At the end of any armed conflict, it doesn’t matter who is fighting, because sometimes peace is declared by a park. Not in, but by a park. That was the case along the Salween River. It was December 2018 when in Myanmar, or rather on its south-eastern border with Thailand, Paul Sein Twa inaugurated the Salween Peace Park. After long decades of conflict with the Burmese central government, thousands of refugees, and a ceasefire in 2015, the Karen people saw peace take vegetative shape, so to speak. This project has three objectives. One, “peace and self-determination.” Two, “environmental integrity.” And three, “cultural survival.”
A REFUGE NOT JUST FOR MEN
But our survival sometimes offers refuge to unexpected lives. That protected area of half a million hectares has been inhabited over the years by myriad endangered species. Elephants, gibbons and jungle oxen. Tigers, pangolins and clouded leopards. Secluded as it is, tucked away in the corner of the world map (seen from the West), this park would lend itself to ancient fantasies about exotic animals. Monoceros, phoenix and cynocephalus. Seahorses, manticores and unicorns. But no fantasy holds up to the truth of peace.