May 21, 2015 – The news of many Rohingyas or Bengalis stranded at sea only serves as a bitter reminder for Mr Sayed Alam, whose niece Jahidah paid a broker some USD$200 to board a boat for Malaysia.
The 17-year-old Jahidah, who used to live in Rakhine state in the southwestern part of Myanmar, left without telling anyone in her family. They did not hear from her until two weeks ago, when a broker called Mr Sayed Alam to demand US$1,400 for her release. Unfortunately, the money was never paid and the family has since lost all contact with young Jahidah.
“I am worried the brokers sold out her to dirty places such as brothels. She’s quite young,” said her uncle. “I can still remember everything about her. I can only hope to see her in future. I am so sad. I can’t find the words to explain.”
Father-of-four Sayed Alam believes his niece felt oppressed in the village and was hoping to find a new life in Malaysia. He has been calling his friends in Malaysia to help track her down, as sorrow consumes the family.
In Myanmar, there are around 1.2 million Rohingyas or Bengalis, most of them residing in the Rakhine state.
According to reports, more than 100,000 people have fled the country since communal violence broke out in 2012.
“This is not a new situation. This is common. Rohingyas are forced to leave since 1995 because of restrictions imposed on them. This problem will become worse and worse if our government and leaders of our country are not going to address the root causes of these issue,” said Abu Tahay, Chairman of the Union National Development Party.
“Because this is not a human trafficking issue; this is a political issue, because of restrictions imposed on them, because of denying their own citizenship, because of denying their ethnicity.”
In predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, people tend to refrain from commenting about the Rohingya Muslims. Still, they are quietly hoping their government will address this with an adequate solution.