Migrant crisis: Malaysia finds 139 graves in human trafficking camps.

Malaysia Finds 139 Graves in Horrifying Human Trafficking Camps

Malaysia Finds 139 Graves in Horrifying Human Trafficking Camps

The Slatest
Your News Companion
May 25 2015 1:11 PM

Malaysia Finds 139 Graves in Horrifying Human Trafficking Camps

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A Malaysian policeman carries human skeletal remains inside plastic bags exhumed from graves following the discovery of numerous grave sites and detention camps near the Malaysia–Thailand border in Wang Kelian on May 25, 2015.

Photo by Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

The migrant crisis of Southeast Asia was already horrifying enough. Now it turns out the depth of terror and inhuman action that smugglers are imparting on their victims may actually be worse than many predicted. Malaysia said on Monday it had found 139 graves, and signs of torture, in a cluster of around 28 abandoned camps in the jungle. “It is a very sad scene,” National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said, according to the Associated Press. “I am shocked. We never expected this kind of cruelty.”

The camps had barbed-wire cages in which it seems migrants were kept, and although authorities said there were signs that torture had been used, they did not elaborate on that point. The find comes weeks after police in Thailand found a similar set of camps and 36 bodies, notes the BBC. Thailand proceeded to increase security around the trafficking routes, which led the gangs to begin trying to move migrants by sea, which is how thousands have become stranded in what some have described as “floating coffins.”

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Ever since Thailand began pursuing the smugglers, many starving migrants have been found aimlessly wandering Thai forests. “It’s people who are skeletal, they have no fat on their body they’re just bones. They can no longer support their weight,” an International Organization for Migration (IOM) official tells the BBC. Malaysia had long denied the existence of graves within its borders but now security forces will be under the spotlight. The graves “are within a security zone and call into question the role of Malaysia’s army and police forces in migrant trafficking,” notes the Australian.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.