Saturday, December 30, 2006

Frontline Soldier


When you get to the frontline you meet some interesting people, this soldier was helping coordinate our entry into an area very close to a Burma Army camp.

Frontline Farmers


We met many farmers both men and women who returned to the areas closest to new Burma Army camps to harvest their crops. It was said the Burma Army would shoot machine guns and mortars from the camps into the fields as villagers harvested to prevent them from getting food. One of the Burma Army tactics to crush the Karen people is starving them out of the land. This farmer armed with a gun was returning from harvesting on the frontline.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

flight


This picture was taken by a Kachin Free Burma Rangers team member working in Karen State. It's the same girl in the earlier picture, this time being carried by her father. The Kachin team member who took this had barely ever used a camera before, I really like this one and he took many other good ones as well. The Kachin team was training to work in their own area of Kachin State in Northern Burma. They cared very much for the Karen and it helped one imagine that someday all the ethnics of Burma will be united...

children & war




These children were all part of the 350 villagers we met on the first days of our trip. The child with the knife was playing in the midst of their flight from war. I find it especially hard to witness children in these kind of situations, the fact that they don't completely understand the situation makes it worse for me. In the picture with the boy smoking in the background it's easy to see this, but I should add he wasn't much older and wasn't a soldier.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

the exodus



This young Karen villager is heading for a refugee camp. She has everything she could carry from her home in the basket next to her. The Burma Army forced her and over 350 other villagers from the same area to finally leave for the border following the thousands of others who did earlier this year. The Burma Army is winning and I can only imagine if it continues this way Karen State will have completely lost her freedom...

I have just returned from another six weeks inside Karen State, Burma. I will start posting still images from the trip. What follows are my own insights and experiences of what I saw and decided to shoot, I don't claim to be an authority on the situation or understand all of it, I witnessed it and this is part of my account. A film will follow in the coming months. Thanks for taking the time to look and read, I hope some of these pictures help express my hope for these people's freedom and will unite people elsewhere with the same heart.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Free Burma Rangers


You see this shirt a lot in Karen State. It's a good reminder of what's important and why to keep at this.

Friday, October 06, 2006

KNLA soldier


You don't hear that much about men like this. They are the Karen National Liberation Army soldiers (the KNU army) who make it possible for aid to move into areas where the internally displaced people are in Karen State. If it wasn't for them we certainly wouldn't have been able to do our work. And if it wasn't for them the whole of Karen State would live under the rule of the SPDC, which isn't much of a living.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Boy from Mon Township




These are stills from video taken by the Free Burma Rangers a few weeks before the little boy mentioned in earlier posts died from Malaria. He is the one in the hammock and in the foreground of the other stills. His sister and Grandmother are in the pictures as well. His sister also got Malaria but survived. I'm sorry I don't know their names, but they are real people and had to run several times recently because of attacks by the Burma Army. If his family hadn't been on the run, without food, shelter or medicine he would surely still be alive.

Monday, August 28, 2006

plea

Dear Family and Friends,

When I was walking through the Karen hills I thought about you, my wife and kids, and all the things I missed, like cars... But what I thought about the most was possible solutions to the madness of the war in Burma. I never came up with one good one. I witnessed a baby die from malaria, later I saw footage of the same child playing healthy and happy just one week before. If there had been proper medical care the child would still be doing the same. I could do nothing. I thought why can't these people have hospitals? Once we slept in a village where all those who could run had, the only person left was a half-blind old lady who was too weak to run and refused to leave. Her bamboo house was decrepit and I recall her sweeping it out for us to sleep. I thought it would surely break if we all laid on it's rotten floors, but it didn't. I looked at her face and felt a miserable pain inside me. I could do nothing to help her. At times it made me want to just ignore the problems and look forward to being home, where things are predictable and problems are easy to fix. But it never escaped me, I saw too many faces of people I felt I could love. Since being home I have made no more progress on a solution to the war in Karen State. But I continue to help in video and any practical way I can. One foot in front of the other.

The other day I heard that hundreds of refugees from Karen State are going to America. I imagined those people that I had met in the jungle living on rocks and bamboo walking downtown Portland. Strange indeed, but it's going to happen. I had hope that if those people have a chance to make things work they may be the ones who can help with real solutions for their people back home. If America has anything left in her heritage of being a land of open arms to immigrants, I pray she opens her arms to these people. If you can do anything please do. Contact Catholic Services in your area regarding volunteering to help these people get settled.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

man with movie camera


Monkey shoots the mountains and valleys of Karen State, Burma. It was hot and the hiking was not easy, he was recovering from Malaria but always shot when he saw something of interest.

