floor, greeted us as we approached the island 20 minutes later. Disembarking, we found the little dark-skinned Moken children playing on the wrecks of boats being repaired on the beach. We were able to eventually get word out that we wanted to meet the headman of the village and then distribute goods to everyone. This was to avoid the mayhem we often encounter in such villages when everyone tries to grab what they can for themselves.
Soon, men, women and children carried the goods from our boat in an orderly fashion. Then they all stood and waited for each other. We took time with them to find out more about them, sharing some words of hope, encouragement and a prayer for God's blessing and help in their lives.
They chorused together "Amorn" ("Thank you" in Moken lingo) when we took a picture before parting ways.