Profotos Staff Evaluation:
Photojournalism has few real "masters". The photojournalism field of photography is one, in which many photographers attempt, but very few succeed. Andreas Vassiliou is one of the photographers who has successfully attempted to master this area of the trade.
Within Andreas's portfolio, you will find images of some of the most interesting life stories our staff has had the chance of reviewing. Included within this stellar portfolio, are images from a drug rehabilitation center in a Buddhist monastery in Bangkok, Thailand, and refugees from a war for independence, also in Thailand.
The first 12 images in Andreas's portfolio are from his photo essay on the drug rehab center. The 10 images following these 12 are from his essay on the refugees. After the first 22 images in this portfolio, there are several outstanding images from Andreas's library, which he photographed in his home country of Cyprus. The two essays follow here in their entirety:
The Last Chance, escape from death
“The Last Chance” is the name of a drug treatment and rehabilitation program in the Buddhist monastery Tam Krabok in Thailand 150 km northeast of Bangkok.
Two brothers, Chamroon ( passed away ) and Charlan Parnchant who runs the place, founded the monastery in 1957. Two years later, in 1959, on an attempt to fight drugs, the treatment and rehabilitation program begun in the monastery with primal objective to treat the Hmong, a hill tribe famous for cultivating and supplying opium. During the first five years the program was a big success when thousands of cultivators left behind the hills to join the program. Since then more than 90.000 drug users were rehabilitated with the success, according to statistics, reaching the 70% making the program one of the most successful ones in the world.
Each client (a drug addict entering the program) has the right to enter the program only once hence taking the name “ The Last Chance “. The monk and director Chamroon Parnchant explains this tough decision they had to make:” Before a client enters the program he is obliged to vow full absence from any kind of drugs causing dependence to the God he believes in “. The monk Chamroon was rewarded for his services towards the community with the Magsaisai Award in 1975, something equivalement with the Nobel Prize for the Asian countries.
The program operates always under the constant and strict supervision of the Buddhists monks and is mainly based on a drug made of 150 different kinds of herbs and plants. The mixture remains until today a secret in order to prevent commercialization and possible exploitation.
When a drug addict decides to enter the program has to be accompanied on the first day by his parents or close relatives. An entering form has to be filled out followed by an interview in order to detect the willingness and the motives. Once accepted, the client has to pay around 100 USD, which covers his personal expenses.
The program lasts one month and is divided in two main periods. During the first period, which last 5 days, the client stays locked up in the room No 5 and he gets out once a day for taking his dose of medicine and for herbal sauna. When taking the medicine the client is forced to drink a large amount of water, which causes a profound vomiting. This daily procedure becomes ritual when the rest of the clients accompany with dances and spiritual songs.
Once the first five days pass the client is taken in the room No 4 where he stays for the rest of his time and is obliged to follow lessons of spiritual guideless as well lessons of learning handcraft works such as mechanics, carpentry and cultivating.
The monastery also provides, beside the therapy, psychological assistance working close with the family of the client for the followed two years aiming the successful reentering of the client back to society.
Karen, the refugee camps.
In 1949, when Burma (Myanmar) won its independence from Britain, the Karen, a minority, which lives on the east across the borderline with Thailand, founded the Karen National Union ( KNU ) to fight for their autonomy.
Around 1994 a group of Buddhists KNU guerillas detached from the Christian leadership, calling upon the difference of the economical status between the Buddhists and the Christians, founded the Karen Democratic Buddhist Army ( KDBA ), a group being financed by the military regime of Myanmar.
Soon after the Buddhists detachment, the KNU had lost the one fight after the other causing an exodus of women and children into Thailand. Their exodus was never being officially recognized by the United Nations therefore never being called “refugees” and never being officially helped, for example the Medicines Sons Frontiers were never officially there.
More than 100.000 refugees in 20 camps across the borderline inside Thailand live ever since terrified by the KDBA guerillas exhausted by hunger and kneeled down by malaria.
These are two very interesting essays, which our staff found to be quite informative and thought-provoking. Check out Andreas's portfolio to see the incredible images from these essays - they are the work of a true master of the medium…