A new report from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and Fortify Rights is making a stunning claim: crimes against humanity were committed against 139 trafficked Rohingya and Bangladeshi men, women, and children who were found in mass graves in Malaysia near the border with Thailand.
In the report, “Sold Like Fish,” the organizations say that they found “reasonable grounds” that traffickers tortured their victims from 2012 to 2015. The mass graves were discovered by Malaysian authorities nearly four years ago in Wang Kelian, but officials destroyed the site — potentially eliminating evidence that could have helped a police investigation.
While Thailand convicted 62 defendants, including nine Thai government officials, for crimes tied to trafficking Rohingya and Bangladeshis to Malaysia, Malaysia has not done the same.
Al Jazeera reports:
“In contrast, since 2015, Malaysian courts convicted only four foreign persons of trafficking-related offences connected to the mass graves discovered in Wang Kelian,” the groups’ report said.
According to SUHAKAM Commissioner Jerald Joseph, Malaysian police did not “pursue further” investigations as it requires the extradition of “several” people from Thailand.
“Malaysian police could not move forward as they need seven people in Thailand to be extradited … that was the answer they [police] gave us the last two years,” Joseph told a press conference in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, adding that he did not know who those seven people were.
Asked whether any Malaysians would be prosecuted in the near future, Joseph said: “I think the day has to arrive, it is around the corner.”
“There is no way death camps on Malaysian soil can happen without local connivance or cooperation by some individuals or some officer of the network,” said Joseph.
The report documents how traffickers piled hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees onto fishing vessels. At sea, they were deprived of food, water, and in some cases raped or tortured. Many Rohingya committed suicide during the journey.
Traffickers then held their victims captive in remote camps along the Thailand-Malaysia border, demanding $2000 for their release.
Earlier this year, Malaysia announced that it would set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to probe the Wang Kelian tragedy. The move has been welcomed by human rights groups as a “step in the right direction.”