Vincenzo Floramo, Was born in Trieste, Italy in 1968. After completing his studies he attended an art photography school in Spain.In 1992 Vincenzo began to live a nomadic life between Asia,South America, North America and Europe, which still continues.He has been committed to exploring, learning, connecting with and photographing the diverse expressions of human experiences that he encounters within these varied cultures. He has collaboration with international NGO and develops different awareness photo projects in Thailand and Burma. He has spent extended periods of time living in the refugee camps, getting to know and photographing the Burmese there. His photos were published on The Guardian, Bangkok Post, Ouest France, Aljazzera and Io Donna between others. Awards: -2013 Honorable Mention IPA Environmental -2013 Second Prize Portraiture Paris Prix Award -2013 Finalist Revela Humanitarian Photo Prize -2013 Shortlisted KL PhotoAward -2012 Honorable Mention IPA Night Photography -2012 Honorable Mention IPA Editorial Political -2012 Fosco Maraini Prize -2011 Bronze medal Paris Prix Award -2011 Shortlist at KL Photo Award -2011 IPC Nomination -2011 Portfolio Garfagnana Second Prize -2010 Honorable mention Paris Prix Award
Marked by Buddhist faithful throughout the world, Visakha Bucha commemorates the life, enlightenment and death of the Lord Buddha some 2500 years ago. This year the holiday, which is sometimes known simply as Buddha’s birthday, fell on May 20. Every year on the night of Visakha Bucha Day it is tradition among local Buddhists to walk in an 11 km pilgrimage to Doi Suthep mountain to reach Phra That Doi Suthep temple. The journey takes several hours and a good deal of endurance, but it’s very popular and the walk is more like a parade. Upon arrival, the pilgrims walk three times around the temple’s main stupa before offering alms to the monks at sunrise.
The Poy Sang Long Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is celebrated as a three-day holiday in the country and sees boys aged between 9 and 14 be ordained as novice Buddhist monks at the Wat Pa Pao temple.
Pau Son Kula is a 9 year-old boy and he will become a Buddhist monk, something that is a matter of pride and honor to his parents and other relatives.
This colorful tradition of the Shan ethnic people of celebrating their young sons becoming novice monks is an ancient custom that is thought to have started with the first Buddhist “novice” Prince Rahula, the Buddha’s own son who gave up his lavish nobility to follow his father’s spiritual teachings.
During the three-day ceremony, the boy’s family and their close friends live at the temple courtyard where they have a camp, where they cook and sleep. Pau Son Kula’s parents have invited 700 guest to assist in the ceremony. “I am very happy because in this three days I will meet family members that I have not seen for a year”, said Sailon, 34, Pau Son’s father and who moved to Thailand, migrating from the southern Shan province in Myanmar 16 years ago.
Shan migrants have brought over the tradition from Myanmar. The ceremony goes on for three days, as the boy is dressed as the prince Shiddarta and spends all the time being carried around on the shoulders of his older relatives.
“I am very proud of my son these days. I love this Buddhist tradition where we celebrate the unity of our family in these blessing days”, recalls Saengkaew, Pau Son’s mother.
Novice monks usually experience the monk life for a period between three days up to a week, and some for even a longer time. When asked about his experience during the festival, Pau Son Kula said “I enjoy very much the ceremony and the festival. I think a monk’s life must be a little hard.”
"Driving it is all about confidence. Without that it is almost impossible” says Brinda, a 47 year old Nepali, and an electric powered 'Tempo' driver (rickshaw is usually called 'Tempo' in Nepal). Introduced in Nepal in the early 1990s, the electric three-wheel rickshaw is a clean alternative solution to the high polluting diesel powered tempo.
These small vehicles operate as a collective minibus, which can transport up to 12 passengers including the driver. Each tempo uses two big sets of batteries that provide Brinda with enough power for eight round trips on her 16 km circle route from Kathmandu Mall to Galfutar, a nearby town in the Kathmandu valley.
