Malnutrition cause of death in Malaysia-Thai trafficking route victims, autopsy shows

A soldier walks among the ruins of an immigrant camp found near the Malaysia-Thai border last May. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali
A soldier walks among the ruins of an immigrant camp found near the Malaysia-Thai border last May. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

ALOR SETAR, April 15 — Examination of bodies exhumed from graves in camps used by human traffickers have revealed the main cause of death was malnutrition and poor living conditions, said Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Noor Rashid Ibrahim.

He said the authorities were done identifying the cause of death, having painstakingly retrieved the remains from deep in the jungle.

“We did not uncover evidence that those found in graves had died violently. There were no indicators of that,” he said.

“They died of poor health, horrible living conditions and illnesses.”

In May last year, several human trafficking camps were discovered along the Thai-Malaysia border. The graves and remains of at least 139 individuals were discovered, mostly ethnic Rohingya fleeing inter-religious strife in Myanmar.

Noor Rashid said there had been significant progress made in terms of prosecutions and the sheltering of trafficking victims.

“The number of successful prosecutions is increasing and our ability to provide care and shelter for victims has improved tremendously.

“Our efforts have been recognised internationally, with our ranking in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report placing Malaysia in Tier Two (watch list) from Tier Three previously,” he said.

Noor Rashid also said the operating procedure along border areas had been completely revamped and better training had been implemented.

“We have instituted new training programmes for personnel and there has been a marked improvement in their ability to assess and identify victims and trafficking activities.

“There is also increased cross-border cooperation between us and the Thai authorities. Neither side wants to see a repeat of what happened,” he said.

Noor Rashid said there were numerous problems in trying to shut down human trafficking networks despite the best efforts of the authorities.

“Firstly, it is one of the most lucrative illegal activities, next only to the illegal drug trade in terms of revenue.

“A one-way ride from Arakan (Myanmar) to Malaysian waters can cost up to RM5, 000 per person. When you consider how many people are smuggled, it is really significant,” he said, adding that the rugged terrain of the border areas made it difficult to monitor.

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