Tenaganita: RCI on Wang Kelian mass graves must expose corrupt officials

A policeman holds his gun at an abandoned human trafficking camp in the jungle close the Thailand border at Bukit Wang Kelian in northern Malaysia May 26, 2015. — Reuters pic
A policeman holds his gun at an abandoned human trafficking camp in the jungle close the Thailand border at Bukit Wang Kelian in northern Malaysia May 26, 2015. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 29 — Human rights organisation Tenaganita today said that the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) set up to investigate the human trafficking death camps in Wang Kelian, Perlis, must expose those behind the reported attempt at a cover-up.

Its executive director Glorene A. Das said while the government’s move to form the RCI was welcomed, she called for complete transparency in the proceedings so all culprits, including those that may be politically-linked, could be brought to justice.

“The reported cover-up of the activities of human trafficking syndicates and the annihilation of vital evidence needs to be explained; those involved in it should be brought to justice, without fear or favour.

“Hence, it is crucial that a transparent and meticulous investigation be undertaken,” she said in a statement.

In May 2015, authorities discovered 139 graves and 106 bodies deep in the jungles of Bukit Genting Perah and Bukit Wang Burma, a few hundred metres from the Malaysia-Thai border in Wang Kelian after receiving information that the location was used as a transit camp to traffic humans.

The discovery placed the Malaysian authorities’ credibility and anti-trafficking policies in the international spotlight, drawing worldwide condemnation and a downgrade in the US State Department’s human trafficking list.

A few months after the mass graves were discovered, the New Straits Times reported that corrupt high-ranking officials, likely with ties to the trafficking syndicates, had tried to cover up the incident.

Das noted that only low-level syndicate members were charged from the investigation, while the main string-pullers were left untouched.

She said the current administration will need to explain the cover-up, including the alleged destruction of evidence incriminating high-ranking officials.

“We want to determine if those in power today have the political will to bring the perpetrators of these murders and torture of innocent refugees and migrants accountable,” Das said.

Pakatan Harapan after taking power had said that it would see through its pledge to establish an RCI as part of the coalition’s commitment to reform.

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Sunday said the RCI will allow the authorities to investigate the tragedy thoroughly.