Ranger Killed by Airstrike in Karenni State: Saw Ree Doh
26 February 2022
Karenni State, Burma
We are sorry to let you know one of our Rangers, Saw Ree Doh, was killed by a Burma military airstrike on 24 February 2022. We were helping people escape when two Burma jet fighters came and made multiple strafing and bombing runs through the village of Thar Yat, west of Loi Kaw, Karenni State, Burma. Saw Ree Doh was killed instantly when a bomb landed near him. The airplane was also strafing and some of those fragments hit him at the same time. We carried his body out as the planes attacked again and again. Two of our team were also wounded but are okay. This was near the village that was hit, on 23 February, by airstrikes that killed a young boy and his uncle as well as wounding three other civilians. Saw Ree Doh was 25 years old, single, handsome, athletic, brilliant, full of promise and was one of the stars of our team.
He was born in southern Karenni State, Burma, but grew up in a Karenni refugee camp in Mae Hong Song province, Thailand. His family was chased out of Burma by attacking Burma Army forces.
Most of his family is still in the refugee camp but one of his sisters is in an IDP hiding place here. He has six brothers and sisters and he is the third child. His father’s name is Saw Law Leh and his mother’s name is Naw Doh Paw. He joined the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), where he was a special assistant to the leadership. Ree Doh is loved by all who met him and upon graduation from FBR training became one of the most dynamic Rangers. One of his Karenni friends and FBR teammates said of him: “I am so sorry. We lost him and he was very young and just a new Ranger. And now his parents cannot even come and see him.”
One of our FBR ethnic leaders, Saw Doh Say said, ”He is very smart. He was exceptionally gifted. He could do things other people could not do and do them quickly. For example, in our camp when a big tree fell and crushed a house he was the first to take action. He quickly cut the tree up and moved it off the house faster than anyone. He was also one of the most outstanding Good Life Club leaders and excelled at making the children happy. He was good at everything. He was very brave. He’s the only person I know in my life who has gone right through a Burma Army checkpoint with all his gear on boldly and still make it.“
Saw Ree Doh was a great help to the training and even though he was a new Ranger, he immediately was made an instructor because of his breadth of knowledge and expertise in so many fields. During the last training, he helped run it from beginning to end. In the field on missions, he helped Karen and the Good Life Club team run GLC programs and we all depended on him. This is a great loss to his family, his people and all of us. He died right beside me. We did a funeral service for him in the jungle and we will do our best to help his family. Thank you for praying for the family and for all of us as we mourn his loss. My only hope is in Jesus in heaven and to see him there again. And I thank God for that eternal life so that we can be with Saw Ree Doh again.
A detailed account of how he died and tributes of love from others on our team follow below.
On February 24th, we had our teams deployed and Ree Doh was in the back, at our base. At base, he told one of our Rangers, Twa Reh, that he wanted to go join us at the front. The front, where I was, was quickly collapsing. As the Burma Army advanced, they were mortaring and machine-gunning all around us. Then air strikes increased and the local resistance retreated. We were up with them and when we were sure we were with the last people there, we started to move back. That is when two jet fighters came right down the main axis, bombing and strafing. One after the other they struck, strafing, rocketing, and bombing with accuracy. Multiple planes made multiple passes and it was a run of death as we tried to get out of it. After every strafing and bombing run, we would jump up from whatever ditch or hole we had found to take cover in, and run again.
It was during one of these passes that one bomb landed less than 50 yards from us, at the same time, a jet firing strafing rounds – 20mm automatic cannon – came in. Joseph was initially wounded in the head by this bomb and it’s the one that killed Ree Doh. As soon as the bomb exploded, we were up again and running and then looked to our right through the smoke and saw a body on the ground. We ran over and turned him over and saw it was Ree Doh, who had just coming up to us from the back, as we were running towards him. We were surprised to see him but that is the kind of person he was, always willing to help and wanting to be where he was needed. Twa Reh told us later that before Ree Doh went forward, he told Twa Reh that he had deleted his password in case something happened to him so that anyone could open his phone. Now he was dead. He had a hole through his throat and also had injuries to his head.
The planes circled back for another gun run and Joseph, along with two other Rangers (one of whom was Adam, one of our headquarters staff) and I began to carry Ree Doh’s body as fast as we could. The plane dove again, rocketing strafing, and bombing. We dove in a ditch with Ree Doh’s body and then got up again and ran. This kept happening. Two passes later, the plane came in low, shooting its cannon and rockets, and we all hit the ground in different places. I was right next to Ree Doh’s body. As the cannons and rockets came in this time they hit right amongst us and Joseph was hit again with fragments in his arm and in the side of his head. I had one cannon round hit a rock or concrete piece that was about a foot high that I was laying behind. My head was slammed into the concrete, but I only have minor cuts and concussion. A small tree was cut down by the fire and fell on top of me; I looked over and asked Adam if he was all right and he said yes. I was laying right next to Ree Doh and looked into his eyes and thanked God he was already in heaven. We jumped up again and Joseph said, “I’m hit again,” and held his hand to his head as blood ran down the side of his face. I said “Go!” and everyone started moving again while our team and I picked up Ree Doh’s body and began to drag him again. We were now within about 200m of where we left the vehicles in a hiding place. We were almost there and we were not going to leave Ree Doh’s body behind.
