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article imageMass graves and human-trafficking camps found in Malaysia

By Karen Graham     May 24, 2015 in World
Malaysian authorities have found mass graves thought to contain the bodies of Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants near suspected human-trafficking camps. The camps are in the far north of Malaysia near its border with Thailand.
Bangladeshi and Burmese Rohingya migrants are at the center of a human trafficking crisis in South East Asia. Governments have been struggling to deal with the thousands of migrants left on their own in boats by smugglers in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea over the past few weeks.
On Sunday, Malaysian Home Minister Zahid Hamidi was quoted by The Star as saying they had discovered a number of mass graves at 17 camps abandoned by human traffickers on Malaysia's border with Thailand. “But we don’t know how many there are. We are probably going to find more bodies,” Zahid was quoted as saying.
“One grave maybe has three, four bodies. But we don’t know how many there are. We are probably going to find more bodies,” Dr. Ahmad Zahid said. "The camps have been here for awhile. Maybe even five-years. I am shocked!” he said.
Dr. Ahmad Zahid also stressed that the Malaysian government was not involved, but he did say, "But Malaysians, yes! I recognize that as a fact." Referring to the U.S. and Mexico border crossings by illegal immigrants, he concluded, "they have more intelligence and state-of-the-art border security, but there is still human trafficking happening there."
Earlier this month, authorities on the Thailand side of the border unearthed dozens of bodies from mass graves in abandoned smugglers camps. These discoveries, on both sides of the border point to the extent that human trafficking in the region has flourished, right under government authorities noses.
It is a hidden network that has for well over five years held countless numbers of people captive while extorting money from families hoping for their release. Most of these unfortunate people are refugees and impoverished immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh. They are part of a wave of people trying to find work or live a life free from persecution.
The Huffington Post is reporting that local news media is telling a slightly more gruesome story. One news outlet said the graves were found in two places in the northern state of Perlis, bordering on southern Thailand's Songkhla province. This is where over 33 bodies were found earlier this month.
Another news outlet, the Malay-language Utusan Malaysia reported 30 large mass graves were found by police in mid-May containing hundreds of corpses in the state of Perlis. One grave alone contained over a hundred bodies said the newspaper.
Since May 10, 3,600 people, about half of them Bangladeshi and the other half, Rohingyas from Myanmar, have come ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. On Saturday, while visiting Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on regional leaders to find a solution to the immigrant crisis. It is believed that there are thousands of migrants stranded at sea on boats, abandoned and alone.
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