By Prem Kumar
Royal Malaysian police have discovered 139 graves of suspected human trafficking victims at 28 abandoned camps near the Thai border.
Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters that the graves – some believed to hold more than one body – were discovered since May 11 and are located hundreds of meters from the trafficking camps and graves found by Thai police earlier this month.
“The operation which we have been conducting from May 11 to May 23, we [have] discovered 139 of what we believe are graves’” he said.
Khalid bin Abu Bakar Inspector General of Police
He added that the Malaysian police force has sent the first batch of experts to the area this morning to exhume the bodies and perform necessary investigations.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Najib Razak had vowed to find the human trafficking syndicates believed to be behind the mass graves.
He tweeted that police would hold involved parties responsible for the gravesites in the northern state of Perlis that are thought to contain the remains of Muslim Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants.
“I am deeply concerned with graves found on Malaysian soil purportedly connected to people smuggling. We will find those responsible,” he said.
A source from the prime minister’s office who wished to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to speak with media told Anadolu Agency that Razak – currently on a three-day visit to Japan – was receiving updates from Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the police force on the ongoing investigation in Padang Besar town.
The source said Razak has instructed Hamidi to work with his Thai counterpart to resolve the issue, and that if their efforts were unsuccessful, the prime ministers of both countries are expected to meet to discuss the matter.
On Sunday, Hamidi expressed shock at the discovery, saying the camps may have been in the area for five years.
“A grave maybe has three, four bodies. But we don’t know how many there are. We are probably going to find more bodies,” The Star Online quoted him as saying.
Earlier this month, the bodies of more than 30 migrants were discovered in southern Thailand, prompting a crackdown that led to smugglers fleeing and boatloads of the migrants then turning up on Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian shores, while thousands more remained at sea.
Last year, both Malaysia and Thailand were downgraded to Tier 3 status in the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report for not complying with the “minimum standards” to deal with human trafficking. (Anadolu Ajansi)