A 10 years old boy Narrates the story of Endless Pain of Rohingya

Mon May 25, 2015 21:32:11

Nearly 3,700 Rohingya and Bangladeshis refugees have landed in five Asian countries, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The bulk of them have arrived in Indonesia where nearly 170 children who travelled alone wait to learn what will happen next.

For two of the children, a brother and sister, they were out on the open ocean with hundreds of other desperate strangers who were mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing their homes in Myanmar.

For nearly three months, the siblings comforted each other when rolling waves thrashed their boat, when their empty stomachs ached and when they were beaten for trying to stand up to stretch their legs.

As the oldest, Mohammad Aesop - just 10 years old - knew it was his job to keep his eight-year-old sister safe.

But with the Thai crew wielding guns and threatening to throw troublemakers overboard, he felt helpless.

Their's was the first boat to wash ashore in Indonesia two weeks ago, followed by a number of other wooden trawlers crammed with hungry, dehydrated migrants.

Many were abandoned at sea by their captains following a regional crackdown on human trafficking networks.

Labelled one of the world's most persecuted minorities, the Rohingya have been fleeing predominantly Buddhist Myanmar for decades.

But it was only after the country started moving from dictatorship to democracy in 2011 that the numbers really spiralled, with newfound freedoms of expression lifting the lid off deep-rooted hatred felt by many toward the minority Muslims.

Hundreds were killed, and thousands more were placed in internment camps where they cannot work and medical care is scarce.

In recent months, however, flight from the area has been triggered less by fear than by desperation and greed.

Rohingya brokers, eager to fill boats with human cargo that fetch 100 US dollars each, are roaming villages and displacement camps touting stories of jobs waiting overseas.

Bored, frustrated and naive, youngsters are the easiest to trick.Once on board the ships, they are also the most vulnerable.

At the Indonesian seaside camp in Kuala Cangkoi, where Mohammad and his sister now stay, nearly a third of the migrants are children.

Others, also exhausted, went three days without food on the boat.

Mohammad and his sister, Untas Begum, lost their mother three years ago, when sectarian violence in Myanmar's troubled state of Rakhine reached its peak.

She was killed by a machete during an attack at a market in the capital, Sittwe.

Her children were taken in by a relative, who struggled to care for them with little money for food.
Their father is living in the Muslim-majority Malaysia, one of the few places where Rohingya can find menial jobs and acceptance.

He decided it was time for his children to join him, and paid a broker in March for the children to be loaded onto a boat in the Bay of Bengal.

They were forced to sit all day and night with their knees bent so that another person could be seated in between their legs - like human dominos stacked together as closely as possible to ensure the biggest payoff from ransoms of around 2,000 US dollars per person demanded from the migrants' families.

To sleep, they simply leaned back into the chest of the person behind.

When their legs shook and ached from being locked in one position for so long, they were beaten for moving or trying to stand.

They were forced to lean over the back of the boat to relive themselves, and some survivors reported seeing people falling overboard and drowning.

The heat on the boat was oppressive, and the stench of sweat and soured vomit was nauseating.
They were given only a few spoonfuls of rice gruel twice a day.

Fever, diarrhoea and dehydration were common amongst the children and adults, but no medicine was given.

Mohammad said one night a smaller boat approached and as the captain and crew escaped, they pointed guns at the ship and said anyone who tried to follow would be killed.

The Associated Press spoke to numerous children in Myanmar who managed to escape theirs boats, along with those who made it to shore in Indonesia.

Some said they ended up at sea after brokers in Rakhine told them if they left immediately without telling their parents, they could earn big money in Thailand and Malaysia and send it home to their impoverished families.

That practice continued even after the crisis began unfolding earlier this month, with abandoned boats being pushed back to sea like pinballs by the region's navies.

Others, like Atau Rahman, 12, of Sittwe, reported being kidnapped.

He said he and nine other boys were grabbed by a "weird man" and shoved onto a boat where they simply disappeared.

They were held for weeks offshore until enough bodies were crammed into the boat to leave.

Indonesian medical workers scurried to conduct basic health screenings and provide vaccinations.

A three-year-old girl died from tetanus after arriving at the local hospital, and a few other children were receiving treatment there.

Denied citizenship, the 1.3 million Rohingya living in Myanmar are effectively stateless, wanted not at home nor by any other country.

Hussein Ahmed, 12, has stopped trying to image a future for himself.

He left a camp in Sittwe by himself when a broker convinced his mother he could earn money to support the family abroad.

After months at sea, he now feels his people may be the most unwanted on earth.