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Phuket Diving: PADI centers clean up Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Diving: PADI centers clean up Phuket | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: After coming face to face with shattered coral reef systems all over the world and confronting messes of plastic bags and tangled fishing nets, which are not-so-slowly strangling one of the world’s most important ecosystems, divers understand the importance of reef cleanups. There is of course that feeling of only delaying the inevitable, but isn’t that why we try to stop smoking and start exercising at some-point?

On Phuket, PADI, the world’s largest scuba diver training agency, and Project AWARE Foundation, a nonprofit environmental organization, is launching a collaborative “Dive for Debris” event, with around 25 PADI Dive Centers putting aside their profits, digging into their own pockets and attempting to make a difference with Phuket’s biggest reef cleanup.

Project AWARE Foundation is a nonprofit group established to organize divers and make a positive impact on the world’s oceans. The foundation established its first International Cleanup Day in 1993, with divers participating in thousands of cleanups.

According to Project AWARE’s website, “Cleanup dives from the past 18 years have been a true inspiration, placing scuba divers in the spotlight, key to addressing debris issues on a global scale.”

The Phuket Gazette sat down with Thailand’s West coast PADI Regional Manager and Project AWARE Ambassador, Tony Andrews to get a better grasp of the event and the impact it will have on Phuket’s reef systems.

Phuket Gazette
: There are dozens of cleanup projects every year on Phuket, what makes the project you are working on special?

Tony Andrews: Okay, what I think you’ve got to realize is that every PADI dive center here does underwater cleanups and they do beach cleanups, reef cleanups and reef checks independently. What makes this one special is that we’ve got about 25 official PADI centers on Phuket and we’re bringing them all together to do one massive reef cleanup. But more importantly we’re going to document and report exactly what we find under the ocean.

We’re hoping to get about 200 divers in the water on two islands [Koh Racha Yai and Noi].

To collect all that information about what debris is down there and lift it up in this quantity has never been done on Phuket.

Getting every dive center, especially the PADI centers to work together is fantastic.

What’s going to be the goal? How will you measure your success with this event?
The level of success will be based on how much rubbish lifted off the reefs we can document. At the moment we have 10 dive boats.

Each dive boat is going to be assigned part of the reef to be cleaned. Now, what we’re going to do is submit the data that is collected on the day [to Project AWARE’s database]… So if we’re talking about 10 vessels and 200 divers [then] we’re talking a minimum of 10 documented marine debris data cards that we’ll present to the rest of the world and of course… the local authorities here in Thailand.

So, the information that is being collected is being added to Project AWARE’s larger marine debris database. Now, what’s the goal of that database?

To make the world aware that we need clean, healthy reefs… We’ve got to educate locals, Westerners, businesses, divers, everybody, and say, ‘Look we’ve got to look after the reefs we’ve got, because without them everything is just going to shut down.’

Our combined work in collecting, using and sharing data is fed into data that is submitted from divers all around the world.

Conservation cannot be done in isolation. That’s why all our divers here in Phuket together with Project AWARE can play a critical, deciding role in marine debris abatement efforts. Our data will support the development of coordinated policies and strategies to tackle marine debris at every point.

What dive boat operators and shops are part of this cleanup?
Okay, it pleases me to say that all of the big PADI five star IDC centers, PADI five centers and PADI dive centers have donated their boats.

We’ve got two live-aboards going out. One vessel is from Khao Lak Scuba Adventures. They’ve donated their boat, which is doing an overnight trip on Koh Racha Noi for professionals [divers] only. Their target will be to lift some of the big stuff, such as car tires and so on.

All the other boats going out are day boats… so anyone can feel free to join. As I said before, we’re talking roughly 200 divers that can be taken out there, though I’m hoping that if people want to donate more boats they will feel free to contact us.

What’s your function in the project? What role are you playing?

My main goal is to unite these dive centers, because the importance of looking after these reefs is in everybody’s interest.

From a business perspective, if your reefs go, obviously you’re going to lose your business. People are going to be out of their jobs, and that has big consequences, not just for the diving industry but for tourism too.

