Sop Moei Arts is a non-profit organization which has been working with the Pwo Karen in Sop Moei district of Mae Hong Son Province, Thailand for the last 30 years.  Beginning as a public health project financed by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) in 1977, Sop Moei Arts now operates income-generating initiatives such as textile weaving and basket making amongst several villages in this area. 

The aim of Sop Moei Arts is to provide income generation for a people who have long faced problems such as poverty and malnutrition.  Living in the remoter parts of the highlands, the Pwo are currently facing great changes as roads begin to link their villages to lowland towns.  Contact with the outside world has introduced new problems and challenges, as well as new possibilities and opportunities.  While many changes are positive, such as increased access to hospitals and schools, the Pwo often face discrimination in the labour market due to their ethnic identity, poor fluency in the Thai language and lack of education.

By employing skills such as weaving and basket-making at which they already excel, Pwo villagers are able to make an income which can make a real difference in their lives.  Sop Moei Arts operates together with local villagers to ensure that their products are marketed on terms that are beneficial to them while at the same time keeping alive traditional skills which are fast disappearing.  The result, 30 years later, are two self-sufficient shops, one in Chiang Mai and one in Bangkok which continue to support the Pwo in the villages of Sop Moei District.

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Photo: Jesper Haynes
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