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On The Run
‘On the Run’ documents tribal groups from Burma who have been pushed off their land by the junta. Some of them have moved to rebel controlled zones. Other groups like the Karen have left the country only to languish for decades ‘warehoused’ in overcrowded Thai refugee camps. The story follows them to Canada where thousands have recently resettled.
At the front lines of Burma’s largest rebel armies, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Shan State Army South (SSA), I photographed the soldiers and hundreds of internally displaced people (IDP) who live alongside them.
At Loi Taileng – the headquarters of the SSA, camped on the Thai/ Burma border, their world is a barren hilltop no longer than 300 meters wide by 3.5 km in length that they can’t leave. Landmines lay scattered in the valleys below. On one side is the Thai border patrol and on the other is their dire enemy: Burmese government troops, based on the adjacent mountain. The Shan are not recognized as refugees by the Thai government.
Moo Jai, a Karen tribeswoman who has spent most of her life living in Thai refugee camps describes what her life was like when she lived in Burma.
“When the government troops took over our village I was only six-years old. If the Burmese military attacked a Karen village they would kill everyone. It didn’t make a difference whether you were old, young, man or a woman. We hid in the jungle for a couple of weeks. By the time we reached the Thai refugee camp our rice was finished.”
Now she and her husband are part of 30,000 ethnic minorities from Burma being resettled to Canada, the US and other UN countries participating in what the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) described in a recent report as ‘the world’s largest refugee resettlement operation’.
The bulk of my work focuses on people or movements existing on the fringes of society. As a loner I am fascinated by people or groups who live outside of mainstream society. My photos explore the different ways that conformity and non-conformity plays out in these social microcosms which challenge popular notions of sexuality, identity and community.
My ongoing projects include Burlesque Revival, Thai Hill tribes at Historic Crossroads and On the Run which documents the plight of Burmese ethnic minorities in Southeast Asia and Canada. I am the president of NOMAD Photos agency; a Canadian cooperative of photojournalists dedicated to using the economic efficiencies and social power of a collective to highlight under-reported social, political, health and environmental issues worldwide.
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Many thanks… david alan harvey