Mass graves of likely migrants found in Malaysia
MASS graves and suspected human trafficking detention camps have been discovered by Malaysian police in the country's north bordering Thailand, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday.
They were all discovered in the state of Perlis - in the town of Wang Kelian and several small villages along the border town of Padang Besar - by a Malaysian special police unit, The Star newspaper reported.
The camps were abandoned when the officers got there, said the newspaper.
One police official said police commandos and forensic experts from Kuala Lumpur were at the sites, but it was not clear how many graves and bodies had been found.
Speaking at an event held at the Kajang Prison yesterday, Dr Ahmad Zahid said the officials are determining whether the graves were of human trafficking victims.
"One grave maybe has three, four bodies. But we don't know how many there are. We are probably going to find more bodies," he said.
According to media reports, the mass graves were believed to contain bodies of hundreds of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The Utusan Malaysia newspaper said 30 mass graves containing skeletons of people were discovered.
Citing sources, The Star said the graves were "believed to contain nearly 100 Rohingya migrants", referring to the Muslim ethnic minority from Myanmar.
"They have been there for quite some time. I suspect the camps have been operating for at least five years," said Dr Ahmad Zahid.
When asked about the possible involvement of locals in the incident, he said: "Of course, I believe that there are Malaysians involved."
A police spokesman said a news conference on the issue would be held today, reported Reuters.
Malaysia's government had previously denied that any such mass graves or slave camps existed on its soil, reported Agence France-Presse.
Northern Malaysia is on a route for smugglers bringing people to South-east Asia by boat from Myanmar, most of them Rohingyas, and people from Bangladesh seeking work.
Smugglers have also used southern Thailand, and Utusan Malaysia and the police believe the discovery had a connection to mass graves found on the Thai side of the border this month.
Twenty-six bodies were exhumed from a grave in Thailand's Songkhla province, over the border from Perlis, near a camp with suspected links to human trafficking.
More than 3,000 migrants, most of them Rohingyas and Bangladeshis, have landed on boats in Malaysia and Indonesia this month after a crackdown on trafficking in Thailand.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday pledged assistance and ordered the navy to rescue thousands adrift at sea. AGENCIES