Diving project in Rayong

Trip Start Jan 08, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, March 26, 2007

I saw an article mentioning that it was 200 years since Britain abolished slavery. I thought I would look up the dates when various countries abolished slavery. Some of the dates were as follows:

Japan - 1588
Portugal - 1761
Canada - 1810
Chile - 1823
UK - 1807-1834
Russia - 1861
USA - 1865
Thailand - 1874
Brazil - 1888
Australia - 1901-1903
China - 1910
Saudi Arabia - 1962
Mauritania - 1981

Unfortunately the subject is more complicated than a simple list of dates. Japan definitely used slavery again before and during World War Two. The date for Australia I have used Edward Barton's term as Prime Minister, as he was the one who brought in immigration laws that stopped people kidnapping Kanaks to bring to Australia to work as slaves. But after that date aboriginals (who weren't officially recognised as human until 1967 in Australia) were still used as slaves and I am not sure when that stopped. China under Mao used slaves and probably still does. I am sure Russia under the name USSR used slaves at times, particularly during Stalin's rule. Mauritania supposedly still uses slaves as common practice. In all those countries listed above (and many more not listed) there are probably still people, particularly young women being used as slaves, particularly in the sex industry, but also many people in factories, or made to work as beggars etc. So I suppose actually slavery hasn't stopped at all.

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Anyway, sorry for interrupting my Annapurna Circuit story, but we have just come back from a weekend with the Thai Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) and I want to quickly mention an opportunity for people to get involved with them.

One of Kanchana's friends from the Department of Non-Formal Education left that department about a year ago to join the DMCR. He now works in Rayong where the department takes care of the Ko Samet National Park. He invited us down to see and help on a project that they are running.

Rayong is about 3 hours from Bangkok. Vava, Alif, Kanchana and I drove down on Friday night and slept in Rayong. In the morning we met up with Kanchana's friend and got the boat to the diving site. A group of Thai divers were already there and loading the two boats.

The project is going out to sites the DMCR have reconnoitred and picking up rubbish there (underwater). We had breakfast on the boat (courtesy of DMCR) and were soon at the diving site.

Kanchana had hoped they might be stopping at Ko Samet first so her and the kids could get off and go and explore the island, but she hadn't check all this out prior to going. Also as she has never dived before I think she thought and told her friend I have my own diving gear. I don't. I have flippers and a wetsuit (and some boots somewhere, but I forgot to bring them). So anyway, Kanchana and the kids stayed on the boat and got sea sick while the rest of us went diving. Alif did go for a bit of a snorkel. About the gear: They quickly found me some to borrow. BC, mask, weight belt, air tank, scissors, garbage bag again all courtesy of DMCR. Also I haven't dived for a long time and really have no idea what I am doing, so they quickly helped me out to ensure I was set to go.

In we went. As everyone else dived, I discovered that I didn't have enough weight to descend, so back to the boat to get two more weights. (note for next time - I used 6 of the weights to achieve neutral buoyancy). Anyway, under the water was great. It has been a long time since I have dived and as usual I enjoyed it. I am sure there are much better diving sites in the world, but this seemed pretty good. The visibility was about 10m and there were lots of colourful fish and things to see. At one point it seemed like I was swimming in a huge, over-crowded tropical fish tanks. There were so many fish. Also lots of those spiky things that live on the bottom. Added to the good dive, we also helped clean up the environment and huge amounts of rubbish were removed. See pictures.

A seafood lunch was provided free by the DMCR and then most people dived again at another site. I was feeling sorry for Kanchana and the kids so I stayed with them. Later at night dinner was provided by the DMCR at a restaurant and many of the group stayed up sang karaoke and got drunk. We didn't hang around for that.

If anyone is interested in doing something similar please let us know and we'll put you in contact with the DMCR. They don't have any set program for this, but they want to do more of the same. They very much want to take care of their area and promote the care of the sea environment. If they can get submissions / proposals, they can approach their boss and ask for the money and time. So particularly for diving groups that want to do some good for the environment whilst enjoying some good dives, this may be good for you. Let us know, but give us plenty of lead time. We can't organise this in two days. Two weeks maybe be possible (????), but longer than that would be much better. I actually don't know how long it would take. So lots of lead time is best. They are also interested in teaching students or talking about marine life and other aspects of the National Park (but mainly in Thai at the moment).

Anyway, the next day Kanchana and I and the kids found a small, but quiet and nice beach near Rayong and had a bit of a swim. We checked this place out for another idea I have. Seemed good. Maybe more on that in the future.

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Also if I have time I will use this opportunity to include some pictures of Pru and Loma who were two 70+ year old Sydney volunteers that came to Mirror Foundation to help out at the child care centre. They organised that through Antipodeans.
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