Political Persecution


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Saw Lay Doh Wah (not his real name) died last year in Malaysia from TB. He was 55. He died in a small wooden hut that he lived with together with his wife and baby daughter. Here is Saw Lay, in his wife’s words.

I met Saw Lay at the water festival. I was singing there and he wrote some songs. I knew the moment I saw him. He wasn’t as handsome as the other guys but I saw his heart. But he was too shy to say that he loved me. So I asked him straight, “Do you love me? If you do then you’d better tell my parents before it’s too late!” So he did!”

He likes spicy food. And he loved to go see the movies. Back in Myanmar, we would go to the theater to see movies every weekend. It didn’t matter if the movies were Chinese or Indian. He loved them all. My husband is a very artistic man. He used to write songs back in Myanmar.”

I never had any quarrels with my husband in my life. He would never complain, no matter if he had no penny. He always tried to make life happy. He wanted to live life with his family no matter where. When I worry about our future, my husband would calm me down. He would tell me to survive, whether rich or poor.”

Even when he was sick, he would always try to help. He would go into the jungle to pick vegetables and cook for the family. He would wash clothes. He would take care of our baby daughter. Once I had a job carrying water and I accidently hit him in the head with the yoke one day. I really didn’t mean to hit him, but he just said ouch and didn’t complain!

Later, when he got sicker, he couldn’t go out. But still he would sing and make jokes and tell stories to my baby daughter. I would come back from work and I would hear singing and talking from the house.”

Even though we had no job and no money, we cooked together, and we enjoyed being together as a family. That was the happiest time of my life in Malaysia.”

Saw Lay, you are sorely missed by your family.

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Naw Lwe Wah (not her real name), a 42 year old Karen mother, has been living in Malaysia for 10 years. Her husband, a government official back in their village, fled Myanmar 5 years earlier to Malaysia because he was involved in the pro-democracy movement and was in danger of being prosecuted. What is special is that Lwe Wah is unlike many other refugees who go from place to place in search of employment or safety. With her family, she has been staying in one single place all these years – a small wooden hut constructed out of pieces of discarded plywood and planks and roofed with zinc. A house that had no running water or electricity. They moved houses once, from a nearby area that was “always damp and full of snakes” to this one behind a factory in the outskirts of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

Lwe Wah can count on one hand the number of times she has been out of this area. We went out to watch movies once when my youngest daughter (now 7) was about 2 years old because she was complaining and wanted to go out“. And she went to a hospital to deliver this very daughter. But apart from that, Lwe Wah who is registered with the UNCHR as a refugee and has to a card to prove it, is too afraid to go out. They are many policemen and they stop us and ask for money“, Lwe Wah says. I hear RELA does not care if you have a UNHCR card or not – they will arrest you anyways.”

Her fears are not unfounded. Her husband fell ill with TB. He fought his illness for 5 long years before he finally succumbed to it last year. At first, we thought it was nothing, just normal sickness. But he got worse. We wanted to go to a clinic to get medicine, but on the way the police stopped us and took all our money – the money we had for the clinic.” At this point Lwe Wah started to weep, thinking about how her husband might have been saved, might still be alive today, had they reached medical help.

She still remembers that day clearly. (more…)

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HERE is my beautiful Story……..

I’m Saw  Ler Moo (not his real name) Karen ethnic and Christian , both of my parents were also ethnic , my mother was Karen . My Father was a Buddhist and my mother was a Christian. All of my 4 siblings are Christians as well.

My mother was a gazetted Nurse, recognized by the British Nursing Board of England at that time. But she was sacked by the Authorities after our Independence a few years later. My Father continued in his position as Government Servant till he retired.

After I passed my Matriculation, I joined the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science which normally takes 7 years. When I was in Final Part of One, all civilians staged anti Government protests following the Nation wide Pro-democracy uprising, which took place on 8th of August 1988. I was still studying at that time and we students gathered and founded student Organizations in each respective University.

We all came back home because all the Universities and Schools were forced to close. Then, I gathered again with students from Universities all over our Country at Rangoon General Hospital, in Rangoon. Later, I was elected as Representative of my Institute and kept on organizing with others to achieve true Democracy.

Since then the Military government has been trying to arrest especially University and College Students who have been involving in such Activities day and night. Whoever was arrested and sent to special places couldn’t be as normal as those who were lucky to get back home. They used so many kinds of torture, abusive acts, cruel Interrogation enough to lead a person to ruin.

One evening, the Military Intelligent personnel came to me and brought me to their place for Investigation. There were many youngsters, probably College and University Students and they locked me in together with them. They commanded us to do Squat Position naked and placed with a burning candle just above our anus every night. (more…)


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“This is the only way I can help my people.This is my true duty”

Taang Penglam (not his real name) was in his final year at University, studying Chemistry, when he participated in the demonstrations of 1996. Shortly after, all the Universities in Myanmar were closed and he found himself on the run. As a result of his involvement, his father, a government official, was transferred and then forced to resign without pension. His smaller siblings were denied entry to university. And he himself was arrested. Penglam was tortured for 6 months before being sentenced to 6 years in the infamous Kalay prison.

