In February 2012, Documentary Arts Asia hosted the first Chiang Mai Documentary Arts Festival. CDAF'12 is an annual festival bringing together documentary photographers and filmmakers in northern Thailand and presented nine photo exhibitions, three days of workshops and three nights of film screenings showcasing work from some of the finest documentary artists working in Asia. In collaboration with DEVELOP Photo the three day event is now accessible online.
Documentary Arts Asia is a non-profit organization which works primarily in photography and film, but also audio and narrative writing, to tell the stories from Asia that need to be heard.
Exiled To Nowhere by Greg Constantine: “We came to Bangladesh and became refugees,” 43-year-old Rahul said to me in December 2009. “Here we live under plastic sheets. In daytime it gets very hot. And in nighttime it is very cold, sometimes at night dew drops form on the plastic sheets of our roof. We eat once but starve twice. We are able to work very little and it’s not enough to buy food. Despite this suffering, when we remember the abuse in Myanmar, we think it is better here than in Myanmar.”
“It is better here than in Burma”, is an incredibly shocking statement to hear considering the squalor Rohingya refugees are living with in Bangladesh. But it is a common statement, which has always left me wondering how much worse could life be for Rohingya in Burma to make them tolerate their existence in southern Bangladesh?
I began photographing the Rohingya in Bangladesh in early 2006 and believe the Rohingya’s story is one of the most critical and one of the most underreported stories of human rights abuse in Asia. Since 2006, I have returned seven times in an effort to chronicle their plight, and with each trip, their situation gets worse and worse. My last trip was in October 2010.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority from western Myanmar (Burma). In Burma, they are denied most social, civil and economic rights and are subjected to a number of human rights abuses. In 1982, the Rohingya in Burma were made stateless when discriminatory citizenship laws effectively stripped them of their nationality. Abuse in Burma over the past 60 years has caused one wave of Rohingya after another to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.
Yet, in Bangladesh most are denied official refugee status and have found little sanctuary. Exploited, harassed by local authorities and permitted to receive little humanitarian assistance, the Rohingya in Bangladesh eek out an existence.
To protect themselves, the Rohingya have created makeshift refugee camps. In 2008, Rohingya in Bangladesh began to create a new makeshift camp called the Kutupalong Makeshift camp. Since it’s inception, the camp has grown from a few families to over 20,000 people. Camp conditions are some of the worst in the world.
In late 2009/early 2010, Bangladeshi authorities commenced a cracked down on undocumented Rohingya, arresting and forcibly repatriating hundreds back to Burma or putting them in jail. The crackdown displaced thousands and sent out a wave of fear that left many too afraid to leave their homes to find work.
Unwanted in Burma and unwelcome in Bangladesh, the Rohingya live in a cycle of misery that has no borders. My work on the Rohingya aims not only to document and expose the ongoing struggles and neglect the Rohingya face in Bangladesh, but also to open a small window into the root cause of their plight – the targeted abuse their community endures in Burma. I believe that without knowing the stories behind why the Rohingya continue to flee their homeland, people will not truly understand or fully appreciate the tragedy of their story.
Greg Constantine is a freelance photographer from the US. His work has been recognized in Pictures of the Year International, NPPA Best of Photojournalism and the Amnesty International Human Rights Press Awards (Hong Kong). He has received the Award for Feature Photography from the Society Of Publishers in Asia, the Harry Chapin Media Award and was co-winner of the Osborn Elliott Prize for Journalism in Asia.
Since early 2006 he has been working on a long-term project that documents the lives of people from ethnic groups who have had their citizenship stripped or denied from them and are stateless. The project is titled: Nowhere People. Exhibitions and projections of his work have been held in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Geneva and in the US. In 2009, he was named a finalist for the Getty For Good Grant and was awarded an OSI Distribution Grant for his work on the stateless Nubian community in Kenya. Greg’s work has been published in the NY Times, International Herald Tribune, POWER Magazine, the Irrawaddy, DATUM, and Vanity Fair Italy. He has collaborated with organizations like MSF, UNHCR, Refugees International and the WFP.
This video is part of the DEVELOP Tube Channel which can be found at DEVELOP Tube: Photography to Watch. DEVELOP Tube is an educational resource which features interviews, profiles, lectures & films about photojournalism, fine art photography & documentary photography.