The Moken people’s concerns reached their peak in 2019. The principal reason is the deterioration of their livelihoods. Moken people migrated to the Myeik archipelago from Malaysia in the 17th century. For the last decade, catching squid was the principal livelihood of Moken. Before that, the Moken took from the oysters, snatched off the ocean floor, and sold the pearls to trade visitors. They would dive without equipment, showing a legendary ability to hold their breath for long periods under water, which scientists have attributed in other “sea gypsy” communities to an enlarged spleen.
In 1972, Moken were removed from certain islands that were populated through migrants from mainland. Not only the entire village, but also its boats, homes and machinery were sometimes burned down. In 1990, they were again evicted from some of their islands when the pearl project came. As a result those ventures, they became guests in their generation inhabited sea and islands.
The main reason for the loud noise in Myeik Archipelago is due to the expansion of the project area by Tassiki Pearl Company. Tasaki Co Ltd is the biggest producer of pearls in Thaninthryi, the venture produces about 220,000 pearls a year.
A plan for an extension of five years in 2018 includes a proposal to develop three additional farms in a region of 17,000 hectares in the five sister islands, including Langan, which cover the Moken’s living area. The practice of perl agriculture is very stringent; there will be no boat access to the area around the island if pearl-breeding camps are constructed.
This proposal has alarmed the Moken people, who depend on the waters around these islands for squid and who fear that they could lose access to them if Tasaki’s demand was grated and the new farms establish
In 2019 November, Paung Ku’s partner Southern Youth arranged the media trips to Langan Island for local voices to be amplified. Together with some activists, both national and regional media such as Mawkon, Myanmar Now, Eleven, Mizzima, DVB, Myanmar Times and Tanintharyi Watch joined.
The numbers of articles and some video news have been release after the trips. The links are as follow:
In early 2020, Puang Ku team supported “the Visual Advocate”, producing a documentary of Moken culture as follow-up activities. Visual Advocate is a group founded by Dawei-based Visual Advocacy Group in 2016 that aims to advocate for various Tanintharyi issues such as social, environmental, cultural and livelihoods.