For 18-year-old Mohamed Alam, going home is a term lost on him.
“I would rather be arrested by the police and jailed here than to be killed in my homeland,” said the Rohingya.
He vowed never to go home.
“Back home, our identification cards were snatched from us. We were harassed constantly.
“We stayed at home everyday, we can’t go out like normal citizens,” he said when met at a construction site.
Mohamed Alam, who came from the Maungdaw district of the Rakhine state, has been here for eight months.
Despite having to work from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and earning just 30 ringgit ($8.20) a day, he felt contented.
“If we work overtime, the boss will pay us more,” he said.
He said the Rohingyas working at the site would pool their money to buy food and cook for all.
Mohamed Alam (right) and Sonso speak during an interview at their living quarters in Kangar. (The Star)
Meals are usually a large helping of rice with just some sauce or curry.
His temporary “home” looked messy with an untidy kitchen and a thin plywood as bed.
Knowing that not having a working permit here would land him behind bars, he said this worried him less compared to life in Myanmar.
Mohamed Alam said he would not have come to Malaysia if not for the uncertainties at home.
With a promise of better jobs in Malaysia, he said he was asked to pay 3,000 ringgit to get onto a boat.
“But I was sent to Thailand instead and detained in a house. In the end, I paid 8,000 ringgit to be released and brought into Malaysia,” he said.
A fellow villager, Sonso Alam, 16, is with him here.
Both of them found out that they were from the same village when they met at the construction site.
Sonso said he arrived on Thailand shores after an arduous 25-day journey from Myanmar. He was brought to a transit house where he was held for two months as he did not have 8,000 ringgit to pay the agent.
“They kept me there until my family forked out the money. My parents had to sell their land for 1million kyat ($915) and went to live with my brother.
“They borrowed money from friends and neighbors but the total was only around 6,000 ringgit. The agent agreed to the sum and let me go,” he said, adding that he was beaten up with wooden sticks for not having enough money.
He was also instructed to cook for other people in the transit house.
After the payment was accepted, Sonso was led on a trail up a hill with several other Rohingyas for six days under tight supervision of the “agent” who led them into Malaysia.
There was a car waiting for them at the foot of the hill.
Sonso has been working at the construction site since then ― for a year and five months.
By News Desk, The Star