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Moken Against Plastic

Hook Suriyan Katale inspecting a “Bamboo Island”

Hook Suriyan Katale inspecting a “Bamboo Island”


There is only one ocean, and we are all dependent on it.

The main objective of Project Moken is to ensure that the Moken Culture and Legacy are recognized, and becomes a leading force in the development of The Mergui Archipelago – their home, and that their vast knowledge of the ocean is shared with the world.

In 2016 we will have two boats sailing under the “Project MAP” banner; in the Norwegian Fjords and The Mergui Archipelago. The crew on these vessels will be Moken marine experts and marine researchers and biologists from Norway and Myanmar, who will collect and document the impact of marine debris/waste on both sides of the globe: The Norwegian fjords and the coral reefs in the Andaman Sea.

Project Moken will produce and distribute films along the way, and thus generate focus and debate on the topic of marine debris and sustainable management of the sea. What we are looking for now is the funding of the development phase of getting the Moken back out to sea, so they can use their original knowledge to this important task in our modern world.

The Moken shall be a continuous voice in the democratization and environmental debate in Myanmar, Norway, and internationally. Funds to Project Moken will ensure that the Moken’s essential messages are seen and heard where it is needed most.


The Longtail Catamaran Vanja


MAP – Moken against Plastic; Project MAP is the basis for Project Moken further initiatives. In cooperation with local marine business interests in Norway and Myanmar, we will reintroduce the sea as a workplace for the Moken by setting up vessels that collect the litter that destroys the marine ecosystems in the oceans. Marine biologists, divers, journalists, filmmakers and Moken will through this partnership forge strong ties through mutual exchange of knowledge in both countries.

The so far fairly inaccessible paradise islands of the Mergui Archipelago (Andaman Sea) looks from a distance just like a pristine paradise, but ocean currents have washed countless tons of plastic trash up on the white beaches, and beneath the surface illegal dynamite fishing have made major dents on the coral reefs, the result being great areas of underwater-desert.

Cleaning up above and below water is an activity that requires relatively few resources, and it really pays off, both visually and factually. The work will be conducted and partly managed by assigning the local Moken population as responsible rangers. Today they are detained in slum camps near military bases and installations. MAP will get the Moken back to sea and give them an opportunity to feed their families from a life on the waves again.

The Moken may embody the role as global ambassadors, their culture will be safeguarded, and the world can benefit from their thousand-year-old marine expertise.


Kabang near empty beach wlogo


Parallel to this, we are also working on the next step of the project, which is to engage Moken actively in the development of eco-tourism. Here they will be hired as free-dive and scuba-dive guides, guide dive-tourists in activities reestablishing coral reefs destroyed by dynamite fishing, partake in the establishment and operation of floating accommodation facilities, and bring travelers on Kabang-voyages where Moken themselves set the conditions. Project initiator and director Runar J Wiik has experience from similar projects in Africa, which have proven to give many good results.


The Way Onward

Both the spread of our movie around the world, Wiiks continued work in Mergui, and the general increase of activity in the area bring to light the need to re-establish PM in firmer forms. The purpose of the new Project Moken is to focus on designated projects that assist the Moken in finding a livelihood where they can maintain a good life and cherish the core of their own culture without ethnic, political or economic harassment, through using their unique background as a resource to protect the oceans.

As part of the democratization process, Burma / Myanmar will open the very attractive Mergui Archipelago for a number of players in tourism and other business enterprises, and it is very important now to not only ensure that projects are ecologically sustainable, but also to give indigenous peoples an important role in the developing from the beginning. Myanmar authorities have already focused on the environmental aspect, but painstaking lobbying and a wide spread of information remains in order to establish the Moken and other ethnic groups in key positions. International attention will be able to implant the global perception that the Mergui paradise is Moken territory, and here we are expected to meet happy and resourceful Moken in their Kabang boats. A good network, and trust amongst the reticent Moken and other players in the area through years of filmmaking, has made Runar J Wiik a primary contact and spokesman for Moken towards the world. We receive weekly inquiries from NGOs, media and tourism operators, and this we can now use to their best. However, we must act quick and accurate to avoid that the Moken remain at the bottom of the Klondyke that is about to open up in their own native archipelago. They must be given the opportunity to engage in their core of marine activity in order to contribute to a positive development in the archipelago.

In the movie “No Word for Worry” we chose to create the strongest possible emotional identification (we follow the personal travels of a young Moken), but for the follow-up film we now plan, that will emerge from the PM MAP initiative to help Moken back on the sea; we will go deeper into the Moken humanitarian situation, and raise the debate on how Norway and Norwegian companies’ investments in Myanmar and Norway should be taking into account ethnic minorities, environmental and marine resource-issues. At the same time, we will also show the initiatives launched to preserve marine ecosystems and cultures at home as well as abroad. In Myanmar, we now know that the Moken-culture is on the brink of extinction, but we still invest vast sums in the country without pressuring local authorities in a sustainable direction. In the process of making this film we will use Project Mokens established networks to put these challenging issues on the agenda, and create debate through articles and short stories during the production, focused through Project MAP’s creation and early operation in cooperation with Marinreparatørene at home.




Our Schedule

This winter (2015/2016) Project Moken will establish forums on the web and train the Moken to make use of these, in order to present their cases and issues independently. We will simultaneously create films and articles to keep debates and involvement from the relevant interest groups within charities, ecotourism, boaters, divers, archaeologists, scientists, rainforest management, environmental policy, democratization and indigenous communities. The attention we have brought to the Moken throughout approximately 10 years is used as concrete measures to improve the situation for the Moken, so together we can continue our journey to being among the strongest marine environmentalist forces within our field. By creating debate around the current environmental issues in putting Moken on the agenda, we generate empathy through identification, which adds an important human aspect to the environmental debate. As the renowned diver and environmental advocate Jaques Cousteau said: “People protect what they love, so we have to teach them to love the sea.” No one has a better potential for this than the Moken. We are now establishing a vessel here in Norway and one in Myanmar, which is dedicated to clean up marine litter, plastic in particular. First stage now is collecting funds for preliminary development to get started, which we specify in these points:

  • A project management specifically set up to develop and manage the project, as well as coordinate and manage a network.
  • The network aims to spread information, collect funds, and lobby wide to obtain support and funding from the international community, NGOs, business, enthusiasts / philanthropists and most people, and thus create political pressure, willingness and desire to achieve the goal.


Project Progress: It is crucial that the project engages in concrete activities as soon as possible to bring the Moken back on the sea, and create ripples through the images of plastic waste in large quantities being lifted from the ocean. The beaches will once again appear clean and beautiful, and thus enhance the further development of our project, and provide important research and raw material for the sequel to our previous Moken documentary “No Word for Worry”.


URGENT! To help realize this project WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Every donation makes a HUGE difference. Time is running out for the Moken culture!

FOR MORE INFO – please get in touch with us at info@projectmoken.com


    1 Comment

    1. Mari Helene Slagsvold
      March 28, 2016

      Not an easy task that the project has. I admire the guts and will for setting this in motion.
      Hope the Moken people find their way too!

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