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The Thai army has found six bodies in a mass grave over the weekend in a suspected human trafficking site, according to military officials. The bodies were found to be Rohingya migrants from Myanmar. The United Nations has continuously called for the end of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.
The discovery of the human trafficking site was made at a rubber plantation in the Songkhla province in Thailand near the border with Malaysia. The site is just four kilometers from another site that was found a few days with 26 bodies extracted.
Deputy secretary general of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4, Colonel Jatuporn Klampasut, stated that they received intelligence reports regarding the site from nearby villagers about the bodies located there. The colonel said the bodies were two men and four women.
The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) has asked for a joint response mission against human trafficking in the regions around Thailand. The UNHCR will also lead an investigation to find the fundamental causes that made migrants turn to border smugglers. The report showed that there were hundreds of horrific abuse claims by the Rohingyas of smugglers over the last year. People have died in the camps from malnutrition and constant whippings and beatings. Though, the U.N. said that this is the first time a mass grave has been found. James Lynch, a regional envoy for the UNHCR, stated, “It’s distressing to hear that people…have had to put their lives in the hand of ruthless smugglers.”
Many of the migrants that come into Thailand illegally are ethnic Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh and the western Myanmar regions. Fighting in both countries have forced people to flee to other countries to escape ethic and religious-driven violence and persecution. Afterwards, smugglers demand large sums of money from the migrants to get them across the southern border into the predominately Muslim parts of Malaysia.
Prawit Wongsuwan, defense minister and deputy prime minister, commented on the incident with six bodies found by the Thai army in the apparent human trafficking camp. He stated, “This is not acceptable.”
On Tuesday, law enforcement officials found a second human trafficking camp. According to Thai police, three people were rescued from the camp.
The U.S. has condemned Thailand for its failure to battle human trafficking, asking for a speedy and credible inquiry regarding the mishaps. Prawit stated that the U.S. has praised his county for its transparent handling of the situation. They have been battling smuggling into the country for years.
Recently, Thai police arrested four men on suspicion of engaging in human trafficking. Four others are currently on the run with arrest warrants.
An anonymous report from a law enforcement officer in the town of Padang Besar stated that police and military intelligence has shown that there are three other possible camps in the mountain near the last one found. According to the anonymous officer, intelligence shows that, “There are three camps in the mountain range with nearly 700 suspected migrants. The Thai police and the Thai army will possibly engage in a joint operation to find other mass graves and camps. Though, a report stated that, human traffickers have been alerted about the authorities and have been relocating to different areas in the mountains.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by Brett Marlow – Creativecommons Flickr License