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|Create Date||June 17, 2015|
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Discovery of Mass Graves in Malaysia
- Human Trafficking Death Camps
Date: 17 June 2015
1. The National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) hereby lodges a formal complaint with SUHAKAM in respect of the circumstances surrounding the disclosure of unexplained deaths through the discovery of 139 mass graves at the Malaysian Thai-borders, the existence of transit camps and the recent news of dumped bodies of foreign nationals in Penang.
2. These recent news reports have highlighted the existence of extensive smuggling and trafficking networks that have flourished for a number of years. Reports indicate that the trafficking camps in Malaysia are linked to the movement of Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants. Refugees and migrants are then held captive in these camps for months until payments are made for their release. Testimonies indicate that those held in these camps have been tortured, beaten, raped, and starved.1
3. The disclosure of the horror, cruelty and depravity of human trafficking cannot be ignored. The 139 mass graves, the human cages and 26 dead foreign nationals in Penang2 will leave a stain on Malaysia if nothing is done to investigate and bring those responsible to justice.
4. Whilst there have been news reports of ongoing investigations by state authorities, it is critical that an independent probe be conducted within a human rights framework.
Allegations of complicity of enforcement agencies
5. The leadership of the various enforcement agencies dealing with migrants and human trafficking victims must be called to give their account on how their agencies and departments have addressed or failed to address the many complaints lodged not just by individual victims of human trafficking but also by various civil society organisations as early as 2008.
6. It is indeed alarming to read the exposé in The New Straits Times (NST) edition of 3rd June 2015 that the Special Branch had produced a report which indicated that 80% of Malaysian security and enforcement officers at our borders were "on the take" with some purportedly also on the smuggling syndicates’ payroll. The report was prepared as a result of covert operations at our borders over a span of 10 years and covers the police's General Operations Force, Anti-Smuggling Unit, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Immigration Department.
6.1 It has also been reported in the same NST exposé that Special Branch had evidence of two police patrol vehicles and two MMEA patrol boats escorting a human smuggling syndicate’s convoy to a ship off Malaysian waters and bound for Australia in April 2014.
7. It has been reported3 that in December 2014, the police were informed by Wang Kelian villagers of hundreds of starving Rohinyas and “hundreds of them were taken away by the police”. When asked by journalists as to what had happened to this group – the police did not provide any reply.
8. The authorities had started investigations on the mass graves at Wang Kelian commencing the first week of May 2015 after the discovery of the graves by the Thai authorities at the Thai-Malaysian borders, even though Malaysian authorities’ first reaction was to deny the existence of such graves on our side of the borders.
9. The IGP informed the press that police investigations started just after the Thailand authorities revealed on 1 May 2015 that there was a mass grave discovered in the Thai/Malaysian border.4
10. It was reported on 13 May 20155 that the police confirmed two local policemen were nabbed recently along with 36 others for alleged involvement in human trafficking activities in northern Malaysia and southern Thailand.
11. Subsequent to the discovery of the mass graves being made public, the Home Minister, Dato’ Seri Zahid Hamidi acknowledged that there was institutionalised corruption at our border.6
12. On 24 May 2015, it was reported in two national newspapers7 that some 100 bodies were found in one mass grave alone in the northern state of Perlis.
13. Whilst investigations were on-going, it was also reported on 28 May 20158 that the Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tunku Jaafar had concluded that there were “no mass graves, but proper burial plots found in the abandoned migrant camps deep in the jungles of Bukit Wang Burma” and that the 139 'mass graves' suspected earlier was “incorrect”. He was reported as saying there were only one body per grave.
14. On 4 June 20159, the police confirmed that there were 91 mass graves left to investigate. However, it is of concern that the police announced that they will finish exhumation work on these graves by 8 June 2015.
15. On 9 June 201510, the police announced that exhumation work on the bodies from the transit camps camps have been completed with the last batch of human remains in Wang Kelian recovered from the 139 graves. The last 7 skeletal remains were recovered on 6 June 2015. The police has so far recovered 106 skeletal remains as some graves were found to be empty. The police also stated that they will continue to “comb the area”.
16. On 10 June 201511, the police informed the press that post-mortem of 22 out of 106 human skeletal remains found at Wang Kelian had been concluded. However, the police said that the causes of death have yet to be determined. Out of 22 remains 21 were identified as males while one was not able to be identified. Out of the 21, 14 were between the ages of 20 to 40, 4 between the ages of 40 and 60 and 2 others were between the ages of 17 and 25.
17. On 11 June 201512, it was reported that the government has decided not to continue with its operations to exhume the remains of human trafficking syndicates in Wang Kelian. As reported earlier, the operations ended on 8 June 2015.
18. On 12 June 201513, it was reported that the Police found no elements of foul play after conducting a post-mortem on 26 human remains found at the Wang Kelian camps. The police has since classified the cases as “sudden deaths”. The 26 human remains were said to be all male, between the age of 17 and 60.
18.1 The police had also reported that they had completed exhuming 139 graves and retrieved 106 bodies from the 28 transit camps in Wang Kelian, however there is no information on the 80 other bodies retrieved, on whether any port-mortem was conducted and the classification for these cases.
