Friendly barter: Northern rice for southern salted fish

IN a sign of changing times Karens living on the hills in northern Thailand sent seven tons to rice to the Sea Gypsies living in Phuket’s Rawai village who in turn sent them a ton of salted fish with the northerners saying this transaction is to help the southerners and not focus on the value, PostToday reported today (25.4.2020).

Some Karens who had collected rice from the villagers living on various hills in Mae Hong Son,  Chiang Mai and Tak today loaded the seven tons of rice on pick-up trucks to be sent to Phuket’s  Sea Gypsies with this expected to reach them on Monday, April 27.

Before sending off the rice the Karens had performed a ceremony to thank the rice deity and ask for protection of the consignment so that it reaches the Sea Gypsies safely.

Mr Suwichan Phatthana Praiwan, one of the team who had collected the rice, said Karens believe rice is more important than money and they also believe that even when rice is sent elsewhere, the rice deity has to remain with them and that is why the ceremony was performed.

Mr  Somsak Senapornphrai thanked the Karens for every grain of rice and said it will be distributed among Sea Gypsies in many areas.

This rice will be the bond of friendship between the Sea Gypsies and the Karens, he added.

Mr Sanid Saesua, a Sea Gypsy living in Rawai, said he is happy to eat the rice from north with his people having prepared over 1,000 kilogrammes of dried fish to be sent to the Karens.

Aside from distributing the rice to the Sea Gypsies in Rawai, some will be sent to those living in other areas especially on the islands, such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe, Koh Lao, Koh Chang, Koh Surin and Koh Lanta, who are facing hardship

“We Sea Gypsies got together to fish and caught a lot of it, many tons, big fish were sold fresh but we salted the thin-skinned fish.

“We were thinking about how we are to live in future if we do not use money, but in the past our ancestors did not use money, especially when they traveled, wherever they went they took fish to exchange for rice, vegetables and fruit,” he added.

Miss Pornsuda Pramongkid, a Sea Gypsy living on Koh Phi Phi, said her people on Laem Thong Beach heard about the rice through their network and transported it back to the island by sea with both sides meeting half way because the emergency decree in both provinces forbids inter-provincial travel.

Once back on the island 10 kilogrammes of rice was distributed to each of the 38 families of Sea Gypsies living on this island.


Top: Karens performing a ceremony in Chiang Mai before sending the rice to the Sea Gypsies in Phuket.

Below: A rocky coastal stretch near Rawai village in Phuket. Photos: PostToday


TNR staff
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