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Photos: A look at Myanmar's 'black zone'
Monday, October 8th, 2012

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.

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A typical remote Karen village, eastern Karen State.

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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KNLA officers training in eastern Karen State.

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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A KNLA officer-in-training. His tattoo reads "I shall forever sacrifice for my people."

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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KNLA officers in training at a military training camp in eastern Karen State.

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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Students eating breakfast at New Generation school, eastern Karen State.

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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Karen students praying at the KNLA's New Generation school, eastern Karen State.

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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Ethnic Karen students in their dormitory at the KNLA's New Generation school, eastern Karen State.

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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A deforested landscape in far eastern Karen State.

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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A Karen guide hiking through deforested hilltops in far eastern Karen State.

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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Karen villagers erecting a bamboo structure in Pae Ler Dae, a remote village in eastern Karen State.

(Austin Bush - GlobalPost)
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