She had to leave her son behind because her frail frame could not carry him – could not take care of her son – as she had two daughters to look after on a treacherous path and tortuous journey – two daughters who could walk. It was some 100 miles to walk when they decided to flee North Korea in July 1998. With a promise that she would return to take along her only surviving son.
Once she could finance it, she sent someone to North Korea to bring her son back. But her son had died – probably due to ‘refeeding syndrome’. Her husband had died earlier while under arrest in North Korea. She was badly beaten.
The ordinary North Koreans were facing extreme hardships to fund whims of the dictators of a nation under famine – a nation run by one of the longest serving families of dictators – Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il and now Kim Jong-Un – a family of dictators that has irreversibly ruined the northern counterpart of South Korea, one of the most industrialized nations of the world.
A mother carried her two sons and a daughter to a fishing boat after crossing dangerous tracks. The boat was to smuggle her out of Myanmar, to Malaysia. She had to leave her eldest son behind as he was not home when the call came and she had no time to wait for him. Her husband had already fled two year ago. It took weeks for the family to reach Malaysia and to reunite with the family-head. And it has been a tortuous and expensive affair with unruly smugglers. Husband had to take debt to finance his family’s smuggling and they don’t know how long will it take for him to repay it.
Back home in Myanmar’s Rakhine, where Rohingya Muslims are concentrated, the family sold what it had to meet the demands of the smugglers. That has made the eldest son, who was left behind, a homeless boy left to feed himself. The New York Times article has traced the boy and we have a photograph of him as the story begins. Hope, like his family hopes, he will be able to meet his family soon.
These are not standalone stories, yes their representative accounts may be. North Korea and Myanmar are two worst dictatorships with long histories when we map the geopolitics of the world. And people try to flee when they get chance, not just defect.
Everyone even remotely related to the anti-regime possibility in North Korea is seen as an intruder and even his extended family is wiped out or sent to be labour (death) camps.
And all Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are officially declared intruders. They have no rights and they cannot demand any either. Over 100,000 have fled Myanmar since 2012 when ethnic clashes with majority Buddhists broke. Since then, it has been a continuous persecution by the majority as reported or the fear of it, that makes a life of hardships even more burdening.
And when it happens on a large scale, as has been happening in North Korea, and as has started happening in Myanmar (with Rohingya Muslims), the first aim to flee a persecuting regime is to find a place where one can survive, where no one is going to take your life, where no one is going to threaten to do so.
In both cases, the first aim was to survive the persecuting regimes. While doing so, the families never thought of a comfortable life as has been the norm in the civilized world. Such families had not seen any – at least in their parts of the world. And the fact remains same for millions, not just in North Korea and Myanmar – but in all impoverished dictatorships across the world.
The family from North Korea had to live in hiding in China for 10 years before they found their way to the United States of America. It has a house there now (as the CNN write-up said) and the family is registered as among the North Korean refugees. The family has a life what a normal American family has – in terms of civic amenities. They tell the world about what ‘really’ happens in North Korea. They can plan their future.
The family from Myanmar has the first priority to get registered in Malaysia – for the official refugee status. Everything else comes later. (And the family has a parallel burden of heavy debt to be paid.)
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/