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From Myanmar to Malaysia, Rohingya Hussain Ahmad’s incredible trek to peace

Rohingya Muslims gather together at a traditional wrestling festival at Kyaukpannu village in Maungdaw, Myanmar, June 6, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

By Alexander Winifred
June 23, 2014

CHERAS, Malaysia — Six years ago, Rohingya refugee Hussain Ahmad swam across the Naf River in Myanmar into Bangladesh, crossed over to Thailand by boat and entered Malaysia illegally on foot, walking for days at a time.

“I had nothing to eat or drink,” recalled Hussain, 43.

“I had no money, except for the RM2,500 I paid my agent in Thailand to secure my passage into Malaysia.”

A paddy farmer back home, Hussain said his land and other belongings were taken from him when the Myanmar authorities began persecuting the Muslim minority in 2001.

“The army forced me and my family out of our house, and we were forced to march empty-handed to another province to live,” he said.

Amid the long journey, Hussain lost two young daughters, both barely one-year-old, due to illness.

“All of us fell sick and we were sent to a hospital. The doctors gave them injections but they died in less than a minute,” he said.

After they were relocated, Hussain and other refugees were unable to find work. Realising his wife and remaining three children would suffer from the harsh financial condition they found themselves in, Hussain sought help from friends and family to make the trip to Malaysia and find work to support his family through monthly remittances.

Although it has been six years since he last saw his family, Hussain says he cannot return to Myanmar as he would face a jail term of up to 20 years for illegally leaving the country.

“I think about my wife and children every minute. I worry for their safety and livelihood as I won’t be there to care for them if any thing happens,” he said.

He now stays in Cheras and lays tiles for a living.

Hussain, who is able to speak basic Malay, said he was happy Malaysia had accepted him and provided him with a job.

“It is very peaceful here.”

He was met during an event to commemorate World Refugee Day at the Taman Cheras Utama Mosque yesterday. About one hundred Rohingya refugees were also present.

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani called on the United Nations (UN) to increase pressure on the Myanmar government to stop persecuting the Rohingya.

He said thousands of Rohingya had died in Myanmar and in transit countries, such as Thailand and Bangladesh.

“UN and powerful bodies such as the Organisation of Islamic Conference should use their political leverage to deal with the Myanmar government and stop the genocide that is happening,” he said.

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Rohingya Exodus