Bodies of migrants found in mass graves
Published 25/05/2015 | 02:30
At least 100 bodies have been discovered in mass graves at 17 abandoned camps used by human traffickers in Malaysia.
The camps were found on the border with Thailand where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar have been held.
The finding follows a similar discovery earlier this month by police in Thailand who unearthed dozens of bodies from shallow graves in abandoned camps on the Thai side of the border.
The grim 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 launch crackdowns amid intensified international pressure and media scrutiny, traffickers have abandoned camps on land and even boats at sea to avoid arrest.
Malaysian Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said 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.
Mr Zahid said that each grave probably contained anywhere up to four bodies, and that authorities were in the process of counting.
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.
According to the Malay-language 'Utusan Malaysia' newspaper, police found 30 large graves containing hundreds of corpses in mid-May, in forests around the Perlis towns of Padang Besar and Wang Kelian.
The 'Star Online' said 100 bodies were found in a single grave in Padang Besar. It said police forensics teams had arrived there last Friday night. Since May 10 alone, more than 3,600 migrants - about half of them from Bangladesh and half Rohingya from Myanmar - have landed ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.