Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Burmese Honor-bashing in Malaysia?

Burmese Girls in Malaysia.
When I was in Singapore in early 1990s I was greatly amazed by the massive number of Filipino women and girls working there. According to the newspaper articles, there were close to 100,000 Filipinos working in Singapore back then.

Thousands and thousands of Filipinos said to be working in Singapore as domestic maids gathering on every Sunday at Lucky Plaza shopping center on Orchard Road alone was an awesome sight as I had never seen such a scene before.

At that time not many Burmese except a few hundred professional men mainly the RIT graduates and some doctors were working in Singapore. And these Burmese men looked down on the Pinoy maids as they themselves had employed them in their households.

Lucky Plaza (Little Philippines).
Back then I initially stayed with three friends of mine, two engineers and one geologist all earning high salaries like S$ 5,000 a month, and to my surprise I found out that they shared one good-looking young Pinoy maid at their large shared-house. I meant they shared her for not just their household chores but their other needs too.

I was horrified when I discovered their deviant practice after staying at their house just a couple of nights. I am a Burmese but I am also an Australian and back in Sydney that sort of treatment of a domestic help would be seen as pure criminal abuse. So I told them that if she went to cops they could all be in serious shit.

They just laughed at me and told me some Philipino girls there were so poor and so loose in their characters that for good money and a fair treatment they were happily willing to be in such a situation. But I moved out and rented a room at a boarding house near Orchard Road.

Peninsular Plaza (Little Burma).
So my friends kept on living like that with their young maid till the day her two sailor brothers and their rough sailor friends showed up at their house and bashed up their kid sister and took her back home. They didn’t touch my friends though as they knew very well that in Singapore they cane the men convicted of assault.

Time has changed and now there are more than 100,000 Burmese men and women working in Singapore and many Burmese women and girls are also working as domestic maids as the Filipinos had done for many years now. And some of these young Burmese women and girls also have fallen into the same poverty traps and same character looseness of their predecessors from the Phillipines.

Financial independence and sexual freedom away from their homes could be just an illusion. Or it could be the very beginning of the feminism and the equal opportunity and ultimately the women liberation like in any western country for the long-oppressed females of Burma.  

A couple of days ago I remembered that events in Singapore from more than 20 years ago when I saw the following video of serious assault committed by two Burmese brothers and their Burmese friends bashing up their sister and her friend, working in Malaysia, for going out on a date and sleeping with their Nepalese boyfriends in a hotel the night before. 

                                                       (Burmese honor-bashing in Malaysia)

The story didn’t stop there. Another young Burmese woman working also in Malaysia saw the video and she has responded by an open letter and a video of three Burmese girls happily singing a Burmese hip-hop song called “Come again if you feel like, I don’t care anymore!” released on internet.

This is the translation of her open letter and brave video response to the brutal bashing video. Please enjoy!
Dear big brothers,

Your sister wants to tell you something important but I do not know how to contact you so I just send this letter as an open letter through Internet. Since I had so much to tell this letter might be a bit too long. So please be patient and read to the very end, please.

I am a young Burmese woman working here in Penang. I’ve heard of your group for quite a while now since one of my friends told me. What he told me was that your group has been formed by like-minded Burmese men to prevent young Burmese women from going out with non-Burmese foreigners and ultimately getting into troubles. When I heard it I was quite happy. I even told him.

It should have been stopped since many years back. Yes it should. It has been happening too long and too often some Burmese girls got into bad situations after going out with the foreigners. Since I first arrived here in Malaysia I was told two bad things about the Burmese girls here.

The first was that one could get a Burmese girl by just buying her a mobile phone. The second was told by many Burmese men here that they would avoid any Burmese women who had ever worked in Malaysia if they ever plan to go back Burma to marry.

I didn’t feel good at all after hearing that. So when I heard about your patriotic group I was glad. I myself was heartbroken whenever I went out and saw Burmese girls together with other countrymen. Actually I do not go out much at all.

I go out only when I need to like the day I send money back home every month-end and going to market for cooking-needs. Just twice a month and I still saw loose Burmese girls together with foreigners.

So when I heard about your group I was quite happy. But I hadn’t heard about your group for a while as I hadn’t gone out for a while too. Then I saw your video posted on the internet and I definitely knew what your group is doing now.


But I would like to explain to you two particular facts about us Burmese girls working here in Malaysia.

