Saturday, February 20, 2016


By Mansor Puteh

There are now hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi men working in the factories in Malaysia.

We must be thankful to them for wanting to come all the way and at a lot of expense on their part to part with a lot of money in order for them to be able to come here, paying agents and middlemen or ‘human traffickers’ and find employment in factories operated mostly by the Chinese some of which are illegal ones.

So over the last two decades or so we have seen how hundreds of thousands of them and possibly millions of the Bangladeshis who had come to work in Malaysia with many who having worked many years, for more than a decade and had managed to save a lot had since returned to their country to become their own owners of small factories and stores where they in turn provide employment to their relatives, close friends and fellow Bangladeshis.

But what surprised me not the least was how many of them they are until I tried to venture to look out for them.

I personally know a few who are still working here with some who had since returned to their country now working as employers in their own right being owners of stores they are able to open with the income and savings they managed to get over the ten years or so they were working in Malaysia.

Some decided to leave the Malaysia midway in their contract when they received news from their relatives in Bangladesh that they had been offered new employment in another country such as Italy or in any of the Gulf States where they could expect to get better jobs with better and bigger pay.

In Malaysia, they normally lead a frugal life and hardly ventured into the cities and work for twelve hours a day or more and hardly buy new clothes or shoes; and all the money they get each month is sent back into their accounts in Bangladesh.

They are also like the Indian nationals and those from the other countries. But not with the Nepalese or Vietnamese who would spend whatever they get on liquor.

And the Nepalese and Vietnamese are the foreign workers who are most likely not able to communicate with the locals and even after so long they are still not conversant in Melayu because they tend to stick with people from their respective countries.

I did not have to go very far; I needed to only go to the city center during the weekends and public holiday to see the thousands of them.

Last weekend I decided to leave the car and take the bus to the city and from there another bus to go to Rawang and in the bus I was the only one local passenger with the others from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Rawang is a small town about one hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and here they many of them taking their own time spending the weekend that was never meant to be; but they look at ease knowing very well they are hundred of kilometers away from their remote villages in Bangladesh.

Few are from the cities especially Dhaka; and when I checked they said they had to travel hours from there to be back at where they had come from.

But with the internet and cell phones they are able to be in touch with their families anytime they want to, with the phone charges to be cheaper than the rates for calling within Malaysia.

Many are now familiar with Whatsapp so they can communicate with their relatives in real-time.

In Malaysia their presence in the country was not of their own choosing; they were needed to serve the many small factories throughout the country with many in the Rawang area.

And many more are expected to be brought into the country.

One thing that can be observed with them is how fast they are able to communicate in the national language called Melayu and relate to the people here especially the Melayu who are Muslims and the others, and in no time they are able to speak better Melayu than their own non-Melayu employers. 

One has to go to Brick Lane in England and Luton to see how the Bangladeshis had managed to wrest control of these areas to turn them into Bangla Cities with the old local churches turned into masjid.

And there are also many of them in Lisbon, Portugal some of whom I managed to get to know the few times I was in the city recently.

But the Bangladeshis wherever they are will most unlikely want to be political; they prefer to do their own things to earn a living that they could not get in their own countries, and observe their religious practices as necessary.

Some would easily cohabitate with Indonesian women in unholy communion for convenience for both parts with the Indonesian women thinking that they would be looked after and not having to pay expenses.

And they would part ways if she finds a better man, another Bangladeshi or even Myanmar, with the Bangladeshi men finding other Indonesian women to cohabitate with, and who would normally have their wives and some children back in their villages in Bangladesh.

There are some Bangladeshi men who got married to local Melayu and even non-Melayu women.

But this is not a story of the Bangladeshi and other workers in Malaysia and how they spend their social lives; but one to show how they had to leave their shores to eke out a decent living working in Malaysia and be paid pittance doing long hours everyday and in the end managed to find a better place and future for themselves and their wives, despite them not having that much of an education that they could use to find employment in their respective countries where jobs are scarce.

The untold hardship that they had to endure to come to Malaysia despite their young ages, in the early teens, to travel by land if they are not able to fly into the country legally, to cross the borders of Myanmar and Thailand before arriving in Malaysia passing through loopholes at the border with the assistance of some human traffickers who would bring them to Kuala Lumpur at some costs, where other agents get them to hand to factory owners to give them jobs.

For the Rohingyas, it is another story; they are able to obtain the UNHCR refugee cards quite easily and with these they are able to be given some peace with the law and if they are lucky, after some years, UNHCR could relocate them to a third country usually, to America, Denmar, Australia and New Zealand.

Their stories do not end here and even after more than two decades, the persecution of the Rohingyas in their country continue to happen with many of them burnt together with their houses and entire villages, and yet, the Buddhist regime is able to escape persecution from the international community and especially the United Nations which are quick to act on ‘atrocities’ committed by some Arab countries… 

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