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. (more…)



Nai Ong Jana (not his real name) is 28 years old. When he was 23, soldiers came to his village in Mon State and told the village headman they wanted 30 men to join the army.

The village head told us he needed our names, because he will put it in a lottery to determine who will have to go.”

One by one or in small groups, men between the ages of 20-40 fled his village in the middle of the night. They didn’t want to be forcibly conscripted into the army.

I don’t want to join the army. I don’t want to end up fighting my own people.”

So one night Nai Ong fled by car to the border, where he borrowed money from his broker friend to pay for the passage into Thailand. In Thailand, he worked as a construction labourer. Twice he was arrested and deported. Twice he paid brokers to bring him back into Thailand.

I don’t want to go back to my village. There is no freedom, and I am afraid I will have to join the army.”

We cannot do anything. Even if we catch fish in the river, the soldiers will tax us. If we make some money, they (the soldiers) will ask for some. Then they will ask where we got money from.”

Looking for better security, Nai Ong made his way to Malaysia two months ago. Now he is trying his hand at factory work.


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…)


(please read the story of Mi Kun Thow – his wife – to have some background on what happened that fateful night)

They held my arms behind my back like this when they were raping my wife.” Nai Roy Mon (not his real name) showed us.

I was so angry. I struggled and managed to free my left arm so I punched the guy on my right. One of them hit my leg so I fell down. I was struggling. I looked at my wife and she was looking at me. I shouted at her – Why are you looking at me? Run away! She ran. The gangsters, looking at my wife running away naked, laughed loudly, like it was something funny.

They then tied me up and put me on a motorcycle. It was a very long journey. After that they put me in a hut for about 15 minutes, and then they put me in the boot of a car and it was an even longer journey. We crossed a river using a small boat and I knew we were crossing from Malaysia into Thailand because I heard the boatman speak Thai. They took me to a large double storey house in a rubber plantation. They were about 40 people there, different ethnicities from Myanmar. They asked us(more…)


Mi Kun Thow (not her real name) is an asylum seeker from the Mon State in Myanmar. She is 40, although you might mistake her for someone quite a few years younger, given her small build and smooth skin. She told me the exact date that she had “trouble with gangsters” in Malaysia. It was the 5th of June, 2006. Back then, she was working with her husband – together they took care of a small chicken farm on the outskirts of one of the bigger towns in Malaysia. They lived in a small wooden house in the farm.

That day, at around midnight, 4 men came on motorcycles and banged on their door, shouting that they were the police and demanding to be let in. When Mi Kun and her husband did not open the door, the 4 men broke it down. With two of them holding her husband down, they ransacked the place, taking all of their savings and a handphone. The two not holding her husband then proceeded to tear of Mi Kun’s clothes and took turns raping her.

“After about an hour, my husband managed to break free and started to fight back, so the two men raping me went to my husband. They left me, so I ran into the forest and hid under a palm oil tree all night.” At this point Mi Kun voice broke and tears welled in her eyes. (more…)