Michael's Dispatches

Burma at War


“Free Burma Rangers” providing crucial help to those suffering in the warzone

kachin5-1000KIA (Kachin Independence Army) Soldiers

28 May 2012

Burma has been at war for 63 years.  There has been recent talk of progress toward peace, but all of my sources who travel inside disagree.  They say the fighting rages on.  I also made a recent quick foray inside to a Karen area.  There was no fighting in that area during the two days I was there, but the guerrillas confirmed that combat continues unabated.

A friend who has spent much time inside emailed today:

"I just got back from Northern Burma, Kachin State.

Pretty hot up there. Shelling every day from the Burma Army. The news media and the U.S. is pretty much keeping this out of the info flow because it looks really bad for the "Warming" of relations with Burma.

“I met lots of IDPs (Internally Displaced People) and visited the front lines of defense to encourage the troops. The FBR [Free Burma Rangers] group has conducted training for 12 new relief teams that are now on missions to several villages in the warzone areas."

kachin23-1000Nam Say Yang village being attacked. (smoke in the distance). My friend made these photos with his iPhone4.


In Thailand, I continue to come into contact with a group called Free Burma Rangers or FBR.  FBR is a faith-based operation led by a former Army Ranger and Special Forces officer.  In these parts this guy is something of a living-legend.  He speaks English, Thai and Karen and has spent years inside Burma.

I often bump up against this organization.   It has a solid feel.  FBR seems on the surface and from all accounts to consist of serious people doing important work: training ethnic locals in medicine and reconnaissance while documenting endless war crimes inside of Burma.  FBR receives no help, to my knowledge, from the Thai or US governments.

kachin1-1000Recent image from inside Burma: FBR trained 12 new relief teams

kachin2-1000Kachin Soldiers captured these from the Burmese army.

FBR puts heavy focus on medicine and the documentation of Human Right abuses.  Some teams spend months deep inside Burma helping IDPs.  It can take two weeks walking through extreme terrain just to reach some areas.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    karen · 9 years ago
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Leyla Najma · 9 years ago
      Thank you Michael for keeping us posted on everything. And Karen...if you don't want to read Michael's posts...then go away and don't bother. The rest of us do care and we appreciate Michael's efforts and dedication to topics of interest.

      My best to everyone on this Memorial Day !

  • This commment is unpublished.
    BH · 9 years ago
    Hello - you may want to also contact Worldwide Impact Now - also doing much in the area and have been for many years - compliments Dave's work but goes a bit further - Tim Heineman is the CEO - former SOF guy and a great humanitarian firmly behind the Karen
  • This commment is unpublished.
    YIZ · 9 years ago
    At least Rambo was able to kick some major ass there...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    sinanju · 9 years ago
    Man! This has been going on since before I was born, and I'm no kid anymore. It's been years and years since I read anything by anyone who'd actually been there-done-that (SOF magazine is the only one I can think of). It's truly unfortunate that these guys have never been able to team up in almost fifty years of fighting but I guess it's that ancient tribal thang.

    Real change may be happening in Rangoon at least and "The Lady" is no longer under house arrest but it looks like anything resembling freedom is a long ways away for this country. It seems rather obvious whose side China is on.

    Dave Eubank sounds like quite a guy but as his FBR outfit crosses the line from humanitarian to military assistance I'm amazed that the Thais or our government hasn't simply shut him down. Look for Obama to give an order from on high to that effect. He's gonna be wanting a foreign policy breakthrough to take our minds of the suppurating Middle East. If he and Hillary can't make the Burmese into angels before November he can certainly pretend to welcome them into the company of civilized nations...

    Mike, can you make any recommendations for background reading? As far as I know, no one has ever written an honest-to-gosh book on this.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Andrew Vanderplaats · 9 years ago
    The Karen have been fighting the Generals in Rangoon since right after WW II. Back then the the US helped Nationalist Chinese Army forces, who moved into the Northern Burma region after almost being wiped out by the Communist forces. Twice the Burmese went to the UN, to complain about US
    interference in their affairs. Old
    OSS hands, like Jim Thompson may have also had a hand in what went on back then, but that was a long, long time ago. Documents in National Archives,
    and State Dept. are still classified
    because of CIA.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      sinanju · 9 years ago
      I did read about the tribes participation in WWII working with the Allies (Stilwell, Slim, Wingate, OSS, Chindits, Merrill's Marauders, etc.) against the Japanese as a kid. I knew they had wanted their autonomy right away upon independence in 1948 but I was never quite sure of the state of things during the Union of Burma period but I did know hostilities really got going after the 1962 military coup by Ne Win and his gang.

      What I've managed to glean of the current situation is confusing but it appears the military thugs are taking a gamble by making a show of democratic reforms with their personal Union Solidarity and Democratic Party firmly in control. They've released several hundred of their more prominent political prisoners and allowed a tightly controlled election with a stab at other partial economic reforms and human rights concessions.

      My best guess is the generals have decided they stand to make a lot more money a lot more easily running a "Chinese" system with Potemkin reforms and a "mixed" economy rather than just trafficking in drugs, gems, timber and sex slaves. My guess is they've taken the measure of Obama and the international Human Rights, business community and UN grandees and figured that they'll all happily go along with a business-friendly despotism with the khaki-crowd still in control behind the curtain. I'm sure the brass hats are anticipating full diplomatic relations with a lifting of sanctions and an explosion of tourism and business contracts.

      I'm betting that the remote tribal areas, however, are likely to remain their personal poaching preserve where they continue to run their iron-fisted rackets out of sight of the rest of the world.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pat · 9 years ago
    Sounds like the China, Burma, India theater of WW2 all over again and across the same terrain. An intertesting mix of weapons from an M-1 carbine, early M-16, and a German G- ? to say the least.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      sinanju · 9 years ago
      Yup. Although the rest of the World hasn't really given a damn about this long-running conflict. For years I've wondered what could be if we simply helped to officially arm and train them. I mean, compared to invading Iraq and Afghanistan or even bombing Libya that would hardly be sticking our necks out. Keep in mind these people have been accused of running their own smuggling rackets to fund themselves but compared to the muzzies any other culture looks good.

      The carbine and the M-16A2 must be relics of yesteryear. The G- s are probably pretty old as well. Perhaps the AK-clones are of local manufacture? I wonder what the official rifle of the Burmese Army is?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 9 years ago
    We need UTube like they did with Kony. Then Obama scores another political victory with the assist from the Green Berets. Obama can ship them to Burma. We can spent the taxpayers money on another Hot Spot in the world and train our Spec.Ops guys at the same time scoring another victory for the Team Obama. Let's see SEAL's, Green Berets. Who's up next Force Recon or Para Rescue(Air Commandos)?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    andy Vanderplaats · 9 years ago
    While these tribes may be distinct from those over in Laos and northern Thailand, they're also involved with the growing of opium. Nationalist Chinese forces still inhabit the region as well as provide both security a well as a market for the the tribe's crops. These in turn are shipped out for processing or converted right there, as they were when the US was running their covert operations in Laos during the Vietnam War. Funny how so few people today remember what happened such a short time ago. I shudder to think what they'll remember in another 25 years or so.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Celia · 5 years ago
    Howdy would you mind sharing which blog platform you're using?

    I'm looking to start my own blog in the near future but I'm
    having a tough time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and
    Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs
    and I'm looking for something unique. P.S My apologies for being off-topic
    but I had to ask!

    my page - append data: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1w-vmWhQ2AKO9qJ7IR0-45-cf4Ho

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