Michael's Dispatches27 Comments
- Published: Monday, 14 February 2011 10:28
We had lunch with a couple of Karen medics; one had caught a rabbit with a trap in the jungle and roasted it.
Life without lawyers or road signs. They have no police. No courts. I asked detailed questions about their justice system. If someone is accused of a serious crime, the accused is sent to the Karen army who decides the outcome. For petty transgressions around the village, the perpetrator is tied up for one night. According to the brief explanation, villagers bind his ankles together but not his hands, and release him the next day. Sounded more like a humiliation, which also can occur in places like Afghanistan, though humiliation there can take the form of sodomy by man or implement.
“What would be a typical crime?” I asked. Sometimes a man gets drunk and burns down his own house. “Burns down his own house on purpose?” I asked. “Yes, sometimes a man burns down his own house.” “What do you do when there is fire?” I asked. “We build houses apart from each other.”
This jungle has it all: from malaria to cobras to land mines, but no doctors and little medicine. The British military would call this a “dirty jungle” as opposed to the “clean jungle” down in Borneo. Dirty jungles have more parasites, diseases, and other hazards that put down a lot of troops and inhabitants.
And then it was time to go. We walked back to the boat for the return trip.
The SPDC uses the river for transport where they face ambush, and so they travel as civilians. A Karen man said Karen soldiers had ambushed SPDC in a boat upriver some days before, and that about six SPDC were killed and wounded. He said the Karen intercepted SPDC radio chatter indicating six casualties.
Chugging downriver back to the Thailand exit, we found a corpse caught by a fishnet in the Salween River. Maybe the body belonged to an SPDC soldier and had floated down from the reported ambush. We could only imagine the surprise of a fisherman if he shows up with a light tonight. I took coordinates for Thai authorities.
In closing, my experience in Burma is eggshell thin. Many people have spent years with resistance organizations or providing help, or perhaps simply smuggling or running some sort of nefarious enterprise. Some are missionaries, others mercenaries, and, as the saying goes, others are misfits.
The mature business surrounding the conflict is complex and not always altruistic. There also is a continuum of “band aide for the buck”: some organizations will accomplish much, while others will do little and spend much time making videos to raise money.
Before deciding to help any causes here, or anywhere, due diligence is the first order. For every bullet there is a lie, and one must beware of crocodile tears.
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This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoyour photographs tell absorbing stories. the narrative very informative without being overdone. i was in Vietnam in '67, '68 and very much miss s.e. Asia. iread every report you send. keep em coming.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoExtraordinary work and superb images Michael. These people deserve our support.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThank you, Michael. If I were homeschooling my children, I would use your dispatches and facebook posts as starting points for research and study. Oh, the places I go after reading them...
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoHi Michael,
If you're not fanmiliar with this Naval Signal Code; it means,"Well Done". You undoubtedly deserve a Bravo Zulu; because you endeavour to bring forth the truth from within the battle zone, and uniquely, able to post 'words from the "horse's mouth" - having the trust of Commanders on the ground! Above all else; you have placed yourself in dsangerous places, thus demonstrating your courage and committment. Your pictures tell the story for you; but you have to be there 'right in their faces' - Take care and my very best wishes for your safety and further successes in your reporting.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoInformative and beautiful photos. Smiling children's faces captured my attention, as did the surprise of seeing such an amazing educational system in place...the level of math, four languages, and check out the board that lists number of students & teachers. Far lower ratios than we afford our children in the U.S. Something to admire.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoamazing photojournalism again!!! keep up the good work!!!
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoBeautifully done, brother. Your photos are evocative, and your text nicely explicates what is displayed, but does not get in the way.
Love your work.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoI agree with the commenter above regarding Bravo Zulu. Very, very well done. Your posts take us to places we are barely aware of and all of us need to be aware of these places. While the uninformed are barely aware of Afghanistan, you keep us in touch with the rest of the world with your photography, insights, and your ability to reach out and touch common folk and allow them to just talk while you listen. Keep keeping it real. That's all that's asked. Keep keeping it real.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoWow! The photos of the children were just beautiful and it was amazing to see them learning and happy!
They could teach quite a few Americans a thing or two about compassion,seeing the bright side of things, and finding happiness in the moment not in things!
As always Michael your photos are breathtaking, informative and full of many messages!
Thanks for sharing,
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoYour pictures and comments about the level and quality of education says a lot. I agree that the attitude and willingness of a student has a lot more to do with a quality education than millions of dollars spent on a "nice school room'.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael... Love your pictures. Your talent as an photographer and an artist have grown immensely. Thanks for the candid story line as well. I believer you are going to create a new genre of reporter Be ready for the copycats and take it as a compliment.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThis is another beautiful, honest dispatch. Love the RPB Rocket Propelled Banana and the child’s drawing.
Your pictures of "Leadership Training" tells so much!these dear people deserve this recognition. Learning English makes sense.
