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Tea Leaf Center Updates
The Tea Leaf Center was thrilled to participate in a fundraiser held in Chiang Mai on August 31 for the Karenni Social Development Center (SDC). The SDC does amazing work providing education for Karenni youth in refugee camps in Thailand, where they otherwise would not have access to higher education due to restrictions on leaving the camp. The SDC teaches human rights, democracy, law, environment, IT and English, and many students go on to do important work in their communities. Aileen moderated a panel of experts on refugee education and the funding situation on the border, and it was a nuanced, vibrant discussion including many insightful questions from the audience. The event raised over 28,000 baht ($917) for teacher salaries, and donations are still coming in.
On September 17, Jon led a film screening and discussion event in Mae Sot around the ethics of research in displacement sites. As the main town on the Thailand-Myanmar border and close to the largest refugee camp on the border, Mae Sot has long been the launching point for research related to Burmese refugees and migrants in Thailand. Participants that discussed the roles and responsibilities of researchers/reporters in how they engage with vulnerable communities, and how, as consumers, we are responsible for what we consume, support, and share.

 
"One of my main take-aways from the discussion was that research/reporting always has real human impact, which requires compassion and humanity in how the “subjects” are portrayed and reported on. Another major take-away was that documenting human suffering should go hand-in-hand with providing or working towards actual solutions and this requires participatory engagement."
If you’re interested in the topic, don’t worry – we’re working on a series of guest blogs covering various aspects of research in displacement sites, to come out in the next few months. While he was in Mae Sot, Jon also met with the Community Ethics Advisory Board, based out of Mae Tao Clinic, to hear more about their experience ensuring research conducted with vulnerable groups along the Thailand-Myanmar border meets ethical standards.

Meanwhile, Aileen has been in South Sudan supporting a humanitarian baseline assessment survey. Remember how the Tea Leaf Center is funded through research, monitoring and evaluation consultancies? Well, this is just one example of that side of our work.
Looking forward, we can now confirm that we will be offering our Professional Writing for Civil Society – in Mae Sot in late November/early December, and in Yangon in January. The course teaches skills like techniques of persuasive writing, turning interviews into narrative case studies, writing an executive summary, tailoring your argument to a specific target audience, and more. Get information here or email info@thetealeafcenter.org if you would like to apply.

We will also launch a fundraiser to support scholarships for students to attend this course, so keep an eye out for that.
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Resources and Tools
Do you transcribe your interviews yourself? Have you ever been a student working on a research project that involved transcribing hours of interviews? “Disrupting Transcription”, a blog post on the LSE Impact Blog, gives a good summary of the developments and options in transcription automation. The software is getting better – but how will that change our individual research/analysis processes?

At the Tea Leaf Center we like to say “who researches matters” – which also means who you cite (and read) matters. As scholar/researcher Jenny Hedström writes in a post entitled “Women Writing about Burma/Myanmar” on Oxford’s Tea Circle blog, “The marginalisation of certain voices over others from discussions about past and current events in the country reproduces a form of knowledge that is predominately white and male.” Not only does not reading and citing women and researchers from the country we’re writing about limit what we know and narrow our viewpoints, but it matters for those researchers too. Citation is used to measure professional success, and has a huge impact on hiring, promotions and invitations to speak. For those reasons, we are bookmarking the Tea Circle’s open source bibliography of publications in Myanmar by women and Myanmar scholars.
Civil Society Research Outputs
The interconnected challenges facing communities in southeast Myanmar can sometimes be hard to see as a whole picture. A recent report by the Tanintharyi Friends does an excellent job presenting the case of one small village – Kye Zu Daw – whose residents, recently returned from have been displaced during armed conflict, are stuck between agrobusiness concessions and an internationally-supported nature reserve that blocks their access to the forest products they have traditionally – and sustainably – used for their livelihoods. The report, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, also details the challenges the villagers have faced trying to register their land so it will not be confiscated under the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law. The report is a must to understand the complex, interrelated challenges facing communities – and potential returning refugees – in southeast Myanmar.

The Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma) released a report documenting human rights violations from January-July 2019. The report observes a 360% increase in documented human rights violations in the first six months of 2019 compared to all of 2018, most of which took place in conflict areas in Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan States. The bravery and commitment of ND-Burma’s many fieldworkers to document abuses in their communities is a testament to the important role of local researchers in telling important truths, often at great risk to themselves.

Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law continues to be the primary tool for preventing criticism of government leaders and other public figures, exposing important news stories, and simply commenting on topics of public interest. Other supposedly rights-protecting laws, like the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Process Law, are also used to crack down on dissent. Activist organization Athan’s 2019 Mid-Year Report describes how these laws are used to target media, activists and private citizens, using data obtained through Athan’s regular monitoring of court proceedings in cases under these laws.
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The Tea leaf Center · Chiang Mai · Chiang Mai, Chiang mai 50100 · Thailand

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