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

The Vernon Vipers’ owners are not pressing any panic buttons despite the fact the team has had no gate revenue in more than a year. (Morning Star file photo)
The Vernon Vipers’ owners are not pressing any panic buttons despite the fact the team has had no gate revenue in more than a year. (Morning Star file photo)
Vernon Vipers’ ownership remains dedicated

John and Tom Glen aren’t pushing panic button after one league franchise owner put club up for sale

An air quality advisory continues in Vernon March 4 due to high levels of dust in the air from winter traction material. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
UPDATE: More road dust continues air quality advisory in Vernon

The advisory will last until the next rainfall or until enough street sweeping work is done

Vernon Paralympian Sonja Gaudet (right) has been named winner of a humanitarian award presented by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the World Sikh Organization of Canada. (File photo)
Vernon wheelchair curler named humanitarian

Sonja Gaudet wins award from World Sikh Organization of Canada and Latter-day Saints

Third-year UBCO nursing student Thomas Pool works alongside community volunteer and registered nurse Sean Garden, as they check drug samples at Living Positive Resource Centre in downtown Kelowna (UBCO)
UBCO drug checking service now offered across Okanagan

The program is in partnership with Interior Health

Protesters stood outside the Vernon Courts Thursday, March 4, 2021, as a Curtis Wayne Sagmoen matter came before the courts once again. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)
UPDATE: Sagmoen to make plea in two weeks for cop assault charge

The offence allegedly took place on Oct. 29 in Spallumcheen

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Penticton RCMP will be attending Friday’s protest to enforce provincial health orders that restrict all gatherings. (File photo)
Penticton RCMP warn of potential fines for Friday’s protest in Gyro Park

Police will be there to enforce provincial health orders that restrict all organized gatherings

Mountain caribou from an endangered herd have returned to an area adjacent to the area closed to snowmobiling on Queest Mountain. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)
Return of caribou herd prompts temporary snowmobiling closure near Sicamous

Lake Play area on Queest Mountain closed for the second time this year

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

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP stock. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press)
Teen grabbed while jogging in Kelowna

18-year-old woman pulled free, running home and reporting incident to police

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Most Read