Like most other Arakans from Myanmar, OO tells a similar story of forced labour. This time, the village he was in was divided into three groups and forced to carry rocks at a quarry. They worked for 2 – 3 days at a time and then the next group would have to work in rotation. They usually worked 13 hour days, working from 6 in the morning till 7 at night.
One day, OO had to work very late. It was 10 at night, and after working for 16 hours carrying stones, he was tired, and hungry, and wanted to stop. And so he asked the soldier on duty if he could go back. The soldier turned on him.
“He hit me with a stick and I fell down, cutting my chin. When I was on the ground, he wanted to hit me again”.
OO instinctively picked up a rock and threw it at the soldier, hitting him in the head.
“He fell down. I saw blood on his head. I ran.”
OO ran into the darkness of night, crossing some fields to get to another village where he took refuge at his friend’s house. The next day, he went to the city where his brother put him on a cargo ship bound for Thailand. He never again saw his parents or wife of only 1 year.
In Thailand, he spent the next seven years working in 4 construction sites and 20 fishing boats. But life was very insecure.
“The Thai police arrested me 4 times. Once, they sold me to a fishing boat. The boat was at sea for one whole year. It was dangerous work, with frequent injury and disease. I escaped when the boat came back to shore”.
OO has been in Malaysia for the past 3 years. He dreams one day of freedom. Of liberty. Of a free life.