Remembering Kachin Ranger Zau Seng Who Was Killed By Turkish-Supported Free Syrian Army Attack
11 November 2019
Tel Tamir, Syria
Thank you for your outpouring of love, prayers, and support as we grieve the loss of Zau Seng, our brother and Kachin Ranger who served with us in Burma, Iraq, and Syria as both cameraman and medic. It is a great loss and yet we are encouraged to hear from so many who knew and loved him. Last week people here honored Zau Seng as one of their own alongside fallen soldiers from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
On Nov. 2, our team rescued three people from the Kasmia Village area (about four kilometers northeast of Tel Tamir) and Zau Seng was there filming it all. The next day, we rescued two more people, sent them out of the area, and kept moving our location. Zau Seng was there with us, on Nov. 3, editing the footage from Nov. 2 before and after the rescues. He finished the footage just before we were hit at 2:28 p.m. His last video is available here.
Zau died instantly in the hit, even though we did everything we could to save him. Two of our team members, Jason and Mohammad, were also hit in the attack but are stable and doing okay now. We are not sure yet if it was a drone or mortar that hit us.
Then, on Nov. 4, two civilians were wounded by another attack in the same place we were attacked the day before.
As the fighting here continues, so we, too, continue to help anyone we can. It’s what Zau Seng would have wanted and so while our hearts are heavy, we move forward with our mission here to love and help those under attack.
Back in March of this year, Zau Seng shared with one of our team that he wanted to continue to go to the Middle East when given the chance because “there are still constant battles so the civilians have to constantly flee. When they flee to us, we, the FBR, give them medical care and distribute food. I still want to go back and do those things, and at the same time, record and report the situation.”
“I want to go back and help until it is finished… The main thing I would like to say is that I am able to go and help because of God,” he said. “I can’t do much but I am able to report what is happening there. Now, in Iraq and Syria, I am able to go and help and I am thankful for that opportunity. [Sometimes] I feel sad, [because] I don’t know what to do. The one thing I know as a cameraman is to report what is happening here and report to the world.”
Always ready to go and film wherever attacks were happening, Zau Seng filmed a lot over his 13 years as a Ranger. He filmed Burma Army airstrikes against civilians. He filmed on the streets of Mosul during ISIS’ final days there. And he filmed in Syria, showing the world that there has been no ceasefire and the cost of fighting to the civilians who have fled this area.
We hope that with these videos and the tributes below you will be able to know our brother Zau Seng and understand his heart for helping people and getting the news out.
Zau, we are continuing on in your honor and memory. We will continue to get the news out from here. We will continue to love and laugh as best we can and we will take care of your family.
We love you, Zau Seng, and will never forget your legacy and sacrifice.
Thank you and God bless you,
Dave Eubank and the Free Burma Rangers
I, like everyone, have been running through a range of emotions since this morning and wanted to thank everyone for so many prayers and scriptures and words of encouragement. I’m grieving with his family in Kachin State and our staff who can’t even put into enough, or the right words, the loss in vitality and charisma that Zau leaves in our hearts.
I honestly remember him as a new Ranger – less ‘clever’ English, but no less ability to communicate love of life and joy. His amazing commitment and humor under fire were the hallmarks I remember of his gift to FBR and so many in the Middle East who were astonished he had come from his own conflict zone to help others under attack. Zau’s humility, with resolute integrity to his convictions of serving on the front-line whenever possible, was an amazing example to me! He’d smile and wave goodbye, almost giddy with excitement. when driving towards the front with the advance team, ‘We go now <big smile> pray for us!’
He knew he was good at his job. He knew he was special at getting air attack footage no one else could get and he KNEW he saved lives in Kachin State with that news. He knew God was using him – all out, everything he had to give for whoever was in need. I wish his years were so much longer. His joy for the life God gave him was contagious and will be deeply missed!
Love and blessings,
He now walks in the undiscovered land smiling, but here on earth I cry knowing I have lost my uncle, my handsome hero, wah day, man. I cry for you as Jesus wept for Lazarus. You will forever be my in–charge and I will always try to have the ears and the eyes for God‘s word and his call. You died so that others could live and you loved so that others could see Jesus through you. I promise to love people as you loved them. I promise to serve people and listen to God like you. You now have the eyes to see Jesus and the ears to hear him in heaven. I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for being my hero. I will never forget the love you gave to me and everything you’ve done for your people and the people of Kurdistan, Iraq and Syria. I know you are with God and this is the only reason I can have peace, to know that one day I will smile and laugh with you again in the undiscovered land.
Zau Seng was not just an outstanding videographer and photographer, he was also a joyful, smiling uncle who made me laugh in any war zone or awful situation. He was a father, to a beautiful daughter who just turned one yesterday. He was a husband to one of the most, beautiful, talented, inspiring Kachin women I know. He was amazing, he was awesome, he is with God and I believe this with all my heart.
