The DocArtsAsia Center –  Laiza

One of DocArtsAsia’s major projects of is our program of photography training and support in Kachin State, Northern Burma. Over the last four years more than 200 students have passed through photography workshops in Laiza, home of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), encouraging and enabling them to document the realities of life in the region. Despite an era of apparent reform initiated by the new civilian government in Burma, Kachin State has seen a marked increase in violence, community displacement and human rights abuses associated with a reignited civil conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese military. The images produced by these young Kachin give essential documentation of life in this isolated and under-reported area and have been used by organizations including ALTSEAN, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and the US Campaign for Burma (USCB) both as independent, first hand documentation of the ongoing situation and as tools for international advocacy for greater pressure on the Burmese government to end attacks against the Kachin people.

First DocArtsAsia workshop in Laiza – 2008



 It will provide resources and training to all walks of life in Laiza. From Front line commanders wanting to document the ongoing war, to NGOs wanting to document human rights abuses and environmental stories. From Internally Displaced Persons wanting to share the story of their life in the camps to University graduates aspiring to be full time photojournalists and filmmakers.

From the more than 200 students who have taken part in these free workshops nine have so far gone on to complete the entire course of basic, intermediate and advanced photography training, with six of these now also trained as teachers of the curriculum themselves. The first classes taught by graduates of the program have begun to take place and in this way the Kachin youth have been given the capability to continue this capacity building independently. DAA, supported by Internews, now provides micro-grants to allow students to complete extended documentary projects in the region and is currently looking for funding to make the space used for these workshops a permanent documentary arts center staffed and instructed by graduates of the program.

See some of the DocArtsAsia’s advanced students’ work

This center’s grant has expired and needs support to continue its programming.


The first exhibition which took place at this center was DAA’s September 2013 exhibition about Mongolia, Nomads No More by Taylor Weidman, and had a great success among the Kachin civil society.

Injured Refugee looking at a photo book by Steve McCurry. 

This center is dedicated to Naw Ming Lahpai, a Kachin film director and journalist who was shot and paralyzed while covering the fighting.
Article by Democratic Voice of Burma on the DocArtsAsia Laiza Center. “As headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), the Sino-Burmese border town of Laiza has seen its share of conflict in recent years. The town has practically been under siege by Burmese government forces since 2011; and while Kachin refugees flooded in, humanitarian aid convoys were denied access. As recently as January, townsfolk were forced to run for cover as mortar shells rained down while fighter jets circled the skies. It seems as unlikely a venue as you could imagine for an international arts studio to open. But that is exactly what happened on Tuesday just a couple of days ahead of peace talks between the KIO and the Burmese government in Kachin state capital Myitkyina. Originally based in Chiang Mai, Documentary Arts Asia is a non-governmental organisation that supports and features the work of documentary-makers and artists in Asia. The new centre, located in the Laiza public library, will provide resources for those wishing to exhibit documentary art in Laiza – from front-line commanders recording the sorrow of war to NGOs striving to publicise human rights abuses, environmental devastation or human interest stories “I hope this centre and its various programs will develop many Kachin who are very capable of and hungry to tell the amazing stories they see around them all the time with still and moving images”, said founder Ryan Libre. Laiza’s new Documentary Arts Asia centre was inaugurated with a speech by Gen. Gam Shawng, the chief of staff of the Kachin Independence Army, who roused his audience by saying that “nowadays, media is more powerful than guns”. This centre is dedicated to Naw Ming, a Kachin film director and journalist who was shot and paralyzed while covering the conflict. The first exhibition at the centre will be “Nomads no more”by Taylor Weidman.