Living in Jungle


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Taang Namtal is an 18 year old Zomi boy. He comes from a village that is so small that it doesn’t have a high school. So Namtal schools at the nearest town. During weekends, he would walk the whole day to get back to his village. One Saturday, on his way back, he was stopped by soldiers who took him to the nearby army camp. They wanted him to become a soldier.

But I don’t want to become a soldier. They were forcing me to do it.”

“So what do you want to be then”, I asked?

I want to study. I want to study science. I want to become an engineer. I like construction“.

So one day, when the soldiers on guard duty was drunk, BA escaped and ran to his uncle’s house. His uncle sent him straight to Rangoon to stay with his auntie.

I only knew her name but not her address.”

For 3 days Namtal slept at the railway station, looking for people that looked like Zoomi to ask for help. (more…)

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When my husband disappeared, I had so many dreams about him. Dreams that he died of hunger in the jungle. That he was eaten by wild animals. When I found out that he managed to run away to our relatives, the dreams got better. But then he disappeared from our relative’s house. I dreamt that he was caught by the police. That he was in trouble.”

I love my husband. That’s why I married him. But because of our bad government, we had to leave our village. I love him so much. He cannot go back to Myanmar. That is why I came here to Malaysia. To be together again. But before this, I have never been out of my village, not even to go to the nearest town.”

Here I am so crazy. I know nothing. I don’t know the language. I am so afraid now, after our whole family was caught by RELA and put in Semenyih camp.”

I don’t know what is going to happen to us. I love my relatives I left behind. Back in our village, the children can go to school. I see them playing with their friends. Now they live in the jungle with us. There have no friends. No school. ”

Back in our village we had a farm, and we had many animals. There was always enough to eat. Now there is not even enough food for us sometimes. We are afraid of robbers. We are afraid for our health. There are many mosquitoes here.”

There is nothing that makes me happy here. My relatives, my brother and sisters, they are not here. My children are always complaining that they have nothing to do. The nearest town is so far away. It is very difficult to go. Every time we go to buy provisions, we always have to bring along 3 or 4 men for safety.”

Pi Naamtal (not her real name) is married to Pu Gaalngam. They have five children. They are now staying in a jungle camp in Malaysia, where Naamtal cooks for the whole group and in return, gets to feed her family free of charge. Read Pu Gaalngam‘s story to find out why they had to leave behind all they had in their village in Myanmar for a life of hardship in Malaysia.

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sleeping in the jungle is better

This small footpath, it seems, led to nowhere. Hardly wide enough for one person, it is overgrown with grass taller than me, on both sides. The path snakes onwards and sometimes we had to crouch to get through the places overgrown with creepers. In this bush labyrinth, are scattered some fifteen huts. These huts, built from pieces of discarded wood, plywood and plastic sheeting, are hardly any bigger than the tent that I use to go camping with. They are built on short stilts to raise the floor of the wet ground, but the roof has to be lower than the grass in order to be invisible. I had to crawl into them.

This is where Nai Bali Thow, now pushing on 39, sleeps with his wife and 15 year old son. This is where they sleep, every single night for the past 2 years. They are too afraid of raids from the police and immigration to sleep anywhere else.

“Is sleeping in the jungle better than staying in your village back in Mon State?”

Yes!” Nai Bali said. “Yes!” Nodding his head at the same time. (more…)