Brinda is a successful mother and business woman, working for almost 14 hours a day from 5.30 am to 7 pm. She manages to have a daily income of 30 USD. Out of that she has to pay expenses for battery recharges, drivers labor union organization fees and parking fees, a total of 7 USD per day.
Around a million devotees visited Pashupatinath temple on Monday March 7, 2016 in the occasion of the Mahashivaratri Festival in Kathmandu. The gate of the temple opened at 3 a.m. allowing people to queue from the early morning. Mahashivaratri literally means the greatest night for devotion to Lord Shiva.
The festival falls on the 13th day in the dark fortnight in Falgun on the Hindu calendar. Pashupatinath Temple is regarded as one of the holiest Shiva shrines in the world. The festival consists of ‘warming’ Shiva in the belief that the lord also feels cold on this day. People start bonfires at public squares, houses, temples and shrines and perform prayers.
According to the authorities, 3,000 personnel from Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force were deployed to provide security. More than 5000 Shadus (holy men) arrived for Nepal and India, camping in the temporary shelters set up by the organization.
On the 27th of April 2015 a second earthquake of 6.5 magnitude struck 17 km south of the village of Liping on the Nepali - Tibet border. Eleven months after the destructive earthquake the northern border with China remains closed. Nowadays the main Sino - Nepal border crossing point is at Rasuwagadhi - Kerung north of Kathmandu. Liping village, which was once a busy crossing point for businessmen from China, India and Nepal, looks today like a ghost town. Around 75% to the population left the village and moved to nearby villages or Kathmandu. The Nepal government is still assessing the damage but the area looks untouched since the quake hit. The Chinese decision to close the border for security reasons has affected the local population whose livelihood depended on trade and tourism. Is not clear when the road will be reopened. At the moment there is still a big risk of landslides, especially with the coming raining season. Liping residents who remain in the village try to have a normal day by day life and keep the spirit of the community alive.
Thailand marked the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, on December 5, 2016 by giving alms and pray for the King at the hospital where he was admitted and his health is closely watched. The day is also observed as Thailand’s National Day and National Father’s Day.
Thai people celebrate this auspicious occasion on a grand scale to show gratitude to their beloved King, who is “more than a monarch” for many. In Thailand, the monarch is seen as a symbol of the nation and its continuity, and for this reason he is expected to be above politics and so a representative of all the people in the state. Celebrations have taken place also at Sanam Luang, just beside the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha temple in the Thai capital. King Bhumibol, who turns 88, was last seen in public on September 1, and officials say he will not be making a public appearance on his birthday.
Photos that show Thai people celebrating the Loi Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand, between the 24th and 26th of November, 2015. The festival features beautifully illuminated lanterns, which are either carried, displayed in houses and temples, and even launched into the night sky. Krathong which are an offering – traditionally made out of a banana stalk and adorned with candles, incense and some money – are floated down the rivers. A big parade, the Loy Krathong Parade, features giant illuminated krathongs, on top of which are perched candidates for the upcoming beauty contest.
Sweden's 2nd city hosted from 3th to 8th august the Malmo Pride. A number of events were organised during the week, with a big march on the Saturday 8th through the city. Existing since 1995 Malmo Rainbow festival spreading both knowledge of LGBT (Gay Bi Trans Queer) and the joy of life to the city. The festival is a celebration where LGBTQ movement are making their voices heard. According to the organizers the festival purpose is to make visible the diversity of expression by arranging and coordinating arts and culture. It also creates meeting places and arenas for knowledge deepening, dialogue, reflection, attitude and social influence. Rainbow Festival Malmö Pride is open and available to all who share and respect the following values and respects the culture that has its roots in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and queer life. In this photos selection the Parade closing the Rainbow festival Malmo Pride 2015. After a week long pride festival a parade through the street of Malmo with 7500 participant, a record number, ended the festivities with a party in the centrally placed Colkets park (The peoples Park)
In 1993, Soraida Salwala opened the World’s First Asian Elephant Hospital. Located in the Mae Yao National Reserve of Lampang, Thailand, the Friends of Asian Elephant (FAE) is a 200-acre facility that includes elephant infirmaries, an operating area and a nursery for baby elephants. To date, Soraida and her staff have treated nearly 4,000 Asian Elephants for everything from illnesses, knife wounds, gunshot wounds, car accidents, logging accidents and landmines. Since it opened, FAE has treated 15 elephant landmine victims. In 2008, Baby Mosha received the world’s first elephant prosthetic. Mothala followed in 2009. On july 2015 a team from USA, lead by a veterinary, stayed in the hospital for three days to get the feet mold of the two injured elephant, Mothala and Mosha, in order to build them a new prothesis as the old one is getting to small.
