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It is before dawn when we pass the last checkpoint perched above the Salween River, along the border between Thailand and Myanmar. As we wind north through a sparse woodland up an unpaved track, the first signs of daylight begin to appear. It is the end of the dry season, and most of the trees in the forest around us are leafless, allowing us to catch glimpses of the giant river below, a rushing torrent even now at its lowest ebb.