KAREN STATE, Myanmar — At first glance, Myanmar presents a rosy picture these days. After decades of isolation, the country is loosening up and opening its economy.
But some of the most lucrative opportunities come with a catch.
Many of Myanmar's prized resources are found in regions still controlled by rebellious guerrilla armies — like the gold, teak and jade in Karen State, an ethnically varied area in the country's mountainous southeast.
More from GlobalPost: Guerrilla economics in Myanmar's 'black zone'
The Karen have formed a rebel group, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), that has successfully defended the region against the central government for more than 50 years.
Armed primarily with leftover US M-16s from the Vietnam War, the KNLA have fought for their independence in a conflict that shows no immediate signs of ceasing.