The planes came again, flying down low and strafing right at us. I decided we should drop Ree Doh’s body right there, as there was no cover and I felt they would get us this time for sure. I yelled out that we would get cover and then, as soon as the planes left, I would sprint to the truck bring it back to get his body out. The plane came in again, bombing and strafing, and at the same time Bwe Moo made a call back to where our trucks were for someone to bring up a vehicle, which would be faster. As soon as the plane finished its bombing run, we ran back out and began to drag Ree Doh’s body again. The Rangers came up in a car and we put his body inside and it raced back to the CCP as we hunkered down. It was a very brave act for the Rangers to come driving down that road.
Again the planes came, bombing and strafing all around us for over an hour, and we were pinned down with bombs and cannon fire in front, in between, and behind us. When the aircraft left, we went back to the CCP. Joseph got some treatment and then we began to help the CCP move back. They have their own vehicles and were well organized, so after that we went to a different front line, with Albert and the rice fields. We walked out to him and then helped him get all his people out and pull off that line, which was in the process of being surrounded.
We came back to our base that night and, in the meantime, some of the Rangers had prepared Ree Doh’s body and we performed a service for him. I have his blood on my pants, as I did Zau Seng’s, and I feel very sad. The next morning, Joseph was right next to me, bandaged up moving around organizing the Rangers. In fact, he mostly treated himself, except for the stitches in his ear, and he needed some help to get fragments out of his arm. It is like I have a young Eliya with me – always with me in the most dangerous places and capable of everything needed. He is one of the finest men I know, and I know no better.
Also, I want to say how brave Adam was to stay and help me carry Ree Doh’s body through relentless attacks which seemed to be certain death. He said he was surprised we were actually going to carry the body out under that kind of situation with those risks to be killed ourselves. But he said he decided he would not leave me. In spite of this war, love is in the middle of everything here. And what a loving group of men and women we have around us. And I thank God for all of the love from all of you there.
At Ree Doh’s wake and funeral, I shared the messages you all sent. His sister, Naw Lu Dee, came from her hiding place to the funeral and we will be holding another prayer service next week for him. Thank you so much for your prayers as we feel the pain of losing our brother Ree Doh. Thank you for sharing that love and pain, it is a comfort to all of us. I, like many of you, keep seeing his smiling face. We all miss him and I thank God for his life.
Thanks and God bless you,
A paradox of bombs
FBR is a paradox of bombs. One kind is a Joy Bomb. A joy bomb is defined as an unexpected, life-giving explosion of joy in your life. In the midst of a war zone when Rangers do Good Life Club programs, this is a joy bomb. Sometimes you can hear the other kinds of bombs in the distance but it’s often drowned out by laughing, singing, and dancing. A Joy Bomb is when a Ranger medic is able to diagnose a patient and provide medicine for them. Ree Doh was a joy bomb in all areas of his life. And the paradoxical part of this is that it is the other type of bomb that FBR deals with, the 200-pound life-taking ones that are dropped from Burma Army jets, that took Ree Doh’s life.
Ree Doh was a unexpected, life-giving explosion of joy in my life from the time I met him as a basic student in 2019. As a Karenni Ranger he only ever called me by my Karenni name. I can still hear his voice saying, “Rue. Rue.” And his little grin that was always on his face. I never once heard Ree Doh complain, I never once heard him say no to a task, I never once heard him say anything mean to anyone. He was the embodiment of a joy bomb in the lives of each person he met. Ree Doh loved Jesus. It was one of the first things that he told me, that he had already been baptized and followed Jesus. Ree Doh was brave. He was kind. He was a humble servant leader. He was a Ranger. He was my friend.
I miss you my dear brother. I know you are bombing heaven now with your joy, and I know we’ll meet there again. I love you.
Yes, Ree Doh was a great friend and brother. I was with him at his first training and I miss him a lot. But I am happy he’s at peace in heaven.
To me, Ree Doh was both confident and kind. He was eager to visit and always seemed to be laughing at life behind his eyes. I’m so thankful to stand with our Karenni brothers and sisters during this time.
He was one of three relatively new and very promising GLC instructors and taught with me and the team during RST and advanced GLC training. He and Beh Reh were amazing at teaching and creating new games and had so much fun doing that. Ree Doh was very loyal and would show up at every GLC leadership meeting, would prepare his lessons well and did a great job teaching the other Rangers.
I will miss him!
Thank you, God, for Saw Ree Doh’s life and we thank God we will see him again. Thanks all of you who read this, for praying for his family and all the people of Burma.
God bless you,
Dave, family and FBR