NOTE: Texts and interviews available upoun request.
Along the Thai-Burmese border, the town of Mae Sot has become a refuge for many Burmese immigrant families. Thousands of citizens of Myanmar (formerly Burma) cross the border to escape from the still ongoing conflict between Burmese armed forces and ethnic minorities. They also look for a better economic condition.
According to government statistics, there are at least two million Burmese nationals working in Thailand; at least three quarters of them are illegal. This status and the lack of connection forces many people to live at a large garbage dump just outside of Mae Sot.
By collecting recyclable materials, people can make about 100 baht (2.5 euros) per day. At present, approximately fifty families are living in bamboo huts built on mountains of waste. The children begin to work in the dump even at the age of 6 or 7, but it is around 11 or 12 when they get more involved with the landfill. They have to help their parents to collect trash or care for the whole household. Despite the terrible condition, children have to survive at the dump site as their parents feel Thailand is much more safe than the Burmese jungle where they would be killed or die of malnourishment
On April 25, 2015 a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, killing thousands and leaving the country struggling to recover. Two weeks later, survivors experienced another two major earthquakes, leaving them in an uncertain situation, where nature seemed to decide their fate without warning. The most dramatic times come at night when the city streets and mountain paths are wrapped in darkness. If the earth starts trembling, sleep can betray you. People sleep outside, stay up to maintain security in their neighborhoods or just suffer from insomnia and stay awake out of habit. Today, Nepal is living a nightmare, even during the day, where continuos aftershocks remind people that their home stands on the seismic hot zone where the Indian plate collided with the Eurasian plate - giving birth to the Himalayas.
On April 27th a second earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck in an area 17 km south of the village of Kodari on the Nepal-Tibet border. Massive landslides further blocked the already damaged Araniko Highway which connects the Nepalese capital Kathmandu to the border. A week after the natural disaster 1500 people were still isolated in Kodari where they survived by sleeping in vehicles and improvised shelters. Cold temperatures at night and uncertainty about when it will be possible for them to leave the dangerous area is taking a heavy toll on the local population. A few helicopters from the Nepalese Army are being used to transfer from 12 to 40 people a day to a safer places, but the small number of passengers per trip and a shortage of food is said to create chaos and further hunger for the people waiting to be airlifted. Some people decide to walk the 12 kilometers along the damaged highway that connects Kodari to the town of Barabise where it is possible to travel by bus to the capital.
A crowd of men whistle and cheer when Afrin Khan, alias the “Princess” performs her ’sexy’ dance on the stage at the Alfalah theatre in Lahore. This is not a nightclub or a cabaret show - the theatre is rather a venue for stage drama.
During the two-hour show, actors perform comedy, drama or satire. As part of the show, three girls each perform a short 4-minutes theatrical dance. However, every play must be approved by government censors and every night the show is supervised by a city official.
The lyrics of songs played during the shows are also censored. Dances cannot be too explicit and dress code restricts revealing ’too much’. The Princess is well known in town for her daring and sexually provocative theatrical dancing. In a conservative Pakistani society, sex is hidden and therefore, the Princess attracts a large male audience. Punjabi men flock regularly to the theatre to see her perform. However, she was once banned from performing for a week by the government censors because of sexual connotations she made with a cushion. Afrin Khan is not happy with the censorship, she would like to perform more freely on the stage, but today, in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it is quite impossible.
