KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — Following the discovery of mass graves where hundreds of starved and tortured migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh were buried at abandoned detention camps in Wang Kelian and Padang Besar, Malay Mail met up with Mohd Junaid Ahmad Mohd Yunus, 29, who made the perilous journey from Myanmar to Thailand by boat and by foot to Malaysia four years ago.
He recalls that Myanmar army personnel had warned that those living in his village would either end up dead or become slaves to human traffickers if they did not flee the country.
After surviving the human trafficking camp in Thailand, he was able to integrate into the Rohingya community in Malaysia.
Junaid is now a religious teacher involved with the Rohingya community residing nearby the Selayang Wholesale Market in Kuala Lumpur.“I had no other alternative as I am part of the Rohingya community and we have been denied citizenship as well as basic rights of education, healthcare and employment opportunities. Even mosques had to pay bribes to the authorities to be allowed to have the call to prayers.
“Desperate to flee Myanmar and promised a better life by agents, I, along with 200 other migrants, were cramped into a boat without any clue as to where we were headed.
“The saddest part is that I had to leave my wife and child behind, who fortunately lived in an area which was less hostile. For 27 days, we travelled without a navigator or any sight of land.
“The conditions were unimaginably hard, we were nearly starving, people were getting sick and tempers were running high.
“When we reached the shores of Thailand, I thought my troubles were coming to an end. Little did I realise the nightmare had just begun.
“Over the next two years, I was at the mercy of my traffickers as I was not able to pay the amount the traffickers demanded as the amount changed all the time.
“We stayed in temporary camps in the jungle or in abandoned buildings with minimal shelter, moving around daily so as not to be detected by the authorities.
“Since I could not pay them, I was forced to be a labourer collecting food supplies and building material from various pick-up points.
“I witnessed extreme atrocities committed by the traffickers who separated the men, who were severely beaten and treated like animals. The women and girls were raped.
“When an elderly man died in front of me due to starvation, they just flung his body into a shallow grave.
“These graves were covered when the bodies started to rot, or when we moved to a different location.
“The traffickers used the women as hostage to get the cooperation of the men.
“After two traumatic years, I managed to flee on foot in the wee hours of the morning and reached the Malaysian border a day later.
“I managed to avoid the Perlis border authorities and took refuge with some kind hearted people in a surau.
“Over the next two years I made my way to Kuala Lumpur to find a job and start a new life.
“I am so thankful that I now have a job in Malaysia, I hope to bring my wife and child over some day.
“People in Malaysia are more accepting of my community and I am grateful that I am accepted.”