<p>Resistance fighters from the People&#39;s Defense Forces (PDF) retreat with the body of a comrade, following a clash with the Myanmar military, in Moe Bye, Kayah (Karenni) State, Myanmar.</p>
2023 Photo Contest, Southeast Asia and Oceania, Singles

Retrieving the Dead


Mauk Kham Wah

21 February, 2022

Resistance fighters from the People's Defense Forces (PDF) retreat with the body of a comrade, following a clash with the Myanmar military, in Moe Bye, Kayah (Karenni) State, Myanmar.

Myanmar authorities had sent reinforcements to the region as fighting with local opposition groups intensified. Moe Bye was strategically important as it gave the military access to roads leading to areas where armed resistance was especially strong. By 16 February, almost all of the town's civilian residents had fled.

The PDF is the armed wing of a parallel government that was formed primarily by ousted democratic lawmakers in the wake of a military coup in Myanmar in 2021. It fights alongside regional and ethnic militia also opposed to Myanmar’s military dictatorship, such as the resistance groups in Karenni State. At great personal risk, the photographer spent a year with Karenni people who had joined this combined resistance movement. Various Karenni ethnic communities in the region have a history of fighting for independence that stretches back to the end of British colonial rule in 1948.

Are you a photographer and/or passionate about press freedom? Sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on our annual contest and to hear about exhibitions near you.

Mauk Kham Wah
About the photographer

Mauk Kham Wah is a photographer, filmmaker and activist from Myanmar.  Following the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February 2021, Mauk Kham Wah spent a year alongside the young Karenni men and women who joined the resistance against the Burmese military dictatorship, where he witnessed fighting, comradeship and...

Read the full biography

Jury comment

This image captures the solemnity of defeat. One can hear the quiet of the men and their boots crunching in the grass as they carry a fallen soldier home. The jury was impressed by the insider lens documented by the local photographer, how they show care, deference, and respect towards the dead despite the brutal view of the mutilated soldier. All of the colors play off of each other in a way that brings greater attention to the silhouette at the center of the frame. The image is a universal reminder of the state of the world wherein people are forced to put their lives on the line to fight for something they believe in.