|Protesters in Malaysia are asking the Myanmar government to end the violence in Western Myanmar and the atrocities committed against Rohingya people. (Photo - Mohd Fazrul Hasnor @ Demotix)|
December 15, 2012
When 28-year-old Khairul Bashar took to sea for the first time, he left behind all that he had ever known. He is a Rohingya, born in Burma from the Maung Saw Township but he has never been given citizenship.
After suffering years of discrimination things go worse in June. The rape and murder of a Buddhist woman triggered a wave of violence against the Rohingya.
After seeing members of his community being killed Khairul fled to Malaysia.
Rebecca Henschke spoke with him in an apartment block in Kuala Lumpur where many Rohingya are now sheltering in.
“To save my own life I had to leave my own native land.”
Q. Can you tell me what happened? What happened to you and your family?
“With out saying anything they attacked.”
Q. What did they do?
Q. You saw that with your own eyes?
“I saw 50 people with knifes come and attack and killed 5 members. Two are a little young and one is old over 60 years.”
Q. You saw these people being killed. Did you know the killers? Were they your neighbors?
“See. Everyday they are not far from our village. Their village is beside our village. We are from Kayin, Maung Saw Township. Continously they attack. So killing for two days and then they start arresting people who are educated and a little wealthy. After they are arrested we don’t where they go.”
Q. Educated wealthy Rohingya started to be arrested?
“Only our Rohingya not Rakine. They explain to us that they are concerned about that problem so we need to arrest you.”
Khairul has a degree in sociology. His family feared that he would be arrested next, so he left...
First to Bangladesh, where he has relatives living in refugee camps. He crossed the border by swimming across a river.
“We collected 75 members we gathered some money and we buy one boat which is suitable for 75 members. It’s an old boat not new. They had no driver. I drive. I have some experience about diesel engine.”
Q. Was it dangerous with the waves?
“So dangerous! After 19 days we are in Thailand.”
Q. How did you cross the border from Thailand into Malaysia illegal?
“There is forest. So we come through the forest. We walked 11 hours and then take a car.”
Q. Do you free safe now?
“What kind of safe! I am illegal here. I can not work. If I am arrest by the police what can I say to them? So i can not work.”
So we have climbed up the stairs of an apartment building not far from the centre of Kuala Lumpur.
If you look out from the apartment building you can see the Twin Towers. Here many of the Rohingya refugees are now living because this is where the community head lives.
We have just been told that someone arrived yesterday from the Rakhine state so we are going to met them....
Q. Are there many Rohingya families here?
“Around six or seven.”
We enter an empty two-bedroom apartment. Around eight people are sitting on the floor.
Khin Tun greets us. He arrived with his family of four yesterday by plane from Rangoon where he used to run an art gallery. He and his family have Burmese citizenship.
His wife’s family is from the Kyaukphyu township. In October the entire Muslim quarter—more than 300 houses belonging to the Rohingya community was burned to the ground in communal violence.
Khin’s family now lives in a refugee camp. But he described to me how they called him when their houses were on fire in October.
“All my family is there. Everyday they call crying...crying..”
“Hour by hour they call me what is happening now.”
Q. What did they say?
“I hear lots of sounds that I had never heard in my life. Some are crying. So are calling the God Allah, some say the water...lots of things. It was very noisey. I cry all the time. I am listening on the phone and I say Run!.. so they run. Especially the women and children are crying.”
“She fears that the same conflict that is happening in Rakhine will come to Yangoon. Now they are sending all the people to the camps. What is the meaning of the camps? Why do these people have to be refugees? These people have their own lives, they have their own homes and business they are human beings now they are in the camp. I think the next person will be me. Eventhough I live in Rangoon, they will come and pick me up.”
Q. Where you getting any phone call or messages to tell you that you would be taken to the camps?
“I have friends working in the government, they are my university friends they told me that I should leave before you have to go to the camps so that’s why I decided to leave.”
Q. Did you imagine that this kind of violence would happen against your people? Did you think it would get this bad?
“No I never thought. I never thought they would kill and try and wipe us all out. Then they say we are the immigrants...immigrant from 300-400 years! What do they want from us?”
Q. What do you want to do now? What are your plans for the future now that you have arrived in Malaysia?
“Right now I am on a passport for Malaysia but after two months it will expire and after that I will have to run illegally. Right now I am trying to get in contact with the UN and trying to get in contact with lots of people in the whole world because two years ago I was working in an American company in Afghanistan so I have lots of friends world wide...So I sent an email to them and they cry. We cannot live in Malaysia; this is their country not ours. We need to go home. No one can get your home back for you we need to get our home back!”
Khin Tun, a Rohingya Burmese who recently arrived in Malaysia with his family of four seeking asylum. He was speaking with Rebecca Henschke.