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Photographer :: Violet Cho » Features Portfolio All Images
I was born in Pa-an, Burma in January 1984. My family were farmers but we do not have money to cultivate the land. I spent the first seven years of my life in Pa-an and Loikaw until my family fled to Huay Kaloke Refugee Camp in 1991. My father was already working for the Karen National Union on the borderline so we were in a dangerous situation Even though he had a low position in the KNU, if the military realized about my fatherís involvement with the resistance, me and my mother and brother could be arrested. Later my father called us to join him for our security. So we escaped across the border into Thailand. At that time, I was still young and I was sent to Huay Kaloke Refugee Camp where I could do some primary school.

The experience living in the camp was not a happy one. Almost all the time we were afraid of Burmese military attacks because the refugee camp was close to the border and not secure. In 1998, Huay Kaloke Refugee Camp was attacked and burnt down by the Burmese military. Our house and all our possessions were destroyed and there was a lot of shooting. This was my first direct experience with military oppression and human rights abuses. By the end of 1999, my family and others moved to a new camp called Umpiem Mai, where I could go to school. I was really pleased at having a chance to study again, even though resources were small.

Journalism is my main interest and passion. I first became involved in media when I was a teenager living in Umpiem refugee camp. I volunteered for a new community radio station set up by Karen Student Network Group (KSNG) which I helped set up. KSNG is a student organization that organizes Karen students in refugee camps and in the border areas of Burma to work together for the aim to find opportunities for refugee students and people without access to education, to prepare them to be leaders, to preserve and maintain the culture of Karen people, to raise awareness about human rights among youth and to work for campaigns to protect environment and human rights, such as the current Salween Dam campaign. In KSNG I have worked in all of these areas with a focus on community media. Through KSNG, I got a chance to study at Journalism School organized by Internews. In KSNG, I have worked as secretary and radio and print editors.

Now I am working for Irrawaddy Publishing Group, which has a daily news website and a monthly magazine. It was started by Burmese exiles and plays a key role for Burmese media. I have also worked with the Burmese service of Radio Free Asia and with indigenous Karen language media - Kwekalu and Karen Information Centre.

As I am a Burmese citizen, I do believe that the development and change in Burma is part of my main responsibility. I am also determined to contribute my efforts and abilities for the political and social change in Burma through media. As I am currently working as a journalist and serving my community with facts and information that advantage their daily lives, I have decided myself to continue working in media field as I strongly believe that independent media can play a significant role in the Burma democratisation movement.

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