“There were about 40-50 soldiers that came to my village that day. One had stars on his shoulders. Some were not wearing uniforms. They came to see the village headman. The next morning, at around 8, a caller walked around the village shouting out news that the military will take our land”.
There took all of NN’s father’s land – land that he inherited from his mother. Some villagers cried. Some pleaded with the village headman – telling him that it was everything they had. “I remember my grandmother and parents going to the village headman demanding some sort of compensation”. They didn’t get any.
“The headman told us that there is nothing that we can do – they are the military”.
Soon after, NN had to work on the same land that days before was his father’s. Every house had to supply one person. He had to clear the land, build barracks, and plough the land in preparation for planting rice.
“It was hot season, but they didn’t let us rest or drink enough water. There were old women and children”.
So one day, he decided to run away. With some of his friends, they made their way to Rangoon, and then to the border where they crossed over into Thailand. NN soon made it into Malaysia, working as a construction labourer to pay off his broker’s fees.
NN looks much older than he is, with crows feet clearly visible in the corners of his eyes.
“Life is difficult. I have been jobless for four months. I can’t go back because I am afraid I will face forced labour and torture. But staying here, I am in also in danger – of being caught and put into prison and detention centre. Here I can be caned too” – referring to the Malaysian Government’s practice of caning illegal immigrants.