Warning: Graphic content
Written and photographed by Zach Esh from Class 1 specialization training internship with Free Burma Rangers.
It is June 26, 2023. We are in Karenni State, Burma. The day is met by brilliant morning light as some few hundred internally displaced people gather around a grim grave sight. Internally displaced people, IDP for short. This is the name given to those who run for their lives. They are running, not as victims to invading regimes or tyrants, but rather as prey to their own government. A government that has sold itself on gaining the blood of these people.
And today, the brilliant light is hardly appropriate. Because today, I bring you to a scene that is all too common. Tears are easy to come by. Emotional pain is in excess. We gather to mourn the death of four men, all of which were members of a community who had recently been forced to flee their village. Mind you, their reason for flight is by no means shallow. They flee because of the anticipated invasion of the Burmese army, bloodthirsty as it turns out.
It is in this newly abandoned village in which merely a day earlier, on June 25, the four men mentioned, travel in to collect some sacks of rice previously left behind. They hear the rumbles of a Burmese jet. A jet is no joke in these jungles. Here, such aircraft are designed to be as deadly as possible. But surely it is not marked on them, a few harmless villagers collecting rice. Think again. The men see the jet dive directly toward them. Only God knows their first thoughts and reactions. At any rate, they hear a brief whistle and then a deafening blast. That quick, it is over. Unarmed and unthreatening, the four men all fall victim to the brutal airstrike — murdered in the first degree.
The aftermath of the scene is brutal. Arriving in trucks, we see the victims covered in blood. Their faces torn to shreds. Their bodies filled with debris. Perhaps the most comforting thought is that they died instantly. No one could have lived even a moment in the state they were found. Even worse than the grizzly scene at hand, are the mothers who now lost their sons, wives who lost their husbands, and children who lost their fathers. Hence another horror is added to the long list of crimes the Burmese army and its wicked regime is willing to commit. A crime that will receive no trial. A murder that will gain no justice. Tragic.
For those left behind — the women and children attending the funeral at hand, their mourning will have to be brief. Or have you forgotten? They are still in flight. Even today, these people are among the thousands who have to flee the Burmese army. Forced to leave behind all they know, always living under the fear and threat that all of this could happen again.