Ke mana aku berlari?

Kenapa aku di sini?

Bagaimana aku berhenti…berlari…

I went to work today, like yesterday. I work in a factory, it is not a great job but many people like can’t even get jobs, I am lucky. Today, the machine that I operate was broken, I called the technician, he fixed it. The machine work again. I put my hand in to take out the pressed cd covers, the machine stop working and the presser came down on my hand.

I screamed.

My colleague can’t do anything as the machine was broken. I didn’t know how long it took for them to manually take the machine apart to take my hand out. My employer took their time to bring me to the hospital, and there I waited for 2 more hours while my employers negotiated with the hospital. It was too painful, I fainted.

When I woke up, my 2 hands are gone. Now it is just 2 lumps.

I thought about holding that glass of water to drink, about opening the door to the room, my future, about pressing machine or carrying concretes so I can eat, about sending some of that money to my old parents in Burma so they can eat, about living, about that letter I promise my best friend I’d write him when I’ve arrived in Malaysia, and about touching her face when she came to see me and cry…

My supervisor came and saw me only once, he promised compensation. It has been 10 months…

Wait can I do? I am just a refugee.

-GM. Burmese.

I had collected and sold RM 20 worth of plastic bags for the past weeks. I had enough to buy some rice. Finally. My 3 children and me had been taking some rice from the old lady. Now we would have enough for a month.
I walked to the grocery shop nearby. It was a hot afternoon. I went in and happily paid for a bag of rice. My children will have warm rice to their heart’s delight tonight. I won’t have to scold them when they ask for more.

I walk out of the shop. The 2 men grab my hand. The bag of rice fell to the floor. I shouted in shock. They punched me. ‘how dare you hit me, you are men and you are hitting a woman!!’ I shouted at them. I am a mother of 3 kids, I told them, they need me, I have to go back and take care of them. I showed them my UNHCR card. ‘Look, I’m a recognized refugee!’. One of the man took my card, broke it and threw it away. The other dragged me to the truck.

I was detained in Semenyih detention camp for 18 days. I couldn’t see my children. I don’t know how they are. I pray they will be ok, that the old lady will watch out for them. the eldest is 6 and the youngest is barely a year old.

I had heard of Rela. I know what they do. But I still have to feed my children.

What can I do? I am a refugee.

– Sabrani, Rohingyan. Been in Malaysia for more than 2 years.

I had just graduated from high school. I was waiting for the university acceptance. It was 1988. the military was becoming very arrogant and oppressive. They treat citizens like their slaves and took properties as and when they feel like it. The students were organizing against them. I joined the Students’ Union. We organized rallies, protests, taught the citizens about democracy, about rights, about justice. I really believed in all of that. I was ready to die for it.

They elected me to be the student leader.

The military was intimidated by us. We path the way for the National League of Democracy (NLD) that Daw Aung Sang Su Ski leaded.

And one day, they started shooting people at the protest. And arresting the leaders.

I was 19 when they thrown me in jail. ‘torture? Hah, beatings and kicking were events of the day for the soildiers. What was worse was hunger. They gave us 2 small bowl of what-nots everyday and it wasn’t enough. Many died in jail. I was lucky to survive hungrily.’

7 years later, I came out of jail. The first person I went to see was my dad. He fainted. I looked so different, he said afterwards.

After I was arrested, the soldiers came and took all my documents, even my baby photos. It is as if I had never existed. They harassed my families often, now that I am back, they harassed us even more.

I told them I no longer believed in democracy. It was true. The 7 years had killed all my beliefs. I just want to be a normal civilian. I won’t participated in anything, just let me go back to university to study for my degree.

They ask me to join them. They want me to be an NLD spy. ‘You are either with us or against us’ they said. I said no, thanks. I just want to be normal. They did not believe me.

They followed me everywhere I go, refused to let me go back to university and harassed my family so often, that my father, has started to plead with me. ‘for goodness sake, just help them son so they would leave us alone.’

I thought about it. And I left. I could not join them nor do I want to be a burden to my family. So here I am, in Malaysia.

I changed my name and kept a low profile. Then one day, I got a call from Burma. One of my best friend was tortured and killed in jail by the junta.

I joined NLD’s workers office here the next day.

In this office, we just help the working Burmese and their problems like getting salary from employers and bringing them to hospital when sick or accident.

There isn’t much more that I can do, I am just a refugee.
– MT, Burmese.

I don’t know where my mum and dad were at. I’ve only remembered growing up with grandma back in Kachin state. I remembered going to schools and having lots of friends and running around in green fields.

Then grandma had to leave. I went to stay with my aunt. Schools were closed. We were not allowed to go to church anymore. I stayed home a lot. I don’t know what was going on.

Then grandma sent for me. I was to followed a pastor to the agent’s house and then follow the agent’s instructions.

I remembered the boat we took, the waves were huge and we were so wet from the splashes. ‘many people died here’ someone told me. I was just really excited to be traveling.

I remembered walking days in the forest, I left my bad somewhere so I had only the clothes I’m wearing. Someone gave me some coins to buy food in the jungle. There were camps with lots of people in the jungles. I don’t know what food it was. I think it was thai. I vomited after I ate it.

Then there were long hours in the car where I would be cramped up on the floor of the passenger’s seat. I could see the driver. He was skinny and was stinking from alcohol. I was shivering from cold.

The car was going fast on some winding road. Someone passed me a plastic bag. I puked. ‘hehahah now I know what that plastic bag was doing hanging from the window…’

I don’t know how long it took altogether, but finally, me and another older girl were put on a bus from Penang to KL. I arrived at Pudu Raya.
An agent fetched me to my grandma’s house.

I am just really glad to be with grandma again.

‘what am I scared of? Like Rela Operasi? Ohh…well, if there’s operasi, we just run. I’m not really scared of it although it would be really bad if I’m caught. I’m just scared for grandma, she’s old and she has to work hard to take care of my 2 cousins and me. I want to take care of her.’
– Steven, 11 years old, came to Malaysia a year ago.

These are just 4 of the many stories I have collected/listen to/befriended/exposed/ absorb/lived with since February this year. Since the making of a documentary on refugees for an ngo. It should be done by next week, maybe you’ll watch it, maybe you’ll won’t.

But the collection of refugee stories is swelling up in me to the point of bursting. Which is not unusual, as activists, we hear too many stories and sees too many things that ache and angered us; we usually just drown it in alcohol. And today, today when I (and a friend from that ngo) went to meet the guy that had his hands chop off and thrown away, forgotten like a rag by his employer, I burst. As I sat in front of my computer, trying to rework the documentary script, I keep seeing his stump hands trying to rub the tears that are falling from his face when he was telling us his story. And my tears fell. And I felt that I just have to tell their stories, at least some of it first, now.

Some stories are like people, they refused to go away, until you give it a voice. Let it say what it has to say. And listen. Listen, cos for the love of God, it is not asking for you to chop of your hands, not for you to feed their children, not for you to fight their war, not for you to bring them safely through jungles…but just to listen.

Then you will see, they are not just refugees. They are people, like you and me.

There are many more stories out there about refugees in Malaysia, one website captures it with poignant photos:

And if you are one of those rare ones that happen to be moved enough to want to help, you can contact the following ngos:


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