Malaysia discovers 139 graves near Thailand border

Last Updated 25 May 2015, 09:52 IST

Malaysia has discovered a total of 139 graves spread over 28 abandoned human trafficking camps in the country's northern hilly region sharing border with Thailand, police said today.

The bodies were found in Wang Kelian region where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar were reportedly being held. The camps were found on the hilly terrain near the Malaysia-Thailand border on May 11, said Khalid Abu Bakar, Inspector-General of Police.

"We don't know how many bodies are in the graves but exhumation works start today. We can't tell yet if they are the Rohingyas or Bangladeshis. We found a highly decomposed body on the ground, believed to have died two weeks ago," Bakar said.

"(Authorities) found 139 suspected graves. They are not sure how many bodies are inside each grave," he said, a day after authorities announced the discovery of mass graves.
The discovery by the police has proved claims that there were such trafficking camps on the Malaysian side of the border, believed to be set up by human trafficking syndicates.
Since May 1, Thai authorities have found mass graves near the border at Padang Besar with the discovery of 33 bodies believed to be migrants.

"It is a very sad scene," Bakar told reporters in northern Perlis state, adding that some of the camps appeared to have been abandoned two to three weeks ago. "We accept that there are syndicates involved in this and their main aim is for monetary gains. We will investigate, and we will not condone anyone, including Malaysian officials," he said.

Most of those were refugees and poor migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, all Muslims, victims of human trafficking networks who wanted to reach countries like Malaysia.

With governments in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia having launched crackdowns amid intensified international spotlight, human traffickers have abandoned camps on land and even boats at sea to avoid arrest.

In many instances, these traffickers have been paid by the minority Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to help them flee to Malaysia or Indonesia. The traffickers reportedly held them to ransom in the jungle camps demanding more money and in many cases leaving them to die quickly burying them in mass graves.

A few weeks ago hundreds of Muslim Rohingyas were found crammed in boats heading to Malaysia and Indonesia. Human rights groups and activists say the area on the Thai-Malaysia border has been used for years to smuggle migrants and refugees, including Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted minority in Myanmar.

Since May 10 alone, more than 3,600 people - about half of them from Bangladesh and half Rohingyas from Myanmar - have landed ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Mass graves were discovered in Thailand earlier this month mostly in southern Songkla province bordering Malaysia.

(Published 25 May 2015, 09:48 IST)

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