Burma’s Boatpeople Come Back After Inhuman Journey

They want to escape again.


Sabtu, 22 Agus 2015 12:00 WIB


Phyu Zin Poe

Burma’s Boatpeople Come Back After Inhuman Journey

Many like Yar Yar Kan are waiting for another chance to escape from the camp (Phyu Zin Poe/Asia Calling)

Yar Yar Kan is feeding his baby.

The family of 6 has been living in this small bamboo shelter for the past three years. He has no job and they have to survive from barely enough food supply.

He returned home after struggling in the sea for three months.

“I know if I tell my wife, she would cry and then I’m afraid that I couldn’t go,” he said.

But he’s desperate to find ways to support his family.

"My family would have a better life if I reached Malaysia. And I can send them some money."

His friend introduced him to a broker.

“I told him that I wanted to go to Malaysia. He agreed and asked me to pay 2,000 US dollar in advance. But I didn’t have money. He said I can pay him back with my salary for the next 6 months once I got a job there. After that, I can be a free man.”

At midnight, without telling his wife, he managed to escape the highly guarded camp.

“The boat crew took all of our belongings – mobile phones, food. And they pointed guns on us so we don’t speak against them. That’s when I realized that I have made a mistake. I thought I might not see my mother again, my wife, my brothers and sisters… that I won’t see them anymore.”

There were 400 people on board - 100 of them are women.

“They gave us a handful of rice, 1-2 meals a day. There’s also a small portion of curry, not enough drinking water. They beat us if we ask for more food and water.”
And the women have to deal with bigger danger…

“There were screaming at night and we asked the women, what happened? They said that they have been raped. They refused and shouted for help, but they were beaten. The crew drugged them so that they could not move and felt dizzy.”

After two months, the boat finally reached Thai water. Malaysian authorities were inspecting the area. The brokers left the refugees and went by another ship.

“The crew ordered me to watch over the machine and then they taught me how to drive the ship for three hours. Then, they left the ship. We drove back ship toward Myanmar. It took us a month to arrive in Myanmar water,” he recalled.

There is no official record available on how many people have tried to escape from the refugee camp. But Arakan immigration official says there are nearly 200 people returning back to camps. The government have arrested nine brokers and charged them with anti-trafficking law.

Khien Soe, chief immigration officer in Sittwe, said, “There are 14 gates that they can use to escape the camp. We check everyone who pass these gates. Our navy checks those who try to go by boat.”  

But there’s not much they can do to stop trafficking, says Arakan State Speaker, Hla Thein.

“We formed a group who are campaigning among those people as much as we can. We can’t do anything for those who try to go illegally because we don’t know their route.”

Tens of thousands of Rohingya are now living in refugee camp in Sittwe. The Myanmar government moved them to the camp following the violence between Muslims and Buddhist in 2012. The camp is cramped and without electricity.

Yar Yar Kan’s wife says she now knows where her husband was for the past months. Nu Nar Balcon wishes that he could have reached Malaysia.

"I dreamed that he would reach abroad and escaped from the brokers, then our family would get money. Now, my dream disappeared,” she said.

And Yar Yar Kan is planning another escape… soon. “I’m very disappointed with my life. I can’t live without job. I want to escape from the camp again.”

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