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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 16
Mae Sai, Thailand
By S. R. Grasso
10 Jun 2015

Boys begging through the chain-linked fence separating Burma from Thailand in the thai border city of Mae Sai.

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 17
Mae Sai, Thailand
By S. R. Grasso
10 Jun 2015

Burmese children begging at the Thai-Burmese border city of Mae Sai.

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Aceh: Migrants Find Shelter on Indone...
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
08 Jun 2015

Muslim Rohingya people fleeing persecution in Burma and Bangladeshis escaping poverty in their country have found welcoming shores in Aceh, North Indonesia, after gruesome and dangerous journeys in the sea at the hands of mafias of human trafficking. In early May, thousands of them found themselves at the centre of a regional emergency when Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia refused to accept them.

After Thailand cracked down on human trafficking networks who had been operating in the region for years, the traffickers abandoned the boats, leaving their victims adrift with virtually no food and water. The Rohingya and Bangladeshi have been paying human smugglers for years to take them to Malaysia. Many of these smugglers turned out to be traffickers who held their human cargo hostage in camps along the border between Thailand and Malaysia until their families paid ransoms of thousands of dollars.

On 20 May, Malaysia and Indonesia finally agreed to allow the boats ashore after pushing them back to the sea for two weeks. Before that, at a time when the policy of their governments was to deny entry to the Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants, fishermen form the province of Aceh, in Indonesia, rescued three boats carrying almost 2,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi people, defying the orders from the Indonesian Navy.

The Rohingya, widely regarded in Myanmar as Bangladeshi interlopers despite tracing their ancestry in the country for generations, were stripped of citizenship in 1982 and have lived under apartheid-like conditions ever since. Their situation worsened in 2012, when a wave of sectarian violence between the Rakhine Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority engulfed Rakhine State, leaving dozens of dead. The violence also left 140,000 internally displaced people, mostly Rohingya confined in overcrowded camps lacking the most basic facilities.

With scarce means of livelihood and virtually no access to health care or education, in recent years an increasing number of Rohingya have taken their chances embarking to Malaysia. Economic migrants from Bangladesh have increasingly joined the Rohingya. They are fleeing poverty in one of the most impoverished and overpopulated nations in Asia.

While the Bangladeshi migrants are certain that they will be repatriated at some point, and personnel from their embassy have already visited the camps to verify their identities, the future of the Rohingya is more uncertain. They can’t be sent back to their country and the process to resettle them in third countries might take years.

Nevertheless, the Acehnese population seems to have welcomed those who have arrived to their coast with open arms. Many Acehnese visit them to the camps and their donations are making sure there are no shortages of food, and some are lobbying to shelter the Rohingya refugees indefinitely in Aceh.

“I really wish they will stay permanently in Aceh. I have lobbied the Governor of Aceh on this matter, and will raise it with the head of the Senate,” said Rafly, a famous Acehnese singer and Senator.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Migrants in Indonesia 10
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
08 Jun 2015

Rohingya refugees, Bangladeshi migrants and aid workers pray together at Bayeun camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 8 June 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 17
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
07 Jun 2015

Bangladeshi migrant lies on the floor with fever at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 7 June 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 08
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
07 Jun 2015

Bangladeshi migrant at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 7 June 2015. Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants are sheltered in separated compounds because there was a fight between both communities when they were stranded at sea in the same boat in which 100 people reportedly died.

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Migrants in Indonesia 11
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
05 Jun 2015

Rohingya woman prays at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 5 June 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 12
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
05 Jun 2015

A Rohingya girl looks at herself in the mirror after her mother has combed her hair at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 5 June 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 18
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
27 May 2015

Bangladeshi migrants at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 27 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 19
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
27 May 2015

Bangladeshi migrants at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 27 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 09
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
27 May 2015

Bangladeshi migrants at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 27 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 05
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
26 May 2015

Rohingya refugee at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 26 May 2015. This camp shelters 330 Rohingya refugees who arrived to the coasts of Aceh on 10th May. 190 Bangladeshi migrants who travelled in the same boat are now held in an immigration center waiting for their repatriation.

