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Activist-diplomat supports victims of Myanmar takeover and trafficking

Humanitarian campaigner Ben Svasti Thomson among first to arrange help

Thai aid activist Ben Svasti Thomson meets with a teenager in the 1990s, when his Women Against AIDS group organized Thai women to stand up for their rights. (Courtesy of Women Against AIDS)

CHIANG MAI, Thailand -- Just days after the military staged a takeover in Myanmar, killing protesters and bombing villages, Thai aid activist Ben Svasti Thomson went into action. Before the big humanitarian agencies could react, he was slipping through the new regime's barred gates to cast lifelines across the country.

Adopting a scheme that originated in medieval India to circumvent Myanmar's crumbling banking system, Thomson is funneling funds to community volunteers who discreetly purchase food, medicine and other essentials as the country spirals into chaos following the Feb. 1 takeover.

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