Archives for category: Myanmar/Burma

A Buddhist marriage ceremony I stumbled into in Yangon.

Buddhist monks gathered at the home of Chit San Oo and Makhin San Yee to give the newlywed couple a wedding blessing.

Buddhist monks gathered at the home of Chit San Oo and Makhin San Yee to give the newlywed couple a wedding blessing.

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Nyi Nyi Aung was the person who got me interested in Burma in the first place. He’s a democracy activist who’s spent most of the past 25 years living in exile in Thailand and the U.S. He was arrested trying to enter Burma in 2009. I covered his trial and imprisonment, and met him for the first time a few days after he was released and returned to his home outside of Washington, D.C.

It was a bit surreal to, four years later, spend a day with him openly exploring Yangon, seeing spots important to the story of the 1988 uprising and talking about what’s happening in the country today. Here’s the article I wrote for Al Jazeera America about that day.

Nyi Nyi Aung outside of a childhood home in Yangon in July, 2013.

Nyi Nyi Aung outside of a childhood home in Yangon in July, 2013.

In December of 2012, I spent Shan New Years on the Burma/Thai border, talking to Shan refugees in a camp there.

A large Buddha sits at the top a hill in Piang Luang township. Shan New Year's is celebrated on the hillside below it, and the Thailand-Myanmar border is a few hundred yards beyond it.

A large Buddha sits at the top of a hill in Piang Luang township. Shan New Year is celebrated on the hillside below it, and the Thailand-Myanmar border is a few hundred yards beyond it. Koung Jor is on the next hill over.

01-1988 GP B&W photo file

Photo courtesy of Gaye Paterson

The folks at Radio Diaries make hands down some of the best radio out there, and it was a real joy to get to work with them on this documentary about the 1988 popular uprisings in Burma. I started learning about these uprisings four years ago while I was working on the first story I ever did about that country. And 1988 came up in nearly every story I did on Burma after that–so much that’s happened in the 25 years since then has roots in those months.

Seamstress in a village in Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta. Photo: Kaung Htet

Seamstress in a village in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta. Photo: Kaung Htet

I was thrilled to be a part of this Open Hands Initiative/Global Post fellowship in June that sent 10 U.S. journalists over to Myanmar to work with 10 Burmese journalists, under the watchful eye of a bunch of seasoned foreign correspondents and Myanmar experts.

Here’s  the report that we put together for Global Post; lots of good stuff in there. Even better was getting to spend a few weeks exploring a country I’m fascinated by with new colleagues, and to see that country’s young media already thriving and in very capable hands, including those of my new friends at The Myanmar Times, RFA Burmese, and BBC Burmese.

Aung San Suu Kyi at a dinner we had with her on our final night in the country. Photo: Natalie Keyssar

Aung San Suu Kyi at a dinner we had with her on our final night in the country. Behind her are  Kaung Htet, who took the photo at the top of this post; Sarah Fitzpatrick, a producer for CBS; and me. The photo’s by Natalie Keyssar, another allstar.

One thing with potential to bring positive change to Myanmar is the Comprehensive Education Sector Review. (Policy types = not so good with punchy titles.) A bunch of experts from all over are digging in and trying to build a qualitative, broad picture of the country’s creaky education system.

I got a chance to see one small piece of that system–a free elementary school run by a Buddhist monastery near Yangon. Here’s the story I did for The World.

Phoo Myint Mo and Chit Loon Oo, two students at Thiri Mingalar Monastic School in Pyi Thar Township near Yangon.

Phoo Myint Mo and Chit Loon Oo, two students at Thiri Mingalar Monastic School in Pyi Thar Township near Yangon.

I hurried up to Mandalay planning to head from there to Monywa, where ongoing protests against a Chinese-owned copper mine had just been broken up pretty violently by local security forces. When I got to Mandalay, though, I found out that The World already had someone in Monywa covering the demonstration. (Sometimes communication breaks down a bit when there’s an 11-and-a-half-hour difference between reporter and editor.)

So there I was in Mandalay. Here’s the story I cobbled together.

Signs on the stage at the Moustache Brothers' performance space in Mandalay. The  photograph shows Lu Maw with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Signs on the stage at the Moustache Brothers’ space in Mandalay. Par Par Lay and Aung San Suu Kyi are in the photo behind the signs.

I met Ah Noh of the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) a couple years ago when she was in New York for meetings at the U.N. She and Debbie Stothard of ALTSEAN Burma talked to a small group at Columbia about the current situation in Kachin State. I got back in touch with her when I was heading to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where KWAT is based. We met and Ah Noh filled me in on what KWAT was working on, and a few days later she hosted me at her church.

Here’s the story I did for The World about that visit, and what the current situation for ethnic minorities in Burma looks like seen across the border in Chiang Mai.

Christmas tree at Wunpawng Church in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Christmas tree and a young worshiper at Wunpawng Church in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

42 members of the National League for Democracy won parliamentary seats in April’s by-election in Myanmar. You’ve probably heard of at least one of them. I got to sit down with another one of them while I was in Yangon in December. Phyu Phyu Thin is a longtime HIV/AIDS activist, and now an MP representing Mingalar Taung Nyunt in Yangon.

Here’s the profile I did for The World.

Phyu Phyu Thin on the campaign Trail. (Photo: Htoo Tay Zar/Wikipedia)

Phyu Phyu Thin on the campaign trail. (Photo: Htoo Tay Zar/Wikipedia)

One thing that struck me as I got into some of the policy issues at play in Thailand’s migrant worker laws is how similar they are to ones being debated in the U.S., and how Thailand has tackled them more actively and successfully than we have. The Thai system is still a mess, though.

Here’s a story I did for The World about new wrinkles in the Thai system for giving migrant workers from neighboring countries legal status.

Public bathrooms at a migrant worker camp outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Public bathrooms at a migrant worker camp outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand.