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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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Rescued Rohingya Migrants Find Shelte...
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Nearly 1,000 refugees from the oppressed Rohingya minority in Myanmar, and economic migrants from Bangladesh have washed ashore in Aceh, Indonesia after harrowing journeys drifting in the sea, being abandoned by their traffickers.

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 01
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Refugees sit in a warehouse after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 13
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Refugees pick through donated clothing after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar on Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 14
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Indonesian police keep an eye on Bangladeshi refugees two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 16
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Refugees sit in a warehouse after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 02
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Refugees from Bangladesh rest for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 03
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee sits in a holding facility set up by Indonesian officials at the fishing port of Langsa after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 04
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Refugees rest in a warehouse after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 05
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Refugees sit in a medical tent receiving IV's after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 06
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee being treated with an IV is helped to a cot after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 07
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee lies in a medical tent receiving an IV after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 08
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Mohammed Dabio, a Rohingya from Bangladesh shows wounds he says he received during beatings by smugglers as he sits in a medical tent after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015, in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 09
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A sick Rohingya refugee from Myanmar weeps in the warehouse where she has been staying for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 11
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A Rohingya refugee from Myanmar looks after her sick baby in the warehouse where she has been staying for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingya in Indonesia 12
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A Rohingya refugee from Myanmar looks after her sick baby in the warehouse where she has been staying for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 15
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee from Bangladesh escorts a sick man out of a warehouse where they and other refugees are staying for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 17
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Refugees sit in a warehouse after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 18
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A Rohingya refugee from Myanmar weeps in the warehouse where she is staying two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 19
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A man walks his friend being treated with an IV drip to the toilets in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 20
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugees draw water from a well to wash with after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 21
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee looks out at the sea at a holding facility set up by Indonesian officials at the fishing port of Langsa after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 22
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Refugees pick clothes from a pile of donated clothing in a holding facility set up by Indonesian officials at the fishing port of Langsa after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 23
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee is documented at the fishing port of Langsa after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 10
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
16 May 2015

A refugee weeps in an aid tent a day after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 16, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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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.