At least 30 graves believed to contain the bodies of Rohingya migrants from Burma and Bangladesh were found on Friday in an abandoned trafficking camp in the jungles of southern Thailand.
According to the above video, two other bodies were found rotting in the open. One survivor from Bangladesh was rescued by the Thai authorities and is now being treated in hospital.
Thai national police Chief General Somyot Poompanmoung told AFP that the site was a virtual “prison camp” where the migrants were held in crude bamboo cells.
“There are 32 places that look like graves, and whether there is one body or several bodies in those graves, we will we have to wait and see,” he said.
Somyot stated that it’s believed the smugglers moved a number of Rohingya migrants across the border into Malaysia two days before the camp was discovered by people hunting for mushrooms.
A report by Human Rights Watch says: “Police reports indicate the dead are ethnic Rohingya Muslims from Burma and Bangladesh who starved to death or died of disease while held by traffickers who were awaiting payment of ransoms before smuggling them into Malaysia.”
The Malaysian border is less than 500 meters away from the camp, reports the Bangkok Post.
Every year, smugglers bring in thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants into Thailand, and many are taken to camps like the one described above. In the camps, they’re threatened and asked to pay ransoms to smuggle them further south across the border into Malaysia.
“Trafficking of persons in Thailand has long been out of control, something that senior officials have admitted to Human Rights Watch and others,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
“The finding of a mass grave at a trafficking camp sadly comes as little surprise. The long involvement of Thai officials in trafficking means that an independent investigation with UN involvement is necessary to uncover the truth and hold those responsible to account,” he said.
There have also been accounts of trafficked migrants being held under ransom in dire conditions on large boats off the coast, or just in international waters.
“A 15-year-old who spent two months on a boat off the coast of Thailand or Malaysia says during that time, 34 people died on three different boats,” said Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, citing one example to AP.
He said their bodies were thrown overboard.
Thailand is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking, says HumanTrafficking.org. “It is a destination-side hub of exploitation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, for both sex and labor exploitation,” the site says.
The nation’s reputation for sex trafficking is another reason why the U.S. downgraded Thailand to the worst possible rating—tier 3—on its 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report. Thailand’s fishing industry has also been criticized for using migrants from poorer neighboring countries on Thai fishing vessels in what is a virtual form of modern slavery.
For more on that, see the video below: