Once-taboo language lives again in rural Myanmar

(Nikkei Asian Review, July 2018) LONE TON, Myanmar — A punchy cadence echoes from a one-story school building toward verdant mountains — the familiar sound of children reciting lines to learn a language. But in this part of northern Myanmar, speaking Shan-ni, the local dialect, only a decade ago was seen as taboo, and treated … More Once-taboo language lives again in rural Myanmar

Myanmar’s ‘Valley of the Rubies’ emerges from shadows

(Nikkei Asian Review, April 2018) MOGOK, Myanmar — When the world hears about Mogok, it usually concerns some hefty ruby unearthed in the region and auctioned for millions of dollars — the kind of discovery that has dominated news about the remote gem-mining town for decades. But with gnawing anxieties over dwindling gem deposits, locals … More Myanmar’s ‘Valley of the Rubies’ emerges from shadows

Frenchman Setting the Bar for Myanmar Chocolate

(Irrawaddy, July 2017) KAREN STATE — In dense jungle about 20 kilometers northeast of Taungoo, Jean-Yves Branchard hacks at thickets of vine with a stubby machete, pausing to contemplate a cacao pod blackened with disease. “The price you pay for being organic,” sighs the Frenchman, as sweat washes flecks of soil from his heavy jowls. … More Frenchman Setting the Bar for Myanmar Chocolate

This Transgender Bodybuilder is Crushing Barriers in Vietnam

(Narratively, November 2016) Photography by Vinh Dao As a conservative country’s LGBTQ community finally finds its voice, one athlete fights for the right to compete as his true self in a hyper-masculine sport. It’s Sunday morning in Ho Chi Minh City. Blistering heat is vaporizing last night’s downpour on the streets of District 7, an upscale area southeast of the city center and popular with expats. … More This Transgender Bodybuilder is Crushing Barriers in Vietnam

The Last Days of the Mekong Snake Hunters

(Roads and Kingdoms, August 2016) Trampling through thick vegetation off a remote trail near the southeastern coast of Vietnam, Ba looks back, grinning boyishly, and then dives into a wall of green. All morning, the 36-year-old snake hunter had been taciturn, guarded, but now, under a scorching midday sun in the Mekong Delta, he’s suddenly … More The Last Days of the Mekong Snake Hunters

Good vibrations: the Vietnamese inventor helping the blind to ‘see’

(Southeast Asia Globe, October 2016) Nguyen Ba Hai has developed haptic technology that helps the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them, all while managing to stave off corporate interests and attract international praise Photography by Vinh Dao When Nguyen Ba Hai graduated from a Korean university with a PhD in biorobotics, he … More Good vibrations: the Vietnamese inventor helping the blind to ‘see’

Vietnam wakes up to its human trafficking problem

(IRIN News, September 2016) Human trafficking is on the rise in Vietnam, although poor crime statistics means the government doesn’t know exactly by how much. Advocacy groups say victims are increasingly being lured on social media. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of human trafficking cases rose by at least 11.6 percent over the previous … More Vietnam wakes up to its human trafficking problem