ALOR STAR: Police have arrested nine men both foreign and local who attempted to explore for rare earth elements (REE) in Compartment 35, Rimba Teloi Forest Reserve in Sik, on Sept 14.
Kedah police chief Datuk Fisol Salleh said the suspects, aged from their 30s to 60s, have been charged under Section 47(1) of the National Forestry Act 1984 for entering the forest reserve without a permit. They are also facing charges under Section 55B, Section 39B, Section 6(1)c, and Section 15(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 for various immigration offences in the Baling Court.
"On Sept 14, the police and a team from the Kedah State Forestry Department carried out 'Op Bersepadu' in the Sik forest reserve area and seized three vehicles in Compartment 35.
"Four local individuals, four Indonesians, and one Chinese national found at the location were taken into custody.
"Initial investigations revealed that all individuals were scouting for sites for REE exploration," he said at a press conference at the Kedah police contingent headquarters on Sunday (Sept 24).
He added all the suspects failed to provide any permits to explore for REE in the area or to enter the Rimba Teloi Forest Reserve.
"The five foreign nationals entered the country using work permits. However, these work permits were not intended for working in Kedah.
"We believe they entered the area around four months ago to explore REE and their activities are still in the early stages," he said, adding that this was unrelated to REE case in the Bukit Enggang Forest Reserve, Sik.
Meanwhile, Fisol said police arrested a local man along with eight Myanmar nationals in Changlun on Sept 20 for migrant smuggling.
"A team from the Kubang Pasu district police headquarters criminal investigation division and the Bukit Kayu Hitam Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Security complex stopped a car in Taman Hosba, Changlun at 5pm.
"Upon inspection, it was found that a local man was in the car with three women, one man, and a boy from Myanmar, ranging in age from five to 37, and did not have valid travel documents.
"Based on the information received, the police at 5.45 pm the same day arrested two Myanmar men and one woman in a rubber plantation area in Kampung Cherok Mokan, Changlun, believed to be a transit point for newly arrived Myanmar nationals in Malaysia," Fisol said.
The case is being investigated under Section 26A of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 and the Immigration Act 1959/63, he added. – Bernama