Photo Essay to Loi Tai Leng

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The second piece of this 60 day journey widely describes the difficulties of the characters in the story for which the photographer is a part of.

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Salween in Thai, Nujiang in Chinese and Than Lwin in Burmese all refer to Namg Kong in Shan language. The Salween River starts its runoff from Tibetan plateau and flows through to Yuan Nan province of China, Shan State, Myanmar, Mae Hong Son province of Thailand then into Andaman sea of Southeast Asia. Even though it can’t be used in irrigations, millions of bio-diversities as well as different ethnic groups rely on the river. Sands were shoveled and sold to construction companies. Teak forests along the river bank, which were also threatened by Dam constructions, were eventually chopped down. The story of Salween has been told as tales, sung as songs and written as poems for many generations. However, no adventure stories were ever associated with it.

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Group of Shan youths crossing the Salween River in Langkhur Township located in Southern Shan State. These youths were painted with golden dust as they just came out from rough road. Coming from different parts of Shan State, these youth gathered to celebrate the Shan State National Day in Loi Tai Leng (Tai Prosperity Mountain), the headquarters of Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) along Thai-Myanmar border. During the dry season, it is difficult for motor boats to cruise the shallow Salween River. In order to reach enough depth to cruise, Travelers need to drive along Nam Taung River (pronounce Namg Daing) until it combines with Salween River.

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Groups of Shan youth enjoy a game of cane ball after political lesson in Nong Kham Seng village, situated on the high mountains of Thai-Myanmar border. Most Villagers wake up early; every home is a shelter for guests who are going to participate in the celebration of the Shan State National Day on Feb. 7.  Shan youth celebrate unity under the “One meal, one firewood” saying. Every day they look for firewood exchanges by offering rice. While thousands of people came to the ceremony, this particular village ran out of water where some people weren’t able to bathe.

 

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Prevention is better than cure! A young boy helps his dad dig a bunker under the gully of Nong Kham Seng village. The bunker is over 30 kilometers from markets situated at the edge of Thai-Myanmar border. Each family responsible is for one bunker. The process of digging these bunkers results in harsh conditions such as humidity, its hard to breathe, bad smell and the wall can be fall in at anytime.

 

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Time is rare for soldiers to sit and stare. One to two months can go by before they actually have time to even wash their uniforms. Soldiers came to welcome Tripitaka (three Baskets), a scripture in Buddhism brought from Thailand to the monastery name Leng Harn Tai. Soldiers from different training camps took their positions at the ceremony to watch and cheer. Soldiers derived from different classes of families rich and poor. They do not expecet to receive higher salary; instead they are paid in satisfaction by helping civilians, respect, keeping neat appearances, bravery and 22 articles that have been identified by the council.

6Concrete stage was decorated with number 69 constructed in the windy plain of Thai-Burma border hosted 69th Anniversary of Shan State National Day. Because of its rare celebrations, people defined Shan State National Day in various perspectives. Recently thousands of Shan State people, including Shan migrant workers from Thailand, Akha, La Hu, Karenni and Karen, respectively attended the ceremory cheering for their most memorable moments. The ceremony reflected the spirit of Pang Long, a historical event for the Union of Burma independence and ended the controversial term of Shan State Nattional Day.

 

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Shan women met at Shan State National Day ceremony carrying Akhas, a traditional musical instrument. Even though Akha is typically described as the hill tribe ethnic group of Shan State, some live in Yunan provience of China, Laos, Northern Thailand and Eastern Shan State. Three Akha women prepare to perform their traditional dancing. February. 7th  is the day when 34 Shan State chiefs who are Shan or Tai, Ta Ang, Pa O, Wa and Ka Yan or Pa Taung held historical conference to get independence from British in 1947. Shan State civilians marked that day as Shan State National Day. The ceremony represents unity of Shan State’s diverse ethnic groups.

 

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Medics, clerks, gem factory of the council workers, radio broadcasting station volunteers; no matter the job, their all Nang Harn; which in Shan stands for brave woman. Shan women army corps was formed more than two decades before the current council. Female soldiers eat the same meal as men soldiers; but unlike men, they have much more time to bathe. The reason being is because under the council strategies policy, they are not allowed to participate battle; although Nang Harn are proficient in various skills just like men. Being scowled in parades shows the bravery and honesty of those female soldiers. Their appearances with tidy uniforms overwhelm most women who have seen them.

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Two observers stand by the entrance of the organic farms of Loi Tai Leng high school; which is also an orphanage. Due to lack of space for farming, the school constantly has to resort to the local market located over 20 kilometers away. Local students have learned agricultures and organic farming technics from a Thai NGO. Student organic farms produced cosmetic products like Shampoo, make-up and soap. The terraces at the slope near school were recently farmed by orphans. Local residents are expecting to purchase these crops once grown. However, it is very challenging for graduated students to attend universities due to its location and lack of Thai and Burma government’s ability to recognize it. Nearly 300 houses share one clinic with over 20 medics.

By Jai Jai Lao Mong / Special Contributor to Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)

 

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