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Migrants in Indonesia 06
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
26 May 2015

A group of Rohingya refugees plays volleyball at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 26 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 07
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
26 May 2015

Two Rohingya women wash their clothes at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 26 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 16
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
25 May 2015

Rohingya girl plays at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 25 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 20
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
25 May 2015

Rohingya refugee eats at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 25 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 03
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
25 May 2015

A Rohingya refugee receives an injection against tetanus at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 25 May 2015. Like many other women in the camp, she had never seen a syringe before. She was so terrified of the instrument that she had to be restrained by Acehnese medical personnel in order to administer the injection.

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Migrants in Indonesia 21
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

Rohingya refugee sleeps at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 22
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A group of Rohingya women wait to get aid from the Taiwanese NGO Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 01
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A group of Rohingya refugees take a rest at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015. This camp shelters 231 Rohingya refugees from Burma and 425 migrants from Bangladesh who reached the Indonesian coast on 15th May after being rescued by Acehnese fishermen. While the migrants from Bangladesh will be repatriated to their country, the future of the Rohingya refugees is more uncertain, as the Burmese government doesn’t recognize them as citizens in their own country.

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Migrants in Indonesia 04
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A group of Rohingya refugees wait to get clothes donated by local people at Bayeun camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 13
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A group of Rohingya women wait to get aid from the Taiwanese NGO Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 14
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A Rohingya child sleeps in the floor at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 24
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
22 May 2015

Rohingya refugee at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 22 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 02
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
22 May 2015

Group of Rohingya women at the Bayeun Camp, in the outskirts of Langsa City, Aceh Province, Indonesia, 22 May 2015. This camp shelters341 Rohingya refugees from Burma and 92 migrants from Bangladesh who reached the Indonesian coast on 20th May after being rescued by Acehnese fishermen. While all Bangladeshi are men, there are many women and children among the Rohingya.

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Migrants in Indonesia 15
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
22 May 2015

An Acehnese policeman gives candies to Rohingya children at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 22 May 2015.

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Children of Migrant Labor in Southeas...
Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia
By S. R. Grasso
04 Apr 2015

An estimated 214 million persons worldwide are international migrants, along with an estimated 740 million internal migrants. Youth make up a disproportionate share of migrants from developing countries; about one third is between 12 and 25 years old. This includes millions of children under the age of 18. Migrant Children travelling with or with out their family in the South-East Asian region are most vulnerable group risking of child labor and human trafficking. Children attached to migrant worker parents can be found actively working in sectors such as domestic labor, street vending, farming, construction, waste collecting in garbage dumps and begging, often without accompanying adults or family and without safety or protection. Other common forms of child labor found in migrant communities including seafood processing, where children are often found working along side their parents in seafood markets or ship docks where seafood are unloaded, processing plants, and frozen processed food factories.

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 11
Paoy Paet, Cambodia
By S. R. Grasso
04 Apr 2015

Girl living in a slum in Paoy Paet, Cambodia, near the Thai border. During the evenings, many children enter the no man's land in between the two checkpoints and beg the passers by.

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 12
Paoy Paet, Cambodia
By S. R. Grasso
04 Apr 2015

Young teen working on a construction site in one of Paoy Paet's many slums.

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 13
Paoy Paet, Cambodia
By S. R. Grasso
04 Apr 2015

Boy living in a slum in Paoy Paet, Cambodia, near the Thai border. During the evenings, many children enter the no man's land in between the two checkpoints and beg the passers by.

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 14
Paoy Paet, Cambodia
By S. R. Grasso
04 Apr 2015

Cambodian children begging in the no man's land between the Thai and Cambodian checkpoints of the Paoy Paet border.

