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Baby's shoe found at a trafficker's camp north of Phuket, where murders, rapes and torture were also alleged to have taken place

Cages, Wire Expose Horrific Treatment of Boatpeople Searching for a Better Life

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
BANGKOK: The horror of Malaysia's jungle death camps has been revealed. Photographs show makeshift bamboo prisons on stilts with mesh walls and coils of barbed wire.

Along a steep path strewn with clothes and food wrappings a low cage had been built, too small for a person to stand up in.

"These structures were believed to be used as human cages," said senior Malaysian policeman Mohammad Bahar Alias.

The scene described by journalists taken to the camps along Malaysia's northern border with Thailand by police has shocked many Malaysians.

"People were tortured, caged and robbed of their human dignity - in our own backyard," said Malaysian opposition MP Charles Santiago.

"I will push for a royal commission of inquiry so that all Malaysians are informed, [and] for those responsible to face the law and, more importantly, that this never happens again," he said.

Police have found 140 shallow graves at the 28 people smuggler camps strung along a 50-kilometre stretch of the border in Malaysia's Perlis state, far more extensive than Malaysia announced on Sunday.

Joel Millman, a spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration told a news briefing in Geneva that the body's representative in the region "predicts hundreds more [bodies will] be found in the days to come."

Late on Tuesday police exhumed the first of what are believed to be hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshi migrants.

The grisly discoveries have exposed a hidden network of jungle camps run by ruthless people-smugglers who held migrants and asylum seekers captive while extorting money from their relatives.

If money was paid the captives were allowed to enter Malaysia, where many ended up working as cheap unregistered laborers.

But many others disappeared and mass graves on both sides of the Malaysia-Thai border now reveal their fate.

"If an individual's family did not pay, those staying long in camps were tortured, beaten and deprived of food," Mr Millman said.

An Associated Press reporter saw a tiny orange slipper partly buried on a slope at one of the Malaysian camps, indicating children were held there.

Police said the camp could hold 300 people.

A Reuters journalist said the location was a perfect setting for smugglers to ply their trade.

An hour's trek form the nearest road, prisoners could be kept alive with water from a stream running through a gully and there was good mobile telephone reception from Thailand so the smugglers could communicate with accomplices across a lucrative trafficking supply chain.

Malaysia's police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the camps were thought to have been occupied since 2013 and two were "only abandoned between two and three weeks ago."

Residents in the area said they were used to seeing migrants.

"They are often starving, not eaten for weeks," said Abdul Rahman Mahmud, who runs a small hostel in the area.

"They eat seeds or leaves or whatever they could find. It's a real pity and sad to see this," he said.

Malaysia's Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said police are probing the possibility that government officials, including some from the Forestry Department, may be involved in trafficking syndicates.

Several Malaysians have been arrested.

In Thailand where mass graves were found in early May, dozens of people, including local politicians and police, have also been arrested in a crackdown on human trafficking.

The crackdown prompted traffickers to abandon thousands of migrants and asylum seekers in overloaded boats that had made the perilous journey across the Bay of Bengal in a humanitarian crisis that caused international outrage.

Several thousand could still be adrift at sea, refugee advocates fear.

More than 15 nations, including Australia, are due to discuss the crisis at a Thailand-hosted meeting in Bangkok on Friday.

REPORTERS ON THE RUN
Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian will be in Bangkok for the Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean and available on the sidelines for interviews about the precedent-setting military versus media criminal defamation case brought against them by the Royal Thai Navy.

''As long as the Royal Thai Navy pursues these false charges, reporters and editors in Thailand and around the world cannot and will not accept the military government's word that it understands the universal principles of media freedom and democracy,'' says Morison.

Morison and Khun Chutima are obliged to begin serious preparations for their July trial from Monday, June 1. Please call Khun Chutima (''Oi'') on 089 4725117 to arrange an interview sometime between 2pm Thursday and noon Saturday.

Comments

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Did a visa run yesterday and shared a taxi from border with a photo journalist, who was part of this group, the cage covered in Barbed wire horrific conditions.

From my understanding this is national. Park both sides of the border surely the park rangers knew what was happening

Posted by Michael on May 27, 2015 06:45

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Phuketwan and his editor Alan & reporter Chutima should be at least nominated for and rewarded with International press-awards. Thailand's government should HONOR them instead of prosecut them. This couple has done so much to get broad, international, attention for this huge human-trafficking tragedy. The extortion, raping, killing of innocent human beings, the Royingha's, has had without doubt help from Thai nationals. All the culprits involved should receive heavy punishments and all these criminals should lose and being robed (conviscated) of all their personal material wealth. No Merci for these ruthless criminals. No matter what their background is. Politicians, business-men, Army, Navy, Forest-officials, Police, Village-heads, private-citizens. No matter what background. No Merci for the bad guys. And now stop this law-case against PhuketWan. They Deserve National thanks and Royal recognition.
Alan & Chutima you are Hero's.

Posted by phuketgreed on May 27, 2015 11:03

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The truth is out there... well done PW and u will win and the justice gets reviled...

Posted by frog on May 27, 2015 11:12

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Just read Malaysia has arrested some and are investigating all forestry officials on there side of the border think a lot more chance of justice there

Posted by Michael on May 27, 2015 12:45

Editor Comment:

The question still needs an answer: how do thousands of boatpeople landed along the Andaman coast get transported hundreds of kilometres south to jungle camps without ever being stopped on Thailand's roads?

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Yes totally agree with you there ed

You hit about four road blocks just leaving Ranong

Massive undertaking but probably only a few lower level officials will get prosecuted. Like the Saudi gems case

Posted by Michael on May 27, 2015 16:55


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