Minister: Officials involved in human trafficking didn’t know about deaths

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim reportedly said that Malaysian officials involved in human trafficking only played small roles. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim reportedly said that Malaysian officials involved in human trafficking only played small roles. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 — The government officials suspected of colluding with human traffickers who detained migrants in camps in Perlis were likely motivated by money and did not know about the killings, a minister said today.

The Star Online also reported Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim as saying in Alor Star that the officials only had small roles to play in the people-smuggling, after authorities discovered 139 graves in 28 abandoned camps in Perlis near the Thai border.

“Many of them had small roles to play in allowing the syndicate to operate, but they did not know about the killings and torture. Now they must be having nightmares,” Shahidan was quoted saying.

But the minister did not explain how he came to such knowledge.

The Malay Mail reported Tuesday Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar as saying that there was evidence of torture on the bodies found in the mass graves.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told reporters earlier today that the authorities believe 139 people were buried in the graves, with one grave containing one corpse.

Wan Junaidi also reportedly clarified today that only two police officers have been detained over suspected human trafficking, instead of 12 as he told reporters yesterday.

Authorities believe that the mass graves and trafficking camps found in a remote area in Perlis are linked to the graves previously discovered in southern Thailand that are thought to contain the bodies of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants.

Traffickers are believed to have abandoned the camps, which were suspected to be used to hold migrants ransom until their families paid for their release, after Thailand recently launched a crackdown on people smuggling.

The Bar Council has called for a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to investigate the Perlis people-smuggling camps, saying it was perplexing that Malaysian authorities have failed to detect the camps that are believed to have been in existence for five years.