PHOTO ESSAYS: THE URAK LAWOI
In the face of an explosive tourism industry, powerful economic interests and globalization of the market economy, the sustainability of natural and cultural resources of Thailand's Adang Archipelago is increasingly threatened by resource exploitation, rapid development and cultural disintegration. Today, the Urak Lawoi’, a historically semi-nomadic sea gypsy culture living in the archipelago since 1910, find themselves in the center of a defining cultural moment as they adapt to the changing socioeconomic and political landscape within the archipelago.
The Urak Lawoi’ are one of Thailand’s minority people and are socially and culturally distinct from dominant ethnic groups. Together with Thailand's government and private industry, the Urak Lawoi' struggle to implement rules and policies that regulate sustainable development patterns in the archipelago. The preservation of the Urak Lawoi's rich history, traditional ways of life, and valuable local knowledge could be irrevocably lost as competition increases among various stakeholders within the archipelago for quick profits from the top export industries, namely, tourism and fishing.