The Princess started dancing when she was 13 years old after her family fell on hard times as a result of her father’s ill health and struggle with cancer. She began to perform at wedding ceremonies and became very popular. She was then recognized by a producer who promoted her stage performances. In order to be more attractive, she had breast enhancing surgery and she took supplements to make her figure more voluptuous.
"I started dancing at 13 but my body was not developed so i got breast implants,” she said. “I am also naturally too skinny. I get made fun of. So now I take pills to stay plump, because that is what the audience likes.”
Afrin Khan considers herself a western type of girl who would like to be free to walk in the street wearing a mini skirt - not restricted by the cultural local dress-code. Living in a middle class villa complex on the outskirt of Lahore, she shares a house with her mother and a brother, while her father lives with his parents in another home. She drives a brand new car and dresses in nice clothes. While there is a great demand for her performance without moral qualm, there is another face of society that defies its existence.
"I am a modern girl and I want to be able to wear miniskirts to the mall if I want to,” Afrin said. “But in this country, people may be educated, but they are still so small minded. They will always be hicks even if they move to the cities."
Recently, Afrin Khan played a part in a documentary film, Zunn: Showgirls of Pakistan. The documentary tells the story of the marginalized lives of showgirls in Pakistan. On the movie set, Princess could finally perform her provocative dance freely, without censorship. However, in Lahore, where the entrance of the theatre is armed guarded and the audience is individually checked to prevent terrorist attacks, it seems that the Princess will have a long wait before she can fulfill her dreams as an expressive ’sexy’ dancer.
FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST
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
Transgender people live in a precarious position in Pakistan. Despite gains made by the trans community in recent years - Pakistan’s Supreme Court allowed them to get national identity cards recognizing them as a third gender - transgender still face a lot of discrimination in society.
In some sectors of life they are tolerated, though in very defined roles. They often perform as a dancers at weddings and other celebrations where man and woman are strictly segregated. However, most transgender people, called “hijras” in Pakistan, live at the margins of society with very low status. The very word “hijra” is sometimes used in derogatory manner. Transgender have few employment opportunities available, so those who cannot get income performing at ceremonies often resort to begging or sex work.
To fight against discrimination and violence, a group of educated transgender activist are working at the Khawaja Sira Society (KSS) under the umbrella of a local Pakistani NGO called Naz Male Health Alliance. This center provide services for the local transgender community which include HIV/AIDS and STD diagnoses and treatment, and condom and lubricant distribution both via outreach as well as through clinics. At KSS the community find a secure and friendly environment where the transgender community hopes to strengthen its people.
The United Nations and government estimates in 2012 put the number of HIV/AIDS cases around 87,000 in Pakistan alone with an overall prevalence of HIV infection in adults aged 15 to 49 is 0.1%. However, due to the conservative religious culture, political volatility and security matters, activists have to operate with minimal visibility.
As an Islamic Republic, Pakistan punishes same-sex behavior under Pakistan Penal Code Section 377, an outdated, colonial law punishing same-sex relationships.
When a tsunami ravaged the shores of the Indian Ocean in 2004, the mangrove forest surrounding the Muslim village of Baan Nai Rai, in the province of Phang-Nga, saved most of its inhabitants even if it was one of the hardest hit areas in Thailand. Few months later, a company claimed the land where they have always lived and now plans to turn the area into a tourist resort. More than 100 people have already been displaced and 600 resist to be moved. But, above all, villagers want to protect the mangrove forest, an area that, according to Thai law, should be considered public land.
“I mainly fight for the mangrove area”, says Anun Poung Sa Nguan, a 54 year-old fisherman who has lived in the village for 30 years. “Without the mangroves, we would have to go too far away to catch the fish, because now they grow here."
“We worked very hard to take care of the mangroves, even before the tsunami," says Duk, one of the leaders of the village. We depend on them."
According to a research published by the Prince of Songkla University, the Baan Nai Rai community played a key factor in the reforestation, cultivation, protection and rehabilitation of the post-tsunami mangrove forest. Mangroves are considered an important factor for climate change adaptation and mitigation in coastal areas, especially in poor communities.
