BLOOD/STONES - Burmese Rubies
Exhibition in The Field Museum, Chicago, Feb - March 2012
By ART WORKS Projects and Christian Holst
Since the 1962 seizure of the Burmese government by the military junta, the Burmese people have suffered significant human rights violations. The country’s rulers have made themselves and a small elite extraordinarily wealthy by exploiting Burma’s vast natural resources and generating large sums of foreign currency through export while denying citizens access to the most basic needs and an ability to express themselves. Among the most lucrative of these resources are natural gas, timber, and hydroelectric power, and the legendary gemstones and minerals found in Burmese earth. Burmese rubies alone, fabled for their deep color, generate close to $500 million USD annually in sales while jade and other stones contribute enormously to the government’s coffers.
Listen to a radio show with Christian Holst and David Mathieson, Human Rights Watch, talking about Burmese rubies, human rights violations and Burma's future
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See more of Christian Holst's work here
Half a Century Without Freedom - Life under the Military Regime of Burma
Exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark, June 2011
For almost five decades, the people of Burma have suffered under a regime that is both inept and repressive. The junta has waged a bloody war upon ethnic minorities resulting in more than five hundred thousand internally displaced refugees, while more than two million people have fled for neighboring countries. Inside the country’s borders, civil disobedience has routinely been crushed and protesters made to serve long sentences in harsh prisons. The regime’s corrupt and faulted economic policies have resulted in double-digit inflation and devastated wages and salaries. An average Burmese lives on not much more than a few dollars per day. Minimum wage buys 8-10 times fewer basic commodities like rice, salt, sugar and cooking oil than it did 20 years ago. The country once dubbed “The Rice Bowl of Asia” has gone from being the richest in the region to one of the world's most impoverished nations and can now hardly feed itself.
While the majority of the Burmese live in poverty, military leaders and their business cronies’ exploit the country’s riches such as timber, minerals, gemstones, hydropower, oil, and gas.
The junta is amongst the biggest military spenders worldwide but at the same time, the generals spend less than $1 per citizen per year on health care. In a 2005 survey by the World Health Organization, Burma (Myanmar) had the second-poorest healthcare system in the world. Half of all Asia's malaria deaths occur in Burma; the country has some of the world’s deadliest strains of TB; and the regime has a potentially devastating HIV epidemic on its hands and still people are at risk of archaic deceases like leprosy.
(These pictures were made on ten trips between 2006-2010 and the exhibit was made possible with the support of Amnesty International Denmark and Politiken-Fonden)
See more work here
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