FBR Report: Loss of a Friend and Leader: Pu Maw La Dies at 84 yrs

23 September, 2014
Karen State, Burma


Saw Maw La

Dear friends,

Thank you for your love and prayers. We have some sad news to send you. One of the oldest Free Burma Rangers, Pu Maw La passed away at 84 years of age. Maw La was our dear friend, uncle, example, encourager, advisor, enabler and a man of God.

He grew up during World War II and as a young boy helped his father fight the invading Japanese army in Burma. His father, Saw Digay, was a leader of the northern Karen and worked closely with the Allies and Maj. Hugh Seagrim, “Grandfather Longlegs.” Maw La helped his father do his part in the liberation of Burma. After World War II, the Karen and other ethnic groups were attacked by the Burma Army and war broke out between the dictators of Burma and the Karen and other ethnic people of Burma.

As he grew up, Pu Maw La became one of the most respected leaders of the Karen freedom movement. He gained renown as a brilliant fighter and protector of his people. He was also a master hunter and on two separate occasions killed an attacking tiger and bear with only a spear and knife. He was one of the first to help us as we formed FBR and his sons were some of our most outstanding leaders. One of his sons, Digay Htoo, died on a mission and is one of the greatest heroes we know.

Maw La and his wife see us off

Now we have lost Pu Maw La and this is a great loss for the Karen people and all of us. He helped his people survive years of attack and his own village was burned three times by the Burma Army, but he never left. He said, “I would rather die here in the land God gave me, than live as a slave somewhere else.” Pu Maw La helped rebuild his village, school and church each time they were attacked and never gave up hope. He prayed for all people and led us all at each New Years’ worship ceremony to pray for the Burma Army and all our enemies.

Pu Maw La adopted my children as his own and they loved him. He would bring them special gifts from the jungle and now, having heard he has died, they feel very sad.  My wife, Karen, said, “Wow. … our Grandfather is finally gone. So sad. What a joy he was….I am easily teary thinking about it. Yet, Sahale was quick to remind me that he doesn’t have to use his stick to walk anymore.  He is strong and healthy and engaged with all God has for him there. … As well as being with Digay Htoo (the son he lost several years ago). Oh, what a gift he was in all our lives! The kids and I will miss him dearly and thank God for all the time we had with him. We send our love to all his family… especially Grandmother.”

Pu Maw La inspired us to obey God at all costs, to love all who come our way and to live boldly and with care for others. Once, when a journalist asked Pu Maw La if FBR was good or not, he answered, “If FBR follows God it is good, if it does not follow God it is not good.”

Maw La helped us follow God and we thank God for him.  Below this letter are more tributes to Maw La from people who knew and loved him.

God bless you all,

Dave, family and all of FBR

Maw La with Sahale

Our grandfather has gone away and we trust, even though we miss him, that he has relief from all his pain. Although he walked with a long stick, in all our eyes he stood very tall.–John

I am so sorry to hear of the sad news – he will always live on in our memories for being such a spirited, warm and loving person. It was a privilege to know him. His family and friends are in my prayers.  –Blessings, Amber

He was an inspiration and role model to many, many people.  His children, grandchildren and all in his extended family should be proud to continue onward in the legacy that he provided.  As I have reflected on what to say to mark my condolences the father-in-law of Moses comes to mind.  Jethro is presented in Exodus always as a wise and generous man.  The entire chapter 18 of Exodus is devoted to him.  The following verse I dedicate to Grandfather Poo Poo Maw La:  Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. – Exodus 18:9

Also Grandfather was an accomplished solider and so I close with these words found in the obituary to General Ulysses S. Grant in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1885:  …The patient, purified and dauntless spirit that vanished from the sight of man this morning will henceforth live imperishably in the memory of the Republic…

As we all are sad for this moment we also are emboldened to carry on because this man lived and served God amongst us.  — Kim Kingshill

Saw Maw La prays at New Year prayer service

“Lord I thank you for the life of our dear friend. Thanks for his warmth, hospitality, leadership, grace, and love he showed me and so many others. What a blessing he was and is to us all. We will miss him dearly. I pray now that you would be with his family and all in the village of Tha Dah Der as they grieve the loss of their grandfather and leader and somehow also celebrate the life of this amazing man. In Your name Jesus.”  –Paul Bradley

Jenn and I are so sorry to hear this news.  We are sad for his family and for all of us who loved him, but looking forward to seeing him in the land of no more tears.  I believe heaven is well guarded, and that our friend has been welcomed into the ranks.

Poo Poo Maw La was a great warrior, good friend, wise counselor, and keeper of Karen history and traditions and we’re honored to have shared meals and stories with him.  There is a saying in English, “no better friend, no worse enemy…”   I think this phrase was true of Maw La and I am very glad to have known him a little.

We grieve the loss of his influence for his family, the people of Kawthoolei, especially Tha Dah Der, and all of us foreigners who got to see the Karen people and Burma through his eyes by hearing his stories and wisdom.  His life has left a very big footprint… and he will not be forgotten! –SF..DOL…Ja Ke Bwe and Naw Ke Bwe

Ahh..This is very sad news indeed!  I feel so privileged to have gotten know him and his family over the past few years.  I sure will miss him and talking with him!  Just as Paul has prayed, i’m so thankful to God for Maw La!  Thankful for who he was and what he stood for!  His wisdom, warrior spirit, and love for his people taught me a lot!  I was very much looking forward to seeing him again, but even though he is gone now we all know where he is…. I pray that all the good he stood for would live on!  Please tell his family that he will always live in our hearts and that we smile with thankfulness for his life! –Sean

I am so sad, and surprised, to hear this. Maw La has been “grandfather” – and old – as long as I have known him.  But, even though he grew older, and maybe slower, and more bent as the years went on, he was always very full of life.  He always squeezed my hand with almost painful strength.  He always walked across the field to visit us and give bone-crunching hugs.  He always had a joke, and a compliment, and a word of wisdom.  He never stopped loving – us at FBR, his people, his land – even when there were many reasons to give up, he never did.  He was an example of perseverance and strength, of hospitality and care, and most of all for me, of irrepressible joy and love of life.  I thank God for him and all that he has shown us of our Father and how to live in the world, through both good and bad times.  We pray for his family and his people, and look forward to seeing him in heaven where all that joy of life can flow and fly unweighted by the gravity of earth.  –Hosannah


Maw La with Ka Paw Say (“Monkey”), FBR leader, pastor and video man