So, my main goal is to be a mediator in the project.

I don’t own a business here. I work for PADI. So, as a neutral person I can bring people together and drive the project forward as a PADI Regional Manager.

Now, PADI is a main corporate sponsors of the event. We’re going to support these efforts and assist the dive businesses so their out of pocket expenses are reduced.

I think you’ve really got to emphasis the fact that these PADI centers are closing their business for one day. They are losing money to donate their boats; they’re putting their hands in their pockets for fuel and food costs. That loss of business for one day is quite substantial for Phuket. So, if you’re talking about ten of the biggest dive boats on the island going, wow, that’s pretty impressive.

But they are doing this because they understand and believe in the difference divers can make.

We’re all honored and proud to be part of this event and fly the conservation flag for Phuket.

What are some of the difficulties you’ve run into when coordinating the efforts of all these dive centers? Everyone is PADI, but at the same time they are direct competitors…

You’ve got the main centers that have jumped at the chance, because they want to help Phuket; they want to help the dive industry, but what I would like to see is some of the smaller dive centers come on board.

You don’t necessarily need to have a boat to do this. A lot of people think that you have to have your own boat to be on board with the project. If you want to get involved just email us or contact the Gazette [isaac@phuketgazette.net] and come on board.

There are still some companies out there that could attend the meetings and say, ‘Yeah we’re going to help.’ They’ve been in business here for many years. It’s time to give something back to Phuket, and especially give something back to the diving community.

Everyone is trying to determine what price they can send their dive boat out for and still turn a profit. Now they came together for a meeting and leveled with each other to make this work. How did that meeting go?
The meeting was great.

They all came, and if the owner wasn’t there, they sent a representative that

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

World

Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him

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Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him | The Thaiger

“…his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding, shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.”

Darth Vader has died… May the force be with him. The man who played the bad guy in the first Star Wars trilogy, British actor David Prowse, died at the age of 85 after a short illness.

American actor Mark Hamill, who played Darth Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker, alongside with David and the initial cast of the epic saga, sent his condolences in a tweet.

“So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader.”

“Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #RIP”

Star Wars co-star, and fellow Brit, Anthony Daniels, who played the gold-plated and effusive C3PO in all but one of the 12 Star Wars instalments, paid tribute to Prowse’s contribution to the saga.

“Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in ’77 and has done so ever since.”

David wore the ominous black suit and helmet to play the Star Wars villain Darth Vader although it was the American actor James Earl Jones who provided the character’s voice in post-production. George Lucas felt that David’s West Country English accent was “unsuitable for the part”. The decision to replace David’s voice caused a long-term rift between actor and director that eventually saw David cut out of official Star Wars publicity events. But his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.

Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies - May the force be with him | News by The Thaiger

David’s career as an actor spanned 50 years, but it was his role as the Sith Lord in Star Wars that brought him international fame and attention.

But it was his role as the “Green Cross Code Man” from a British road safety campaign that Prowse said he was most proud of. David was awarded an MBE, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in 2000 for that role.

David Prowse was born into a working class family and grew up in a council estate in Southmead, in southwestern England. He gained a scholarship to attend Bristol Grammar School. He had a passion for bodybuilding and was crowned British Weightlifting Champion several times in the 1960s. He became lifelong friends with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger in his weightlifting years.

His towering figure helped land him roles as monsters and villains in TV shows and films. He played the monster in “The Horror of Frankenstein” in 1970 and a bearded torturer in “Carry on Henry” in 1971. That same year he made an appearance as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian film “A Clockwork Orange” in 1971. He went on to play Darth Vader in all three of the original “Star Wars” films, in 1977, 1980 and 1983.

With the success of Star Wars, Prowse became a regular on the fan circuit and attended conventions around the world for almost 40 years, but he was rumoured to have later fallen out with director Lucas and was banned from official events in 2010.

He published an autobiography, “Straight from the Force’s Mouth,” in 2011.

