Rangers Respond to Refugee Crisis on Burma Border
14 April 2023
Over 9,000 people fled their villages in Burma to the nearby border in early April in response to violence between the Burma Army and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). As civilians began fleeing on foot across the border, the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) were asked to help with the humanitarian crisis. Together with local partners, an FBR team was able to provide medical care, food, water, shelter, clothing, and other basic supplies for the new refugees who were sheltering along the border. The team treated more than 100 patients at four different clinics they set up. Men, women, and children were treated for varying conditions including dehydration, burn wounds, skin infections, joint pains, fevers, asthma issues, stomach ulcers, and more. The medical team worked through the night at some of these clinics to not only treat the patients’ physical ailments, but emotional ailments as well by praying for them. The relief team also spent time interviewing those who fled as well as sharing a message of hope through four different Good Life Club (GLC) programs, one of which over 300 people attended.
One of the thousands of villagers who fled last month was Pastor Joe (name changed for security purposes). He is 72 years old and a long-time Karen pastor who was living in a Burma Army Border Guard Force (BGF)-controlled area. He was interviewed and shared the events that had taken place which had caused the displacement of his people. He said that there had been rumors of an upcoming battle in his area, prompting the people to want to flee. The BGF, however, tried to stop them from leaving.
On April 6, 2023, the battle began and the BGF responded by firing into his village, damaging houses. Many of the villagers, including Pastor Joe, took shelter in the local Buddhist temple. They thought no one would fire at the temple; however, the BGF did fire at the temple, resulting in the injuries of three civilians and three monks. This precipitated the flight of villagers to the border. The most direct route was closed, so Pastor Joe and his church members used two vehicles to shuttle people to a point north on the border. Here, they ditched the vehicles and came across on foot. About 50 villagers were evacuated in this way. Pastor Joe said that, as they were fleeing, their village caught on fire and some of the houses were burned. They were able to flee across the border where they stayed for several days in a temporary camp, and then later covertly moved to a friendly Karen village further inland.
Many of the 9,000 people who fled have had to return to their village in Burma since the event. Many expressed their uncertainty of safety and of the future, both theirs and their children’s. Please pray with us for these 9,000 people and the millions more that are displaced and oppressed across Burma.
Thank you and God bless you,
Free Burma Rangers