From the International Medical NGO Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders)


I grew up in a small village in Mon state, which is in the east of Myanmar. My mum and dad had a small farm and grew rice. My older sister got married and had two children. But she found it very hard to make enough money to survive, so she came to Malaysia with her husband in 2004. They left the children with my parents, so that they could be looked after.

I was scared of staying in my village. The military sometimes came and harassed people, especially women on their own. My parents were very old, and were worried about my safety, since I didn’t have a brother or husband to protect me. So I decided to run away to Malaysia.

I took a fishing boat with 15 other people and we travelled along the Myanmar coast to the Thai border. We came with someone who knew the route. When we got to the border, we had to climb a mountain and walk through the jungle for about four hours. I didn’t have anything with me apart from the clothes I was wearing and some money.

When we got into Thailand, we travelled to Koh Samui, a tourist island where many westerners go on holiday. I worked in construction, helping to build hotels. My job was mainly carrying cement, stone and wood. I slept in a small container with three other girls. I worked very hard and was exhausted. After a month, I called my sister and asked if she could help me come to Malaysia.

I found an agent who said he would take me for 1,100 Ringgit. I had to pay him half before leaving Koh Samui and pay half when I got there. First we went from Koh Samui by boat and then travelled by motorbike and car across the border. Finally the man put me on a train – I had to be very careful at the train station because there were lots of police around.

I arrived here in August 2005. At first I had a job working in a cake shop. I slept there, too. But I couldn’t speak Malay and people were very hard on me. In the end I had to leave. I moved into this place with my sister and her husband – they have been helping me.
One day last October I was hanging up washing on the balcony. A piece of clothing fell off the washing line and I leant over the balcony rail to try and get it. But I lost my balance and fell through the corrugated iron, all the way down to the floor below.

I lost consciousness for a few moments, then I was screaming with pain. The people who live downstairs found me, and four of them carried me back upstairs. Someone called my brother-in-law and he came to help me.
First he called the Chinese medicine man, who did some Chinese massage on my back. But that just made it more painful. I was in agony and was very confused. I was just lying on my back, unable to move.

I was really worried, because I had no money to pay for medical care. I told my brother in law that I couldn’t go to hospital because I had no documents, and was scared of getting reported. People had told me that if you go to hospital without documents you are arrested. I had never tried to get official documents from UNHCR, because I didn’t know how to.

Eventually my brother-in-law called the community leader who represents the Mon people in Kuala Lumpur. He called MSF and the doctor there wrote a referral letter saying that I was an emergency case.

I was taken into hospital straight away and they operated on me. I had two fractured vertebrae and a fractured foot. The operation cost a lot of money, which MSF paid for. I would never have been able to pay for it myself. I had to stay in hospital for a month afterwards.

When I came home I couldn’t walk without crutches. Now I have to wear a brace every day – I have had it for four months and I have another eight to go. My back is still quite painful and I can’t get up by myself. My sister is helping me a lot.