Kachin Medic From Myanmar Working With FBR Killed in Syria

By The Irrawaddy 5 November 2019

An ethnic Kachin man working as a medic and cameraman with the US-based aid organization Free Burma Rangers was killed in a mortar attack by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army in Tel Tamr, northeast Syria on Sunday.

Zau Seng, 39, was “hit by projectiles [which] went through his head and out at the back of his brain. Another one hit through his neck and his back and he was dead instantly,” FBR founder Dave Eubank said in a video message posted on Facebook on Monday.

“The day before, we had done the rescue and Zau was there. We were hit by tank fire, machine guns and rockets, and he filmed the whole thing. He was working on that film to send out to the world, when he was hit,” Eubank said in the video.

The attack happened in an area recently invaded by Turkish forces about 4 kilometers north of Tel Tamr. The mortar strike hit the FBR’s “forward casualty collection point where we were assembled to treat the wounded,” according to an FBR statement.

The FBR said Iraqi translator and coordinator Mohammed suffered shrapnel wounds but was in stable condition in a hospital.

Eubank, a former US Special Forces operative, co-founded the FBR with three others in 1997 in Karen National Union-controlled areas in Karen State, as “a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement” working to “bring help, hope and love to people in the conflict zones of Myanmar.” The group later took its humanitarian efforts to Sudan, Kurdistan (an area identified by Kurdish people as their homeland spanning parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran) and elsewhere in Iraq and Syria.

The FBR trains teams in frontline medical treatment in addition to gathering evidence of human rights abuses. According to its websites, some of its relief workers in Myanmar have come under attack from the Myanmar military while providing medical assistance to internally displaced persons. The FBR is largely funded by Christian charities, communities and churches in the US and other countries.

Zau Seng filming in Myanmar / Free Burma Rangers

Zau Seng joined FBR as a volunteer in 2006, using his medical training and skills in photography and videography to help people in conflict zones. In Myanmar, he worked in Karen, Kayah, Shan and Kachin states. More recently he worked abroad for the organization in Iraq and Syria.

“We started going to Iraq and Syria in 2016. I think it’s been nine times already. Each trip is one or two months long,” Zau Seng said in an interview in March 2018. Zau Seng and three ethnic Karen were among an FBR relief team that traveled to Iraq in 2016.

Zau Seng said in March last year that his desire to help civilians trapped by fighting in Syria stemmed from his own experiences facing conflict in Kachin State. “I still want to go back to Syria because the fighting is not done yet. There are still constant battles, so the civilians have to constantly flee. When they come to us, our FBR teams give them medical care and distribute food. I still want to go back and do those things and at the same time record and report the situation.

… I want to go back and help until it is finished,” he said.

Known for his distinctive laugh, Zau Seng is survived by his wife and a daughter, who celebrated her first birthday on the day he died.

“I remember him as this image through my tears as Zau is laughing, as he’s always laughing. I just want to thank you Zau for being an uncle to my kids, you helped raised them from their birth, in the jungles of Burma to Iraq and Syria and Kurdistan. They love you and you made them who they are,” Eubank said.

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