Malaysia Finds 24 More Bodies of Human Trafficking Victims

By Reuters 24 August 2015

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian police said on Sunday that they have found 24 more bodies of suspected human trafficking victims in jungles bordering Thailand.

Authorities said in May that they had discovered 139 suspected graves in abandoned jungle camps in the northern Malaysian state of Perlis, a remote area bordering Thailand that trafficking syndicates were using as a transit point.

Most of the victims were believed to be from Burma’s persecuted Rohingya minority or impoverished migrants from Bangladesh.

Police said in a brief statement on Sunday that 24 bodies were discovered this past week, in addition to 106 bodies found earlier. The bodies have been sent for autopsy, the statement said. No further details were available.

The discoveries in northern Malaysia followed similar revelations earlier in May in Thailand, where police unearthed 36 bodies from shallow graves in seven abandoned camps on the Thai side of the border.

The discoveries have exposed hidden networks of jungle camps run by human smugglers, who have for years held countless desperate people captive while extorting ransoms from their families. Most of the victims were part of a wave of people who fled their homelands to reach countries like Malaysia, where they hoped to find work or live freely.

Human rights groups and activists say the area along the Thai-Malaysia border has been used for years to smuggle migrants and refugees, including Rohingya Muslims.

In many cases, they pay human smugglers thousands of dollars for passage, but are instead held for weeks or months while traffickers extort more money from their families. Rights groups say some have been beaten to death, and The Associated Press has documented other cases in which people have been enslaved on fishing boats.