EPL Prediction Competition 2018-2019 Kata Rocks
Login | Create Account Poll Currency Weather Facebook Youtube Search

Thailand’s ‘Indiana Jones’ divers

BANGKOK: Kneeling before his homemade metal scuba helmet, Bhoomin Samang prays for good fortune before he dives into the day’s work – scouring the bed of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river for sunken treasure.

culturemarine
By AFP

Thursday 2 August 2018, 12:14PM


Bhoomin Samang emerges from a dive from the bottom of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river to hunt for sunken treasure. Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP

Bhoomin Samang emerges from a dive from the bottom of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river to hunt for sunken treasure. Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP

The 62-year-old is part of a small community known as Thailand's ‘Indiana Jones’ divers, who brave the inky-black underworld of the trash-filled waterway in search of coins, china, jewellery and scrap metal.

“We look for old coins, sometimes we are hired to find lost objects in the river,” says Bhoomin, a veteran diver who has been scouring the river for 30 years.

Sometimes the find is more macabre – the divers have stumbled across skulls and skeletons as they feel their way along the river bed in total darkness.

“If you’re afraid of ghosts, you can’t go in because you can’t see anything. But we’re used to it,” he explains.

Trained foreign and Thai Navy SEAL divers were recently at the centre of global attention for their daring rescue of 12 boys and their coach from a waterlogged cave in northern Thailand.

But the ‘Indiana Jones’ divers use more makeshift equipment and operate under the radar in the middle of the country’s urban metropolis.

Wearing shorts and T-shirt, Bhoomin jumps off his motorised skiff into a river strewn with city sewage and debris.

He is able to breathe thanks to the boxy helmet that weighs around 20 kilograms, and is hooked up to a rubber tube that connects to an air tank aboard the boat.

The tank pumps oxygen into the helmet to keep water out, allowing the most experienced divers to drop down to 30 metres below the surface.

After 15 minutes underwater, Bhoomin resurfaces with a cotton bag stuffed with mud.

He pans it out on a metal dish, revealing several 200-year-old copper and bullet coins with pictures of 19th century Thai kings Rama IV and V on them – artefacts divers call “regulars”.

The coins trace the history of the Thai capital’s lively waterfront, whose traditional stilted homes are increasingly being knocked down for development.

QSI International School Phuket

“In the old days, we lived on rafts and had floating markets. Villagers lost their jewellery and money in the river,” he said.

An unfinished small Buddhist amulet was also hidden inside the mud.

The divers can turn a decent profit. Selling a few copper coins can make them some 500 baht – nearly twice Thailand’s daily minimum wage.

If lucky, a piece of jewellery or a rare coin in good condition can be sold for up to $300 (B9,957) at Bangkok’s antique markets, while their loot is fattened out by scrap metal.

But the divers’ fate is in limbo as urban development threatens their riverside community, which stands on weathered wooden stilts.

Bangkok officials have ordered the families to relocate away from the river as part of the junta government’s gentrification plan for the city.

The divers fear that without direct access to the river, up to “90%” of them will lose their livelihoods.

But that’s not their only tension with the law – taking artefacts is technically prohibited and can be punished with fines or jail time.

Bhoomin, however, defends the trade, saying divers only go for the small stuff.

“We don’t take big artefacts like Buddha statues... (if officials really want something), they can go down there and take it,” says Bhoomin, who dips into a box of salvaged spectacles and sunglasses whenever he needs them.

Then again, the lure of something special is always just around the river bend.

“We don’t know what we will find or where we will go today, said 29-year-old Somsak Ongsaard, another diver. “It’s exciting.”

 

 

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

Comments Here:
Comments Left:
# Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail:
Security:

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Hope floats to raise the Phoenix

I love to watch the workers sitting on the barge without helmet and life-vest under the supervision ...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Never look back, never learn

I think 30 days is too soon for an exhaustive investigation of this magnitude. More like 6 months is...(Read More)


One injured as fire destroys Phuket tour boat, amid tour

What if Phuket was China's answer to overpopulation? People resented that one kid thing. #Phuke...(Read More)


Thailand should recognise tourists’ driver’s licences, says poll

I'd also like to say the education vid I had to watch recently was extremely sexist, the adult ...(Read More)


Thailand should recognise tourists’ driver’s licences, says poll

Thailand should recognize the title Ms. ("Not in computer,") and stop the archaic, sexist ...(Read More)


The collapse of Phuket’s lifeguards

Another Chinese dead in NaiHarn yesterday, and one missing in Karon. Thanks you Phuket officials. I ...(Read More)


Phuket beach surf safety urged amid ‘monsoon surge’

"Wiwat Chitchertwong, who has been appointed Acting Chief of the Phuket Marine Office since the...(Read More)


Mother’s Day weekend raids nets more than 14k meth pills

Good to get this poison off the streets, but unfortunately it is hardly a dent. It also looks like ...(Read More)


Phuket beach surf safety urged amid ‘monsoon surge’

You can't be a world class holiday destination when your tourism customers drown on the beaches,...(Read More)


One injured as fire destroys Phuket tour boat, amid tour

Safety checks and training are useless when crew members allow smoking and careless use of fuel arou...(Read More)