First I would like to tell you the fact that not every Burmese girl here has loose character.

Once I read a story about the man who built that famous Ma-soe-yein Monastery in Mandalay. One day one of his friends came to the man’s house and told him that he just saw the monks playing a cane-ball game instead of studying the scripture in the Monastery which he built with his own hard-earned cash.

So the man got up and went to the Monastery together with his friend. There they both saw a few monks playing a cane ball game on the ground of the Monastery. But the man wouldn’t stop there. He asked his friend to accompany him into the Monastery. There inside the Monastery they both saw many monks and novices studying scripture and some meditating.

He then turned round and asked his friend how many monks were playing the cane-ball game outside. His friend answered five. He then asked how many monks were studying or meditating inside. His friend then said there were too many he wouldn’t know how many.

Then the man said to his friend that he just looked from outside and saw only the bad monks playing but he failed to look inside to see so many good monks studying.

Just like that story you my brothers here in Malaysia too have to look inside. Just looking form outside and after seeing few bad Burmese girls and then claiming all Burmese girls here are bad and labeling them WHORES is like bashing the whole crowd with a very long bamboo stick.

There are many good Burmese girls here in Malaysia working hard in the factories and workshops and taking care of the parents and families back home by sending money regularly.

Burmese workers in Malaysia.
The second fact I would like to explain is the real situation of most Burmese girls working here. Most of the girls working here are from the poor class back home in Burma. Forget about the upper class even the girls from the middle class do not come work in Malaysia. If these girls want to come abroad they go at least to Singapore.

And also nearly 80% of girls now working in Malaysia were to borrow a large sum of money for all the cost of coming here. About 50% of these girls are single girls too. They came here with a lot of hope and expectations. One reason was because of all the promise of big money here by the brokers back home. But once they are here reality is a lot different from their expectations.

Most Burmese girls working here earn roughly about Malaysian money 750 Ringgit. Some girls only earn as low as 20 Ringgit a day or just 600 Ringgit a month. Some could earn 1,000 Ringgit a month after about 3 years working here and learnt the language. Let say average wage is 750 Ringgit.

For first two months here no one could send money back home. Because one has to buy pots and pans for cooking and basic stuff like bed and linen and some clothes. Let see how much one could save and send home after that.

The wage is 750. Out of it the food is 150 and other small expenses 100, all together 250 gone already. Only 500 left for home. At 250 Kyats a Ringgit we could send only 125,000 Kyats home.

More important is the situation back home in Burma. The interest on the loan is compounding and we have to worry about what they are going to live on while the loan we have taken is being paid back slowly. Especially if the family back home is solely relying on our remittance alone.

I am a lucky one as my family has other incomes too. But many girls here are not in my situation and they have to go with the flow to survive both for them here and the families back home. I feel really sorry for them as they are doing what they are doing here just for their parents and siblings back in Burma.


So many people said no one dies of starvation in Burma and that is right. But many poor people have died in Burma because they didn’t have 50,000 Kyats to pay for medical treatment as they fell seriously sick. That fifty thousand Kyats is only 200 Ringgit.

In your video I heard you were telling the girls that with their good look they could get a good husband. Yes that is right we could get a good husband back home. But he will only take care of his wife not her parents and her young siblings. That’s why I am working here like most Burmese girls here are. If it is possible we don’t even want to come here. We just want to live happily back at home.

So far I can earn money decently here but I can still understand the girls punished in your video. I couldn’t blame on them. What your group trying to do has high moral ground but I think maybe what you’d done to them was wrong.

I’m now wondering what’d happened to the girls after that bashing. Were they so ashamed and gone back home? That’s okay for me. But if they decided to go away with their Nepalese boyfriends! Or have they committed suicides after all the bad publicity?

You were wrong in cornering the young girls in a room and bashing them up brutally. I cried while watching that honor-bashing video. I also want to tell you a story about Jesus Christ I once read.

Once in a village the villagers were stoning a young woman as the punishment for prostitution. Meanwhile Jesus had arrived and asked the villagers to stop but they wouldn’t. They just said to him that she was being punished rightly for her sin. Then Jesus said something more and after that not a single rock was thrown anymore.

What Jesus said was that the villagers should look into themselves first and if they were so sure they had never committed any sin they should continue the stoning.

So my suggestion to all of you is you my brothers should also look into yourselves seriously!

                                                 (Burmese Girls' Freedom in Malaysia)