The villagers filed a lawsuit against the company but a tribunal considered in 2013 that the land was rightfully belonging to the company.
“I think this [property] document has been wrongfully obtained. This land should be public according to the law”, says Suttipong Laithip, a volunteer lawyer who is helping the villagers with the legal procedures against the company.
The Baan Nai Rai community is now trying to find additional evidences to bring again the case in court. After the 2004 tsunami, that killed more than 220.000 people in a dozen countries – 8000 of them in Thailand - the tourism sector has rapidly grown in the Phang-Nga province, where at least 14 villages were engaged in land and tenure disputes with the government and private companies one year after the disaster, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.
Thou Yien Son, 61, lives his life on water. His house is a precarious wooden platform tied to a bamboo raft and his income comes from his boat, which he uses to catch fish to sell at the local market. Yien Son doesn't have anything else, not even citizenship. He is one of the 700,000 ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia, a country that considers these individuals as illegal immigrants, despite them having lived in the country for generations.
Most of the ethnic Vietnamese arrived in Cambodia during the French Protectorate (1863- 1953) to work in administrative positions in the countryside. In 1975, Khmer Rouge took power and Vietnamese citizens were forcibly deported to Vietnam or killed. During exile, most of them lost the papers that proved their Cambodian origin. At their return in the 1980's, they were considered as immigrants and became stateless.
Without papers, the ethnic Vietnamese cannot buy land and most of them dwell on floating villages in the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. One of those villages is Yien Son's Phum Kandal. “I came back because my grandparents and my parents were born and died here. This is my land”, said Yien Son. He also complained that the Vietnamese are also subjected to arbitrary taxes and extortion from local authorities.
But there is one hope. On the 30th of July The Khmer Rouge Tribunal opened a new case against the top leaders of the regime that will judge, among other crimes, the genocide and deportation of the Vietnamese community in Cambodia. More than 40 ethnic Vietnamese representatives will participate as civil parties and they will try to regain their lost citizenship as reparation. This same tribunal recently condemned Nuon Chea, the second most senior leader in the Khmer Rouge, and Khieu Samphan, head of State, to life prison for crimes against humanity.
Vietnamese fishermen face increased harassment from Chinese patrols, amid growing tensions between Vietnam and China over contested waters in the South China Sea. In May, China placed an oil rig in disputed waters off Vietnam’s coast. China, who claims almost the entire South China Sea and rejects rival claims from its neighbors, has been aggressively patrolling the contested waters. Vietnamese fishermen are the first to be affected by this conflict, which prevents them from fishing in their usual waters.
In a remote corner of Karen, Burma, isolated for decades under Myanmar’s military dictatorship, the village of Kayin Anyd Thar stands as a rare reminder of the area’s animist beliefs before the arrival of Buddhism and of Christian missionaries. 30-year-old king Phoe Ta Khit rules over 500 people who believe in his powers as a shaman. He beleives that he has a connection with the spirits of the past eight monarchs, each of them one of his previous existences. Everyday life in the village - barely above the subsistence level - is entirely organised by the king. His doors are open to anybody as long as they follow the monarch’s rules. Halfway between the eccentric and the supernatural, the village is derided by some Karens in the area, while others respect Phoe Ta King as a spiritual leader without question.
In the late 1940s, uprisings against French colonial rule started in Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), despite financial assistance from the United States.
On May 7, 1954, the French-held garrison at Dien Bien Phu fell after a two months siege led by Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh. After the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the French pulled out of the region.
The French troops were lead by Colonel De Castries, who was named general during the battle. The Vietnamese troops were under the command of General Giáp, who became a hero of Vietnamese independence. General Giáp made history when he later defeated American troops. He died in October, 2013 at the age of 102.
