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EXCLUSIVE from the Combat Zone: CBN News Joins 'Free Burma Rangers' on Rescue Mission

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PASAUNG, Burma – Here in the war-torn Asian nation of Myanmar, also known as Burma, the military government has escalated its brutal crackdown on ethnic minorities, unleashing air strikes and artillery on Christian civilians. CBN News joined up with one American aid group that's risking their lives to help the victims get out of harm's way.
Deep in the remote mountains of eastern Burma, the sound of gunfire echoes through villages inhabited by Christian ethnic minorities. The fighting here is driving thousands from their homes as the Burmese Army desperately attempts to crush opposition to the 2021 coup. But the rebel armies are slowly liberating village after village.

Deputy Commander Maui from the Karenni National Defense Force told us, "Right now we are attacking Loikaw, the capital city of the Karenni state. The Burma army had put in troops surrounding Loikaw because it's their main command center. So we are pushing them back; they have to fall back all the time."

The Burmese Army has for years committed atrocities against civilians, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and deliberately targeting churches and other religious sites.

We visited the hill tribes in the mountains of Burma where the people still live relatively primitive lives. Their houses are only built of split bamboo. So you might be surprised coming into these villages in the mountains of Burma to see a large Baptist church built on the top of the hill. But that's because most of these hill tribes are actually Christians. They were converted to Christianity by the very first Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, at the end of the 19th century. And that's one of the reasons why there has been this ongoing conflict between these Christian hill tribes and the Burmese Buddhist military junta.

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Faced with the onslaught, many of the minority groups have taken up arms in self-defense, forming militias that have been resisting the dictatorship for decades. But their aging weaponry is no match for the junta's modern arsenal. 

Despite the danger, the NGO called the "Free Burma Rangers" is using its resources to evacuate civilians and deliver lifesaving relief.

Here in the town of Pasaung, the rebel army has managed to push out the Burmese military over the last several days and that's created a safe space for the villagers to leave. But they've been afraid to do so. So they've been taking shelter in a hospital in the center of Pasaung. And now the Free Burma Rangers are here with their trucks to help them get out. They were unable or too afraid to leave before, but now they're being taken to safety.

During the mission, our group was constantly hunted by Burmese MiG fighter jets supplied by Russia. We faced bombing and strafing runs but made it out alive.

The rebel armies that are fighting for their survival have very limited resources, using older weaponry like the  M-16. One such rifle we saw was so old that all the bluing had been rubbed off the upper. These rifles are so old they were probably left behind at the end of the Vietnam War.   For these fighters, this is life or death for them, so they take very good care of their weapons. It's remarkable that this weapon is so durable that it can be left behind more than 50 years ago and still be in use today.

Despite the limitations they're facing, the rebel armies are methodically liberating places that have been under the dictatorship for 70 years.

Free Burma Rangers Founder Dave Eubank said, "We see that directly from my own walking experiences, and we see that from our team's reports in other areas. But every area I've been to, without exception, without exception, the Burma Army has lost control."

"Look at this highway we're driving on," he said. "This highway goes all the way to the major city of Tanga. And eventually, Mandalay is a major thoroughfare. We're on it. Could not do this two months ago, Burma Army controlled this town."

Maui explained the goal. "We are creating a new society which has justice, peaceful freedom, and democracy. We are building our administrative system - police, other departments - to govern our own people and area."

As the conflict rages on, civilians continue paying the highest price. But these resilient ethnic groups remain determined to resist military rule, and many believe the goal is finally in reach.

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