Lu Aung (not her real name) arrived in Malaysia 5 months ago. She is only 16 years old. Her family didn’t know anybody in Malaysia, but sent her here. Why? Why would someone send their own daughter to a place where people spoke a different language, where she would be without documents, without protection, without income? Why?

“We were praying one night when a monk and soldiers broke down our door, shouted at my mother to stop praying and threw our bible out of our window. My brother spoke up, so they beat him again and again and again. The soldiers hit my brother’s head with their rifle butts. Again and again and again”.

“The next morning we took him to hospital, but when I came back with food, I saw my brother being taken away by soldiers. I hid, and then ran back to my relative’s house”.

“A few days later, my mother wrote, saying that soldiers have been to our house every day looking for me. She told me that if I were to stay in Myanmar, they will find me one day soon. So my relatives contacted a broker and told me that I will be going to Malaysia. I didn’t know anything about Malaysia, but I knew I couldn’t stay here in Kachin State”.

Lu Aung has never been outside her district. She has never been on a boat, and she tells of how scared she was during the sea crossing when it rained and the seas were very rough – she thought the boat was going to capsize.

In Malaysia, the broker sent me to a Malay restaurant. “There were 5 other males. I was the only female. I worked from 7 in the morning till 11 at night, washing plates and cleaning up. They didn’t pay me any money apart from some pocket money once in a while”.

“One day, when the boss was away, one of the male workers tried to hug and kiss me. I screamed but he told me not to scream. The other workers heard my scream and came to my assistance. That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was shivering with fear”.

Fortunately, she had made friends with a Myanmarese who delivers vegetables to her restaurant and told him what happened to her the night before. This man took pity on her and told her to meet him later and so she ran away with him. He brought her to the UNHCR office, and they in turn contacted her organisation.

That was 10 days ago. Her future remains uncertain. I asked how she is finding life at the moment. For a long time she thinks.

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t have any documents. I can’t work. I can’t go out. I am afraid all the time”.

Lu Aung misses her mother all the time. All she has now as a reminder is a pair of earrings she got as a present from her parents for passing standard 4.