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LGBT Community in Myanmar Says 'Enoug...
burma
By Pablo L. Orosa
09 Mar 2015

At sundown, only the golden dome of the Shwedagon Pagoda shines in the Yangon's sky. Now the bustle of the afternoon has disappeared and the People's Park, one of the most crowded places in the city, remains in silence. In the west corner, at least fifty candles cry out against tortures, harassment, police abuses and discrimination. Hidden for 50 years, Burma's LGTB community is now clamoring for their rights. 

“Some weeks ago, a friend of mine was walking in the lane, here in Yangon, when a group of men started to insult him because of his sexuality. Right after, they attacked and beat him”. Incidents like this, reported by Zae Ya, a spokesperson of activist group Colors Rainbow, are quite frequent in Burma. Despite the improvement achieved since the dissolution of the Military Junta in 2011, lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people are still facing bullying and violence in their daily life. “Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) minorities do suffer from social prejudices and discrimination”, says Lynette Chua, an expert on LGTB issues and professor of Law at the National University of Singapore.

In Burma, homosexuality is not illegal, although it is de facto outlawed under Section 377 of the Penal Code 1860, which defines the ‘unnatural offence’ of carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal and punishes it by imprisonment for up to ten years. In theory, this offense could be applied to all genders, but in fact it is interpreted by the police as criminalizing male consensual homosexual conduct as well as other “unnatural” sex forms.

This law was inherited from the British colonial era and is based on the Indian Penal Code. In roughly 80 countries, at least half of which were British colonies, this repressive law is still in force. Unlike other Southeast Asia countries, such as Cambodia or Laos, where the age of consent sex for both heterosexual and homosexual sex is 15, in Burma same sex behavior is criminalized. Even if homosexual relations cannot be proved, LGTB people may be sued for public nuisance (Section 268 of the Penal Code), negligently spreading sexual disease (Section 269) and detained under local Acts for suspicious activities. On December 29, about 30 transgender people were arrested in Kandawgyi area. “There are a lot of people in prison due to their sexuality”, declares Hla Myat, program officer at Colors Rainbow. “They can punish LGTB community using the legal system”, adds Zae Ya.

Police abuses: torture and arbitrary arrests 

On 7 July 2013, a gathering of around 20 men, some of them Police officers, “assaulted” a group of gay and transgender people in the area of Sedona Hotel, in Mandalay, “pushing, hitting, handcuffing and pulling off their garments in public”. Once in custody, “police continued to abuse the group of 11 detainees, hitting and kicking them constantly, stripping them naked in the public areas of the Mandalay Regional Police headquarters, photographing them, forcing them to hop like frogs, forcing them to clean shoes and tables, to walk up and down as if on a catwalk, uttering obscenities at them, and otherwise physically and psychologically demeaning them”, the Asian Human Rights Commission reported.

Cases of alleged arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of people on the grounds of sexual orientation have become chronic in Burma, particularly in the Mandalay area. “Big cities, especially Yangon, are more open-minded, but in rural areas the situation for LGTB people is more difficult”, explains Zae Ya.

In a 2014 statement, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned that “police reportedly use the law to intimidate and extort bribes” from transgender and homosexual people: “inside police detention and prison, there are reports of humiliating treatment such as MSM (men who have sex with men) and transgender persons being forced to strip naked and dance, beaten with a rod (Nan-Bat-Dote), ridiculed while they are naked, pressured to have sex and burnt with cigarettes”. Paying bribes is often the best way to escape from this.

Lifetime social stigma

There are at least fifty people this night in the People´s Park, most of them under 30´s. They chat in a lively way. Tin Cu Chu, who wears a pink shirt from which hang sunglasses, appears with a candle. Then everybody falls silent. After two minutes, two voices begin to speak. It´s Burmese language, but the message is clear: it´s high time to claim our rights. The candles are to shed light on these hidden people.

