Connect with us

Phuket

Special Report: Trafficking abuse of Myanmar Rohingya spreads to Malaysia

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published

 on 

SPECIAL REPORT

PHUKET: Human traffickers have kept hundreds of Rohingya Muslims captive in houses in northern Malaysia, beating them, depriving them of food, and demanding a ransom from their families, according to detailed accounts by the victims.

The accounts given to Reuters suggest that trafficking gangs are shifting their operations into Malaysia as Thai authorities crack down on jungle camps near the border that have become a prison for the Muslim asylum seekers fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

Police in the northern Malaysian states of Penang and Kedah have conducted several raids on the houses in recent months, including an operation in February that discovered four Rohingya men bound together with metal chains in an apartment.

But Reuters’ interviews reveal a trafficking network on a far bigger scale than authorities have acknowledged so far, with brokers herding groups of hundreds of Rohingya at night over the border and holding them captive in the Southeast Asian country.

The abuse in Malaysia is the latest oppression against the Rohingya. They are mostly stateless Muslims from western Myanmar, where clashes with majority Buddhists since the middle of 2012 have killed hundreds and forced about 140,000 into squalid camps.

Many of the tens of thousands of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar by boat have fallen into the hands of human traffickers at sea who then hold them hostage in remote Thai camps near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay thousands of dollars to release them, according to a Reuters investigation published on December 5 (story here).

Some were beaten and killed, others held in cages where they suffered malnutrition. The Reuters investigation found Thai authorities were sometimes working with the traffickers in an effort to push the Rohingyas out of Thailand because immigration detention camps were getting overwhelmed with asylum-seekers.

In January, Thai police said they rescued hundreds of Rohingya Muslims from a remote camp in southern Thailand, a raid they said was prompted by the Reuters investigation, and had launched a manhunt for the “kingpins” who routinely smuggle humans through southern Thailand to Malaysia with impunity (story here).

The intensified trafficking of Rohingyas into Muslim-majority Malaysia threatens to undermine its anti-human-trafficking record, which is at imminent risk of being downgraded by the United States to a par with North Korea.

It also highlights the porous state of Malaysia’s 500km -long northern border, with thousands of Rohingya entering unhindered at a time when the government has taken a tough public stance against illegal immigration.

For the desperate Rohingya, Malaysia is the promised land, where at least 30,000 already live. The country does not give them full refugee rights, but has allowed them to stay and register with the United Nations. Thousands have picked up work at the bottom rungs of the informal economy.

Now we don’t have land

Mohamed Einous, a 19-year-old Rohingya from Buthidaung township, felt relief sweep over him as he scrambled over a border wall in a group of 270 refugees in mid-February, about a month after he left Myanmar. The crossing took place at night using two ladders supplied by his captors.

“I believed I could make money here,” Einous told Reuters.

His hope of freedom was short-lived. Handed to a new gang of brokers on the Malaysia side of the border, the Rohingya were packed into vans and driven to a house with blacked-out windows the traffickers said was in the border town of Padang Besar.

Once there, the brokers beat Einous with long wooden sticks and threatened to kill him if he did not secure a payment of $2,000 from his parents in Myanmar. Distraught at Einous’ cries over the telephone, his parents sold their family home for $1,600 and borrowed the rest from relatives, Einous said.

“There are no words to express how sorry I feel,” Einous told Reuters on February 21, just hours after the brokers dumped him near a market in the town of Bukit Mertajam in Penang, ending his eight-day nightmare in the house.

“Now we don’t have land. My parents have nowhere to live.”

Einous said the brokers in Thailand had told him he could pay a much smaller amount (“whatever I wanted”) to be released once in Malaysia. He said the refugees only received rice once a day in the house and were packed so tightly into two rooms that they couldn’t lie down.

Abdul Hamid, a 23-year-old motorbike mechanic from Sittwe, in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, recalled similar conditions at the compound where he was imprisoned for a week with more than 200 others in Penang.

About 16 guards kept watch over them in two shifts. The traffickers’ boss, a man in his 30s known as “Razak” who wore a suit and steel-rimmed spectacles, regularly kicked, beat and threatened the cowering prisoners, Hamid said.

“They said we don’t have money to give you food. You need to get money if you want to be free,” Hamid told Reuters in Kuala Lumpur following his release in mid-February.

Malaysia, a labour-short country with an estimated two million undocumented workers that offers higher wages than its neighbours, has long struggled with a reputation as a haven for human trafficking. Like Thailand, Malaysia is at risk of being downgraded in the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report from the Tier Two watchlist to the lowest rank of Tier Three.

