KONFRONTASI-Almost four years after the grisly discovery in Malaysia of 139 graves of Rohingya and Bangladeshis believed to be victims of human trafficking, authorities in the country have not prosecuted any Malaysians for the deaths, according to a new report by rights groups.
Released on Wednesday by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and Fortify Rights, the joint report said it had found "reasonable grounds" to believe that a human-trafficking syndicate committed crimes against humanity in Malaysia and Thailand against Rohingya men, women, and children from 2012 to 2015.
The Sold Like Fish report documents how Malaysian authorities destroyed a human-trafficking campsite in Wang Kelian, in the northern state of Perlis, the day after its discovery in January 2015 - in a move that potentially diminished evidence that could have aided a police investigation.
In May 2015, Malaysian police said they had found 139 graves, some containing more than one body, around dozens of camps scattered along the border in Perlis.
The discovery was preceded by the finding of a mass grave containing more than 30 bodies in a forested area in Thailand, near the Malaysian border, on April 30, 2015.
In 2017, Thailand convicted 62 defendants, including nine Thai government officials, for crimes related to the trafficking of Rohingya and Bangladeshis to Malaysia via Thailand.
"In contrast, since 2015, Malaysian courts convicted ony four foreign persons of trafficking-related offenses 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.