KUALA LUMPUR: The destruction of mass graves and human trafficking campsites at Wang Kelian by the authorities had potentially obstructed justice, a human rights report found.
The 121-page joint report titled “Sold Like Fish” published by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and human rights advocacy group Fortify Rights said the destruction held a day after it was found had potentially diminished evidence that could have aided police investigations.
The report stated the four-month delay in exhuming the bodies at the site had also hampered the forensic specialist from identifying the cause of death.
It stated the bodies in the graves were of Rohingya and Bangladeshis and the crimes were committed in Malaysia and Thailand between 2012 and 2015.
The report also said the victims were tortured with pipes, bats, belts, wires, among others, and denied basic necessities such as food and water that resulted in their deaths.
The report added the human trafficking trade generated between US$50mil (RM174.5mil) to US$100mil (RM349mil) annually, as the victims were required to pay more than US$2,000 (RM6,800) each to secure their own release.
It added that further investigation was required to determine the extent of responsibilities and involvement of Malaysian authorities in the trafficking of the Rohingya and Bangladeshis.
“In the last few years we have interviewed 126 people; the survivors, village people, border police and others. We did this to find out the unanswered questions of how this had happened,” Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph said during a panel discussion of the launch of the report yesterday.
He said it is time for Malaysia to prosecute those involved with the human trafficking syndicates.
He also suggested the authorities could have been involved with the syndicates as such camps and human smuggling activities could not be carried out without being noticed.
However, he said, the report did not find any collusion between the Malaysian authorities and syndicates at the border.
“But there should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to look further into this,” he said.
In May 2015, the police announced the discovery of human-trafficking camps and mass graves in Wang Kelian, Perlis.
However, the issue had come to light earlier thanks to the efforts of then Malay Mail reporter S. Arulldas and his photographer, Sayuti Zainudin, who first visited the site and reported on March 9, 2015. Arulldas recently expressed his frustration for not being recognised for his efforts and also offered to testify at the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) set up to probe the issue.
In early January, the government decided to establish a RCI to investigate the existence of human trafficking camps and mass graves.
The seven-member commission is headed by former Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria together with former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai as the deputy chairman.
The other members were former Head of Prosecution in the Attorney General’s Chambers Datuk Noorbahri Baharuddin, former Head of Research in the Attorney General’s Chambers Datuk Junaidah Abdul Rahman, former Malaysian Ambassador to Thailand Datuk Nazirah Hussin and former deputy chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Dr Tan Seng Giaw.
Also in the commission was Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail.
The joint report by Suhakam and Fortify Rights is intended to support the work of the RCI in its efforts to investigate the human trafficking camps and graves.
Razali said the RCI is expected to complete its report by September.
This story has ben amended to clarify S. Arulldas and Sayuti Zainudin's role in uncovering the issue.
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