There was no medical treatment and there was not enough food. We had to do a lot of forced labour because the prison was new then. Many people died. My friends all tell me how lucky I am to be alive when they found out that I survived 6 years in Kalay prison.”

Soon after being discharged, he fled, first to Thailand and then to Malaysia. All those years in prison, and the torture, has left permanent effects on Penglam. He used to weight 60kg in college, but now he only weights 54kg has no appetite most of the time. He has difficulty sleeping, and he wakes up every morning with his heart pounding fast. His friends who used to know him during college are surprised at his change.

In university he used to be a student leader. He was a very good speaker and very good at relations with people. Now so many things have changed. His face, his feelings, his voice…” (more…)

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“They told me to take my clothes off. They told me to face a wooden rack. They spread my arms and then tied both my hands to the wooden rack. The person who whipped me was big and tall. More than 6 feet tall. He held this long cane”, and with this FA spread his arms as wide as possible to show how long it was. “The first whip, it was so painful that I fell unconscious. But the second whip, my bottom was numb by then, so I didn’t feel so much pain. I took 2 weeks to recover from the whipping.”

Tha Peng Ling (not his real name) still has the scars from the whips and the months he spent in prison and detention centre. He developed gastritis in detention, and now he tires very easily when walking. Tha Peng thinks there is something wrong with his lungs. After his whipping, he also easily forgets things.

And now, he is always afraid.

The 2 lashings of the cane was part of Tha Peng’s sentence for being without proper documents in Malaysia. In total, he spent 4 months in prison and 1.5 months in a detention centre before being deported to the Thai border where he made his way back to Malaysia after borrowing money from friends to pay an agent.

“My father was a teacher in Myanmar. In 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi visited our village. My father was very active in organising her visit. Later one of our relatives who works with the Government warned my father that he will be arrested. That night, we locked up our house and walked away into the night. We walked from village to village for 7 days until we reached Mizoram in India.”

“My father and mother, and my wife and two children are still in India, but I want to stay here. I want to be registered as a refugee with the UNHCR.”

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Seng Ja (not her real name), a 34 year old woman is Kachin, but married a Zomi. This is why the Zomi Association accepted her. She is one of a handful of women living in a jungle camp in Malaysia organised by the Zomi Association.

We were living in Shan State. My husband was forced to be a porter for the military. He got back home safe, but soon after he fell sick and died. After he died, one day, his friends came and asked if they could spend the night. I recognised them – they were his schoolmates, so I said yes. The next morning they left early, about 4 o’clock in the morning. At 6 o’clock, some soldiers came looking for me at my house. I was at the well taking water. They didn’t know I was the one they were looking for. They told my neighbours that some rebels stayed at my house. I ran.” (more…)

I know Tu Aung (not his real name) because he works for an organisation in KL. I’ve seen him numerous times, poked fun at him, said the “hello how are yous” and “good bye take cares”. But this is the first time I’ve actually sat down with him and asked him to tell me his story.

Tu Aung is soft spoken, and together with his small stature and rimless glasses, give him a totally approachable demeanour. Its only when you look closely at his eyes do you see the fierce determination that hides just beneath the surface.

It is with this determination that he explains, in this way and then that, how the small community of Kachins in Malaysia need protection above all else. How him and his organisation are focusing on this issue. And to drive his point home, he shows pictures of a Kachin woman who was victim of an attempted rape by her employer. The woman was three months pregnant at that time, explains Tu Aung, and we find ourselves laughing nervously at the apparent incongruity of it all. I wonder what would be an appropriate response, but I don’t know myself. I think I am laughing partly to save myself from feeling too much. Better to laugh at the videos of car and bike crashes than to sit down and consider what it must have felt like.

I have never known Tu Aung apart from what he does here in Malaysia, being a community leader of sorts. So I am surprised when he tells of his degree in electrical engineering. Majoring in process and control systems, and microwave systems, he says, and then adds, laughingly, but I think god wants me to be a process engineer.

You can see him light up when he talks about engineering, about what he learnt and the few years he worked at an engineering firm in the capital city of Rangoon. About logic controllers and control boards and the machines that needed them – CNC machines and steel rolling machines. About how they always had to repair circuit boards rather than replace them due to lack of money. About how the boards would be 4 deep and they would still have to try and figure out how to repair them. He spoke about the time when they designed, from scratch, a control board for airport landing lights, and for a moment you could see him being transported back in time, talking animatedly about currents and voltage and controllers.

Its all Greek to me, but I could both see and feel his passion.

So why run to Malaysia? Why throw it all away?

The (Myanmar) police took my friends away. (more…)

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