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Jungle search continues for Rohingya death camps

The search continues for more illegal migrant detention camps in difficult terrain as part of a major operation to end the trafficking in illegal Rohingya migrants from Myanmar through Thailand to Malaysia.(Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

By Wassana Nanuam
May 11, 2015

Police and soldiers searched in difficult terrain for more illegal migrant detention camps in the lower South on Monday as the operation to shut down the violent people smuggling network continued.

"We are trying our best," army chief Udomdej Sitabutr said on Monday. "We are coordinating searches at locations where Rohingya people may be illegally accommodated." 

He ordered 4th Army commander Prakarn Cholayuth to work with police in launching searches on all suspect locations.

About half the suspected sites had been searched so far. Once the operation was completed the problem of illegal migration should be greatly reduced and Thailand's international reputation restored, said Gen Udomdej, who is also deputy defence minister.

A solution to the problem also needed cooperation from neighbouring countries, because Thailand was only a staging post in the middle of the migration route, he said.

The army chief said that officers were transferred away from the areas under suspicion because they had not been able to prevent or stop the illegal activities of the human traffickers in their areas. He denied that the transferred officers were involved in human trafficking.

Since May 1, mass graves of Rohingya migrants have been discovered in several former detention camps. About 240 Rohingya people have been rescued in Songkhla province, and local officials in Songkhla and Satun arrested for allegedly being involved.

The smugglers move Rohingya muslims from the west of Myanmar, adjoining Bengal, to Malaysia, where many have families awaiting them.

They have been held in secluded jungle camps among the mountain ranges near the border of Thailand and Malaysia.

Many were detained pending receipt of ransoms or other payments and a safe time to be smuggled across cross the border.

Dozens of bodies have been exhumed. Surviving illegal migrants said they died from illness and starvation, or physical abuse after trying to escape.

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Rohingya Exodus