Malaysia finds 139 graves in 'human-smuggler camps'
MALAYSIA has found 139 graves and signs of torture in 28 abandoned detention camps suspected to have been used by gangs smuggling migrants across the border with Thailand, police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said yesterday.
It remained unclear how many bodies were buried in the 50km stretch of mountainous jungle along the Thai border, said Inspector General Khalid in the Perlis town of Wang Kelian.
But the findings appeared to indicate a system of camps and graves larger than those discovered by the Thai police early this month.
Bodies were being exhumed and the police have released no information yet on causes of death.
Mr Khalid said the largest of the 28 camps could hold up to 300 people, another had a capacity of 100 and the rest about 20 each.
One of the grave sites was just 100m or so from the site where 26 bodies were exhumed from a grave in Thailand's Songkhla province, according to the police chief.
He also said bullet casings were found in the vicinity and added there were signs that torture had been carried out.
Metal chains were found near some graves.
The Malaysian police found the jungle sites last week, after reacting to the Thai graves discovery.
"We are working closely with our counterparts in Thailand. We will find the people who did this," said Mr Khalid.
Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday he was "deeply concerned" by the graves, vowing to "find those responsible".
The first decomposed body was taken to the foot of the mountains where the camps were found, an operation that took nearly five hours due to the rough terrain.
"The body was only bones and (had a) little bit of clothing on it," said officer Rizani Che Ismail, who is in charge of Padang Besar police department.
Several Malaysian villagers said yesterday that bedraggled migrants from Bangladesh and from Myanmar's oppressed Rohingya minority had been a common sight in the area weeks before the current crisis erupted.
Some bore ugly scars or had bloodied feet, apparently from trekking across the border, and would ask locals for food and water.
A villager, Abdul Rahman Mahamud, said the migrants would typically be picked up in private cars by unknown people and driven away.
"We are not scared of them because they are too weak to even walk properly," he said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE