Second migrant grave site found in Thai south

Thailand police has discovered a second camp on the mountain where 26 bodies were found in shallow graves during the weekend

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Thai police say another suspected mass grave site has been found at a human smuggling camp in southern Thailand close to the Malaysian border.

Thailand's Daily News website reported, a local police colonel stated on Tuesday that the camp contained five graves.

“We have found five graves near another abandoned human trafficking camp, but we don’t know yet if they contain corpses,” Prawut Thaworsiri said.

The discovery came four days after a camp was discovered around one kilometer away containing bodies of 26 Muslim Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants in shallow graves, who had been detained by human smugglers.

Thailand has since been clamoring to track down those responsible.

A Bangladeshi survivor has told Thai media that after being kidnapped in Cox’s Bazar, in southern Bangladesh, he was thrown on a boat to Thailand and then detained in a camp in the Sadao district of Songkhla province.

He said that those kept there were the ones whose families could not afford ransoms requested by the traffickers.

A former chairman of the Rohingya association of Thailand, Abdul Kamal, told the Bangkok Post on Monday that there were "at least 60 detention camps along the Thai-Malaysian border, most of them located on the Malaysian side."

Police Colonel Thawornsiri said on Tuesday that a joint police-military team investigating the area close to the Malaysian border “could find some more camps, but not many.”

Since the discovery of the initial camp, authorities have arrested three local officials and suspended a local police chief.

The Nation reported on Tuesday that Thailand’s police chief, General Somyot Punpanmuang, had announced the suspension of General Sunthorn Chalermkiart, the police chief of Satun, a province neighboring Songkhla.

“It is because Sunthorn has close ties with a suspected leader of the trafficking ring,” said Punpanmuang.

Twelve police officers in Songkhla were also transferred on Monday to inactive posts on suspicion of receiving bribes from traffickers, reported the Nation.

A major human trafficker, nicknamed “Anwar of Songkhla,” was arrested last week in the Nakhon Sri Thammarat province, north of Songkhla, and charged with human trafficking and abduction against ransom.

Anwar is Rohingya, along with most of the victims.

The gruesome discovery of the corpses has shocked the country, which is under heavy pressure from the United States and European Union for its paltry record on human trafficking.

Last year, it was given the lowest possible ranking in a U.S. state department's human trafficking report, while earlier this month the EU gave Thailand six months to improve efforts in combating illegal fishing by trawlers on which migrants are used in “slave-like conditions.”

“The Songkhla graves are a turning point,” the Bangkok Post stated in an editorial on Monday.

“This government must bring justice to the dead of Sadao or face unmitigated shame at home and abroad.”

Most of Rohingya who end up in the camps are from the Rakhine state in Western Myanmar.

After violent clashes in the summer of 2012 with Buddhist Rakhine, they began to flee in masse in order to find safety and work in Malaysia and beyond.

At first, they boarded rickety boats controlled by human smugglers -- which sometimes sank during trips across the Andaman Sea -- but since last year they have been travelling on larger vessels.

Bangladeshis are also increasingly using human smugglers to go to what they see as the economic promise of Malaysia. But some of them -- along with the Rohingya -- are kidnapped and forced to board the boats.

Once arriving near the Thai coast, they are picked up with trucks and to the camps hidden in the jungle and detained until their families pay ransom.

They are then left to attempt to cross the border into Malaysia.