Friday, February 26, 2016

Malaysian police nab 2 Myanmar men in mass graves case


Police team chief says suspects found during search for 6 other foreigners in relation to human trafficking camps along Thai border

By P Prem Kumar

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian police have detained two Myanmar nationals during a search for six other foreigners wanted in relation to mass graves of human trafficking victims found along the border with Thailand last year.

The chief of a special police team investigating the case told Anadolu Agency Wednesday that the two men, both in their 30s, were found at an immigration detention center as they had been deemed victims of human trafficking.

They were, however, named by other victims during a suspect identification process last week, Goh Kok Liang said by phone.

“They were kept at the immigration detention center as illegal immigrants, only until they were named as prime suspects involved in the mass graves,” he said.

“They are not the traffickers but should have plenty of knowledge on the actual criminals. I cannot say more because we are yet to record a statement and this is a highly secretive case,” he added.

Police are still searching for the other six suspects, included among whom are Myanmar and Thai nationals.

“We are getting arrest warrants for the six suspects so that once we locate them, we can remand them,” Liang said.

“They are also involved in a small way in the human trafficking syndicate.”

In May last year, 159 gravesites – some holding more than one body – were found at 28 human trafficking camps in the northern Malaysian towns of Padang Besar and Wang Kelian near the Thai border.

The discovery came after more than 30 corpses were found in jungle camps in southern Thailand.

According to Malaysian authorities, the camps on the Malay side of the Thai border had become a safe haven to temporarily house the migrants – many of them Muslim Rohingya who have been fleeing Myanmar in droves since 2012 – while Thai authorities carried out their operation on the other side.
The crackdown by Thai authorities on the camps had also scared traffickers into abandoning their human cargo at sea.

Following a tri-nation conference on the crisis May 20, Indonesia and Malaysia announced they would take those they considered to be refugees – predominantly Rohingya – in for one year before the international community finds homes for them, while those classified as economic migrants – predominantly Bangladeshi – would be repatriated.

Since the discovery, Thai police have charged at least 88 people – including a general – with human trafficking while Malaysia detained 47 people – including four police officials – as of November.