Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens

From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

While walking home one evening, following a practice for a Thanksgiving concert at a local church in his hometown of Putao, located in the Kachin State of Myanmar, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two soldiers.

“We told them to stop and asked them to let her go home. The soldiers told us to get out of here, that it’s not our problem or business. Otherwise, you’ll get in trouble — go to jail or get killed,” said Maran.

The three refused to obey the soldiers’ orders and acted quickly to get the woman to safety.

“My friends and I, we tried to separate the girl from them. The soldiers started to fight us,” said Maran. “We were young — only 20, 21.”

Maran grabbed the woman and managed to get her home, while his friends stayed behind and fended off the soldiers. That was the last time he had seen or heard from them.

When Maran returned home, his frightened mother alerted him that soldiers had already come by and were looking for him.

“She told me that I made a problem with soldiers, that I can’t live here anymore. They were already looking for me,” he said. “My mom prepared some clothes for me and some food. At midnight, I left my hometown. Just like that.”

That was in October 2007, after Maran had just completed his bachelor’s degree in statistics earlier in the year at the University of Myitkyina, which is located in the Kachin State’s capital city of Myitkyina.

With nowhere to go, he decided to go back to Myitkyina to hide out at a friend’s place in the meantime.

“It took me eight days to walk there. It was difficult — it was just jungle,” he said.

When he finally got to Myitkyina, one of Maran’s friends agreed to shelter him for two weeks.

“I still had contact with my mom and I wanted to go home. But my mom said no, the soldiers are still looking for me,” he said. “They told her that they want me. They were coming often, so my mom said don’t come back, or else they’ll keep looking for me.”

As Maran put it, he had no idea what he was going to do next. Luckily, the mother of one of his friends connected him with someone in the Myanmar city of Yangon, who said that they could help him seek refugee status if was willing to relocate to Malaysia.

“They told me to go there because they help people like me. Otherwise, if I stay in Myanmar, they’re going to keep looking for me,” said Maran.

After borrowing some money from a friend, Maran spent four days travelling by train to meet with the connection in Yangon. They then travelled by bus to Kawthoung — a town located in the southernmost part of Myanmar. They would need to cross through Thailand if they wished to get to Malaysia.

“We had to cross the ocean with a paddleboat. It took about 45 minutes to get to (the town of) Ranong,” said Maran.

It took them five days to get to Malaysia via Thailand, where Maran would find work in the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. In November 2007, Maran spent seven months working at a chicken egg stand at a local market to pay off the agent who helped bring him to Malaysia.

“I worked because I had no money. I left overnight,” he said. “My connection in Yangon — the agent who brought me to Malaysia — needed to be paid.”

As he worked to pay off his dues, Maran would line up every morning — alongside 50 to 100 people — at the United Nations High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kuala Lumpur to register for a refugee card.

Priority was given to families with children, and it wasn’t until the summer of 2009 when Maran would finally receive his card.

It was around this time when Maran entered a relationship with his future wife, Ah Nin, after running into her at a Kuala Lumpur church. This wasn’t the first time that the two had met, however.

“We met in Malaysia. She is from Myitkyina. I met her at school, when I was 18 or 19,” he said. “She used to sell food and snacks from a wagon. She had a problem with a soldier also, that’s why she left the country.”

Ah Nin got her refugee card a few months after Maran got his, and the two married in Malaysia in 2010.

But back at home in Putao, Myanmar soldiers continued their search for Maran. Growing frustrated with their lack of success in locating him, the soldiers turned their attention to Maran’s younger brother, Naw Naw.

“They came to my house, they couldn’t find me, so they said they will take my brother to jail. He was 14 or 15,” said Maran. “He didn’t want to go to jail. He did nothing wrong.”

Maran helped his younger brother flee injustice, and by 2010, Naw Naw reunited with his brother in Kuala Lumpur, where he too would end up receiving his refugee card from the UNHCR.

While waiting for their new home, Maran and Ah Nin had their first child in 2012. They had their second child a year later. According to Maran, having children as refugees in Malaysia was not legal, so Ah Nin and the children stayed indoors until it was time to leave.

In 2014, the Creston Refugee Committee sponsored Maran and his family to come to town. In December of that year, he, his wife and children, and his brother left Malaysia for Canada — a 36-hour-long flight to Creston via Malaysia, Germany, Vancouver and Cranbrook.

“In Malaysia, the temperature is over 30 C. We came here in December, and in our first winter, we never went outside,” said Maran. “We always stayed inside because we were cold. People would say it isn’t that cool, but for us, it’s really cold.”

In addition to the climate, Maran noted that the other significant challenges upon arriving in Canada were language, culture and racism.

“Sometimes, we don’t understand work culture. Some people don’t understand what we are. We face racism sometimes,” he said.

But despite this, Maran said that he and his family are very happy and grateful to be here.

“When I grew up, my dad was a farmer. It feels like more the same here. The Creston Refugee Committee feels like our family,” he said. “If we need something, they help us. Still, they help us a lot.”

When reflecting on his experience as a refugee, he said that he never wants to experience such a journey again.

“It was so difficult,” he said. “When I talk about this, I get very emotional. Big time. Very hard for sure.”

In 2019, Maran became a Canadian citizen. He described Creston as his Canadian hometown.

“In Canada, Creston is our hometown,” he said.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: aaron.hemens@crestonvalleyadvance.ca


@aaron_hemens
aaron.hemens@crestonvalleyadvance.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The cost of British Columbia’s Site C hydroelectric dam has grown to $16 billion and the completion has been moved up a year to 2025. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BC Liberal energy critic blasts ‘lack of transparency’ on Site C

MLA Tom Shypitka says Site C going ahead is a ‘good thing’, blames NDP for mismanagement

Volunteers from the Elk River Alliance cleared 14 car batteries from the Elk River near Elkford this week. (Photo contributed)
Elk River Alliance to move to more holistic environmental monitoring

The details of the ERA’s 2021 program will be discussed at the AGM next month

The Kitimat RCMP responded to false alarms, an apartment fire and more between Jan. 29 to Feb. 3, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Sparwood backs campaign to study Surrey RCMP impact

The City of Surrey is home to the largest RCMP detachment in the province

Brent Bidston is the president of Angel Flight East Kootenay. Black Press file photo.
RDEK ponders funding for Angel Flight East Kootenay

The district is considering funding for operations or to eventually help acquire a larger plane

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

Most Read