02/12/2008, 00.00
THAILAND

A new community is born from the tsunami

by Weena Kowitwanij
The story of how fishermen who have lost their homes have invented a new way of building houses, and rediscovered human solidarity.

Phang-Nga (AsiaNews) - After the tsunami in 2004 in Ban Nam Khem, in the province of Phang-Nga, the Thai government, with international aid, has built new homes for only 700 of the 2,000 families of the fisherman.  But many have rejected them because they are far away from the sea, their only source of income.

"So those who have lost their homes", recounts Jira Chummalee, the wife of a fisherman, "and did not want one of the new ones because it was far away from the sea have proposed to the government the purchase, with international aid, of a bit of land near the sea".  There, 50 families have built new homes by themselves. Prachuck Krichongreug, the group's leader, recounts that "the government has provided us a volunteer architect to guide us with the construction process".

"We built up our own community according to our own plan, with a central area for parking, a playground and a ‘recreation centre’ where everyone comes to join together". The new community is called 'Suktawesapmangkong', "from 'suktawe', meaning 'happier', and 'sapmangkong', which signifies the security from saving something of what you earn", explains Sakda Pornrangsri . "We were able to build the houses", he continues, "without having to take out a loan with high interest.  Someone does the cooking for all, and even the children participate during the weekend". "Still today, at the group home, we take turns doing the cooking for each other.  When we return from the sea, we distribute what we did not sell to our neighbour". "Some", Prachuck says, "say we are stupid not to stay in the houses provided by the government. But we are very proud that we have not only built our own homes, but we are building a close-knit community".

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