No human smuggling at border since January, says diplomat

The camp used by human trafficking syndicates uncovered in Wang Kelian in May last year. — Malay Mail pic
The camp used by human trafficking syndicates uncovered in Wang Kelian in May last year. — Malay Mail pic

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 5 — The attempt to smuggle 60 Myanmar nationals into Malaysia from Thailand recently was an “isolated” case.

Mohd Affandi Abu Bakar, the Malaysian consul-general in Songkhla, South Thailand, said there was no record of human trafficking syndicates resuming their activities along the Malaysia-Thai border between January and June.

“We have been monitoring the situation at the border and this latest case reported near Padang Besar (Thailand) could be an isolated one,” he told Malay Mail.

“There were no incidents of human trafficking after the crackdown by authorities in Thailand and Malaysia in the middle of last year.”

He declined further comment pending an investigation into the matter.

Human trafficking activities are believed to have resumed after the Myanmar nationals, without proper documentation, were rescued by Thai authorities before they could be smuggled into Malaysia.

They had been brought by land into Thailand and abandoned near the border by suspected “snakeheads” — gang members involved in people smuggling.

Those rescued, including five Rohingyas, claimed they had been abandoned at a house by a human trafficking syndicate.

The report, which quoted Australia’s ABC News, said the illegal immigrants arrived at the border a week ago.

“All of them wanted to go to Malaysia as they have relatives there,” Padang Besar police superintendent Col Pongpan Sangsa-nga was quoted as saying.

“They did not come by boat but crossed (into Thailand) by land. We are trying to identify the smugglers and the illegal immigrants,” he said.

The smuggling of people from Bangladesh and Myanmar stopped following a crackdown by the Thai and Malaysian authorities after the discovery of migrant prison camps and mass graves on both sides of the border.

Several policemen and officials, including then Padang Besar mayor Banjong Phongphol, were arrested.

Last year, Malay Mail exposed the existence of mass graves linked to human trafficking syndicates.

On May 25 last year, a government source confirmed the paper’s series of reports led authorities to the discovery of numerous burial sites near the border.

Police uncovered 139 graves, exhumed more than 70 skeletal remains and rescued 28 people abandoned at slave-like camps in a jungle in Perlis.