Lu Nu Nu (Zau’s wife)
You are my sister and I cry with you and my heart breaks with you. I will always be here for you and your baby girl
Today I lost a dear friend, team member, and honorary uncle, Zau Seng. He was one of the best people I’ve ever known and even though I know I’ll see him in a better place, it breaks my heart to not see him here.
On every mission he went on, he was always happy, encouraging, courageous, and a true comedian. Even though the war in Burma was not over he was always eager to come and help other people around the world. My heart goes out to his wife and daughter, who just turned one year old today. I love you Zau and am so thankful to have been part of your life! Can’t wait to see you in heaven!
Zau Seng was one of my uncles. I miss him a lot and am sad he’s gone. I know I’ll see him in a better place in heaven but I wish he was still here today. One of my best memories of him was in Baghouz, Syria. He was always cheerful and happy even when the situation was bad. I love you Zau.
Zau Seng, what a life you lived! Born in the shadow of war, you grew up in a homeland occupied by the Burma Army. You declared independence for yourself from an early age, leaving home at 16 to join the resistance but, when they declared you too young, you went to make your fortune instead. But you weren’t only an adventurer: your love for your family and people always brought you back home.
You joined FBR as a way to stand with the oppressed for justice and learned everything you could, knowing it would all be useful to help your people someday. You taught new rangers from all over Burma and went on missions with them, helping not just your people, but people in need all over the country. When the Burma Army broke the ceasefire in Kachin State, you were ready. You were in the trenches at the front and caught on camera Burma Army air force attacks, even as they denied there was any fighting. They had to stop as the world saw they were lying. When FBR started helping in Kurdistan, you were one of the first to raise your hand and volunteer to go. This was a new adventure, and it was also new people to help.
Your videos and pictures of people from Burma to the Middle East have been shown all over the world. You have helped share the lives of people whose stories would otherwise have been buried, you have pushed back against those forces that would silence the weak. You said, “I cannot do much, I can only help a little. But this is what I can do.” And you did it with skill, fearlessness, commitment, joy and love.
Something else you could do, and did all the time, was make us all laugh. You were a joy, and a joker, to have on the team. Speaking and understanding more English than you let on, you always had a bit of an advantage over all us English speakers and would use it to drop a perfectly timed joke unexpectedly. Once, as we met with a group notorious for their lack of humor, you introduced yourself as ‘handsome hero fat man’ – and actually got a laugh out of everyone and helped the meeting go forward with a lighter spirit. You were humble and willing to help with anything, from cooking to cleaning, even as you spent hours on your videos.
Zau, my friend, we will miss you. You made our hearts bigger; that space you’ve left is big and now it feels raw and empty. So we pray that God will fill it up with love, the same love you had and shared all over the world – from your family in Kachin, Lu Nu your wife and your baby daughter, to your brother rangers from all over Burma, to those thousands of suffering people you gave your life to serve.
Thank you for leading the way.
Monday morning I stood up in front of the class of eager young FBR students and told them that one of their instructors, Zau Seng, had been killed while serving in Syria. Zau Seng had just been at the FBR training camp a month before. He had brought down a new team of trainees from Kachin State and was planning to stay here as a video instructor. Once Turkey invaded Syria, however, he knew that he needed to go where the need was the greatest.
Back in 2006, Zau Seng was also one of the eager young FBR students. He was looking for a practical way and real skills to serve his Kachin people and the people of Burma. He started as a medic and, following FBR training, he continued onto Mae Tao clinic to receive further training. Later he wanted to keep learning new skills so he learned how to use a GPS, how to use a camera and video camera and edit what he shot into short films to report on the real situation. After that, he was always on the front line and always recording.
During the morning class period, we took time to remember Zau Seng. Each team got up and spoke of something they had learned from him. Lots of words were shared about his character, his laugh, his drive – and lots of tears were shed. He made a big impact in a small amount of time and these students will remember him.
Monday was the day scheduled to teach about video camera, day one in learning the skills that Zau Seng knew so well. His legacy of work is not small. His videos from Burma, Kurdistan, Iraq, and Syria have been shown on most every major news agency. He filmed the Burmese military attacking the Kachin with jets and helicopters and had it in the hands of major news agencies the next day, which resulted in the Burma Army halting their attack. His photos and videos from Mosul, which showed the brutality of the war with ISIS, have been seen all around the world. Kachin leaders say that he was the first Kachin person to go to Iraq since World War 2 – and he did it to serve others.
Thirteen years ago, sitting on the same wooden benches as these students, Zau Seng probably had no idea where his life as a Free Burma Ranger would lead him. But Zau Seng was always the first one willing to go and so it led him to all corners of Burma, Kurdistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Zau Seng met his wife LuNu when she was interning with FBR. LuNu went on missions in Karen and Kachin states with FBR and was part of the Good Life Club program. We always joked that she was way out of his league but his heart was smitten and he worked hard to win her over. They were married and had a daughter together, who looks just like Zau Seng. It was his daughter’s first birthday the day he was killed.
