Eastern Shan State
Located in the heart of the Golden Triangle, Eastern Shan State sits high on the Shan Plateau, the toenails of the Himalayas. With its endless mist-covered mountains, valley and rivers, Eastern Shan State is home to a rich ethnic and cultural diversity. It is a literal patchwork if over 130 languages and many more dialects.
Eastern Shan State has a long history of armed conflict, drug production, human trafficking, political instability and poverty. The region is the world’s second-largest producer of opium and methamphetamines. Many things are “broken”, leaving individuals, families and communities trapped in a cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity, due largely to lack of education and employment. The brokenness of this region has global ramifications reaching far beyond its ethnically diverse mountains, valleys and rice paddies.
Most rural schools, when available, only go to grade 4. After that, children must leave their parents and villages to live in boarding houses if they want to attend school in one of two cities in the region. This effectively severs the attachment with their families and communities, replacing it with institutional structures, where kids are not safe and loved in a nurturing family and where they do not know their role in their community or village.
80% of men have been affected by drug use and methamphetamines. The drug industry impacts everyone. A few greatly benefit economically, while most suffer greatly. It is a strategy that has been used to break ethnic culture, leading to a shattered society and lost generations. In the last two years, one particular resistance armed group with the help of a Christian pastor, have seen approximately 2,000 young men flock to their enclave to receive help as there are almost no other options for addicts. One of the reasons for this plague is that there are few economic opportunities and viable options for people to have a future in the region.
Eastern Shan State is one of S.E Asia’s major human trafficking routes. The region is a source country for human trafficking, including human body parts. Most families in the region have been affected by trafficking issues. Many times it is so that families can get new items such as cars and motorcycles.
Despite being the most resource-rich region in SE Asia, there are few options for people to make a living apart from engaging in illegal activities. Employment opportunities and industry are a huge need in providing a viable option for people to support their families.
Despite the beauty and richness of this region and its people, Eastern Shan State has some of the worst deforestation in SE Asia. A growing problem is the pollution of waterways, illegal mining pollution and environmental destruction. One of the largest illegal wildlife markets in SE Asia is found here. The environment is becoming an increasingly concerning issue.
Myanmar has been involved in the longest-running civil war in the world. This has caused instability, ethnic division and generations of people who have been involved and affected by violence and fear.