Reunite with family after three years apart


Fibi Kim

Tang Hleihnih Far Tha Hlei. Senior Far Tha Hlei

Chhan Mawi, Reporter

As many people find a better place to resettle, senior Far Tha Hlei and her family emigrated from Burma to Malaysia in order to make a better life. But, Hlei’s journey took a terrible turns of event. She went through many hardships.

Hlei went to Malaysia with her elder brother Ni Kung, a senior at SHS, but they were put in different trucks when they tried to cross Thailand. Her parents and her younger sister Zing Tha Hnem, sophomore at SHS, were already in Malaysia. All of the family members were looking forward to see each other on Christmas Eve 2009. However, Hlei didn’t make it because a Thai police officer stopped the truck she was in and put all passengers in jail.

“I cried and said I want to see my mom. The food in jail was so bad, it smells so bad that I can’t eat,” Hlei said. “The officer asked my parents’ information. On the third day of being in jail, the officer called me and said he will send me to my parents. Actually, he was lying. They brought me to an orphanage instead of letting me go to meet with my family.”

Even thought Hlei left her hometown to find a better place to live, unfortunately, on their way to Malaysia in 2009, Hlei got lost at the age of 12 in Thailand for about three years. She met with her family after three years and made a journey to the United States together.

Hardship started in her life. While in Thailand, she had a chance to attend to school. As she couldn’t speak or didn’t understand the native language, she had no friend and was bullied by her peers at school. She told nobody about it because she was afraid that they might harsher on her.

“I got three books from an orphanage, but my classmates tore them apart and stole my pen. Since we learned A,B,C,… in Burma, I could read English better than them (Thai students). So, they got jealous and  pinched me and grabbed my hair,” Hlei said.

Since Hlei was bullied by her classmates, it was hard for her to attend school. Hlei asked the lady of orphanage house to let her work. That’s when she started to work at a cosmetic shop and learned the Thai language. As time passed, she got better in the Thai language but forgot her mother language. After she knew the Thai language, she made some friends at the orphanage, according to Hlei.

Hlei admitted that there was a time when she tried to escape from the house with her friends. But they all got caught and so they got hit. The punishment was not only hitting, but letting them do dishes for more than 700 people and making them run in the mud.

According to Kung, the family was informed that she was missing in Thailand. Her mom asked the agent to find her daughter as soon as possible. However, things didn’t happen as they wanted and they didn’t get any information about Hlei for a long time.

In fact, it took about two years before the sun started shining on her. Her parents found her place through the agent of United Nation High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR). Because she forgot her mother’s language, the interpreter helped her communicate with her mom on the phone.

“I was working when the agent asked me to talk with my daughter over the phone. I was so excited and asked my boss to let me talk with my daughter,” her mom Hlawn Men said. “When I talked to her, it is so sad that she didn’t understand me. When I said “Have you eaten?” she replied to me “What I have eaten?” So, we used translator to help us talk to each other.”

Finally, the whole family got visa to come to the United States. On their way to U.S., her family picked her up.

“They (UNCHR officers) didn’t tell us that we are going to meet my daughter. But I had a sense that I might have a chance to see my daughter since we stopped by Thailand airport,” Men said.

According to Hlei, they didn’t recognize each other since they were apart for more than three years. Hlei stood alone at the airport holding her name card. That was when her parents walked to her and asked if she was their daughter. Finally, they found each other, hugged and cried, and tears dropped from their eyes.

They were so happy that they forgot to say thanks to the lady who brought Hlei to the airport. Men thought it was God’s plan that they lost their daughter for a long time. Men used to afraid of flight. But, she didn’t know how she got into the flight or arrived USA for happiness was overwhelming her, according to Men.

“I felt so happy for seeing again my sister at the airport after losing her for a long time. Making a trip with the whole family is the best thing for me,” Hnem said.

Her mom said she didn’t mind if her daughter becomes a spinster as long as she lives with them. Hlei’s family, especially her parents, loves her more than before.

“My dad never called me nicely before. After this things happened to me, he only calls me by my nickname,” Hlei said.