It was a disaster for the French. Losses at Dien Bien Phu numbered 3-thousand killed, 8-thousand wounded, and 11-thousand captured. Viet Minh casualties are estimated at around 23-thousand. The defeat at Dien Bien Phu marked the end of the First Indochina War and spurred peace negotiations which were ongoing in Geneva. The resulting 1954 Geneva Accords partitioned the country at the 17th Parallel and created a communist state in the north, The Democratic Republic of Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh. The South became the Republic of Vietnam, backed by the United States and France. The resulting conflict between these two regimes ultimately grew into the Vietnam War.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu victory (May 7, 1954 – May 7, 2014), Vietnamese authorities marked the event with a military parade at the central stadium of the city of Dien Bien Phu and a reenactment of the campaign in the city's main square.
A new war museum was inaugurated with an official ceremony on May 5th. Officials from France and other countries where invited to the ceremony and to visit the historical sites of the battle.
Burma’s war-torn Shan State is a well-known hotspot for the cultivation of opium poppies, the plant from which morphine and heroin are synthesized. In the state’s remote mountains near the Chinese border, the T’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) rebel militia has been waging a hidden war against opium cultivation.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), the cultivation of opium in Burma increased by 26% in 2013, marking the highest rise since the UNODC and the Myanmar government started their assessments in 2002. One of the main factors leading to an increase in poppy cultivation is the fact that farmers have few other ways to make a living.
Burma is the second largest opium-producing country in the world after Afghanistan; and Shan State remains the center of the country's opium activities, accounting for 92 per cent of the country’s total cultivation.
The north of the state is the home of the Palaung ethnic minority, which has been cultivating and harvesting the "sleepy plant" for years.
While very profitable for producers, the production and consumption of opium has a high social cost in Burma’s impoverished north. In some villages up to 80% of men are addicts.
To fight the economic and social damages caused by opium, the armed organisation of the Palaung minority, the TNLA declared a war on the plant in 2012. TNLA introduced prohibition laws in the Palaung community areas under their control. Cultivating, costuming and selling drugs is now strictly prohibited.
The TNLA claims to have 1,500 soldiers, who this year were ordered to destroy poppy fields during the harvest season. The commanders have accused the Burmese Chinese minority of controlling the poppy fields and working in collusion with local militias and the Burmese army.
TNLA’s goal is to replace the poppy fields with other crops like corn and tea. But changes have to be implemented gradually opium represents a major source of income for local peasants.
DESCRIPTION UPDATED ON MARCH 2015
Almost two years after a wave of sectarian violence against the Muslim community broke out in Rakhine state in Western Burma, about 70,000 displaced people from the Rohingya ethnic group are caged in appallingly precarious shelters in the camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in the capital Sittwe, and could face potential disaster as rainy season approaches. The Rohingya population has to withstand the poor conditions during their stay at the camps - including the lack of food, medical assistance and the abysmal hygiene conditions - that are likely to worsen markedly during the rains at the low-lying areas next to the sea near Sittwe.
Human Rights Watch had already accused the government, which considers Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and does not recognize them as Burmese citizens, of carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Muslim minority group. This follows Burma's refusal to allow people to class themselves as Rohingya in the first national census in three decades and officials' insistence that members of the ethnic group call themselves Bengali if they want to be registered. Meanwhile, international aid agencies working in Rakhine were attacked last week in what is the latest in a long series of sporadic assaults that erupted into full-scale violence in Rakhine scale back in 2012, causing thousands of Rohingyas to flee their homes. The UN has described the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
Burma - In the volatile Arakan State, thousands Muslim Rohingyas have been displaced since two years, following deadly violences.
Tensions could rise again as the authorities started a controversial nationwide census in march 2014, a census laying into the hands of extremist Buddhist nationalists.
Nationalists have long considered Muslim as a significant threat to the dominant Buddhist faith due to their increasing population. Although it’s widely believed Muslims represent about 4% of the population, the number may be much higher, as no census had been made since 1983. Also critics have accused the government of lowering the number.
Other minorities have also deeply criticized the government census, which is running from March 30th to April the 10th. They claim it will lump them into categories and carve them into sub-tribes based on villages.
Myanmar is a multi-ethnic country. But its rulers have an history of dividing the minorities to ensure its stability. In the past both Muslims and Chinese populations were named as scape goats to curb growing resistance against the country’s rulers.
