Michael's Dispatches

The River - Part II

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Even forty-five days after the storm, there were perhaps thousands of uncollected bodies in the damaged areas. The government does not appear to be making any effort to recover them. And so, once again these simple folk are victims of an ignominious fate, wrought upon them first by nature, and exacerbated by the failings of a corrupt and brutal government.

On the night of 13 June, the boat kept hammering along the river, deeper into the darkness. As they approached the monks’ village, the night was pitch black. The clouds and intermittent heavy rains completely blocked the stars and moon. Rain was pouring as the boat approached a village. Suddenly about thirty locals appeared, carrying flashlights and burning torches. They all ran toward the approaching boat. The crew was frightened and turned the boat back into the river, hurrying away. It seemed to Charlie that these faceless figures were physically incomplete, and represented the souls of the dead, seeking conveyance to some better place, as if even in death they were tormented by the same forces which had repressed them in life.

Meanwhile, unknown to Charlie and the team, some men from the village went for one of their boats and gave chase. About twenty minutes later, the team still did not know they were being chased, when they decided to pull up into a small tributary and hide for the night. They pulled in among some trees, where they would sleep on the boat. With the motor off, silence descended and the frogs and insects became louder. The night was very dark. Using his flashlight, Charlie searched the shore. He saw corpses on land, and then far above the water, the remnants of bodies dangling from tree branches. And there the team would sleep, in the pitch darkness, surrounded by ghosts.

Silence reigned. The day had been long and full of risks. After about forty-five minutes, the sounds of a boat engine could be heard. Minute by minute the sounds grew louder. And then quickly, the sounds became even louder. Soon, swaths from two bright lights could be seen scanning the tributary banks.

As the boat drew closer, its engine cut lower and slowed. Its lights bathed the team’s boat, which was not well hidden in the small alcove. Charlie was under cover as the bright lights cast eerie shadows over their boat. Men shouted in Burmese, which Charlie had been studying, so he understood that they were looking for the monks. The village with the torches and lights was the village where the monks were supposed to go, and the men had worried for their safety when they did not arrive. That’s why so many people had rushed to the shore. Burmese and Thai people are very protective of monks. And for good reason, the monks are very protective of the people. If a traveler were in need, he or she would only have to make it to the nearest monastery, and there find shelter and food and safety. Practically the only thing standing between people of Burma and the junta’s Army are the monks and a handful of courageous others. So when the monks were late, and the strange boat they were seen on sped off, chase was given.

As the search team cast their lights on the boat, the young monks told the men that all was well, and they would come to the village at the sunrise. The search party was relieved. They bid farewell until the morning, and slowly went away. The rain started again. Around midnight, the rains stopped, and then silence.

The tide was receding and the boat started to list. Charlie was concerned, but the crew said the boat was fine. And so they all sat with the monks, talking by candlelight. They discussed politics, and how to help the people while the government refused. Despite the horror all around, there were laughs and high spirits, as is the custom in such wild countries among resilient souls. The small boat contained eleven living people that night, and no telling how many ghosts.

At about 2 a.m., Charlie fell asleep. The Cook slept beside him and kept lapping his arm over Charlie, as if Charlie were his wife. Charlie would shove him off, then by and by, the arm would flop over again.

Come sunrise, they returned to the village. The people were happy to see the monks. The team continued their journey, stopping at other villages. All along were the way were dead bodies.

Most of the water in the area is brackish, so the villagers collect their water in hand-dug ponds. Many of the ponds were polluted with corpses and animal carcasses, and were filled with saltwater. The bodies had been dragged out and the torrential rains were making the water potable, and so at least this part of the disaster was being rapidly corrected.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Zen · 10 years ago
    I should stop being surprised at level of cruelty people can inflict on each other, but there somehow there something worse about the total disinterest the junta has for the plight of its people.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jon Jewett · 10 years ago
    The photos along with the text are important. They show the (in)human face behind the statistics we hear in the main stream media.

    For those that will look, they show the full glory of another Socialist Proletariat Paradise.

    Keep up the good work.

    May God Bless America.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mary g · 10 years ago
    Well?

