Karen State, Myanmar

Myanmar, aka Burma, is a nation of huge contrasts: breath-taking beauty in places, wide ethnic and cultural diversity, and extraordinary fauna and flora. But it is also a land of war, inter-communal strife, forced migration, and a place where monetary greed promotes the deleterious plundering of its abundant natural heritage.

The soldiers in this picture are from the KNLA (Karen National Liberation Army), one of the myriad of ethnic groups, many of whom at one time or another have been in civil war against successive Burman-dominated central governments. The KNLA and its political wing, the Karen National Union (KNU), have opposed central governments since the late 1940s, except for more recent interludes to allow for ceasefires and negotiations.

Now that the despised Myanmar Tatmadaw (Army) has seized power once more, the wars go on. This time, opposition has not just come from the borderlands where many minorities live, but from the center itself where many citizens have reacted vigorously, sometimes violently, against having their all too brief semi-democratic spring crushed by the men in olive green battle dress.