Behind all abuses and discrimination faced by LGTB community there are social reasons. Although most people have no problem with them, - “there is no problem if there is no public announcement about relationship”, says Hla Myat-, some society groups are becoming more and more intolerant regarding sexual orientations. Religion is playing a big role in that. Theravada Buddhism, the main religious branch in Burma, enhances gender roles. In Mandalay, for example, religious authorities advised that homosexual men are not authorised on the upper level of the place of worship, where only men are allowed. “There is a populist belief in Buddhism in Myanmar that one is reborn a SOGI minority and thus has to endure suffering in this lifetime, because one has committed sexual transgressions, for example adultery, in one's past life”, illustrates Chua.

These theological assumptions have imbued Burmese culture, inciting social disturbances. At home, some fathers believe that bringing up a homosexual child hurts the family´s dignity and force his marriage. Intolerance starts at school too. “LGTB students usually suffer discrimination from their colleagues, even from their teachers who say to them ‘you are not natural, you are not normal. You have to change your behavior because it is not in accordance with our culture’”, notes Zae Ya. Due to bullying and mistreatment, the majority of these children quit the school before graduating, which puts them in a weak position to earn a living. “Most of them don´t have a chance to get a good job”, adds the Burmese activist. 

In its study, UNDP reports that many transgender and gay men have limited work opportunities  “because of stigma and discrimination and stereotyping”. In many cases there are constraints on expressing their sexual orientation and gender identity in workplaces. For many of them, above all among transgender people, sex work is the only way-out. However, working in the streets leads to more problems with the Police -it has been reported that some policemen extort money from them and some require sex to be provided under threat of arrest- and the high risk of contract HIV.

According to official data, HIV prevalence among MSM in Burma was 29.3 percent as of 2008, 42 times higher than the national adult prevalence rate. Since then, as a result of a successful national health program, HIV prevalence has fallen to 7.8% in 2011. In 2013, the rate grows to 10.4%. Social disturbances and law enforcement are discouraging programme beneficiaries from accessing basic HIV services, UNDP recognizes in its report. 

2015, the year of the change

When last November a same-sex couple celebrated their tenth anniversary publicly, a controversial debate shook the Burmese society. It was the first time that a gay couple did this in the country. Moreover, in 2014 the first LGTB film festival took place in Yangon, and some nightclubs in the city organized special parties for lesbians and gays. “Some years ago things like these would have been impossible”, says Zae Ya.

The democratic winds will be verified in 2015, with the elections. “We can change positively our country. We can get more rights”, insists the Colors Rainbow spokesperson. However, it is not clear what is going to happen. Perhaps, the candles will blow out. Perhaps, more must be lit. 

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 08
Chiang Mai, Thailand
By S. R. Grasso
27 Feb 2015

Two young boys transport flowers from a small field in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 09
Chiang Mai, Thailand
By S. R. Grasso
27 Feb 2015

Young construction worker on break at a the site of a future hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 10
Chiang Mai, Thailand
By S. R. Grasso
27 Feb 2015

Little girl assisting her parents on a construction site in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 06
Loi Ta Leng, Myanmar
By S. R. Grasso
06 Feb 2015

Young soldier at the Shan State Army (South) National Day in Loi Ta Leng, Myanmar.

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 05
Samut Sakhon, Thailand
By S. R. Grasso
31 Jan 2015

Teenage boy ending his night shift from a factory in Samut Sakhon, Thailand.

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Child Labor in Southeast Asia 07
Samut Sakhon, Thailand
By S. R. Grasso
31 Jan 2015

Young teen working at the Samut Sakhon fish market in Samut Sakhon, Thailand.

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Knla 06
Mae Sot, Thailand
By vincenzo floramo
31 Jan 2015

Soldiers of the Karen Revolution Army preparing the flags for the imminent parade for the KNLA 66th revolution anniversary.

On Karen Revolution Day at the 7th Brigade headquarters 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, considered among the longest civil wars in history.

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Knla 07
Mae Sot, Thailand
By vincenzo floramo
31 Jan 2015

Soldiers marching on the main square on the Karen National Liberation Army 66th revolution anniversary.

On Karen Revolution Day at the 7th Brigade headquarters 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, considered among the longest civil wars in history.