Mass graves of refugees caught up in the human-trafficking trade have been found in northern Malaysia near the border with Thailand, authorities said Sunday.
The grisly discovery comes amid a crisis among Southeast Asian nations over thousands of migrants who are attempting perilous journeys in the region.
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the trafficking camps were believed to have been in operation for at least five years and were only abandoned when authorities arrived on the scene, according to Bernama, the Malaysian state news agency.
He said officials were still counting the number of bodies in the graves, which were found near 17 tents in the Padang Besar area of Perlis state.
“With the cooperation of Thailand, we will find more and more,” Zahid told reporters.
Graves previously found in Thailand
Police in Thailand have reported finding graves and camps from human trafficking on their side of the border in recent weeks, prompting a crackdown on the trade from authorities.
But that has intensified the crisis at sea. Boats carrying the migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh have chosen to stay away from the shore, deepening the plight of the people crammed on board, who often lack food and drinking water.
Many of the migrants caught up in the crisis are Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority fleeing persecution in western Myanmar. There are also Bangladeshi economic migrants seeking work in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.