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In Southern Shan State, the Land Provides

Tay Za Hlaing The Irrawaddy

AUNGBAN, Shan State — After travelling for one night by bus from Mandalay, a journey of 117 miles (188 km), I arrived at the beautiful land of Aungban Township, southern Shan State. It was a bumpy trip in some parts. The cement road was damaged in places by the rainy season, and repairs were underway.

Aungban is a major supplier of food for the rest of Burma, with potato, ginger, cabbage, sunflower seeds and rice produced here sold as widely as Mandalay and Rangoon.

The area hosts different ethnic groups, including Danu and Shan, but the majority of the people are Pa-O, an ethnic group that has a long-standing ceasefire agreement with the government that gives it some autonomy in the area.

Most people work in agriculture, often with their children in tow. Most earn just 1,500 kyat, or about $1.50, for a hard day’s work in the fields.

The area is near to the Shan State capital of Taunggyi and Loikaw Township, and centers around the modern Aungban town, complete with banks and a range of shops.

In the surrounding area, I walked the hills and flatlands, photographing farmers on this fertile land, many spraying insecticides to protect the crops. Cabbages here, which go for just 100 kyat each, are taken overnight to be sold at the markets of Burma’s major cities.