Myanmar Emerges - "Promise and Peril"

"Myanmar Emerges" is an award-winning series of long-form written and video reports that investigates Myanmar's much-hyped transition away from totalitarian rule.

"Promise & Peril" is a 30-minute documentary (above) reported from some of Myanmar's most blighted places: toxic mines, heroin-ravaged jungles and crumbling colonial cities where child labor is obscenely common.

The doc is a tag-team production with investigative reporting by GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Patrick Winn and cinematography by Jonah Kessel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning videographer who shoots for the New York Times. (Producing the project was equal parts excruciating and exhilarating. Our behind-the-scenes video is here.)

Myanmar Emerges is divided into three chapters: 

Chapter one (The People Vs. The Power) investigates a behemoth mine owned by a Chinese arms conglomerate and a Myanmar's notoriously abusive military. This report examines the copper mine through the eyes of Ko Ko Aung, a 15-year-old drop out who survives by stealing and smelting mine waste in a wasteland strewn with acid pits.

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Chapter two (Oppression Economics) reports on underage toil in Myanmar, where child labor is a pillar of the economy. As multinationals rush into a post-sanctions economy set to boom, more than one-third of Myanmar's children work. This Dickensian landscape — which has much in common with Industrial Revolution-era America — sees children doing the work of men and "tea shop boys" adorned in Pepsi uniforms.

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Chapter three (Opium War) investigates the forces behind one of the most heroin-ravaged corners of the world: Kachin State on the China-Myanmar border. There are few places where heroin is so pure and cheap as the war-torn Kachin frontier.

In some parts of the South Korea-sized region, heroin sells for $1 — and with an impunity that recalls "Hamsterdam," the de facto legalized drug zone in HBO's "The Wire." The guerrillas who control much of this terrain allege heroin is being used as chemical warfare and allowed to proliferate to pacify their rebellion-prone youth. The economics behind the trade evoke the 19th-century Opium Wars between Imperial Britain and China.

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Comment /Source

Patrick Winn

I'm Patrick Winn, the senior Southeast Asia correspondent for GlobalPost, an award-winning foreign news agency based in Boston. My work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, CBS News, PBS News, CNBC, The Christian Science Monitor, the San Francisco Chronicle, VICE, The Village Voice and many other outlets. I live in Bangkok and read/write/speak Thai. I'm a frequent guest on American radio shows, namely NPR programs with an interest in foreign affairs.