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  • For centuries, the Mogok valley in Northern Myanmar, which produces the best rubies on Earth, has been a magnet for adventurers, an inspiration for writers. Today, even though the ruby business is mostly controlled by large companies, some of them in joint venture with an army holding, mystery still stretches over the valley.

  • While reforms are slowly going ahead in Myanmar, in the remote mountains of the large Shan State (north), opium-poppy flower is booming. The country remains the world's second largest opium producer with a production which has doubled between 2006 and 2013. In the ethnic Palaung population, a traditional tea producer, opium, its derivative heroin, but also methamphetamine cause massive social damage. In some villages, up to 90% of the male population is addicted. These drugs are produced and sold by local government-sponsored militias, often with the complicity of Burmese soldiers. The Palaung guerilla, one of the last ethnic armed groups who have not signed a cease-fire agreement with the government, has launched a drug eradication campaign…

  • The administrative capital of Myanmar was officially transferred from Yangon to Naypyidaw in late 2005. 320 kilometers north of Yangon, the gleaming new city is peppered with impressive official buildings, luxury hotels and residential compounds for civil servants. The sprawling city is linked by vast, often deserted, avenues giving Naypidaw a strangely abandoned look.

  • Since 2012 a series of violent incidents has opposed Buddhist and Muslim communities all over Myanmar, killing or hurting hundreds of people, displacing tens of thousands of others. Buddhist radical elements are led by Wirathu, a teacher monk in a leading Mandalay monastery. Wirathu is also the spearhead of the so-called 969 movement advocating the boycott of Muslim owned-shops.

  • Aung San Su Kyi, Myanmar democracy icon, opposition leader, chief of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and Nobel Peace Prize, speaks during the World Economic Forum on East Asia organized in June 2013 in Naypyidaw.

  • Until the mid-1990s, Burma was the world’s leading producer of opium and heroin. Armies of Shan warlord Khun Sa and the ethnic Wa were controlling a vast production and distribution network all over the infamous Golden Triangle. Today, these groups have diversified in methamphetamine production, raising millions of dollars which hardly reach local villagers. Many traffickers are passing through neighbouring Thailand.

  • Myanmar: a collection of portraits made in ethnic territories of guerrillas, porters, humanitarian workers, displaced people, religious leaders and villagers.

  • Every year, a huge crowd gathers in Tawang, a small town located at an altitude of 3,300 metres in Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian state in the Himalaya close to Bhutan and China, which has the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India. They come and celebrate Torgya festival to quell evil spirits and pray for prosperity.

  • For centuries, workers extract blocks of white marble from quarries near Mandalay where sculptors carve them into Buddha and Chinese deities statues.

  • Since the independence of the country in 1948, ethnic minorities claiming some sort of autonomy in their territory, have raised arms against the central government. At some stage, with tens of thousands of guerilla - including children -, they threatened the very existence of the country. Today, although cease-fire agreements have been signed with the civilian government, the situation in ethnic territories is still very fragile and a war is still ragging in Kachin state.

  • In Cambodia, "It's not a dream", a show on the private television channel Bayon TV, looks for people separated by decades of war. So far, the show has managed to reunite more than 400 people during emotional TV broadcast.

  • In Myanmar, 90% of the population is Buddhist. Even though the generals who have run the country for fifty years have corrupted part of the Buddhist clergy, they never managed to subdue the whole monastic community estimated to 400,000 monks and 75,000 nuns.

  • On June 9th, a violent clash between guerrillas of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese Army soldiers marked the end of a 17 year old cease-fire. A succession of skirmishes followed and has led to a lot of human misery. Over 17,000 villagers have become refugees and have had to move to the Chinese border. Many soldiers have been killed, injured or captured. The offensive against the Kachin is part of a broad strategy launched by the new Burmese government against ethnic armed groups (such as the Shan and the Karen) who are refusing to disarm and fall under the command of Burmese Army officers. These ethnic groups are not asking for independence, but a real form of autonomy. A full war against these ethnic groups would create destabilization…

  • Hidden in the mountains of the northern Burma the 6,000 strong Kachin Independence Army (KIA) rarely makes the news. Yet for decades the fighters of this ethnic group waged war with Burmese government forces. In 1994 the KIA signed a historic ceasefire with the ruling junta. Recently, however, cracks have begun to appear in this uneasy truce. The Burmese government wants its erstwhile enemy to become its Border Guard Force; so far, the KIA has refused. Photographer and Burma expert Thierry Falise visited the KIA’s stronghold and found an army that looks as battle-ready as ever.

  • The whims of a spoiled grandson led to the creation of shiny new professional football league in Burma, according to a US cable published by Wikileaks. Burma’s ruling General Than Shwe apparently rejected a suggestion by his grandson that he purchase England's Manchester United for a cool US$ 1 billion in favour of a plan set up a local league – according to Wikileaks. Local tycoons, eager to find favour with Burma’s ruling junta, were quick to pour cash into stadiums and teams, complete with expensive foreign coaches. The leaked US cable went on to note that the new league "may be a way for the regime to distract the people from ongoing political and economic problems, or to divert their attention from criticism of the upcoming 2010…

  • Every year, in Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of people from around the country descend on the dusty village of Taungbyon transforming it into an epicentre of local spirits, the nats, and superstitions. Celebrations are run by transvestite priests.

