Mass graves found in migrant trafficking camps in Malaysia
Malaysian authorities said Sunday that they have discovered a series of mass graves in at least 17 abandoned camps used by human traffickers on the border with Thailand where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar have been held.
There was also a similar discovery earlier this month by police in Thailand who dug out dozens of bodies from shallow graves in abandoned camps on the Thai side of the border. The gory discoveries are shedding new light on the hidden network of jungle camps run by traffickers, who have for years held countless desperate people captive while extorting ransoms from their families.Most of those who have fallen victim to the trafficking networks are refugees and impoverished migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, part of a wave of people who have fled their homelands to reach countries like Malaysia, where they hope to find work or live free from persecution.
As Southeast Asian governments have launched crackdowns amid intensified international pre
ssure and media scrutiny, traffickers have abandoned camps on land and even boats at sea to avoid arrest.
Malaysian Home Minister Zahid Hamidi told reporters that police were trying to identify and verify “mass graves that were found” in the region near the Thai border.
“These graves are believed to be a part of human trafficking activities involving migrants,” he said, adding that police have discovered 17 abandoned camps that they suspect were used by traffickers.
There was no immediate word on how many bodies had been recovered. Zahid said that each grave probably contained anywhere from one to four bodies, and that authorities were in the process of counting.
He said he was shocked at the discoveries, because “just last week, we went there … to see for ourselves.” He said he expected more camps and graves to be found “because they have been there for quite some time … We are still investigating, but I suspect they have been operating for at least five years.”
Local media outlets said the graves were found in two locations in the northern state of Perlis. The state borders southern Thailand’s Songkhla province, where at least 33 bodies were found earlier this month.