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Dhaka Tribune

Report: Malaysian authorities destroyed Wang Kelian mass grave site

'A forensic team also confirmed on March 6, 2015 that the suspected grave site was indeed a mass grave but Malaysian authorities did not order the exhumation of the bodies until May 2015'

Update : 29 Mar 2019, 09:38 PM

The Malaysian authorities ordered a human trafficking campsite - believed to contain bodies of trafficked Rohingya and Bangladeshis - at Wang Kelian, Perlis, destroyed a day after its discovery in early 2015, claimed Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

A report jointly released by Suhakam and human rights organization Fortify Rights on Wednesday claimed the authorities also did not publicly reveal any information about the site until May 25, 2015 –four months after the initial discovery of the campsite and the graves on it, reports Free Malaysia Today (FMT).

“A forensic team also confirmed on March 6, 2015 that the suspected grave site was indeed a mass grave but Malaysian authorities did not order the exhumation of the bodies until May 2015.

“Forensic specialists testified for this report that their post-mortem examinations of the remains exhumed from the site were inconclusive with regard to the cause of death due to excessive decomposition of the bodies.

“The four-month delay in investigating the grave site delayed the exhumation of remains from the site which, in turn, hampered forensic specialists from identifying the causes of their death. This may constitute obstruction of justice,” the 121-page report, titled Sold Like Fish, said.

The report follows the convening by the government of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate human trafficking and mass graves discovered in Wang Kelian, believed to contain the bodies of trafficked Rohingya and Bangladeshis.

The RCI is expected to submit its final report in June.

The report by Suhakam and Fortify Rights said they found reasonable grounds to believe that a human trafficking syndicate had committed crimes against humanity in Malaysia and Thailand against Rohingya men, women and children from 2012 to 2015.

It documented how a criminal syndicate had deceived Rohingya refugees to board ships bound for Thailand and Malaysia and then abused them.

“Traffickers piled hundreds and thousands of Rohingya refugees into repurposed fishing vessels and deprived them of adequate food, water and space, committing torture and, in some cases, rape at sea.

“Traffickers murdered captives, and many died by suicide at sea,” it said.

The report described how, once onshore, members of the syndicate held victims in conditions of enslavement in remote camps along the Malaysia-Thailand border, including in Wang Kelian, demanding $2,000 (RM6,800) or more for their release.

It said the Rohingya captives were tortured with pipes, bats, clubs, belts, wires, tasers, and nails.

The report said the trade in Rohingya from 2012 to 2015 is estimated to have generated between US$50 million and US$100 million (between RM174.5 million and RM349 million) annually.

“When I was unable to pay the money to the men, they poured boiling water on my head and body,” it quoted Rahim Ullah, who was 16 when traffickers tortured him in a camp on the Malaysia-Thailand border in 2014, as saying.

The report also documents how perpetrators murdered and buried bodies in mass graves and, in some cases, forced captives to bury the bodies.

“People died every day,” it quoted Noor Begum, 20, who survived a human trafficking camp on the border, as saying.

“Some days more, some days less, but people died every day.”

It said the traffickers also systematically sold untold numbers of Rohingya women and girls into forced marriages and “situations of domestic servitude” in Malaysia.

The report is based on a multi-year joint investigation including more than 270 interviews with witnesses, survivors, human traffickers, government officials and others from 2013 to 2019.

“The victims of these crimes and their families suffered tremendously and these horrific crimes should never happen again in Malaysia,” said Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph when releasing the report.

“This report provides new evidence that we hope will help ensure justice for victims, accountability for perpetrators and policy changes to strengthen the Malaysian and regional response to human trafficking.”

Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of Fortify Rights, said: “For years, this was a calculated business and coordinated transnational attack on the Rohingya community.

“The massive scale and horrific severity of these operations were never properly documented or fully prosecuted. This new evidence demonstrates the need for accountability.”

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