Last year, State authorities started a household survey reportedly only aimed at the Rohingya population. But the Rohingya participants were allegedly forced by the border police to illegally enter Bangladesh, making them illegal immigrants in Bangladesh. The survey led to several violent confrontations and deaths after the police had opened fire on the angry crowd.
The Rohingyas are nearly a million in the State of Arakan. Several more millions are now refugees in Bangladesh, India and other countries in South Asia. In Burma they have been stripped and denied their citizenship by the 1984 citizenship law.
After the recent violences the Rohingyas were locked up in squalid camps and saw their movements restricted. They have received barely support.
Photojournalist Vincenzo Floramo worked on a feature about the Burmese LGBT scene with Carlos Sardina Galache, a journalist specialized in Southeast Asia. Carlos made several interviews with members of this community, including gay men, transsexuals and lesbians. In those interviews, they spoke openly of their experiences as LGBT people living in a highly conservative country where homosexuality is considered abnormal and illegal.
Carlos and I followed some of the characters of our story, which gave us the chance to understand better their daily lives and take intimate portraits of them. With this material we are able to offer a complete portrait, with Carlos’ text and my pictures, of the life of LGBT people in Burma with all its challenges and hardships.
Also available upon request, Carlos has a detailed interview with a gay man who was detained by the police in Mandalay, humiliated and tortured, as well as an interview with Aung Myo Min, the founder of Equality Myanmar, an advocacy group strongly focused on the rights of the LGBT community.
Short profiles of those photographed can be viewed here: http://transterramedia.com/media/25883#
Photos by Vincenzo Floramo
Text by Carlos Sardina Galache
The photojournalist follows two boys through their Theravada Initiation ceremony. Ta Pwe in the Karen terms refers to the celebration marking the samara ordination of boy under the age of 20.
It is deemed the most important duty that parents owe to their son by letting him go forth and embrace the legacy of the Buddha. He becomes immersed on Buddhist teachings for minimally a short while, perhaps longer, if not for the rest of his life. On the mark of this ceremony, at least forty children on the full moon of March got their hair shaved at Mae La refugee camp, Mae Sot, Thailand.
The holy celebration took place at Thirisanda monastery on the top hill of Camp Zone C. The Mae La camp accommodates 45,000 mainly ethnic Karen people and is the largest of nine camps along Thailand’s border with Burma. Despite the fact that the Karen National Union and the Myanmar government signed a ceasefire in 2011, the process towards democratic reform and reconciliation is in its early days.The majority of Mae La's refugees feel it is not time to return yet.
Saw Win Gy and The Win, respectively ten and twelve years old,are two Karen boys we followed during the ceremony.
Pauk Pauk working at her atelier near the bank of Yangon river. In her life, she has suffered from insults for being different. She had constant threat of sexual harassment, incomprehension, and love disillusions. Currently she is in a relationship with an actor from Rangoon who accepts her as she is: “I’ve always felt like a woman, a Myanmar woman who has never sought easy sex, but rather a relationship of love.”
Pauk Pauk at her favorite restaurant in Yangon. In Mogok, where her mother runs a hairdressing business, Pauk Pauk learnt the ropes of the profession. She moved through Rangoon, Mandalay and then Italy, where she studied design in Milan.
Pauk Pauk makes up herself to attend the Academy Awards in Yangon. Pauk Pauk has been dubbed the “fairy godmother” by her closest friends. She is one of the most famous fashion designers in Burma. The designs of this woman, who was born with the body of a man 42 years ago, are demanded now by actors, pop stars and ladies of the Burmese high society. But her path to success has not been easy.
Harry loves to play football, a sport restricted to men in Burma.
Harry in a popular snack bar in Mandaly with her friends. She believes that lesbians are slightly less discriminated against in Burma because many people believe that “tomboys” will be men, regarded as superior to women in their next reincarnation. After the bitter and recent end of her first relationship with another girl, she maintains her dream of founding a family with another woman.
