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Anukul Sangtongchai shows off the open-frame design of the centre

Phuket Sea Gypsies Win Cultural Centre, Museum

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
A STRIKING museum and culture centre has won approval and funding and will be built at the sea gypsy village on Koh Sireh, near Phuket City.

The Governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-nob, signed over the two million baht budget yesterday. Building materials are on order and erection will begin on September 30.

It's expected to take 100 days to build. In charge of construction will be the Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning.

Celebrating the traditions and the nomadic way of life of the Au Luk Au Woi people, the unusual building reflects the character of sea gypsies.

Mostly timber, the building allows sunshine to enter to reduce the need for other lighting.

Presentation of the radical design for the project was made by Anukul Sangtongchai, chief of the department.

A visit to the Koh Sireh sea gypsy village is expected to become increasingly popular with tourists. Sea gypsies along the Andaman coast have led a nomadic existence.

Awareness of changes in the sea led villagers at Koh Sireh to flee before the 2004 tsunami swept in, destroying and damaging many homes.

Elsewhere along the coast, sea gypsies were not so fortunate. Many survivors faced the decision of whether to return to their isolated existence on outlying islands, or settle for a safer life on the mainland.

Anthropologists feared that those who opted to live on the mainland could rapidly lose their traditional ways.

However, one village of sea gypsies now on the mainland at Kuraburi has prospered with better access to education for children and health care, and a say for the first time in local politics and decision-making.

This village has also established its own cultural centre and museum, where leaders hope to preserve their language and traditions by continuing to teach their young.

Thai citizenship has been slow in coming, but over the past few years increasing numbers of sea gypsies have finally been given the opportunity to become Thais.

The new museum and cultural centre at Koh Sireh will spread across four rai at Laem Tuk Kew, near a stand of rebuilt homes erected after the tsunami by the Royal Thai Navy.

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I'll be checking this one out!

Posted by LivinLOS on September 23, 2009 20:11


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