FBR REPORT: Message from a Relief Team Leader in the Field
Karen State, Burma
23 December, 2004

This message is from a relief team leader of a FBR team on the ground assisting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Western Karen State, Burma, where there are 4,781 Karen villagers displaced and hiding. The IDPs are now scattered in many different places and there are seven relief teams providing assistance to them. The teams are providing medical and food relief as well as a limited amount of clothing and gifts for children. More rice, blankets, cooking pots and medicine are enroute. For this we thank the Karen leaders, Partners, SWI, CIDKP, CCC and many others who have acted with compassion and speed in this crisis.


“We the team have been amazed at the resilience of the Karen IDPs who are sharing what food they have. Those who managed to escape with cooking pots share with those who had to flee without them. Many families were sleeping at their fields during the harvest time and when the Burma Army commenced their attacks on midnight 14 November, they were not able to go to their homes and retrieve anything.

Now, at one IDP hiding place only two kilometers from a new Burma Army outpost, the people have restarted a school for 61 children under the trees. They have no books, school materials, pens, pencils or even chalk but they are having school and teaching the children as best they can. The smiling children and the teachers’ determined expressions as they taught in the
jungle is a moving sight. Today, the medics and others on the team set up a clinic and began to treat patients as others went to survey the damage done by the Burma Army.  We found the remains of burned homes, schools, rice barns, and destroyed rice fields where rice was burned where it stood or was beaten down. (Over 20,000 baskets of paddy rice were burned by the Burma Army). We also found temporary outposts where the Burma Army had consumed the animals they looted from the abandoned villages. Feathers, bones, clothing, baskets, mats and other looted items littered the ground in these camps. On one tree in such a camp was carved “LIB 350”, the name of the attacking battalion. I thought, ‘They must be proud of themselves and what they are doing, why else would they carve their name on a tree for all to see? How could anyone be proud of this?’

At night, during the offensive, the Burma Army would kill and eat the animals and during the day they would come down to loot more homes and then burn them and any additional rice barns they could find. It made us angry to see the destruction done and to see one school in particular completely destroyed along with the teacher’s house next to it.

Earlier in the day, I did not know what to say when we visited the students in the hide site, some of whom are only seven years old. So I said, ‘ I do not know why this has happened and why it is allowed to happen but I do know that God cares and can bring good from even the worse evil. We know you need a tiger, but we are not tigers; we are only like small barking dogs. But we will not give up, we will try our best to help you and to keep barking and trying until the master comes. We are not from any government, we are sent from brothers and sisters around the world who love you and pray for you.
Regardless of religion or race we are all human beings, we are all God’s children and we want to work together. We love you, God loves you.’

Here we continue our work and want to thank all of you who are helping the people here. We could not do much without you. Your love and prayers encourage and inspire us. Thank you and God bless you.”

A Free Burma Ranger