18.2 The Perlis Police Chief Shafie Ismail was reported to have stated that the postmortem conducted revealed that the cause of death is believed to be “starvation”.14
19. Public perception of the enforcement process in respect of human-trafficking is poor as the standard approach seems to be denial, dismissal, or defensive. Further, it is not unreasonable to say (and it has been admitted by those in authority) that the law enforcement agencies comprising the General Operations Force, Anti-Smuggling Unit, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Immigration Department were complicit or have been compromised in perpetuating crimes of human trafficking: Such compromise or complicity by law enforcement agencies also give rise to serious national security implications.
Sufficient laws exists but ineffective inquiry, investigation and implementation
20. A legal framework for the authorities to act against human trafficking and smuggling of persons in Malaysia exists. Our Federal Constitution prohibits slavery and forced labour. We have the Anti-Trafficking of Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 and various Penal Code provisions prohibiting the buying or selling of persons, forced labour or dealing in human trafficking. Malaysia has also formed a Council for Anti-Trafficking of Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Persons (MAPO) within the Home Ministry.
21. Whilst HAKAM understands that the problem with human trafficking may never be arrested in full as long as there is high demand for 3D (dirty dangerous and demeaning) labour in our country there must however be a policy framework and concerted enforcement to ensure that large scale human trafficking offences do not happen again - undetected nor unaddressed.
HAKAM calls on SUHAKAM for a broad based nation-wide inquiry.
22. We call on SUHAKAM to hold a broad based nationwide public inquiry to look into:
22.1 the deaths of those whose remains were uncovered (or are pending discovery) in Wang Kelian, Lubuk Sireh and Penang and elsewhere in Malaysia which arose from human trafficking;
22.2 the reports of human trafficking which had been lodged with the police but do not appear to have been acted on; and
22.3 the pattern and particularities of human trafficking in Malaysia.
23. In particular, SUHAKAM must thoroughly investigate all key aspects of human trafficking from the very act of syndicated recruitment, transporting, harbouring (i.e. conditions of housing, allegations of torture, rape etc.) to receiving any persons by means of exploitation including coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or vulnerability.
24. SUHAKAM should also look specifically into the allegations of giving or receiving of payments or benefits to aid and abet any aspect of human trafficking and the extent to which our enforcement agencies may have been compromised or complicit in the crimes of human trafficking.
25. In doing so, SUHAKAM ought to call for evidence nationwide, from not just victims, the witnesses of any human-trafficking syndicates in particular in respect of the Wang Kelian transit camps, civil society, academics, but to also include law enforcement agencies including the Minister in charge of the same, factory and construction site owners and employers, work or job placement agencies and experts from other jurisdictions, to advise on recommendations including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration, and the International Labour Organisation.
26. We hope that at the end of the inquiry, findings may be made public on the extent of human trafficking in Malaysia with reference to the Malaysian-Thai borders. The findings will address and seek to understand the root causes of human trafficking in Malaysia, the extent of complicity on the part of the authorities, as well as set out how and where laws, policies and practices are needed to improve in areas of prevention, investigation and enforcement including adequate protection for the victims of human trafficking.
27. HAKAM also hopes that the outcome of the Inquiry, its findings and recommendations will be made public. HAKAM is prepared, if needed to participate or assist in the Inquiry.
Issued by HAKAM
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan Robyn Choi
1 UNHCR, South-east Asia: Irregular Maritime Movement, January to March 2015, http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/554c6a746.pdf, accessed 6 June 2015.
2 The Malay Mail edition of 16 May 2015 exposé on Human Trafficking.
3 The Malaysian Insider edition of 25 May 2015, “Malaysians near border say illegal migrants seen in area for years”.
4 Utusan Malaysian edition of 19 May 2015, “Komando Vat 69 Geledah Sempadan”.
5 The Malay Mail Online edition of 13 May 2015, “Two Malaysian cops nabbed in human trafficking bust, Bukit Aman confirms”.
6 The Malay Mail Online edition of 3 June 2015, “Home Minister wants army to police corrupt Malaysian borders”.
8 New Straits Times Online edition of 28 May 2015, “No mass graves, but proper burial plots found at migrant camp”, Note report mentioned another 100 bodies remain at various parts of the hill. See Also: Utusan Online edition of 28 May 2015, “Kubur dan kem yang ditemui masih baharu – Wan Junaidi”.
9 The Malay Mail Online edition of 4 June 2015, “IGP: 35 bodies recovered in Perlis, exhumations to be completed by next week”.
10 The Star Online edition of 9 June 2015, “Last batch of remains exhumed”.
11 The Star Online edition of 10 June 2015, “Death Camps: Post-mortem on 22 remain concluded”.
12 The Malaysian Insider edition of 11 June 2015, “No more digging up of mass graves, says deputy minister”.
13 The Star Online (“Death Camps: Post Mortem reveals no foul play”) and The Malay Mail Online (“Police claim no foul play in Wang Kelian death camps”) edition of 12 June 2015.
14 The Malaysian Insider edition of 12 June 2015, “106 mangsa pemerdagangan manusia mati akibat kebuluran”.