When an ethical boycott backfires

As published with Democratic Voice of Burma. View original here

Propped up by a set of brass coils encircling her neck, Mapaung’s head turns stiffly to survey the deserted village of Kayan Tharyar. Beyond the mountains in the background lies her homeland – Burma.

It’s another quiet day in the village. No more than five years ago, hordes of tourists would flock in by the busload to gawk at the women who live here, take photos and, with any luck, buy some souvenirs.

But now, amid continuing campaigns by human rights organisations and ethical tourism agencies to ‘Stop the Human Zoo’ in northwestern Thailand, the steady stream of visitors has dried up. And so has their money.

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Refugee students learn life lessons – in pictures

Close to the Burmese-Thai border, young Karenni refugees study desperately to gain acceptance into universities worldwide. But with talks of repatriation echoing through the camps, it’s unsure how long they are to stay there.

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Refugee students learn life’s lessons

As published with Democratic Voice of Burma. View original here

It’s 9am on a Tuesday, and the usual noisiness that accompanies school mornings rings out across the village of Do Ki Ta.

Ranging in age from late teens to early twenties, the students of the Karenni National Community College (KNCC) make their way from the Burmese refugee camp of Ban Nai Soi, located on the Thai side of the eastern Burmese border, to their classrooms.

Some have walked for an hour and a half to get to school. Others have come on motorbikes, a 45 to 50-minute journey across muddy, uneven roads which are dangerously flooded during the monsoon season.

Lucky students like 20-year-old Nyereh are housed in one of the college’s few bamboo hostels dotted about the village. But now that Burma’s ethnic rebels are in the final stages of signing a ceasefire agreement with government, talks of repatriation are echoing through the refugee camps along the border, and it is unsure how long they can remain there.

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Reward and ruin on the Salween River

As published with Democratic Voice of Burma. View original here. 

Slowly, a few drops of water pool together in the caves of a glacier some 5,450 metres above sea level in the Qinghai Mountains of Tibet. This is the source of the mighty Salween River, at 2,815 kilometres one of Asia’s longest free-flowing waterways and lifeline to around seven million people.

From its tranquil birth on the Tibetan plateau, the Salween, or Nu as it is known in Chinese, careers southwards, through Yunnan and the Shan hills, briefly holding court as the official border between Burma and Thailand, then flowing out into the Andaman Sea at the port of Moulmein.

The Salween is only navigable 90 kilometres from its mouth, and then only in the rainy season. For the most part it runs across hundreds of miles of remote rainforest and canyons, untroubled by civilisation.

But while the Salween has flowed undisturbed for centuries through Burma, the rest of the country is undergoing an industrial revolution.

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51 minors released by Burmese army

As published with Democratic Voice of Burma. View the original here. 

Fifty-one children and young people were discharged from the Burmese Armed Forces, commonly known as the Tatmadaw, on Thursday, bringing the total number of underage recruits to be released this year to 93.

This latest batch of discharges has been commended by the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) as progress in the quest to completely end the involvement of children in armed conflict.

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INTERVIEW – Kachin women fight back

As published with Democratic Voice of Burma. View the original here. 

The Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) has called on the international community to increase pressure on the Burmese government to end ethnic conflict in the Shan and Kachin States, as the estimated number of people displaced by the fighting continues to rise.

In a press release issued on 9 June, KWAT levels accusations of human rights abuses at the Burmese military, including the rape and murder of two Kachin volunteer teachers, and the attempted rape of a 73-year-old woman earlier in 2015.

DVB’s Melanie Keyte sat down with Moon Nay Li and Shirley Seng from the women’s organisation to talk about the ongoing conflict in Burma’s northern states and the difficulties facing Kachin women.

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