This dispatch is current and educational, Thank you Michael.
My wife and I have welcomed these Karen refugees here at O'Hare in Chicago. Talk about culture shock!!!
Some have lived for years in refugee camps in Thailand, mostly Christian but some Muslim, all with a sweet contentment and though quite primitive, they are intelligent, industrious and inherently dignified. We even had to rescue one from a washroom because they were unfamiliar with a door knob.
We welcome them as volunteers with World Relief. It is so much fun, now these Karen are productive workers in Chicago even accustomed now to our snow and winters and public transport system.
Burma needs a major change of government and heart to free the treasure that is these very people.
Your name keeps coming up in my daily prayers. I have a nephew heading soon to Afghanistan. Stay safe we just plumb, plain need you and your insights.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoExcellent photo essay. I first fell in love with the Karen while reading Don Richardson's amazing book, Eternity in Their Hearts. A beautiful people. I pray they get much better than Burma's current government.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoI visited an American Baptist Hospital on the Thai side, about -4 hours north of Khanchanaburri, Thailand several years ago. The head doctor there is the son of the former head doctor, an American who is truly dedicated. Their patients include many Karen & Mon people who've stepped on land mines, IED's, etc. We were there to develop CadCam computer clinic for prostheses, to provide more accurate, computer aided, readings of their stumps. The local "Aid Car", an ox-kart, brought in a young girl who'd lost her foot to a land mine while we were there. The work these people do requires amazing dedication and love. Thank you for your photos of these truly beautiful people. They are truly wonderful people! I was there for only two weeks and yet came to love and respect these missionaries and especially the Karen and Mon people. Thank you for bringing that rich experience back in pictures!
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoGreat photos. I just returned from that area (a little north of your area) working with the KNLA ( I am ex-Special Forces) Was able to pass along some skills I acquired in Vietnam so many years ago and the training was greatly appreciated. These people have a hard road ahead of them and need all the support they can get. It appears I will be returning some time in the near future. Hope so, I enjoyed working with them.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoSir as always you captured the beauty and ugly of a non perfect world, if only main stream media would cover the world as it is without any spins and people had the ability to see these images maybe just maybe there would be a slight profound change in some. It is amazing that these generations have been so desensitized where they could still smile for a visitor with all the bloodshed going on around them. Again you've capture what many do not see, Be safe and keep the news coming many are reading....
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoExcellent photo journalism, as always Michael. Thanks for moving around the regiona nd finding interesting locales and stories.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael,
Thank you for another great dispatch, one of my favorites so far. Be well and be safe in Af/Pak.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThank you for all that you do! Love these photos and the stories you tell. I especially love the photo's of the children, they are so innocent and so willing to learn in any conditions. Greg Mortenson who founded Pennies for Peace has proven how education is so important to the children in Afghanistan in the worst conditions. Love your work! Please stay safe on your journey to Afghanistan!
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael, what a stunning photo-essay. I am always in awe of what you do, especially for this type of work. Thank you for caring about the little forgotten places in the world struggling for freedom and dignity.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoDear Michael,
Thank you for this outstanding dispatch about Karen people. Thanks to your comparsion to AfPak, I can better understand what the situation today is. Burma and it's minorities are very complicated and diffucult to track for outsiders. Once more shows your "footwork" on spot a deep insight, compared with beautiful photographies, much more as any mainstream medias tells me about a crisis / war situation. I will support this dispatch with pleasure. Thank you for the risk you take by your work. You are for sure much more as just a journalist, you are a unique writer and corresponder, indeed. Stay safe .....
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoMichael you are really becoming Iconic with your work..after years of following your work/mission (sometimes regularly, sometimes not) I just reakized how far you've taken this and how much further you will probably go. Truly a rennasaince man in your own right
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoWhen I look at what we in America complain about, I am ashamed. Our teachers and students need to see these photos and quit complaining.
This commment is unpublished.· 10 years agoThank you for this amazing journey through my lost homeland. I was so impressed to see that the children continue to be educated to the highest standard possible. People may not know that at one time not so long ago, Burma was 100% educated. She was the largest exporter of rice in the world in the 19 0's. Burma was one if not the richest nation in SE Asia. Rich in history, minerals, gas,gem stones, silver and so much more. My heart breaks and yearns for the Burma of my childhood that I will probably never see again.
This commment is unpublished.· 9 years agoNot to be picky, Michael, but the SPDC was the name for the former junta itself, now disbanded since the seating of a new parliament. This junta was first known as SLORC (State Law & Order Restoration Council), but the change was in name only, with Than Shwe the chief dictator. Burmese Army is known as the Tatmadaw.
This commment is unpublished.· 9 years agoOops, sorry, just noticed this is from last year. Apologies!
This commment is unpublished.· 2 years agoThanks for sharing your thoughts on Iraq war correspondent.
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