SOURCES: Reuters | CNN | BBC

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Chiang Rai

Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia

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Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The entrance to the real Tham Luang cave near the Myanmar border in far north Thailand

The Australian Government is putting up A$13 million to Imagine Entertainment and film giant MGM to shoot a live-action feature film called Thirteen Lives, based on the Chiang Rai Tham Luang cave rescue story. The film will be shot in Queensland, Australia in the hinterland areas behind the Gold Coast.

The film will be directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The Da Vince Code, Cocoon, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Splash, Frost/Nixon), and start filming in March 2021. The state’s Gold Coast hinterland will double for Thailand with a similar hot, humid climate.

The Australian Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher MP, says the production ishould inject more than A$96 million into the Australian economy, “directly creating around 435 jobs for cast and crew”.

Thirteen Lives will tell the remarkable story of the effort by many volunteers, including Australians, to undertake an incredibly complex rescue. And I am proud to say that this story will be told here in Australia.”

“I understand this project will also undertake a significant amount of cutting-edge visual effects work here, a great opportunity for our local post, digital and visual effects companies.”

Thirteen Lives follows the true story of the 2018 Tham Laung cave rescue of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team, trapped in a cave by heavy rain and flooding in Chiang Rai, far north Thailand. After the team was stuck for days with no supplies and falling oxygen levels, a group of diving and rescue experts from all over the world were called up to work together with their Thai counterparts to save the 13 young men. Among those experts were a group of divers from the United Kingdom and Australia.

The first major feature film about the rescue operation was The Cave, released in October 2019. The film was quite critical of the Thai red-tape which hampered much of the early rescue efforts.

Ron Howard has worked with plenty of Australians in the past.

“From Thirteen Lives to the animated projected I am directing with Animal Logic in Australia, I am excited about the opportunity to film and work in Australia and dramatically expand on that list of collaborators whose sensibilities and work ethic I have long admired and respected.”

Imagine Entertainment and MGM’s Thirteen Lives will be distributed by Universal Pictures International.

Watch a message from director Ron Howard HERE.

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Thailand

Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break

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Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break | The Thaiger

Phuket’s sea gypsy communities are getting a much needed break after the Covid tourism standstill have their traditions a break from the tourism onslaught. 42 year old Sanan Changham says now there is an abundance of fish and shellfish to eat. Tourist boats have been docked at the quay, making fishing easier for the Chao Lay, or “people of the sea.“

“We don’t dive as deep as before, so it’s less dangerous.“

More than 9 million visitors came to Phuket in 2019, impacting the sea gypsies and their way of life, mostly located at the southern end of the island. The booming tourism brought a decline in fish stocks, decreasing fishing grounds and loud construction of hotels. And the traffic. Such hotels signal an even bigger threat to the 1,200 Chao Lay in Rawai, as property developers have tried to evict them from their ancestral strip of land that faces the sea.

Ngim Damrongkaset, a Rawai community representative, says he hopes the area where developers have taken a stake is abandoned.

“They want to drive us out of our homes, but also to deny us access to the sea.”

For the Chao Lay people, the fight to keep their land has been unequal as most are illiterate and were unaware of the fact that they could register their land, but the government is trying to help them. One way for authorities to buy the land and entrust it to them.

Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says the government must seize the opportunity provided by the pandemic to rethink their vision on Chao Lay.

“Covid is an opportunity to change mentalities. Mass tourism in Phuket has been a catastrophe for the sea gypsies.“

The land in Rawai was originally claimed by Indonesian ancestors of Sanan, before the island became flooded with international travellers. But since tourism has become more profitable, authorities have cracked down on the sea gypsies unless they are sailing in protected marine reserves.

“Before, we risked being arrested by a patrol or having our boats confiscated.“

For the animist Chao Lay the beach is a vital space where they keep their colourful wooden boats and where they pray and give thanks to their ancestors. But not only their unique cultural heritage has helped them navigate the waters.

The Chao Lay people are experts at detecting any abnormalities in the water, as such they were able to escape before the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami hit, while saving loads of tourists. Furthermore, Children of the Moken have 50% better visual acuity in the water than their European counterparts, according to a 2003 study.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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