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July 29, 2009
Burmese refugee in Malaysia loses job, girlfriend and hope

“Jack.” Photo: Karen Zusman

Last week, authorities in Malaysia announced that they arrested five immigration officers for rounding up illegal immigrants from Myanmar and selling them to human traffickers.

Karen Zusman, an independent journalist, recently returned from Malaysia, where she reported on the plight of Burmese refugees.

In Malaysia refuses to recognize Burmese as refugees, she recounted the story of “Jack” — a Burmese refugee in Malaysia whose girlfriend, brother and friend had been rounded up by immigration officials and put in detention camps.

In this audio interview, she catches up with Jack about recent developments in Malaysia. His girlfriend has been deported to Myanmar to marry a soldier, his brother remains in a detention camp and his friend “John” has been released, but faces an uncertain future.

Jack yearns for a brighter future, but has himself lost his job. Though he has a UNHCR refugee card, he still fears the police and has nowhere to turn. Above, listen to Karen Zusman’s interview, edited by Katie Combs.

For more:
– Watch Burmese refugees rounded up and sold in Malaysia
– Listen to Malaysia refuses to recognize Burmese as refugees
– Read Karen Zusman’s blog post, A Burmese family’s story of multiple arrests, weekly bribes
– Find more information on the Please Don’t Say My Name website

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Karen, thanks for sharing this. It is very educating and touching to hear these voices speak.


Thank you for making this story. I am in KL right now and just listened to your documentary. It’s strange to hear about the sad and difficult life of the refugees and knowing that they live within ten kilometres from me. I was shocked to hear about the Rela and all the things they are doing.

Good luck with al your work.


Thank you for advocating regarding Myanmar Refugees in Malaysia. Your work on us is greatly appreciated. We,refugees, need more people like you. Thanks again on behalf of Myanmar ( Burmese ) Refugees in Malaysia,

KCho Refugees Community



Thank you for bringing light to this situation. I have been following the story and hope to see more of Ms. Zusman’s reporting on World Focus. Keep up the good work

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