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    Reportage contributor Diana Markosian photographed Myanmar’s former child soldiers on assignment for Newsweek Magazine.

    newsweek:

    Thein Htut Oo has the Burmese word for “mother” tattooed on his right bicep and “father” on his left. Like young men the world over, he got the tattoos while serving in the military, in this case Myanmar’s military.

    Only at the time he was not a young man, but a 15-year-old boy who missed his parents.

    On the backs of his hands are more tattoos: “zeal” on his right and “brave” on his left. They were also done while he was in the military, not by choice, but by force after he tried to run away. They serve as a reminder of what he endured in the three years he spent in the military, like the malaria from which he also still suffers.

    No one is sure how many children serve in Myanmar’s armed forces, one of the largest standing armies in Southeast Asia. In recent years, about 500 have been released after they were punished for deserting or have left in other ways. But experts agree many more children remain serving in the nation’s military and in non-governmental armed groups.

    In June 2012, after half a decade of negotiations, Myanmar signed a U.N. pact to end the use of child soldiers. Since then the government has held four official events releasing 176 children and young adults from the military. That they are returned to civilian life suffering from serious physical and mental trauma is a given. Whether they can ever recover is less clear.

    Child Soldiers: Graduating From the School of Hard Knocks Isn’t Easy 

    YANGON, MYANMAR – Pho Kyaw tends to his wife Khin Soe Win, April 9, 2012 in an HIV shelter. Pho Kyaw is infected himself and used to be a patient of the shelter a year earlier. The couple married just one month earlier. Myanmar (Burma) is battling one of Asia’s worst HIV epidemics and one of the world’s most neglected. The UN estimates that over the last few years between 15,000 – 20,000 people living with HIV die annually in Myanmar, because of lack of access to urgent lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy (ART). (Photo by Christian Holst/Reportage by Getty Images)

    World AIDS Day is December 1

    From Myanmar’s AIDS Epidemic, by Christian Holst

    Jonathan Torgovnik’s Intended Consequences, which documents children born of rape during the Rwandan genocide, will be shown at the Yangon Photo Festival, opening reception February 13.

    A woman prays while her sister, Lamung Kailing, is treated for injuries sustained from mortar shrapnel December 27, 2012 in Laiza Hospital, Burma.  Lamung Kailing, a mother of two, was working on a watermelon plantation when two Burmese Army mortar grenades landed near her and three other villagers. 

    In 2011, the Burmese army ended a 17-year ceasefire and launched an offensive against rebels in northern Kachin state.  Since then, around 100,000 Kachins have been displaced. 

    See more images from Kachin Conflict, by Christian Holst, here.

    If you’re in Chicago, be sure to go see Christian Holst’s exhibit Blood/Stones: Burmese Rubies, currently up at the Field Museum.  You can see some of the images in his Reportage portfolio.

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