Old Beyond His Years

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Htut, 21, was rescued from a fishing boat where he was held against his will for four years.

When Htut was only 10, he left his home in Myanmar to find work. He traveled with friends to the Thai border looking for odd jobs.

Thus began a 10-year odyssey marked by danger, deprivation, and exploitation by unscrupulous officials, employers, and “job brokers” -- traffickers.

After several years of working in Thailand illegally, he met a broker couple who persuaded him to work in Indonesia.

“They promised me that they would send me back after six months if I was not happy,” he says. “So I went to Indonesia with them and got a job on a fishing boat.

“In reality, I was not allowed to return home when I asked. Moreover, I earned much less money than he had been promised. Htut worked from 4 in the morning until 11 at night. He had to work even when he was sick, and there was no medical care.

“We were not allowed to go outside on the fishing boat and had to stay inside the fish processing compound only,” says Htut.

After a year, he asked to return home. He was turned down. Not knowing what to do, he stayed for about four years.

“I had to work in dangerous conditions," he says. "Most of the time I had to dive in the sea to grab the net, loaded with fish, holding a knife, then get back into the boat. My work required much attention, so I could not think of my home.

“I felt like I had no future. If I thought of my home and the experiences that I had faced, it was a painful thing. So, I tried not to remember that, instead focusing only on work.”

When authorities from Indonesia and Myanmar shut down the fishing operation, Htut received news that he would finally be sent home.

The crew was sent to an island where they got medical check-ups and received passports.

Altogether, 253 Myanmar fishermen are being repatriated with support from Myanmar trafficking and fisheries authorities, IOM, and World Vision.

Htut, now 21, is back home in Myanmar, living with his aunt's family.

He hasn’t seen other family members, though he eagerly wants to find his parents, who moved away from his hometown just before his arrival.

Htut doesn’t know what he'll do next after being away from his home for more than 10 years.

World Vision is helping Htut with housing health assistance, vocational training, and support to find employment and start a new life.

Photo©2015 Khaing Min Htoo/World Vision

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