Ten years ago, while sneaking into a forgotten war zone in Myanmar, Jason Motlagh crossed paths with a jovial American and his family of four on their way out. It was a bizarre encounter in such a remote and hostile place, but there was no time to stop and talk, so the intrigue lingered. Motlagh later learned the family man was Dave Eubank, a relentless, unapologetically devout Christian missionary and ex-special forces operative who has devoted the last 25 years of his life to providing emergency medical aid to ethnic and religious minorities under attack from the military junta.
Back in 2012 when President Obama was normalizing relations with Yangon and hopes were high for democracy after decades of dictatorship, Eubank's renegade humanitarian group, The Free Burma Rangers (FBR), gathered damning evidence that punctured all the hype. Deep in the mountain jungle, the Burmese military was killing and displacing civilians with impunity as it plundered jade, gold, and timber from ancestral lands. The Rohingya genocide and post-2021 coup terror campaign have since confirmed the rapacity at the core of the regime.
As the junta's crackdown intensifies, Eubank and his 500-plus trained “rangers” continue to aid civilians under siege while documenting human rights abuses in a vacuum of accountability. Motlagh and his team spent several weeks with FBR on an operation inside the Myanmar war zone to track their work and methods while highlighting the atrocity crimes of government forces that are multiplying out of sight. Fresh reports of mass killings, including widespread torture and burning detainees alive, suggest the scale of violence and brutality is far worse than what’s been reported. This is a rare opportunity to investigate the war's gathering toll on the ground, and reckon with some of the ethical quandaries that arise in cutting edge humanitarian work.