Kuala Lumpur (AFP) – Malaysia’s home minister has announced that mass graves have been found in the country’s north near detention camps run by human traffickers, a report said Sunday.
Home Minister Zahid Hamidi was quoted by The Star newspaper’s website as saying the graves were found along the border with Thailand.
“But we don’t know how many there are. We are probably going to find more bodies,” Zahid was quoted as saying.
The Malay-language newspaper Utusan Malaysia, quoting an unnamed source, said about 30 mass graves had been found containing “hundreds of skeletons”.
Also citing sources, The Star had said graves were “believed to contain nearly 100 Rohingya migrants”, referring to the Muslim ethnic minority from Myanmar.
The reports said the graves were found near Padang Besar and Wang Kelian, two towns along the Thai border in the Malaysian state of Perlis.
Thai police in early May found secret jungle camps on their side of the border and dozens of shallow graves thought to contain the remains of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants.
Thailand began a crackdown on human trafficking and smuggling following the discovery, which appears to have thrown regional trafficking routes into chaos.
With traffickers apparently abandoning their human cargo at sea, boats filled with hundreds of starving migrants from the two countries have sought desperately to land in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, which turned them away.
Facing growing international pressure, Malaysia and Indonesia last week said they would admit and care for boat people for a year or until they can be repatriated or resettled with the help of international agencies.
Malaysian police declined to release any information on the grave discovery.
But a police spokeswoman confirmed that the national police chief was expected to hold a press conference on the matter on Monday.
Malaysia’s government had previously denied that any such mass graves or slave camps existed on its soil.
“I am shocked!” Zahid was quoted as saying, adding that some of the camps may have been there for as long as five years, and that Malaysian citizens were suspected to have been involved.