The Karenni people know violence all too well. For nearly 70 years, this ethnic minority in the mountainous state of Kayah, on Myanmar’s eastern border, has been victim of oppression and brutality perpetrated by the Burmese military, a legacy of British divide and rule strategies in the region. When the February coup placed power back in the army’s hands, it was only a matter of time before it revived its practice of using violence against civilians to wage war against the ethnic armed groups that opposed it. Bombings, torture, forced labor and looting are only some of the reasons why people are fleeing to the East, building makeshift camps in the middle of the mountains, blocked by the border with Thailand. Though far from the spotlight, this is by all means a humanitarian crisis: with Covid-19 spreading, violence continuing unabated and humanitarian aid blocked by the Burmese military government, tens of thousands of people find themselves in life-threatening situations.
In December 2021 I was smuggled inside Kayah state in Myanmar to take pictures in Daw Noh Ku camp. The following photos are the first to come out of it, and among very few that show what life looks like for Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) hiding in the jungle.