KACHIN STATE, Myanmar — An ancient Chinese proverb likens jade to the character of men. As the saying goes, 'both are sharpened by bitter tools.' But in the jade mines south of China’s border — a wasteland known as Hpakant in Myanmar — men’s lives are not so much sharpened but shredded to bits.
MYITKYINA — It was nearly 10 a.m. here in Myanmar’s northernmost provincial capital. On the rutted streets below, church hymns competed with the clamor of roosters and motorbikes. The singing beckoned townsfolk dressed in their finest Sunday sarongs to join a Baptist service. But in the attic of a house overlooking the chapel, two addicts had found their own sanctuary. Their heroin was already half gone. Everything about them screamed addiction. The scratching. Ropey limbs. Eyes shellacked with yellow film.
An activist holds burning Myanmar and UN flags during a protest in Multan on July 22, 2012, against the killing of Muslims in Myanmar. Violence between ethnic Buddhist Rakhine and local Muslims, including the Rohingya, since last year has left many dead and forced tens of thousands out of their homes. (S. S. Mirza/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON — The Myanmar government is trying to push us into camps or out of the country. In a few years, there may be no more Rohingyas in the country. As a human rights activist, I stressed this message during my remarks at a recent event hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingyas, one of the world’s most persecuted ethnic groups.As I spoke, photographs capturing some of the Rohingya people impacted by the violence were displayed on the walls behind me: A woman holding her young grandchild after escaping with him to Bangladesh. A man left blind in one eye after being beaten during forced labor. Two young children sifting through rubble to find anything they can sell. For decades, violence against the Rohingya, an ethic and religious minority, has been mostly ignored by others in Myanmar, as well as the international community. I felt encouraged by the hundreds of audience members at the museum who had gathered to learn about the persecution that my community faces every day.
YANGON — The Nagar Glass Factory has been an irreplaceable part of Myanmar’s heritage for decades. In its heyday, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was a customer. So was the first man to orbit the earth, John Glenn, who paid a visit in 1966 and tried his own hand at glass blowing. The factory was in guidebooks for intrepid travelers who visited this long-oppressed country. And then Cyclone Nargis struck.