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The World's Longest-Running Civil War
Myawaddy, Myanmar
By vincenzo floramo
30 Jan 2015

Photos by Vincenzo Floramo

Text by Portia Larlee

Thick fog lifted at the break of dawn January 31 to reveal rows of troops at the Karen National Liberation Army headquarters on the Thai-Myanmar border. It was Karen Revolution Day and hundreds of onlookers from Karen villages and refugee camps border-wide had gathered to commemorate Britain's departure from Burma in 1948 and the subsequent civil war between Karen and government forces. Decades later Karen, young and old, are driven by the fierce nationalism of generations past in the push for political autonomy.  The event was an excellent starting point from which to discuss what a post-ceasefire Myanmar might look like. The peace process continues, with a seventh round of ceasefire talks set for the coming months. Karen leaders, including Karen National Union chairman Mutu Say Poe addressed troops at the KNLA headquarters, urging a nationwide ceasefire – and eventually a "federal army." Discussion of “security reform” was missing from the day's speeches, largely because the future of Myanmar's ethnic minority armies following a nationwide ceasefire remains unclear. What will become of Myanmar's freedom fighters? 

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

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The Hidden Kingdom 1
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
14 May 2014

A teenager in the Kayin Anyd Thar Village. Teenagers here do not go to state Burmese school and the King decided to build their own primary school in the village.

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The Hidden Kingdom 2
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

The full moon day celebration ends late at night. The only light in the Kayin Anyd Thar Village comes from the moon.

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The Hidden Kingdom 3
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

A King's monk preparing the last decorations inside the Hopy Hta Mote where His Majesty will pray for the village.

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The Hidden Kingdom 4
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

On the full moon night the King, on top of his regal litter, circles the holy Hta Mote nine times. After this walk he goes inside the holy temple to address the village with his prayer.

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The Hidden Kingdom 5
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

An image of King Phoe Takhit in a little shrine where local villagers of Kayin Anyd Thar Village give offerings and praise him.

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The Hidden Kingdom 6
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

Devotes of the King sit outside the Hta Mote listening the prayers coming out of the speakers.

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The Hidden Kingdom 7
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

At Kayin Anyd Thar Village horses are free to roam the surroundings. According to the old Karen traditions the presence of cows, buffalos, horses, and elephants in the village, is sacred .

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The Hidden Kingdom 8
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

A local Karen villager prepares the speakers for the full moon night prayer.

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The Hidden Kingdom 9
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

Villagers from Kayin Anyd Thar Village pray in front of their King, during the ceremony of a wedding celebrated on the full moon day.

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The Hidden Kingdom 10
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

King King Phoe Takhit blessing one of the villagers during the holy festivities of the rainy season's full moon.

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The Hidden Kingdom 11
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

A newlywed couple perform a traditional rituals around a tree. They tie tree trunks with twine which symbolises a strong union.

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The Hidden Kingdom 12
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

The monks, chosen by the King, are the only ones allowed to enter on the holy Hta Mote, where the King prays on the night of the rainy season full moon.

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The Hidden Kingdom 13
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
13 May 2014

Two villagers walk and pray around the holy Hta Mote, a bamboo fenced field with a red Pagoda style building in the middle, from where the King give his sermons.

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The Hidden Kingdom 14
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
12 May 2014

A young girl decorates the grave of the King's father during the full moon celebrations.

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The Hidden Kingdom 15
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
12 May 2014

A Young monk rides a horse during the holy full moon of May when all the village prays for a new and prosperous harvest season.

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The Hidden Kingdom 16
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
12 May 2014

King Phoe Tha Khit and his 'right hand man' walk around the village observing the full moon ceremony preparations.

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The Hidden Kingdom 17
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
12 May 2014

A giant concrete painted statue of King Phoe Tha Khit situated at the entrance of the village.

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The Hidden Kingdom 18
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
12 May 2014

Villagers of Kayin Anyd Thar live inbetween modernity and very ancient rituals and rules designed by the King.

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The Hidden Kingdom 19
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
12 May 2014

A villager performing her "Bao", a kind of spiritual withdrawal for 12 days during two weeks around raining season full moon. In the back is the holy Hta Mote building.

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The Hidden Kingdom 20
Hpa An, Kayin Anyd Thar Village
By vincenzo floramo
12 May 2014

Two boys chosen by the King to take care of his pets. At Kayin Anyd Thar Village the King is regarded as a divinity.