Sea Nomads of Myanmar: The Monken

Sadly, the weather prevented us from filming with the Moken as we couldn’t get to the islands.

Outside the west coast of Burma is a vast archipelago few people have ever heard of consisting of approximately a thousand islands called The Mergui (Myeik).

The Moken Sea Nomads are the last marine population to have survived as ocean drifters; their final realm an archipelago off the coast of Burma.

This is the ancient home and last refuge of The Moken People; Sea Nomads who still live as animistic hunter-gatherers in perfect harmony with “Mother Ocean”, as they describe our seas. Their culture is a window into our own common ancestry, and has survived because they always shy away from strangers.

Their knowledge of the sea enables them to live off its fauna and flora by using simple tools such as nets and spears to forage for food. What is not consumed is dried atop their boats, then used to barter for other necessities at local markets. During the monsoon season, they build additional boats while occupying temporary huts. Due to the amount of time they spend diving for food, Moken children are able to see better underwater down to to accommodation of their visual focus.

Circumstances such as industrial fishing emptying the sea and the government seizing their islands to accommodate the tourist industry, presently the Monken are rapidly diminishing in number.

The Monken, along with most other coastal dwellers in South-East Asia today are descendants from the Great Austronesian Expansion where people where forced to sea by ever-expanding Chinese groups about 3500 years ago. These people populated the coastal areas and islands of the Indian- and Pacific Oceans in magnificent ocean-crossing log-boats with advanced marine technology and navigation. Nowadays most of these peoples and populations have been “civilized” into poor villages, forgetting skills and culture. Except that is for the Moken in the Mergui Archipelago now the only ones left living as true sea-nomads, the same lifestyle as the early Europeans and a window into our past and who we are.


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