  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia was organized in June 2013 in Naypyidaw, Myanmar's capital. More than 900 participants attended the three days of the forum including Burmese VIPs such as Aung San Suu Kyi, President Thein Sein and Parliament speaker Shwe Mahn.

  • Although she’s probably best known for her recording of the controversial pop song Je t'aime moi non plus, Jane Birkin is also a high profile political activist. She has taken a particularly vociferous stand against the military regime in Burma. In her push to support pro Burma democracy groups demanding the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi (the Nobel peace prize laureate who has been imprisoned or under house arrest in the Burmese capital on and off for almost two decades) she recently toured the Thai Burma border. Her visit included several organizations, a refugee camp, a prosthesis workshop and a rubbish recycling project. She even tried on a pair of shackles of the kind worn by prisoners in Burma. Photographer and writer Thierry Falise…

  • For decades, the Burmese army has run ethnic cleansing campaigns against minorities. Soldiers commit murder and rape; burn and loot villages and force civilians to work in slave-like conditions. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, hiding in the mountainous jungles. In Jan 2010, a humanitarian Free Burma Rangers (FBR) mission reached a community of refugees in the Northern Karen State. A column of porters assisted the team in carrying medicines, blankets, mosquito nets and other basic equipment. This time, the load also contained more than 400 kilos of Lego pieces. The famous Danish company, as a humanitarian gesture, sent a container load of its plastic construction toys, some of which were carried to the displaced villagers…

  • There are some 750,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority, who live under constant oppression from Burmese authorities in North Arakan State. They are considered stateless. Hundreds of thousands have fled Burma mostly into neighbouring Bangladesh where they are treated as illegal migrants. Many of them have to work for a meager salary in brick factories, salt farms, ports and other local industries. UNHCR and a few NGOs runs two official camps holding about 28,000 refugees. About 55,000 live in two “unregistered camps" nearby in inhumane conditions. Recently, Bangladesh authorities have launched a violent crackdown sending hundreds back to Burma, arresting and jailing others under illegal immigration charges. NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières…

  • When Cyclone Nargis slammed into Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta in May 2008, it killed about 140,000 people. Many of those who survived did so by sheltering in the delta’s sturdiest structures: its schools and monasteries. The cyclone also wrought a devastating toll on the Delta’s otherwise fertile rice paddies. Six months later, as survivors attempt to piece together shattered lives, many villagers and monks in the delta are still living in temporary shelters, and few have the resources to rebuild as the iron-fisted military junta has stymied the flow of foreign aid.

  • Teams from the Free Burma Rangers, a group made out of young volunteers from Myanmar ethnic minorities, make the long and dangerous walk through the Burmese jungle to bring emergency medical and material relief to hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by war.

  • Burma seems to be returning to a semblance of normalcy days after the junta brutally repressed huge demonstrations led by monks, killing officially 10 but probably scores and jailing hundreds. Photographer Thierry Falise who has been in the country for weeks, reports on the situation in the capital but also on what normal life is outside Yangon, from the villas worth hundreds of thousands of dollars of the regime’s “friends” to the dire poverty in which the majority of the population live.

  • Burma’s troubles all began when the junta suddenly and dramatically raised the prices of gas. After a few attempts of civilians protest, monks began taking it to the streets in several cities, a swelling nationwide protest that has escalated into the most potent threat to the junta’s hard-line rule in nearly 20 years. Photographer Thierry Falise was in Rangoon to see the peaceful demonstrations grow from a few hundreds to tens of thousands, with civilians joining the monks and defiantly calling for the release of opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi. He was there to witness the protests being brutally crushed by the military.

  • Ma Yan, Mu Mu and Mu Yaw don’t want to be models for tourists and postcards anymore. Since childhood, just like their ethnic Padaung mothers and grandmothers who fled Burma, the three young women have been wearing brass rings around their necks that have enchanted thousands of tourists, and earned them the nickname of giraffe women. But they now feel trapped in the tourism industry of northern Thailand, which bars them to leave their refugee camps and get an education or a job, or even to relocate to a third country. Tired of being slaves to mass tourism, they and other young Padaung women have decided to remove their rings and have a taste of freedom.

  • In three years, more than 2,200 people have died from violence in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand. They were Buddhists or Muslims, students, soldiers, policemen, rubber tapers, monks, vigilantes, teachers, or bystanders. They were killed by a bullet, a bomb, a machete, victims of a conflict without any clear demand or outlines, a terrifying mixture of separatist claims, criminal activities, personal revenges and, increasingly, radical Islamism. But if women are paying a heavy price as direct or indirect victims, and are silenced by both fear and a conservative society, a group of them has recently started giving women a voice, as photographer Thierry Falise reports.