    God bless you, Michael Yon and your friends and your allies.
    a soldier's mom
  • This commment is unpublished.
    E. T. · 10 years ago
    I am grateful for your story and photos, but am concerned for the safety of the villages and individuals that were exposed (facial photos, etc.). It would not surprise me if someone in the regime is paying attention to the internet.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Russell C Wingate · 10 years ago
    I would be interested in the whole story. Thanks
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Occasus · 10 years ago
    The fact the generals are communists never seems to be mentioned.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lourdes · 10 years ago
    thanks again for this, I had almost forgotten about the victims of the cyclone, I pray that more help is headed their way, what a shame..
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ponch · 10 years ago
    Are there going to be additional parts to this story? Would love to read a part 2, or 3, or more!
    Great read.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tony · 10 years ago
    I was unable to make out the item in the first image of the sequence of the terrible photos of the dead people. Was it a mine?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hardtack · 10 years ago
    Thanks for reminding us of this tragedy. It has basically been forgotten by not only the MSM but almost all others.

    One of these days, payback will come. However, what the total cost of that payback will be is unknown.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Derek · 10 years ago
    MSF/Doctors Without Borders: Field News

    http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=2804

    More photos and articles... another source advocating for people of Myanmar.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Derek · 10 years ago
    I thought this was important to share as well...

    http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=2738

    Again, more related articles and photos. Good to see aid being given but as detailed much more is still needed.

    Since May 5, MSF teams have distributed:

    * 1,250 tons of rice,
    * 410 tons of beans,
    * 190,000 liters of cooking oil,
    * 70 tons of canned fish,
    * 1,400 kg of salt,
    * 125,000 packs of energy biscuits and therapeutic food,
    * 120,000 plastic sheets,
    * 20,000 mosquito nets,
    * 48,000 jerry cans,
    * 3,000 blankets, and
    * 16,500 soap bars.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Karl · 10 years ago
    Thank you, Mr. Yon, for your writings. I can't fully elucidate by appreciation for your courage, dedication, and writings.

    On a more pragmatic level, what agencies are doing the most good in Myanmar? i.e., where should I donate to help these people? Do -you- accept donations for these souls? (a few hundred dollars for a river boat is something I can do).
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike Freeman · 10 years ago
    As a representative of ShelterBox, I saw no mention or photos of our assistance in the country. The author of this story might want to check that out. We've delivered over 1,700 boxes each includes a tent for 10 people and survival supplies, with more on the way. It may be a "drop in the bucket", but it's a lifesaving and critical drop. For details go to www.shelterbox.org
  • This commment is unpublished.
    eyesopenwiderstill · 10 years ago
    I have been reading your contributions to truth since April 2005. No matter how much you as one man are able to write about, you still find no end to the scenes of life our 'news media' will not portray. And you seem to find no end to the motivation which drives you to serve us, your fans and followers. Thank you for yet another contribution to the effort of truth, Mr. Yon. And I am almost finished reading Moment of Truth in Iraq. You are a gift to the world.

    SPC -J. Robinson-
  • This commment is unpublished.
    poopie · 10 years ago
    Thanks to Charlie and you, Michael, for not letting us forget about what happens outside of our little sheltered world.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    kelvin parke · 10 years ago
    Until the force that dictators fear is greater than the force they infllict, they will kill without remorse for whatever their twisted ends. Withholding food and aid? Are you kidding me??!! We have the moral RIGHT to take these pieces of excrement out, wherever they are. Until the world confronts these barbarians in a way they understand, we will continue to be assaulted by the bloody corpses they leave behind. These "corpses" were mothers, fathers, and children and they had lives and a future! A murderer is not the moral equal of someone who kills him while defending the innocent. God bless you Michael Yon and God bless the United States of America! And God bless those who kill the killers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Smith · 10 years ago
    The author of your comment might want to R E A D the dispatch. You know? We're talking about one American with a camera on a very dangerous, clandestine trip down a river way, way beyond where he was supposed to be. You expect that he would go wandering all over Burma (yes, yes, I know) looking for your NGO's good works? Where was your volunteer photographer/reporter?

