IN early May, a regional human trafficking crisis erupted when Thai authorities uncovered graves of human trafficking victims near the Thai-Malaysian border, leading to a crackdown. Subsequently, Malaysian police discovered 28 abandoned camps and 139 grave sites along the 50km border in Perlis.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Insider’s Melati A Jalil and Anisah Shukry report that police are discussing with Thai authorities the possibility of accessing the mass graves in Padang Besar, Perlis, from the other side of the border, according to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar yesterday.
Khalid said the rough terrain in the area and rainy weather have hampered access from the Malaysian side.
“We are in the midst of negotiating with Thailand to use a route there to access the site using vehicles and to bring out whatever we will find on location. Today [yesterday], my officer will go to Sadao and discuss with the Thai authorities ... because this is rainy season and the area is not accessible,” he told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
Khalid also did not rule out the possibility of authorities being involved in the human trafficking, and police would take statements from all quarters.
“We will take action regardless of who is involved in this,” he said, adding that police still do not know the exact number of bodies because they have yet to dig up the graves.
He added that police were confident that no more graves would be found as they had done a thorough screening and combed the area from Tangga Seratus to Kampung Wai, which was not accessible by vehicles.
“We are confident that there are no more graves or camps set up for migrants.”
In a rare move, the Dewan Rakyat yesterday allowed a PKR lawmaker’s emergency motion to debate the issue of the mass graves found in Padang Besar.
Deputy Speaker Ismail Mohd Said set aside one hour for the motion to be tabled and debated from 4.30pm to 5.30pm yesterday, with the home ministry scheduled to respond to the questions raised by lawmakers.
“I have looked through this and am satisfied that it is specific, of public importance and urgent. I allow for this motion to be debated,” Ismail said.
In filing the emergency motion, Alor Setar member of parliament Gooi Hsiao Leung had said the matter must be debated because many questions remained unanswered.
“How can it have happened without the knowledge of the government all this while?” Gooi said.
“The matter is specific because 139 graves and 28 human trafficking camps have been found in Malaysia. It is of public importance because it involves the government’s failure to manage the country’s borders, which involves the nation’s security, and the death of hundreds of people.
“It is urgent because it is clear that our country’s borders are not secure and have been trespassed for the past few years.”
Earlier this month, the ministry denied reports claiming the existence of holding camps and mass graves of illegal ethnic Rohingya migrants on the Malaysian side of its border with Thailand. Its secretary-general Datuk Alwi Ibrahim had said investigations carried out by the police had found no such camps or graves in Malaysia. — The Malaysian Insider
The Malaysian Insider’s photographer Hasnoor Hussain documents the first exhuming of victims at the camp located near the forested Bukit Wang Burma, the largest one found, which can accommodate 300 people and is home to 37 suspected graves.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on May 28, 2015.