Malaysia has finished removing remains of suspected migrants from human smuggling camps along its northern border, days after a damning report suggested that most Malaysian border personnel were involved in cross-border smuggling.
Forensics teams exhumed a total of 106 bodies and remains of suspected illegal migrants from two locations in the jungle along the Thai border in northern Perlis state, Malaysian police said Monday.
A total of 71 bodies and remains were recovered from a camp in Bukit Genting Perah, in the Mata Ayer Forest in Lubuk Sireh, a steep and rugged part of jungle that can only be accessed via Thai territory.
Another 35 sets of human remains were excavated at Bukit Wang Burma near Wang Kelian.
Excavations ended Monday after teams dug up seven bodies and carried them down from Bukit Genting Perah.
“With the latest discovery, operations to exhume the remains carried out by the police comprising forensic experts, the criminal investigation department and the General Operations Force came to an end today,” the Royal Malaysia Police’s head office in Kuala Lumpur said Monday in a statement.
In Perlis, state Police Chief and Special Assistant Commissioner Shafie Ismail confirmed to BenarNews that a total of 106 bodies and sets of remains had been recovered from both sites.
"I was informed that there was heavy rain at about 3:20 p.m. [on Sunday] and it made taking the remains out difficult because the paths along the hills were slippery," he said.
The two sites lie across the border from Songkhla, one of Thailand’s southernmost provinces and a transit point for the trafficking of illegal migrants into Malaysia.
Last month’s discovery of the bodies of 32 migrants at abandoned traffickers’ camps in Padang Besar, a sub-district of Songkhla, prompted a crackdown by Thailand’s junta against human trafficking syndicates.
Thailand began to turn away boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya Muslim and Bangladeshi migrants who were trying to come ashore, forcing them to land elsewhere. As a result, at least 3,000 migrants landed in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Shortly after the first graves were discovered in Thailand, Malaysia’s Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said there was no evidence that Malaysians were involved in such criminal activities.
But police sources in Malaysia say otherwise.
Some 80 percent of Malaysia’s law enforcement and national security personnel posted along the borders have helped traffickers smuggle people across the border, according to an exclusive story published last week in the New Straits Times, a Malaysian newspaper.
The newspaper cited a report compiled by the police department’s Special Branch.
“Sources within the Special Branch told the New Straits Times that these personnel were not only on the take, but many were on the payroll of syndicates dealing with drugs, weapons and even human smuggling,” the article said.
The Special Branch’s report was based on a 10-year covert intelligence operation mounted by the unit at Malaysia’s border checkpoints and at law enforcement agencies nationwide, the News Straits Times reported.
“The Special Branch, which is tasked with providing intelligence for the country’s enforcement agencies to act on, had, over the years, shared crucial information with these agencies. However, on many occasions, they were not followed through, for reasons known only to these agencies that were fed intel,” the article continued.
After the newspaper printed the story, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi did not reject the possibility that law enforcement working on the Thai border were corrupt and helping out traffickers.
“We are investigating how true the report is because it came from the [Royal Malaysia Police] special unit. For now we are verifying who is going to confirm the news,” Zahid told reporters in Kuala Lumpur last week.