Malaysian authorities discover signs of torture and graves with multiple bodies in more than two dozen abandoned camps linked to human trafficking.
Malaysian authorities announced that 139 graves have been discovered along the Thai-Malaysia border.
Some of the graves, located across more than two dozen suspected human trafficking camps, contain several bodies.
The authorities also discovered signs of torture said National police chief General Khalid Abu Bakar.
We were shocked by the cruelty Malaysia police chief
The camps are suspected to have been used by gangs smuggling migrants across the border with Thailand. The discovery follows a crackdown on human traffickers by the Thai authorities.
The dense jungles of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia have been a major route for smugglers bringing people to south east Asia by boat from Myanmar, most of them Rohingya Muslims who say they are fleeing persecution, and Bangladesh.
General Khalid Abu Bakar said one of the grave sites was just 100 metres or so from the site where 26 bodies were exhumed from a grave in Thailand’s Songkhla province in early May.
Malaysia’s home minister announced on Sunday that mass graves were discovered. The extent of the findings were announced today by Malaysia’s Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, “It’s a very sad scene… To us even one is serious and we have found 139.”
Pictures of the camps shown to journalists by Malaysian police showed basic wooden huts built in forest clearings.
“We were shocked by the cruelty,” Mr Khalid said, describing conditions at the 28 abandoned camps.
Ammunition was found in the vicinity and there were signs that torture had been used. Metal chains were found near some graves.
“The first team of our officers has arrived in the area this morning to exhume the bodies,” he added.
“We are working closely with our counterparts in Thailand. We will find the people who did this”.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are ferried by traffickers through southern Thailand each year, and in recent years it has been common for them to be held in remote camps along the rugged border with Malaysia until a ransom is paid for their freedom.
Similar shallow graves on the Thai side of the border earlier this month helped trigger a regional crisis.
After the crackdown on the camps by Thai authorities, traffickers abandoned thousands of migrants in rickety boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.
Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to end their policy of pushing migrants boats back out to sea on Wednesday, and instead said they will provide temporary shelter to thousands stranded at sea.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR estimated on Friday that some 3,500 migrants were still stranded on overloaded boats with dwindling supplies, and repeated its appeal for the region’s governments to rescue them.