  • Some 140,000 refugees, mainly from Burmese ethnic minorities fleeing fighting, live in various camps in Thailand. About a third live in Mae La, the largest camp built in 1984 a few kilometers from the Burmese border. In May 2007, nearly 17,000 refugees were accepted by third countries for resettlement, 10,000 going to the USA and others to Canada, Australia or northern Europe. The International Office for Migration has been dealing with medical and cultural preparations, testing the refugees for infectious diseases as well as teaching them the fundamentals of history and culture of their new homes. Photographer Thierry Falise reports on the refugees’ last days in the country, from the culture course to the hospital to the boarding gates.

  • Somaly Mam, the Cambodian human rights activist who has dedicated her life to rescuing women and girls from sexual slavery, has been honoured as one of Glamour magazine's women of the year. A former child prostitute, Somaly Mam, 34, knows first-hand the horror of sexual slavery. In her autobiographical book entitled ‘The Silence of Innocence’, Somaly had unveiled the shadowy world of Cambodian prostitution. Today, despite death threats from pimps, she has set up a string of shelters for rescued women. Her mission is to prevent others from repeating her own harrowing story. Photographer Thierry Falise visited Somaly’s shelters and discovered a world of compassion and hope.

  • The tradition of the dowry in India, although illegal since 1961, is still widely followed within all social classes. That tradition, originally created to guarantee to the future bride that she has her own resources, is today rather considered as a "buying ticket". Every year, at least 7,000 young women - twice that number according to human rights organizations - are killed in horrible circumstances by their in-laws for refusing or being unable to pay an extra amount to the dowry.

  • Burma has signed a US $6-billion contract with the MDX Group of Thailand to build dams on the Salween River. But if most of the power generated by the dams will be directed towards Thailand, Burma's ethnic minorities and the environment will bear almost all of the cost. A 400-kilometer long reservoir will flood valleys and mountain jungles along one of Asia’s last free-flowing rivers displacing Karen and Karenni minorities who have been fighting the Burmese junta for decades. Photographer Thierry Falise visited the Salween valley and the villagers whose lives are about to change.

  • Asia’s first professional football academy has kicked off in Thailand. Founded by former French international Jean Marc Guillou, the academy promises to be a breeding ground for Thailand’s football stars of tomorrow. The academy is Mr. Guillou’s second. His first, in Africa’s Ivory Coast, has already provided over half of the players on the national team. Students at the Thai school are hand-picked by talent scouts and are given access to free education. The fledgling stars showed their promise recently when, playing barefoot, they beat a team of older students who had the advantage of wearing football boots.

  • Over 3,000 meters above sea level, surrounded by the majesty of the snow-capped Himalayas, small communities of Buddhist nuns lead lives untouched by globalisation and advances in modern technology. Members of the Dalai Lama's Gelugpa sect, the nuns traditionally spend their entire lives in these Himalayan monasteries. Sadly, however, this ancient way of life is slowly disappearing as each year fewer nuns are ordained and others leave the monastery to get married. In Tawang, the nearest town, lies the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India. Each family has to provide the monastery with at least one son. Hundreds of them spend years - or their entire life - studying and meditating.

  • The enigmatic Talakon tribe, who live in the jungle between Burma and Thailand, follow an obscure cult which is a mixture of animism and Buddhism. Talakon folklore has it that a 'white brother will bring them the "Golden Book of Life". The 'white brother', some believe, could be two American missionaries who, for 40 years, have been working to bring the Bible and Christianity to the Talakon.

  • In an interesting reversal of roles, the women of India's traditional Khasi community have come out on top. They lead a unique matriarchal society, of some 900,000 people, in which the men are left to complain that they are second class citizens.

  • India's Vindhya Plateau is home to a unique selection of prehistoric rock paintings. As local miners dig deeper into the plateau, however, this 'world heritage' is under threat.

  • The Tonle Sap is Cambodia's 'Lake of Kings'. One of the world's richest sources of freshwater fish and the provider of 70% of the population's protein needs, each rainy season the lake undergoes an annual transformation that sees it swell to six times its original size, as waters and millions of fish are pushed upstream from the Mekong Delta. This extraordinary migration provides a rich harvest of fish for Cambodians living along the shore of the lake. Today overpopulation, overfishing, pollution and the construction of dams upstream in China, threaten the very existence of the Tonle Sap.

  • Child monks ride through the mountains of the infamous Golden Triangle. Followers of a maverick monk, they are an order of child monks dedicated to a crusade against drugs. Many of the boys are either orphans or former drug addicts themselves. At the “Temple of the Golden Horse” they learn martial arts, meditation and the values of an ascetic lifestyle.

  • The Jarawa, who share a similar ethnic identity with the Bushmen from Southern Africa, live from hunting, fishing and picking on the Andaman Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean for thousands of years. Today, their population estimated to less than 400 individuals is threatened by disease and settlers encroaching on their territory.

  • Watercolour sketches of the secret Hmong hill tribe army which is still waiting for the Americans to return.