August 23, 2015
A mass grave holding 24 “trafficking victims” found on the Thai-Malaysia border during ongoing police operation.
Malaysian police have found 24 human skeletons – all believed to be victims of human trafficking – in newly discovered graves along the Thai border in the northern Malaysian state of Perlis.
“Following on from the operation in which we found … bodies of illegal immigrants, 24 more bodies have been found and dug up,” police said in a statement on Sunday, adding that the remains had been handed over to medical experts.
The heavily forested Thai-Malaysia border has been a transfer point for smugglers transporting people to Southeast Asia by boat from Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The individuals are often held for ransom in squalid conditions and, according to some witness accounts, are subjected to torture and starvation.
Police uncovered the bodies in the Bukit Wang Burma area near the Malaysian border with Thailand, close to where authorities in May had found hundreds of bodies in illegal detention camps.
Thailand has previously been accused of ignoring official complicity in the multi-million dollar trade which flourished until recently through the southern provinces and into Malaysia.
In July, however, Thai prosecutors announced 72 people had been indicted for human trafficking after an operation led to the unravelling of vast networks of people smugglers.
Earlier this month, 22 people who had profited from the human trafficking trade were arrested in Thailand as part of the ongoing crackdown.
Among the suspects was Lieutenant General Manas Kongpan, thought to be a major kingpin in the human trafficking trade.
According to the US state department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report in June, Malaysia has been relegated to the lowest ranking.
This ranking is shared by nations including Zimbabwe, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, indicating that Malaysia has failed to observe basic international requirements to stop trafficking within its borders.
The report which ranks nations according to their efforts to prevent the illegal trade of persons is considered to be the benchmark index for international anti-trafficking commitments.
It was not immediately clear if the 24 newly discovered bodies were those of the Rohingya minority ethnic group in Myanmar, whose members have fled widespread persecution in that country.