A mass grave, believed to contain the remains of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, has been discovered at a human-trafficking camp in southern Thailand, according to media reports.
Thai national police spokesman Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri said he could only confirm the discovery of one corpse, one sick man and several graves at the site.“We’re sending a team of forensic police to investigate,” Prawut said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press (AP). “The next step is to verify their identities and nationalities. It’s not clear yet who they are.”
Authorities said traffickers are widely known to use the Songkhla mountains and other nearby areas for temporary camps to house Rohingya and others before smuggling them to third countries.
Rohingya Muslims have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Myanmar.
The purpose of the camp— comprising small bamboo huts tucked away in the forest — discovered on Friday was not immediately clear. But similar ones found in recent years have been used to detain Rohingyas.
In many cases, they paid agents for passage to what they thought would be a better life and jobs in Malaysia or points beyond. Instead, they were held for weeks, sometimes months, while smugglers extorted more money from families back home.
The survivor is “very sick” and has been hospitalized, said Thai police spokesman Lt. General Prawut Thavornsiri. Police have not been able to interview the survivor yet and aren’t sure of his nationality, but they believe he is Burmese, according to a CNN report.
Human Rights Watch, a global advocacy group, said the dead are Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar or Bangladesh. In a statement released Friday, HRW cited police reports that say the victims “starved to death or died of disease while being held by traffickers who were awaiting payment of ransoms.”
“The finding of a mass grave at a trafficking camp sadly comes as little surprise,” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said in the statement. “Trafficking of persons in Thailand has long been out of control, something that senior officials have admitted to HRW and others.” – UNB