Monday, June 19, 2006

no home


This is the wife of the man in the tattered shirt in the post about Chronic IDPs. I interviewed them and asked them from what village they came, they said they had no village. We went round and round trying to find out what their old village was called until we understood they had grown up, married and started a family never having a permanent home or village. They live in temporary shelters and flee whenever the Burma Army gets too close. This woman's expression says it all.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

the fighter


This is the older sister of the boy in the previous post. She also had malaria, she however looked as if she was going to make it. She still had strength enough to refuse medicine and was well aware of us when we were there, I guess girls are stronger and being older helps. I'm not sure how she is now but Dtey Htoo told me she was going to be ok. It was a load off because I couldn't imagine her mother being able to take losing two children in the same week.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

malaria


This woman and her family came to the clinic at the IDP site the day before I took this picture. The medic I was with saw them that day, this baby boy was having a hard time breathing and it was the first time I had ever seen a human look as if they would die. We came back this day and indeed the baby had died. The mother craddled the baby as if he was still alive. It just emptied you out to witness. I couldn't say anything, I left money when we left. If she had made it to the clinic sooner... if they hadn't been on the run... mothers losing children to preventable diseases is one problem we can try and help.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

little ones


This little girl was always looking after her niece while her sister was away. She couldn't have been ten years old and yet there she was stuck hiding in the jungle from the Burma Army and picking up her duty. One thing about suffering in Karen State, they do it together.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Monkey


I was able to film Monkey on the trip. It took me a few weeks to meet up with him because he was already deep inside Karen State. When I got to where he was he was sick with malaria. He was in bed and not looking so good, but we talked and he joked around a bit. The next day we walked up and down mountains for 5 hours, amazing considering his condition. Despite being a very nice man, he's also tough.

Chronic IDPs


I have just returned from five weeks inside Karen State with the Free Burma Rangers. I learned of a different type of internally displaced people that I had not heard of before, what we can call “chronic IDPs”. The ones I met had been forced to leave their villages in 1976, and have been more or less on the run ever since. Thirty years of fear and uncertainty. When I asked them what they did for healthcare they laughed and replied, “you get better or you die”. They are unable to school their children and farm in small amounts but not enough to keep from hunger. Because they are undocumented it’s dangerous for them to travel to larger villages to sell or buy goods. They are cut off from even their own people and literally live like animals. The families I met were in total about 120 people. One very small man was eager to share with us, “When we farm we have to carry two baskets, one basket of seed to plant, and the other basket we carry blankets and clothing, when we work we look at the hilltops, if the enemy comes we run, if we see them we run, if we don’t see them they will shoot us. Sometimes if someone is shot we cannot help them, it’s very difficult for us.” It was hard to imagine living this way, but it struck me plainly that the Burma Army is dehumanizing and stripping good people of their dignity and right to basic freedoms. This man risked his life and family to come to talk with us, he desperately wanted to share what was happening. I share this as a favor to him. Thank you. (The medic treating this "chronic" IDP is named Dey Htoo, she is a great lady and will surely be in the film.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Who are you?


This little girl is from Karen State, Burma. Her family and thousands of others have been forced to flee from their homes because of attacks by the Burma Army, who have orders to shoot to kill civilians in Karen State (more on this later). I took this picture while on a 5 week trip with the Free Burma Rangers. I returned safe and sound, but that is not the situation for thousands of people inside. I shot 11 hours of video and plan to make the film mentioned here in the coming months. I'll be posting more stills and info soon...

Monday, April 17, 2006

the film, the man, the why


This blog has been created to post information about the film "Refugees Within". The film is to be about a refugee from Burma who joined the Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian organization, to return to Burma's war zones to help his people. We will call him "Monkey" here to protect his identity. He is a filmmaker himself and his documentation of human rights abuses in Burma has been used in news, television, documentaries and by human rights campaigners through-out the world. He is a humble person, married, the father of two, and one can't help but admire his kindness and gentle spirit. I think you will love him.

In the picture above he is training other Free Burma Rangers to use video cameras. He is in fact saying "take care of the cameras, if you break it we might just as well throw it away." Relating to the expense of the cameras and the fact they were donated so they don't have the money to replace or even fix them. (jpeg courtesy FBR)

I will be traveling by foot into Burma soon to make this documentary. It will take 6 weeks and it has some dangers involved: malaria, exhaustion, attacks by the Burma Army, landmines laid by the Burma Army... please pray for us.

To learn more about the Free Burma Rangers visit their website:
http://freeburmarangers.org