Murdered and Thrown in Sewers and a Well; Five Civilians Killed by Burma Army Between Loikaw and Demoso, Karenni State, Burma.
28 July 2022
Karenni State, Burma
The women began to cry and, as we hugged them, they clung to us, weeping uncontrollably. One of them let out a mournful wail and held on to Suu tightly. We were in a hiding place with about 1000 men, women, and children, in tarp shelters under trees, trying to keep away from the Burma Army. The four women we were speaking to were telling us about their husbands and brothers who had been killed. They continued to cry and it seemed to me they wanted the opportunity to tell their stories. When they had finished the telling, they hugged us and said thank you.
Three of the women were widows and they and their families were from 6-mile Village; they told of how they had been chased into the jungle and were hiding after the Burma Army attacked their homes. Marino, age 38, was married to Wisaysha, age 43, and together they had five children. Marino Japah, age 43, was married to Ma Thi Thae, 45, and they had six children. Vincint Sho, 40, was married to Daw Ah Nyia Say, 44, and they had four children. Suliana was the fourth woman, and she had lost two brothers.
After fleeing, the three husbands had returned to 6-mile Village to retrieve their belonging and any animals that remained. They didn’t return. Suliana’s two brothers had also returned to the village to retrieve some belongings and had not come back. The next day the women wondered what had happened to the men and the Karenni National Defence Force (KNDF) went looking; they found their bodies. The three husbands has been stabbed to death and then thrown into a latrine: the Burma Army had removed the toilet and threw the bodies into the hole below. The KNDF soldiers had removed the bodies but were forced to bury them quickly because the Burma Army was still very close. The two brothers had been killed and thrown into a 40-foot well. With the Burma Army so close there was no way for the KNDF to retrieve the bodies.
As we listened to the stories of the widows and sister, we too began to cry. We were angry also, at the evil of the murders, the desecration of the bodies and the poisoning of the well. It was an attempt by the Burma Army to totally eradicate these people. I asked how we could help. Suliana had lost two brothers – Francisco, age 27, and Galintino, age 31 – and their bodies had not been recovered. I asked her, “Do you want the bodies back?” She said yes, if it was possible.
I asked the the villagers. They said, “It is not possible: the Burma Army is close and has laid landmines all over the area; their camp is very close, and the well is 40 feet deep. It has water in it and the bodies have been decomposing now for five months.”
Suliana said, “My biggest desire now is to honor my brothers with a proper burial. Can you do it?”
“Yes, we can try,” I said. “If the resistance and the local people help us we can try.” We prayed about it and I asked her to pray and her answer right away was yes.
After we finished the GLC program we and members of the KNDF went and did a reconnaissance of the village. We found a way to enter without the Burma Army seeing us. We approached their home and saw it was surrounded by other burned homes, cars, and all the signs of Burma Army destruction. Some villagers were able to pump the water from the well. I pulled my truck up next to the well and ran a winch out to its full length down the hole; this would be my primary rope. I then got some other pieces of rope to be secondary. Eliya prayed and then our team lowered me down. The well was lined with rocks, some as big as your head, and they kept falling as I was being lowered. I thought, If they hit me from above me I’m dead. I’ll fall 30 feet to the bottom. As I reached the the old water line I could smell the stench of death and decay. As I got to the bottom, I braced myself and prayed that I would be able to find something. The water was about three feet deep; I prayed and reached in, feeling around for anything I could find. Soon I felt something hard and round and realized it was a human skull. I was able to find both skulls. I prayed, “Thank you God,” and I put the two skulls in a rice sack I had attached to my belt with a carabiner.
The two skulls were all I could recover; everything else was too broken and decomposed. I yelled up to the team and to the sister that I had recovered the two skulls. If she wanted me to get more I would. The answer came down and she said that was enough. Once I had been pulled back out, I showed them to her and she broke down crying. “God, my brothers. Thank you I can see them, but I didn’t want to see them this way.” We documented the scene and gave the remains and some pieces of clothing to her. She said, “Thank you, thank you. Would you please come have dinner with us?” We had to keep moving but I promised her we would keep helping her – the same promise we made to the widows and their children. As long as we were drawing breath and God helps us, we would support them and their children as long as we live. They should not worry about their futures because God has a plan for them. We told them we believed they would see their husbands and brothers again in heaven.
This is a story of four women we met in one IDP camp, five men killed by the Burma Army while trying to care for their families and preserve their existence. More than 5,600 civilians have been killed by the Burma Army, just since the coup, in the last 17 months. The grief and loss in this story is multiplied more than a thousand times across the country. The fear, the pain of being the ones who have survived, the inability and overwhelming desire to honor the ones who have been lost – the individual hearts torn apart in this story – all multiplied more than a thousand times.
Please pray for justice and for these families and all the families in Burma.
Thank you for supporting us. It enables us to go to places like this and do something good in the face of evil. We could not do it without you, your prayers, our team, and the local people here.
We are all in this together.
God bless you in Jesus’ name.
Dave, family and FBR