One year a slave

Teen boy returns home from Malaysia in mentally unstable state after being physically, sexually abused

A 15-year-old who boarded a boat in 2014 at Teknaf in  Cox's Bazar believing he would earn a fortune in Malaysia, returned home on June 3 after being physically, emotionally and sexually abused.

“I'll go back home. I'll meet my cousin there,” said the traumatised boy at a shelter in Putrajaya, some 25km south of Kuala Lumpur, when this correspondent met him on May 28.

Asked where his home was, he said, “Brazil.” Asked who his cousin was, he said, “Pele.”

Such was the mental state of the now 17-year-old who was nearly sold to a gang for his organs. Despite being in a safe place, he believed a gang was chasing him for his kidneys.

He has lost some memories. He cannot recognise his family. He wants to be alone and is very reluctant to talk to people.

The traffickers, who lured him into the perilous more-than-a-month-long sea journey in November 2014 through the Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea to close to Malaysia-Thailand border, tortured him on the way and in the jungles of Thailand, said Ashik Rahman, executive director of Migrant88, an organisation for the Bangladeshi migrants in Malaysia.

The ill- and half-fed child was treated like a commodity, a modern-day slave to be sold and bought.   

The traffickers exploited him physically and sexually for months.

He was eventually sold to a gang in Penang of Malaysia which put him in the sex industry. He was there for five months.

The traffickers planned to sell his organs in the black market. Luckily, he was able to escape, said Ashik.

For months he lived on the streets of Kuala Lumpur eating off garbage cans. But the trauma he endured left a deep scar in his mind.

A good Samaritan saw the boy and requested Tenaganita, a rights organisation based in KL, to help him.

He was rescued in August last year.

Migrant88 arranged his repatriation and was sent to his village home in Narayanganj on June 4.

It was a shock for the family. His mother and elder sister told The Daily Star that the boy had not talked to them over the phone when they had tried to speak to him.

“I didn't see the face of my son for more than two years. Now, he doesn't talk to me,” his mother told this correspondent by phone.

His sister said lured by the traffickers, the boy had left home two years ago without even informing them. “We have lost our brother. Now, he doesn't know us. If we want to talk to him, he yells 'who we are?'”

She added, “He doesn't care what we are talking about. He speaks to himself, narrates things to himself which are not clear to us.”

He brought a bag with him from Malaysia, she said, adding that he does not allow anybody to touch it.  

He often opens the bag and brings out some papers. He looks at pictures on those papers but yells at his family members if they try to see the pictures.

“When he screams for anything, we become frightened,” she said, adding, “We are very shocked. He doesn't think that we are his family.”

After 18 days of his disappearance from home, the family got to know from a local trafficker that the youngest of their four siblings was confined to the jungles of Thailand.

“We had to sell a piece of land to give Tk 2.5 lakh to the trafficker for my brother's release from captivity,” the sister said.

Now, the family is worried how they would manage the cost of his treatment.


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