Contrary to previous official Malaysian statements, human traffickers and migrant bodies have been discovered near detention camps. International pressure mounts as the truth is revealed to the world.
As the issue of migration and refugee recovery generate choppy waters along the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Malaysia is facing a backlash as two mass grave sites of migrants forced into human trafficking hits the press. According to The Malay Mail, Malaysian police discovered hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrant bodies in graves. The news comes after the nation’s Home Ministry denied the idea of human trafficking.
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In the Sunday edition of the Mingguan Malaysia, reports say the bodies were found in the forests along Padang Besar and Wang Kelian and may be linked to grave sites found in Songkhla, Thailand. Thai officials exhumed 26 bodies of Myanmar and Bangladesh citizens at the location.
A source told media that “the operation is still ongoing and we’re confident that we’ll find more graves and evidence of other camps.” With body count and trafficking on the rise, what does that say for migrant and citizen safety?
Channel News Asia points out migrants attempted to enter Malaysia through Thailand’s border. With the ease of using boat transfers, traffickers often simply leave their victims to die at sea as boats capsize and sink in the Andaman Sea.
Local business men are included among the arrested for suspicious activity, adds the Mail. When the tourism and black market migration trailed off, the Wang Kellan residents looked for another income source to provide for families. The Sydney Morning Herald adds in total 46 people have been arrested and 77 more warrants have been issued.
Statistics provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime prove majority of the traffickers are from the source countries, or Malaysia in this case, and are then taken to destination countries. So if a person wanted to get to Malaysia, a guided tour in moving borders by a Thai resident would be helpful. Additionally, most traffickers are part of criminal networks, keeping the enslaved people underreported in the country.
Recent Thai restrictions on trafficking allows the abandonment, says The Malay Mail. And due to the high activity in human trafficking, human rights organizations have placed the South-East Asian country on watch lists.
Ineffective previous actions of Indonesian and Malaysian officials has forced the governments to offer refugee status and aid due to international pressure, very similar to the Mediterranean trafficking ring leading to refugee death. Furthermore, the Herald adds late last week, Prime Minister Najib Razak commanded the navy and coast guard to search for the 6,000 people still stranded.
The Herald states Thailand’s military government believes establishing camps for refugees will cause an influx of Bangledesh and Myanmar residents. The same government who jails refugees for being illegal immigrants.
It’s hard to battle against a larger network if part of a small minority, allowing for diaspora trail completion and losing the victims into a larger, faceless system. So it’s difficult to believe that secretary-general Datuk Alwi Ibrahim, a Home Ministry official, remained unaware of the plight as late as May 11 when the Human Rights Watch group told CNN of the sites on May 6.
However, according to Bangledesh’s The Daily Star, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamid admitted the graves were found close to 17 human trafficking detention camps and may be around five-years-old. He also reiterated “Malaysia as a government is not involved. But Malaysians, yes! I recognize that as a fact.”
Yet 2007’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act clearly indicates a long-term problem for the country. What will happen to the refugees as international pressure turns from one migrant situation to any number of trafficking conflicts is anyone’s guess.
Police inspector Khalid Abu Bakar is expected to hold a press conference on Monday, May 25.
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Sources: Channel News Asia, Sydney Morning Herald, The Malay Mail, U.N.