“We were being followed in the market,” our Burmese partner later told us.
That’s why he disappeared into the vendor stalls and subsequently split off from us to take a different route to the children’s home.
Despite (or because of) such precautions, he was subsequently stopped and questioned by authorities.
Our VP of Projects, Scott, had already figured out that we were being tracked, after noticing a man who showed up at the same places where we stopped – the border checkpoint, the coffee shop, the market. Not a coincidence, he thought. As a former fraud investigator, Scott has done his fair share of stake-outs and is acutely aware of such things.
Meanwhile, the rest of our group was being detained for over two hours at the Burma (Myanmar) border crossing and it was deemed too risky for them to join us at the home.
I had tried to visit this particular home a couple of years ago, attempting to cross the Thai border and traverse deeper into Burma to see the children of a rebel group that we helped rescue from forced conscription into the army. The Thai military coup just happened to occur on that particular day and all the borders were immediately closed. When governments get overthrown, countries don’t particularly like people going in and out, and tanks in the street don’t make for good tourism reports.
I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to finally see the kids, and very appreciative of the risks that our partners were willing to take for us to be an encouragement to them. For foreigners to visit orphans of the rebel group, in a country known for its prolific use of child soldiers, was risky business indeed. The Myanmar military dictatorship is extremely paranoid and very liberal in its metering out of punishment against perceived threats and infractions.
Through town, I kept looking out the back window to see if we were followed out of the market. The officials trailed and detained our host partner instead.
“Why are you associating with those foreigners?” he was asked.
“They approached me,” he truthfully replied during his questioning. “They went their way. I’m going mine.” How funny the truth can be sometimes.
We eventually sped down a nondescript dirt road at a rapid pace and kicked up a cloud of dust behind us that hid our entry onto the property.
Our partner met us at the home sometime later and almost immediately said that it was time for us to leave. We departed using a different route from the one that initially took us to the children. Memory cards and batteries were taken out of our cameras just in case we were stopped.
The young boys and girls, with rooms adorned with posters of Jesus and Manchester United, were worth the wait and intrigue. They will be change agents for the pathetic situation that their nation is currently facing. I long for a free Burma where such children, taken in by the Church, change the spiritual and political climate of the country.