On 3 February 2019, a fire tore through the homes of the Moken people, colloquially known as the ‘sea gypsies’, on the Surin islands in the Khura Buri district of Thailand. The fire, which accidentally started in one family’s hut, destroyed some 61 homes in a matter of hours due to high winds, displacing around 270 people and destroying almost all of their possessions. On 25 February, the crew of 54m Talisman Maiton, accompanied by SuperyachtNews, a team from Burgess and representatives from Seal Superyachts and Anantara Residences, Layan, visited the Surin islands to provide aid to the Moken people.
“We have loved being in Thailand. We love the area and the people and we were eager to do something meaningful for the local population, beyond contributing to the local hotels and bars,” starts Robert Smith, Talisman Maiton’s captain. “When we found out about the fire, the Talisman team put our heads together and decided that we would like to try and do something to help. Fortunately, we have an excellent team on board and we were able to quickly put a plan of action together.”
Surin, a beautiful and remote group of islands, falls within a Thai military zone. It was doubly important, therefore, that the Talisman team was able to communicate effectively with the relevant authorities in order to engage in the relief effort. Once the team had received the green light to visit the islands, bottled water, as well as various other supplies for the local school and the Moken children, was delivered to the island.
“I am hoping that this is something we can do more of in the future, it is just a question of speaking to the local authorities and charities to find out how we can help,” continues Smith. “Giving back is something that the crew are incredibly passionate about and we hope we can do more of it.”
A spokesperson for the Thai authorities explained that both the Thai navy and army had been drafted in to rebuild the Moken peoples’ homes. In all, 61 homes were rebuilt in only a month with the relief force working day and night in shifts to get the job done.
“As a team we are acutely aware that we travel around the world in a superyacht and all our problems are very much first world problems. The trap you can fall into being on a yacht is that you visit places where facilities have been designed for your arrival and the money you bring in to the economy rarely gets into the hands of the local people,” explains Smith. “You may not even meet the local people because of how the services are designed. Often the provisioning services and marinas are run by European or US businesses. So far as we are able, when we visit a region, we try our best to use local markets in order to ensure that the money trickles down.”
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