Wang Kelian RCI: Soap bubbles in stream led to human trafficking discovery


PETALING JAYA: Soap bubbles found in a stream led to the shocking discovery of illegal migrants locked in camps, wooden cage and eventually mass graves in Wang Kelian, Perlis, the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) heard.

Kpl Mat Ten of the General Operations Force (PGA), who was instrumental in discovering the hideout on Jan 19, 2015, said he was curious when he smelled soap in the stream.

"I followed the stream and found a woman washing.

"Luckily she did not notice me downstream," Kpl Mat told the RCI panel, headed by former chief justice Tun Arifin Zakaria, on Wednesday (April 17), the first day of the public hearing on human trafficking and mass graves in Wang Kelian.

Kpl Mat, 58, who was the first witness to be called, said he also discovered an unattended shop, observation posts and wooden bridges between trees, just like a scene from a Rambo movie.

He and his partner Kpl Yusof Islam Hassan then returned to their base in Wang Kelian to report to their superior.

Kpl Mat said their superior instructed them to return to the site on the same day together with eight other colleagues to carry out further surveillance.

"When we returned, I saw the same woman holding a mobile telephone.

"I heard a beep sound on her telephone, and she turned around looking panicky and she screamed to alert others. They all started running.

"The woman did not see me, as I was behind a big rock," he said.

They found six migrants who were kept locked up.

"One of them was too sick to walk. And I carried him on my back.

"We had to hurry back before dark, as we had to go down a steep slope," he added.

The hearing will also continue tomorrow and on April 22.

Arifin heads the seven-member RCI panel, with former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai as deputy chairman.

The other members are former Head of Prosecution in the Attorney General's Chambers Datuk Noorbahri Baharuddin, former Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail, former Head of Research in the Attorney General's Chambers Datuk Junaidah Abdul Rahman, former Malaysian Ambassador to Thailand Datuk Nazirah Hussin, and former Public Accounts Committee (PAC) deputy chairman Dr Tan Seng Giaw.

In 2015, the country and the world were shocked over the discovery of mass graves and several transit camps in Wang Kelian linked to human trafficking activities, where a total of 147 graves with 130 human skeletons were found, leading eventually to the arrest of 44 foreigners.

Editor's Note: While the police announced the discovery of human-trafficking camps and mass graves in Wang Kelian, Perlis in May 2015, the issue came to light 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 has 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.