Mass graves found in Malaysia’s north

Malaysia has found mass graves feared to contain the bodies of Bangladeshis and Rohingyas,who are at the centre of a regional human-trafficking crisis.



Mass graves at camps run by people-smugglers have been found in recent weeks in Thailand, but these are the first sites found in Malaysia.


Aileen Phillips reports.



Media reports say the mass graves are believed to contain bodies of hundreds of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh.


Police discovered a number of large graves containing the remains of hundreds of people in two places in Malaysia’s northern state of Perlis, which borders Thailand.


Malaysia’s Home Minister, Zahid Hamidi, says authorities are hard at work to determine who the remains belong to.


“The IGP (Inspector General of Police) and his deputy is currently at the Malaysian-Thailand border for confirmation and identification of the bodies in the mass grave. The mass graves area has been identified by VAT 69 (special police force) and PGA (general police force) as being used for human trafficking activities of refugees.”


Mr Hamidi says the graves were found near suspected detention camps run by people traffickers.


He says 14 big camps and three additional smaller camps have been found at the borders.


Northern Malaysia is on a route for smugglers bringing people to Southeast Asia by boat from Myanmar, most of them Rohingyas, as well as people from Bangladesh.


Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is reportedly calling for punishment of those who leave the country illegally, and the middlemen who arrange their travel.


The BBC says Ms Hasina was addressing senior labour and employment officials, and described those leaving the country as fortune-seekers who are tainting the country’s image.


Many of those leaving Bangladesh claim they are seeking work.


But Ms Hasina says there is work available and they are putting their lives in danger.


As for those leaving Myanmar, they claim they have faced decades of persecution in the majority Muslim country.


Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has told the ABC Australia’s aid contribution is proof the country has not washed its hands of the problem.


But she says it’s critical the root cause of why people are leaving Myanmar must be addressed.


“What I have done is provide specific humanitarian relief to Myanmar, we are also one of the largest funders for the International Organisation for Migration in Indonesia. We are funding the resettlement of those who are found to be refugees throughout south-east Asia, including in Indonesia, and Australia is doing more than its fair share in trying to find a regional settlement for this issue but at the end of the day, the focus must be on the Burmese government to stop people being persecuted or having their human rights abused in Myanmar.”


She has repeated the government’s assertion that Australia has one of the most generous refugee and humanitarian resettlement programs in the world.


“We hope that other countries in south-east Asia and Asia will also take their fair share of people found to be refugees. That is why the Cambodian agreement is so important. Cambodia has said yes, they will take genuine refugees to help build their skilled workforce and their capacity to develop as a country and I’m hoping other countries in south-east Asia, the growing, dynamic economies of south-east Asia, will also take their fair share of refugees.”


Amid the unfolding humanitarian crisis, Pope Francis has urged the international community to come to the aid of the people taking to the sea in boats in southeast Asia.


“With great concern and pain in my heart, I continue to follow the events involving the many migrants in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts made by those countries that have shown willingness to welcome these people who are facing great suffering and danger. I encourage the international community to provide them with the necessary humanitarian assistance.”




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