FBR REPORT: 13-year-old Boy Blinded by Burma Army Landmine; We Are Trying to Help.
Karen State, Burma
22 January, 2008

Dear friends,

We are sending this story out from Northern Karen State in an area that is under attack by the Burma Army. Thank you to those of you who feel led to pray for the 13-year-old boy in this story who was blinded by a Burma Army landmine.

Today we were at an IDP site – above the burned village of Lay Kee village on the border of Toungoo District and Muthraw District. The Burma Army has a new camp one-hour walk away from the destroyed village. (We did a reconnaissance of that camp today and it is a large camp and very close even to where the IDPs are now). Lay Kee village was burned down on 15 and 16 August 2007. Everyone fled the village, and the Burma Army put landmines in and around the village. However, on 16 November some villagers came down from their hiding places and went back to see what they could find in their village. A boy, Hsa K’Tray Saw, age 13 (grade 2 in school), was with his family and sitting on a log in the destroyed village. He was hitting the ground with a machete as he waited for his mother to collect some vegetables. As he was hitting the ground with the machete, it hit a landmine that the Burma Army had placed there. The blast blinded him in both eyes and wounded his face and upper torso.

He was taken to a local mobile clinic a long days walk away, but after basic treatment they said they could not help him (We sent an initial report out in late November 2007).

Today as we were in the IDP hide site preparing to run a medical treatment, the boy was brought to see us. He was bent over and shuffled dejectedly with his head down as his older brother helped him walk. Seeing his damaged eyes, his hunched over little body and his crushed spirit, I felt very sad. I talked to him and prayed with him. After I looked at his eyes and took photos (to send out to doctors for evaluation), I told him that I did not know if we could help and that he might never see again but that we would try. I held him close and talked and prayed. I stood up to talk to the medics and someone asked me how I felt. I could not answer. I started to cry. I knelt back down with the boy and composed myself.

I said, “I feel very sorry this happened. I feel very sad for this boy. As a father with three children myself, it hurts me very much. But it is not just about being a father and caring for this boy, it is about a 13-year-old-boy who can’t see and who is afraid and hopeless in a hiding place, high on a cold mountain. It is about the dictators’ army who placed the mines, burned his village and continues to attack his people. This is wrong and words will not stop it. It takes prayer and it takes action.”

I stood up again and looking at the boy I said, “Son, we will try our best to help you. Maybe we can or maybe we cannot but we will try. No matter what, I want you to know that God loves you and is with you and God suffers too. And, I want to you to stand up straight. You are still strong, with working arms and legs. Even if you never can see again you have many things you can do. Stand up straight and be the man you are.”

I then put my arm around him and began to walk him around the top of the ridge. As we walked, he squared his shoulders, and walked erect and, like every Karen, with agility and sureness of foot.

We then finished the examination, and this is what we saw: The right eye looks pretty bad with a misshapen eyeball and tiny cornea and a pupil we could not see. But the left eye looks a little better even though it too, was badly damaged and has what looks like scar tissue over the cornea and pupil. But in this left eye, there is a distinctive pupil and he said he could tell the difference between light and dark. Our chief medic Eliya initially said it was hopeless, but I asked him to look again, and after Eliya re-examined him he changed his mind. We all decided it was worth the try to send him to Thailand. So we are sending him out now to see if the left eye can be saved or helped. Eliya gave him antibiotic eye drops and he is being prepared to travel. It will take many days of walking, but we have arranged for help from the Karen National Union (pro-democracy Karen ethnic resistance) and the best way to get him out that we can.


Hsa K’Tray Saw, age 13, injured by a Burma Army landmine


Thank you for your care and prayers.

God bless you,

A Free Burma Ranger Relief Team Leader
Northern Karen State, Burma