KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian rights group on Tuesday (Jul 18) lamented the lack of action taken by Malaysian authorities to crack down on human trafficking following the discovery of death camps at the Thai-Malaysian border in 2015.
Even though it has been three years since the discovery of the death camps, efforts by the Malaysian government to crack down on human trafficking and people smuggling has left much to be desired, said Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) Jerald Joseph.
In May 2015, the remains of more than 140 victims were uncovered in mass graves in the jungles of Wang Kelian. Autopsy reports said the dead were mostly Rohingyas, and included women and children who had survived the journey from Bangladesh in search of a better life. It is believed that they were starved and abused in these camps, and that most of them died from malnutrition and disease.
Tombstones in Pokok Sena in the northern state of Kedah, are stark reminders of the camps. They are marked only with serial numbers of the victims.
“These 144 tombstones have no names, no faces to them,” said Joseph. “There are also others who died on board. Based on witnesses we interviewed, their bodies were thrown out into the sea.”
Joseph said the authorities must do more to ensure these people do not die in vain.
END THE “HUMANITARIAN TRAGEDY”
Malaysia has long been a safe haven for the Rohingya community, which has been trying to escape poverty and persecution in the Rakhine state, northeast of Myanmar.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in December called the alleged atrocities against Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar “genocide”.
At an emergency meeting with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, he also called on the Myanmar government to stop discrimination and attacks against Rohingya, and urged the world’s Muslim countries to act to end an unfolding “humanitarian tragedy”.
Malaysian authorities have promised to crackdown on human smugglers. Four foreigners have been charged with human trafficking so far, including one Bangladeshi and two Myanmar nationals. They were convicted and sentenced to jail terms of three to 10 years each.
Twelve police officers, who were arrested shortly after the 2015 discovery of the death camps, have all been released due to lack of evidence – something Joseph said shows a lack of commitment from Malaysia’s authorities.
“There’s no way such a number can get through this many layers of security without the complicity of local individuals and authorities,” he said. “The call for stronger measures is late in coming. What is there to hide if Thailand can prosecute a five-star general? We need that kind of strong commitment to bring in the big names, and clean up the (police) force. ”
Malaysia Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government has sought the extradition of three Thai nationals, said to be masterminds behind human smuggling activities. Hopes are high that an impending verdict in Thailand for those involved in the 2015 incident will help Malaysian authorities uncover more leads to bring culprits to justice.