There are lots of memories of Zau Seng that we talk about here at camp. All of them good, a lot of them funny. He is the kind of man that you really couldn’t say a bad word about. We loved Zau Seng and he loved us too.
Sorry to hear about losing Zau Seng, I offer deep condolences to his family and to FBR. We owe to him and his work in our region and for our people. May his soul be in peace and rest. He worked for the sake of all humanity. We will never forget him and all the martyrs killed by the brutal and jihadis groups which are backed by the Turkish government.
We hope one day to see his wife and daughter in Rojava, when freedom and peace will be established.
Thank you so much for everything you and your group doing in saving the lives of the people. Love and peace will only survive in this world and teaching of Jesus will only be the solution.
Co-Chief, US Mission of the Syrian Democratic Council
Zau, you brought so very much joy into my life. Even in the midst of very dangerous situations, you could always make me laugh. I will miss deeply our banter back and forth and your unwavering friendship and love. I commit to pray for Lu Nu and for Ing Ing as she turns 1 year old today. I commit to tell her when she is older how brave and self-sacrificing her daddy was and what a great friend he was to many.
Zau, I believe now that you have “the eye to see” Jesus and you have “the ear to hear” His voice.
I miss you my brother.
I was so sorry to hear. This was our big loss. He once my student and then my brother and then one of my leaders. He showed me many good examples and teach me too. He was my best brother, too. Hope I will meet him in heaven one day. I pray God take care of him and his family in Jesus Name.
Love and God bless
Koala Bear (Karen Ranger and an FBR leader)
We are very sad to lose our brother Zau Seng and we are praying for his family. He left his family too soon. We are praying for the team and our brother Mohammed to be healed soon. For all Iraqis, Kurds, and the SDF, we pray for them all to be safe from the evil things.
Thank you and God bless you. We love you.
Eh Paw, a Karen Ranger
I’m so sorry to hear this! He was an angel who gave his life to protect others. He went to an unknown land and put himself in danger to protect the innocent! He will live on in our hearts.
Thank you for your bravery, sacrifice, and heroism, you are the example of human kindness.
You will be in our hearts!
Dear Free Burma Rangers
I wanted you to know that I have been inspired by your ministry. I am praying for you.
Victoria. age 7
Dearest team, brothers and sisters,
I’m so very sorry to hear about Zau Seng! The first emails I read gave me hope as I prayed that he would be miraculously delivered again from death or serious injury but [also] giving him over to God’s grace and love for him, his family, the team and the people you’re serving. It breaks my heart to hear that we’ve lost such a good brother and bright light for the love of Jesus our Christ! I try to restrain the sobs and tears as my wife and kiddos are asleep upstairs, trying not to wake them, knowing Zau Seng is now seeing his wife and daughter more clearly than ever, though they will not see him until they are called home as well. Anticipating the tears that will come when I tell Jenn in the morning… hurts. I can only imagine what the team in the field is feeling, the helplessness some in Chiang Mai may feel, and hurt for Lunu, [other Kachin Rangers], and so many others who love and have laughed and fought alongside him.
I see his face, smiling after praying and giving thanks with Micah, and me in Laiza after taking off his ‘body armor’ and uniform shirt, seeing two clean 5.45 holes front and back from a round that went clean through his shirt and armor carrier on both sides below his shoulder, but somehow never touched him. We all knew how, or rather who, protected him as his face went ashen and he began to shake. I rejoice that heaven is one mighty soldier stronger and mourn with a broken heart for our loss with you all, because he was a brave and capable adversary for his love of others, but an even better friend to those he loved.
We love and miss you already Zau Seng, and look forward all the more to the end of our long march when we meet you again in the land of no more tears but will honor you in memories, stories, and song until then. Lord, give Lunu good, sweet dreams of her husband, with a peace in her sadness that transcends our understanding.
Love you all and miss you,
Dear Dave and other friends of Zau Seng,
I was very sad to read the news of Zau’s death yesterday. From my interactions with him, Zau was the epitome of what it means to be a great ranger, and an even better person. Always willing, always eager to learn, moving outside of his comfort zone to be helpful no matter the circumstances. He never stood back or laid low, but was out front and eager to serve. Zau helped his Kachin people in many ways, but I met him in Karen State, and he died in Syria, helping people that did not share his native language. He embodied a love and concern that transcended borders and nationalities, and his smile and jovial warmth communicated far more than any language barrier could prevent. I knew he had my back and I had his, even as we stuttered broken Karen phrases at one another in a futile attempt at smooth dialogue.
I am so sorry for his family, and his FBR family. I know you will continue to demonstrate love and hope even when your hearts are so heavy, and I pray you find all the peace you need in the midst of such violence and hate. I wish it could be with Zau at your side.
If there is a good way we can help to support Zau’s wife and child, please let me know.