    It's one thing to post a comment publicizing your own good work, which I'm sure is admirable. It's quite another to criticize others, and with such a sense of entitlement to his and Charlie's work, and on his blog.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gismo Fly, London · 10 years ago
    Dear Mike,

    Superb stuff. Your story reads like a Joseph conrad novel alright. The Burmese junta are beyond any comment or criticism. There's no point even talking about these Chinese finger puppets. What disgusts me is the inaction of the UN in this affair. That organisation seems to think that its only function is to provide soup kitchens and teach pacifism. It's gone beyond any really useful purpose in the world.

    The Burmese are quiet heroes. I'm going to buy shares in a thakka paste factory.

    Regards,
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Grumpy · 10 years ago
    This post isn't about anything specific. I wanted to let you know that I still read every word you write (books too) and I wanted to say thanks.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tuptian · 10 years ago
    Thank you for your story and I hope to read more. As a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Thailand I must say your observations on Thailand in relation for Burma are very correct. While I have tried to keep up on events in Thailand via the English speaking press, available information still pails in comparison to what is available in the Thai language press. Thailand and Burma have had long and shaky history, you only need to travel a short ways up north from Bangkok to see a remnant of this history. That is not to include the Sha nor Karen civil conflicts along Thailandƒ??s northern boarder. However, I felt much sadness to see Prime Minister Samak interact so kindly to the Burmese junta, but not surprised because as you noted there is much business interest involved, some legitimate. While change will only come from within Burma, the opposition parties, with the exception of the secessionist groups, have rejected violent action. And with the junta showing no interest in the suffering of the people, this course will be very a slow and arduous undertaking.
    Best wishes
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ronald R Donais, Sr · 10 years ago
    I am a 61 year old veteran of the Vietnam conflict. It brings me back to so much of what I saw there on a daily, or almost daily, basis. I have the book "Moment of Truth" which I bought from the Concerative Book club. i wish I had waited to get a signed copy.
    The soldier on the cover is a member of the same outfit I was proud to be a member of back in 1966. It is a siduation we constantly saw. I never had the nerve to take a photo like that. I pray it gets to the minds and feelings of many Americans to show just how crual these people are.
    Thye story of little "Farah is not unusual as people think. I so wish I were 20 again and had the power to lead men into this mess and clean it up once and for all. God bless!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim Roesch · 10 years ago
    Make sure your underwear are clean ƒ?? Chapter 13
    I leave you now for the world to see,
    resplendent in your nudity.
    But, oops, so naughty, I caught you bare!
    Gosh, mom, they ainƒ??t wearinƒ?? underwear!

    When Natureƒ??s strife lays waste the land
    and forgotten humanity just canƒ??t stand,
    then lay yourself down and never wake.
    But remember the undies, for goodness sake!

    And if, forgotten, you rot away;
    dead youƒ??ll be and dead youƒ??ll stay.
    Remember that others might see you there.
    Remember to have clean underwear!

    Blame the victims! The dead donƒ??t care;
    scattered, tattered and everywhere.
    The tide goes in and the tide goes out.
    Boxers or briefs, the voters shout.

    Turn your eyes and avert your head.
    Ignore the piles of untimely dead.
    Forget the past, your future lies there!
    Lookit, ma, they ainƒ??t got underwear!

    The walking skeletons nude in Treblinka
    The storm tossed bodies of typhooned Burma
    Whatƒ??s worse; the nudity or tyranny there?
    Hitler died in his underwear!
    What more can be said, what more done?
    A good manƒ??s ignorance or an evil oneƒ??s care?
    Baked, bared bodies under the Son . . .
    Jesus Christ! Put on some underwear!

    Oh, I forgot, Jesus was a Jew;
    Crucified , yes, but wearing underwear too.
    How many sins can we not see
    past the bare naked nudity?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Wendell Roy · 10 years ago
    Michael, I purchased MOMENT OF TRUTH from Barnes and Nobles. It was found under the stacks in a far corner of the store. America is in the throes of a major media blitz designed to insure the election of a Socialist by the name of Obama. While this takes place we are bombarded by hate America rhetoric from all directiions, internal and external. Our American people in the interior are good people who love their country but they have no voice, no lobbyists, no representation in Washington. Thank you for all your work.

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