16 January 2013
Photo by Waedao Harai
NARATHIWAT _ He was 10 years old, but Rohingya Nu Rahasim decided to set a journey to the sea for a better life after his parents were killed by Myanmar soldiers.
The migrant, his fate now in the hands of Thai officials and international diplomats, was one of 139 Rohingya rounded up in Songkhla’s Sadao district on Sunday, the third group arrested in the district in less than a week.
On Tuesday, he and 17 other Rohingya aged 9-12 were sent to a children and family emergency home in Narathiwat’s Muang district for temporary stay, pending police investigation.
Speaking through an interpreter, the boy recalled his journey and ordeal.
The youngest of a family of five, he lived with his parents and siblings in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, where stateless Rohingya have been subjected to various types of persecution.
The boy said Myanmar security forces launched a violent crackdown on Rohingya Muslims two months ago, including killing and rape, with the aim of forcing the minority communities to leave the country.
According to his story, Nu Rahasim’s parents and siblings all were brutally killed by authorities. The orphaned Nu, who showed scars he said came from beatings and slashes by Myanmar troops, then joined a group of 140 Rohingya who sought help from an affluent man in the violence-plagued state, in the hope of getting out of the country.
The group wanted to seek asylum in a third, predominantly Muslim country and the man was provided what the Rohingya asked for: a boat to take them across the sea to a new land and home – or at least a safe haven.
Life at sea was tough, said the boy. The 139 fleeing Rohingya drifted in the middle of nowhere for two months before they arrived at Thailand, although at the time they had no idea where they had arrived.
“We had to drink sea water to survive” Nu said.
Once in Thailand, an unidentified Thai man arrived and offered to take the group to Malaysia, if they would pay him 150,000 baht each. It was not clear to the boy how the two sides reached a deal. However, the mysterious Thai man eventually led the asylum seekers to a second human trafficking agent, who kept them in a large safe house, saying they would have to stay there until they could be smuggled across the border to Malaysia.
That day never arrived.
Nu said all Rohingyas fleeing to Thailand wanted “patronage” from Thais and would work for them in return. Under international law, this is called bondage, and is considered slavery.
“If [Thai] authorities send us back, we all will be dead,” the child said. “Even rich people and officials in Rakhine state supported us and helped us [to escape].”
Nu Rahasim poses for a photo after he was sent to a children and family emergency home in Narathiwat. (Photo by Waedao Harai)
Posted by Mohammed Eliyas