Six hours drive south of Mae Sot lies Nu Po refugee camp. Noh Poe as it is also often called, means “small lake” in Karen and is home to almost 15,000 people who have fled their native Burma. Many former political prisoners are sent here when they escape across the border in Thailand and the most of the refugees in the POC/PAB sector are political activists who have been involved in the democracy movement since 1988.
Thanks to my good friends at ESC Nupo I managed to photograph almost 30 former political prisoners whilst here. The total now photographed for the project is up to 76. All images are available for viewing here. My personal connections with Nu Po go back several years due to a friendship established with John Glenn, a former political prisoner and founding member of the English Speaking Course (ESC Nupo). The school was formed in 2007 out of the huge demand for English classes in particular for adults. The programme relies almost solely upon private donations and funds that can be raised by those who work and live there. Foreign teachers have been recruited and an incredible school building that contains classrooms, a computer room, sleeping quarters, school office and much more. It is a truly remarkable place, run by truly remarkable people – a real home from home. Pictured here is Ma Lwin Lwin Myint, younger sister of U Ashin Gambira the prominent monk and leader of the Saffron Revolution in 2007. Since her brother was detained in 2007 and due to his high profile activism, Ma Lwin and all of her family members have suffered continual harassment and persecution from the military junta and its thugs in the USDA and Swan Arr Shin. Many of them have been subsequently detained and jailed but she managed to evade capture.
Along with her husband, Ko Lu Maw Naing, she played a prominent role in delivering aid and providing assistance to victims of Cyclone Nargis in the Irrawaddy Delta. This was the final straw for the junta who literally put out a warrant for her arrest. She fled to the border with her husband in 2008 and they are currently living in Nu Po refugee camp and studying at ESC Nupo. Her brother U Gambira was sentenced in November 2008 to 65 years imprisonment and in january 2009 was transfered to the remote Khandee prison in Sagaing Division. Ma Lwin told me that despite suffering torture and persecution as a political prisoner in jail, her brother is in good health and above all in good spirits. Both Ma Lwin and Ko Maw are journalists for the Burma Student Post which is produced by ESC Nupo and to which I am very proud to be the sponsor.
Below are a selection of former political prisoners photographed in Nu Po camp – visit ENIGMA IMAGES website to see all 24.
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