The scale of the problem appears to have surged in recent months.

“It is definitely increasing,” said Chris Lewa, coordinator of Rohingya advocacy group Arakan Project, who regularly interviews those who make the journey. “In more and more stories I have heard recently they [Rohingya] have been detained in Malaysia.”

Several of the 10 witnesses cited the brokers as telling them they had bribed Malaysian immigration officials to turn a blind eye when they crossed the border. Reuters found no direct evidence of corruption by Malaysian officials. Five immigration officials were arrested in 2009 for working with a smuggling syndicate to traffic Rohingya into the country.

“We didn’t see any officials on the Malaysia side,” said Korimullah, a 17-year-old from Maungdaw township, who spent more than three months in Thai camps and was then held by traffickers in a house in the northern Malaysian city of Alor Star. “The brokers said they had already given money to them.”

Officials from Malaysia’s immigration department, the prime minister’s office, and police in Penang and Kedah states did not respond to requests for comment.

Border chaos

The surge of Rohingya trafficking activity in Malaysia followed a series of raids to harass human smugglers and drive them from illegal camps dotted across remote areas of southern Thailand. In two raids in January, Thai police rescued and detained more than 600 Rohingya and Bangladeshis.

Abdul Hamid and several other witnesses described chaotic scenes on the Thai side of the border in recent weeks as their captors moved them from camp to camp and hurried them over the border before they had time to secure payments from their relatives.

“The guards said the police would come and drop a bomb on the camp and that we had to move into Malaysia,” Hamid said.

Increasingly overcrowded and deadly conditions in the makeshift jungle camps in Thailand could be another reason for the shift of operations into Malaysia.

— Reuters

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Looking for your next home in Thailand? Let us match you with a local expert in minutes!

Thank you for your interest!

One of our agents will
reach out to you soon.

