24 'human trafficking' victims found in Malaysia mass graves

24 'trafficking victims' found on the Thai-Malaysia border in mass grave during ongoing police operation

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Two dozen skeletons, all believed to be victims of trafficking, found in Malaysian mass grave

Updated Aug 24, 2015

Malaysian authorities said on Sunday that they have found two dozen bodies in mass graves on the border with Thailand. The bodies are suspected to belong to victims of human trafficking in the region.

The remains were found in the border of northern Malaysian state of Perlis. The border is mostly used for smugglers to bring people to Southeast Asia by boat from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

It is believed that the bodies discovered were those of Rohingya, a minority ethnic group in Myanmar, whose members have fled widespread persecution in that country. The remains are being examined to identify the victims.

"These graves are believed to be a part of human trafficking activities involving migrants," Malaysian Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said on Sunday. He added that police were trying to identify and verify the graves which were found in the region near the Thai-Malaysia border.

 "It was heavily raining recently and the downpour swept away the soil and revealed the remains. We don't know how long ago the victims were buried or if there was a transit camp there," National Security Council chairman Shahidan Kassim said.

Authorities believe that the migrants are often held for ransom in jungle camps by gangs of human traffickers and exposed to torture and starvation.

"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.

Most of the victims in the mass graves are refugees and poor migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh. They have fled widespread persecution in their homeland to reach countries like Malaysia to find work or live free from persecution.

TRTWorld and agencies