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Malaysians again accused in Thai trafficking scandal

By P Prem Kumar 
May 7, 2015

Civil society group says Malaysians 'very much involved' in trafficking of persons at Thai-Malaysia border

KUALA LUMPUR -- Another civil society group has claimed Malaysians are linked to a human trafficking syndicate behind a mass grave discovered in Thailand, saying testimonies have shown they are "very much involved."

“From the testimonies of the migrant and refugee communities - particularly the Myanmar, Rohingya and Bangladeshi communities - Malaysians are very much involved in the trafficking of persons at theThailand-Malaysia border,” non-government organization Tenaganita - or Women's Force - has said, according to the Malay Mail on Wednesday. 

“There are many cases of kidnapping too, where huge amounts of ransom are demanded by Malaysian traffickers, agents and kidnappers from the families of the migrants and refugees," group director Glorene Das added.

Malaysia has denied that any of its citizens are involved in a syndicate believed to be trafficking along its northern border, which came under scrutiny Friday after 26 bodies were uncovered in a mass grave during a raid in southern Thailand's Songkhla province.

Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that "as yet" there is no evidence to indicate the involvement of any of the country's nationals.

"We are still waiting for details of the [Thai] raid. Until the details reach us, we cannot make any conclusions," he said.

"Although it happened at the Malaysia-Thailand border we cannot freely enter the area. There are some border guidelines that need to be adhered," he added.

In a statement carried by The Star Online on Wednesday, Das said many Muslim Rohingya and Myanmar refugees had said that they were sent to the border to be sold for sex and labor trafficking after their stint in the camps was over.

“There are many cases of kidnapping too, where huge amounts of ransom are demanded by Malaysian traffickers, agents and kidnappers from the families of the migrants and refugees.

“When ransom money is not paid according to the demands, they are brutally killed and buried,” she added.

Three Thai officials and a Myanmar national were arrested Monday as Thailand began to reign in those suspected of involvement in the trafficking of Muslim Rohingya in its south.

Twelve police officers in Songkhla were also transferred to inactive posts on suspicion of receiving bribes from traffickers.

Meanwhile, Phang Nga governor Prayoon Rattanaseni said that more skeletons had been found at abandoned camps in his province - one tied to a tree.

Phang Nga is several hundred kilometers from the Songkhla site.

The remains were discovered tethered to mangrove trees near Koh Toh Kra island - a small island situated around 125 kilometers off the southeast coast of Thai tourist island Koh Samui.

Authorities have said that they suspect that the person was tortured there and left to die.

Elsewhere, another search revealed a grave, with a skeleton of a female inside. It was laid on its side with the head to the North and the face heading West.

Phang Nga police chief Pol. Maj. Gen. Chalit Keawyarat told Thai website PBS that police believed the location to be a collection point "probably dug in September of last year.”

It added that the search had originated when a 13-year-old Rohingya boy arrested for illegal entry had said he and a group of others had been beaten up by Thai brokers in the area.

Around 10 had died, he added, and their bodies buried at Koh Toh Kra.

Five suspected graves were also found at another site Tuesday, but discovered to contain no bodies

Thai Media have reported that Malaysians were involved in the abuse and wrongful-confinement of at least 800 foreigners at the camp, while 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." 

"In each camp, there are between 150 and 800 people detained," he claimed.

Das said in the statement that the syndicate might also involve members of the Rohingya and Bangladeshi communities themselves.

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

Anwar is Rohingya, along with most of the victims

“Human trafficking is big business in southern Thailand," stated Das. "Thousands cross between the borders into Malaysia and Thailand every day.” 

Malaysia has a long history of granting temporary asylum to refugees and asylum seekers, in particular Muslim Rohingya who are shipped to Thai shores and then work their way across the border in their thousands in an effort to escape poverty and persecution in Myanmar.

Currently, Malaysia hosts one of the largest urban refugee populations in the world.

As of mid-2014, some 146,020 refugees and asylum seekers had been registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia, of which the vast majority - some 135,000 - is from Myanmar.

The three largest ethnic groups seeking asylum in the region are Chin - a largely Christian minority from Myanmar - Rohingya and other Myanmar Muslims.

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