Free Burma Rangers

Chris Carson is a well-known figure in the Nagoya scene. He initially came here in 1995 to study Toyota Production Systems. His fascination with martial arts and bushido attracted him to Japan and during his stints here he has had extensive work experience including prestigious positions at ALC, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Louisa Spices, and the RL Schreiber corporation, amongst others.

Chris also served in the United States Marine Corps and was assigned to the FAST (Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team) special forces unit.

At some time in our lives each of us comes across something that compels us to courageously take action. For Chris this moment came in 1990, when Iraqi forces crossed their borders to invade Kuwait.

The invasion sparked strong condemnation among world leaders and Operation Desert Shield began. Within days of this he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

That experience had a profound impact on Chris. While he took notice and responded to other catastrophic events including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, it wasn’t until 2007’s Saffron Revolution, when Buddhist monks marched on the streets of Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar) and laid down their lives while protesting against the brutality of the military government, that he again felt a profound call to action.

Around this same time he had just moved back to Japan and enrolled at Waseda University to pursue a PhD, leaving him unable to participate. He did however continue to follow the events in Burma and promised himself that some day he would help the Burmese people fight for peace and democracy. Now that day has come…

The situation in Burma is long and complex. Over sixty years of civil war have made it one of the poorest countries in the world. The military dictatorship attacks its own people, killing thousands and leaving millions displaced. Many in the opposition are either imprisoned or killed. In most of the country there is a false peace due to the dictators’ ability to control dissent, however in some ethnic areas the regime’s army is still attacking the people.

There are over one million internally displaced people, and over one million refugees who have fled the country. There is continual environmental destruction, an HIV/AIDS epidemic, human trafficking and religious persecution. Because of the regime’s mismanagement and corruption, it’s the world’s second largest opium producer and the main producer of methamphetamine in Southeast Asia. The regime’s army extends their control over the ethnic minorities by building roads and camps in ethnic homelands, forcing people to relocate or flee into the jungle. There is documented forced labor, the use of child soldiers and rape as a weapon.

The regime’s army lays landmines to keep villagers from returning home and supporting the resistance. They aim to dominate the population, assimilate them and exploit them. They do this directly through military attacks, selective cease-fire agreements, and the use of proxy ethnic forces allied with the regime. All of these people lack security, food, and education for their children, and suffer increased health problems. Yet the people of Burma have not given up and the pro-democracy movement is still active.

After deciding that now was the right time to participate in Burma’s fight for freedom, Chris did some research and came across a compelling organization to join – The Free Burma Rangers. While it is no doubt going to be difficult for him to leave behind his life here in Japan, his friends and the greatest gift in his life – his son, Chris feels that if there is any organization working in Burma that he would be willing to make this kind of sacrifice for, it’s the Free Burma Rangers.  FBR is a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement, which aims to bring compassionate assistance to people in the war zones of Burma. Ethnic pro-democracy groups send teams to FBR to be trained, supplied and sent into the areas under attack to provide emergency medical care, shelter, food, clothing and human rights documentation.

The teams also operate a communication and information network inside Burma that provides real time information from areas under attack. In addition to relief and reporting, other results of the teams’ actions are the development of leadership capacity, civil society and the strengthening of inter-ethnic unity. The teams are to avoid contact with the Burma National Army and operate under the protection of the ethnic resistance armies.  However, “Rangers” cannot run away if the people they are helping cannot escape the regime’s army.

Men and women of many ethnic groups and religions are part of FBR.  Since 1997, FBR has trained over 110 multi-ethnic relief teams and there are 48 full time teams active in Burma. The teams have conducted over 350 humanitarian missions of 1-2 months into the war zones and have treated over 360,000 patients and helped over 750,000 people.

It is pretty incredible to imagine the changes that are in store for Chris. But according to him  “There is no better way to find out what your values are than to ask yourself a simple question: What am I willing to fight for? If you’re willing to fight for something – to take a stand, to risk getting hurt just so you can defend what you believe in, then you obviously must value it.  And if you value it, then it must be an idea that makes your life worth living.”

To learn more about the situation in Burma and the Free Burma Rangers, join Chris by attending the Free Burma Awareness event at Shooters on Sunday, November 20th at 8pm.  They will be giving away T-shirts and will show a documentary entitled “Raging Forest” after which there will be a Q&A session. Following the event is a party with music from Stereophonic DJs Nick and Babur.  Shooters will be donating proceeds from the event to the Free Burma Rangers and Feel Freedom Project.

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