The Thailand Treasure Hunters

15 images Created 28 Nov 2015


The Chaophraya treasure hunters seek antiques lost in the river. They scrape the bottom of the river with bare hands. Mud and debris is often all they found when they reach the surface. They desperately brave the current during hours, not certain that at the end of the day, they will find the expected troves.

Now the treasure hunters face expropriation. The Thai government plan to construct a concrete walkway on both sides of the river. The “promenade” will stretch on a 14 km distance during the first phase of the construction plan. The treasure hunters way of life, deeply entrenched in the river, will disappear. The plan will cause a disruption of the cultural landscape. The communities and ancient monuments located along the riveride will be cut from their natural environment.

Saam is 49 years old. He has been diving for 35 years on a makeshift boat. A steel helmet linked to an erratic air pomp enables him to stay under the muddy water. Fifteen people located in the Mitrakharn Community collect ancient items and make their living selling them. They shares the rewards of their perilous work in equal parts. Saam says that the treasures hunters embarked their quest maybe one hundred years ago. They have transmitted their knowledge for generations. They know at one glance if an item is valuable and if the buyer will be interested.

The lost antiques they pick up some 14 meters underneath the surface will end up on a well-known market of Bangkok. Amulets, ancient coins, ancient tableware are the relics of the past trading activity of the river. During their remaining time, the treasure hunters will keep diving, hoping that the obsolete motor will not stop.
View: 25 | All