New Burma’s shadows

Kachin State


Soldiers of the "All Burmese Students Democratic Front" (ABSDF) welcoming a group of peace-walkers that just arrived in Laiza after a month of marching from Yangon to Laiza. The march was a protest-action to raise attention to the conflict.


The body of a dead Kachin-commander is seen lying in his bed. He passed away the day before. The picture is taken at the funeral-ceremony the night before the burial.


Kachin Independence Army fighters are drinking and celebrating at a funeral of one of their commanders who died the day before. The city of Laiza is under siege by the Burmese army.


A man looks over an IDP camp (Internally displaced person) close to the border of china. There are more than 100,000 IDP's in Kachin state and neighbouring provinces.


A group of children can be seen struggling for a plate of rice at a IDP (Internally displaced person) camp close to the Chinese boarder. The kids walked up from northern Shan-state, where fighting is taking place. A group of around 100 kids followed their school-teacher to a KIA controlled area and ended up in this camp. They live fully self-supportive under almost no supervision of adults.


A young girl with her violin at a school next to a IDP camp (Internally displaced person) in Laiza. Some of the IDP-kids get the chance to join the regular school program. Learning to play an instrument is part of the regular schedule.


A teacher is handing out certificates at the last day of the school-year. In consideration of their situation Laiza has a relatively good education system.


Women in traditional Kachin clothing waiting for their leaders to come back from peace negotiations between them and the burmese military-leaders. At this moment there is a six-point ceasefire agreement in place, however fighting continues and tensions stay high.


A young IDP (Internally displaced person) boy with an undiagnosed skin disease in the primitive hospital of Laiza.


Women praying at the Sunday-mass in front of the local church in Laiza. The Majority of the Kachin are very devoted christians.


A female Kachin-fighter is climbing on a truck after peace-talk celebrations in Laiza.


A Kachin-fighter is seen walking through the jungle around Laiza. He is walking towards a remote outpost on a hill, facing a Burmese-army-outpost.


Portrait of a Kachin-fighter close to the frontline. The picture is taken in a primary school which was transformed into a base for the soldiers.


Captured soldiers of the Burmese army are seen in the prison in Laiza. The soldier in the middle was shot in his leg during firefights on the hills around Laiza. He was then captured and brought to Laiza. Most prisoners don't even try to escape as they don't have any desire to go back to the Burmese military, where they would probably be punished.


At a military-parade after the Kachin-leaders returned from peace talks in China.


A Kachin civilian is preparing tea in a little restaurant in Laiza.


At a christian mass in an IDP-Camp in Laiza.


At a funeral of a young Kachin-soldier at the cemetery in Laiza. There are numerous new graves of young Kachin fighters to be found there.


Soldiers are praying at a military-parade. After Kachin-leaders returned from peace talks in China. The Entire town gathered to welcome them.


After a funeral relatives are going through paperwork and counting donations that they received from friends and family.


New Burma’s shadows
Ongoing longterm project on the shadow-sides of a country in transition

Burma’s military regime is loosening its grip, after more than 40 years of repression. Political prisoners are being released, sanctions have been lifted and the regime is opening towards tourism and foreign media. But as the country reforms, there are still numerous internal conflicts. Through the transformation from a military junta into a more-or-less democratic government, there were in fact even numerous new problems created. My project is a illustration of the places where these problems are still prevalent. In the last two years, I have visited the old conflicts - the places where there is fighting and people have been dying for many decades. On the other hand I'm looking at the new issues and problems that the country is facing.

My first trip took place at beginning of 2012. I visited the boarder region of Thailand and Burma. On the Burmese side of the boarder one of the world’s longest ongoing civil wars is taking place. Since 1948 the Burmese military has been repressing the ethnic minority of the Kayin or Karen people. Hundreds of thousands are living in refugee camps along the Thai side of the boarder. For them, a return home is not in sight, even though there was a ceasefire agreement signed in January 2012. It’s a fragile peace in Kayin State. The Burmese Army is currently upgrading all its army-camps, to modern concrete facilities, the Karen National Liberation Army (K.N.L.A) stays highly alert.

My second trip took place in February 2013. This time I went to Kachin State in the far north of the country. I visited the unofficial capital of the Kachin people – Laiza. The conflict is the last one where there is still active fighting going on between the Burmese Army and the K.I.A, the Kachin Independence Army. The conflict originally started in 1961, but there was a ceasefire agreement set in place in 1994. After the resignation of the military-junta, the 17 year long ceasefire fell apart in 2011. New fighting erupted and is still going on to this day. So far, thousands of people have been killed. Laiza is under siege by the burmese Army and was heavily air-striked at the beginning of 2013. Despite numerous peace-talks the fighting is ongoing and has left behind more than 100 000 Kachin refugees.

The third trip took me to the west of the country, where with the change of government a religious conflict flared up. In June 2012 violence broke out in Burma’s second poorest province - Rakhine State. In the regional capital Sittwe, buddhist Rhakines clashed with muslim Rohingyas. The riots that broke out lasted for over a week, resulting in many deaths and thousands displaced persons. A second wave of violence broke out at the end of October 2012 in the same region. The clashes quickly spread throughout the country and resulted in the deaths of around 650 Rohingyas, over 7000 homes have been burned to the ground and more than 100 000 people have been displaced.

Published in National Geographic, De Volkskrant, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 6Mois

Julius Schrank