Harry poses in front of a Buddha shrine in her room at her parents' house. Sometimes the people insult her because of her boyish appearance. “People who don’t know me think I am a boy,” she adds smiling mischievously. Her father, a cab driver, does not accept her homosexuality. However, her mother and grandmother accept it only reluctantly.
Hein Htwe Maung, “Alex”, is a 17 year old homosexual boy from a middle class family in Mandalay. He is currently studying Business Management at the Chindwin College. Alex is waiting with his friends for his boyfriend's blood test.
Alex with his boyfriend in a hospital room in Mandalay. Alex, the youngest among three siblings, struggled after discovering being homosexual at the age of 12.
Alex is having fun in a popular fast food place among young people in Mandalay.
“Alex” thinks that it will take time to change the mentality of Burmese society towards LGBT people, and that it is likely that they won’t stop to discriminate them “until the next generation”, but he would like to lead this change as a champion of LGBT rights and leader of the gay community.
The parents of the children bow in a sign of respect.
The Win at the end of the ceremony. His family will leave him in the monastery where he will be "alone" for the first time.
When the ceremony is finished and the children become monks, parents throw in the air a mixture of popcorn, candy and coins.
Saw Win Gy and The Win having exchanged their princely garb with white robes, recites the Ten Precepts.
Saw Win Gy receives the saffron robe and is helped by a monk to wear it properly.
The Win gets ready to start the walking parade to the Monastery on Shaving Ceremony Day.
Saw Win Gy and The Win take the chance to relax and share an intimate moment in the early morning of the shaving day.
Saw Win Gy is having his head shaved by a monk at the Thirisanda Buddhist Monastery at Mae La refugee camp.
Saw Win Gy at the monastery campground where all the children wait their turn to be shaved.
On the big day's morning of the shaving ceremony, Ta pew gets carefully made up by his mother.
The Win performing the guest invitation ceremony on a small Buddha Shrine.
At Mae La refugee camp, during Ta Pwe celebration, children are carried on their parents shoulders around the streets.
The Win waits his turn for an outdoor shower after a long touring day around the camp.
The two friends invite a guest to the shaving initiation.The guest accepts by wetting his face.
Saw Win Gy and The The Win honor Buddhist Shrine in a friend's home.
At Mae La refugee camp, during Ta Pwe celebrations, children are carried on their parents shoulders through the streets.In this photo, Saw Win Gy is on his uncle's shoulders.
A musician plays traditional drums, bamboo sticks and some keyboards. They perform walking in a parade just behind the two children who will be initiated.
Saw Win Gy and The Win get dressed by their mother. Gold and jewelry is used to remind of the rich past of Prince Siddharta .
A mother disentangles a snarl of trinkets she will use to adorn her chid.
Alex in a relaxing moment in his room on the first floor of his parents' grocery shop. He did not accept himself completely until he met his current boyfriend in a boarding high school two years ago. Last year and after attending a workshop organized by an NGO in Mynamar, Alex decided to make his homosexuality public which made him feel empowered and proud of his identity. The LGBT communities in Myanmar are organizing themselves and there is now an incipient movement to reclaim their rights.
The LGBT communities in Myanmar are starting to organize themselves by planning an incipient movement to reclaim their rights. Harry, dressed in a male longyi (traditional Burmese dress) is attending an event organized by the LGBT community in Mandalay. Since she was a child, “Harry” has always “felt ridiculous” dressing as a girl and feels “free dressing as a boy." Now she is 17 years old and studies Mathematics at the University of Mandalay.
Ta Pwe is the Karen terms for the initiation ceremony in the Buddhist Theravada tradition, which refers to the celebration marking the samara ordination of boys under age of 20. /the two friends have a rest in a friend's home, as the visit around the camp is taking its toll.
Ta Pwe is the Karen terms for the initiation ceremony in the Buddhist Theravada tradition, which refers to the celebration marking the samara ordination of boys under age of 20.
On the mark of this ceremony, every year on the full moon of March, children's heads are shaved at Mae La refugee camp, Mae Sot, Thailand.
Saw Win Gy and The The Win on the first day of Ta pew initiation ceremony wake up early in the morning to get carefully made up by their mothers.