I want to:
  • Thailand (ไทย)+66
  • United States+1
  • United Kingdom+44
  • Australia+61
  • Afghanistan (‫افغانستان‬‎)+93
  • Albania (Shqipëri)+355
  • Algeria (‫الجزائر‬‎)+213
  • American Samoa+1684
  • Andorra+376
  • Angola+244
  • Anguilla+1264
  • Antigua and Barbuda+1268
  • Argentina+54
  • Armenia (Հայաստան)+374
  • Aruba+297
  • Australia+61
  • Austria (Österreich)+43
  • Azerbaijan (Azərbaycan)+994
  • Bahamas+1242
  • Bahrain (‫البحرين‬‎)+973
  • Bangladesh (বাংলাদেশ)+880
  • Barbados+1246
  • Belarus (Беларусь)+375
  • Belgium (België)+32
  • Belize+501
  • Benin (Bénin)+229
  • Bermuda+1441
  • Bhutan (འབྲུག)+975
  • Bolivia+591
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (Босна и Херцеговина)+387
  • Botswana+267
  • Brazil (Brasil)+55
  • British Indian Ocean Territory+246
  • British Virgin Islands+1284
  • Brunei+673
  • Bulgaria (България)+359
  • Burkina Faso+226
  • Burundi (Uburundi)+257
  • Cambodia (កម្ពុជា)+855
  • Cameroon (Cameroun)+237
  • Canada+1
  • Cape Verde (Kabu Verdi)+238
  • Caribbean Netherlands+599
  • Cayman Islands+1345
  • Central African Republic (République centrafricaine)+236
  • Chad (Tchad)+235
  • Chile+56
  • China (中国)+86
  • Christmas Island+61
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands+61
  • Colombia+57
  • Comoros (‫جزر القمر‬‎)+269
  • Congo (DRC) (Jamhuri ya Kidemokrasia ya Kongo)+243
  • Congo (Republic) (Congo-Brazzaville)+242
  • Cook Islands+682
  • Costa Rica+506
  • Côte d’Ivoire+225
  • Croatia (Hrvatska)+385
  • Cuba+53
  • Curaçao+599
  • Cyprus (Κύπρος)+357
  • Czech Republic (Česká republika)+420
  • Denmark (Danmark)+45
  • Djibouti+253
  • Dominica+1767
  • Dominican Republic (República Dominicana)+1
  • Ecuador+593
  • Egypt (‫مصر‬‎)+20
  • El Salvador+503
  • Equatorial Guinea (Guinea Ecuatorial)+240
  • Eritrea+291
  • Estonia (Eesti)+372
  • Ethiopia+251
  • Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)+500
  • Faroe Islands (Føroyar)+298
  • Fiji+679
  • Finland (Suomi)+358
  • France+33
  • French Guiana (Guyane française)+594
  • French Polynesia (Polynésie française)+689
  • Gabon+241
  • Gambia+220
  • Georgia (საქართველო)+995
  • Germany (Deutschland)+49
  • Ghana (Gaana)+233
  • Gibraltar+350
  • Greece (Ελλάδα)+30
  • Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat)+299
  • Grenada+1473
  • Guadeloupe+590
  • Guam+1671
  • Guatemala+502
  • Guernsey+44
  • Guinea (Guinée)+224
  • Guinea-Bissau (Guiné Bissau)+245
  • Guyana+592
  • Haiti+509
  • Honduras+504
  • Hong Kong (香港)+852
  • Hungary (Magyarország)+36
  • Iceland (Ísland)+354
  • India (भारत)+91
  • Indonesia+62
  • Iran (‫ایران‬‎)+98
  • Iraq (‫العراق‬‎)+964
  • Ireland+353
  • Isle of Man+44
  • Israel (‫ישראל‬‎)+972
  • Italy (Italia)+39
  • Jamaica+1
  • Japan (日本)+81
  • Jersey+44
  • Jordan (‫الأردن‬‎)+962
  • Kazakhstan (Казахстан)+7
  • Kenya+254
  • Kiribati+686
  • Kosovo+383
  • Kuwait (‫الكويت‬‎)+965
  • Kyrgyzstan (Кыргызстан)+996
  • Laos (ລາວ)+856
  • Latvia (Latvija)+371
  • Lebanon (‫لبنان‬‎)+961
  • Lesotho+266
  • Liberia+231
  • Libya (‫ليبيا‬‎)+218
  • Liechtenstein+423
  • Lithuania (Lietuva)+370
  • Luxembourg+352
  • Macau (澳門)+853
  • Macedonia (FYROM) (Македонија)+389
  • Madagascar (Madagasikara)+261
  • Malawi+265
  • Malaysia+60
  • Maldives+960
  • Mali+223
  • Malta+356
  • Marshall Islands+692
  • Martinique+596
  • Mauritania (‫موريتانيا‬‎)+222
  • Mauritius (Moris)+230
  • Mayotte+262
  • Mexico (México)+52
  • Micronesia+691
  • Moldova (Republica Moldova)+373
  • Monaco+377
  • Mongolia (Монгол)+976
  • Montenegro (Crna Gora)+382
  • Montserrat+1664
  • Morocco (‫المغرب‬‎)+212
  • Mozambique (Moçambique)+258
  • Myanmar (Burma) (မြန်မာ)+95
  • Namibia (Namibië)+264
  • Nauru+674
  • Nepal (नेपाल)+977
  • Netherlands (Nederland)+31
  • New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie)+687
  • New Zealand+64
  • Nicaragua+505
  • Niger (Nijar)+227
  • Nigeria+234
  • Niue+683
  • Norfolk Island+672
  • North Korea (조선 민주주의 인민 공화국)+850
  • Northern Mariana Islands+1670
  • Norway (Norge)+47
  • Oman (‫عُمان‬‎)+968
  • Pakistan (‫پاکستان‬‎)+92
  • Palau+680
  • Palestine (‫فلسطين‬‎)+970
  • Panama (Panamá)+507
  • Papua New Guinea+675
  • Paraguay+595
  • Peru (Perú)+51
  • Philippines+63
  • Poland (Polska)+48
  • Portugal+351
  • Puerto Rico+1
  • Qatar (‫قطر‬‎)+974
  • Réunion (La Réunion)+262
  • Romania (România)+40
  • Russia (Россия)+7
  • Rwanda+250
  • Saint Barthélemy+590
  • Saint Helena+290
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis+1869
  • Saint Lucia+1758
  • Saint Martin (Saint-Martin (partie française))+590
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon (Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon)+508
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines+1784
  • Samoa+685
  • San Marino+378
  • São Tomé and Príncipe (São Tomé e Príncipe)+239
  • Saudi Arabia (‫المملكة العربية السعودية‬‎)+966
  • Senegal (Sénégal)+221
  • Serbia (Србија)+381
  • Seychelles+248
  • Sierra Leone+232
  • Singapore+65
  • Sint Maarten+1721
  • Slovakia (Slovensko)+421
  • Slovenia (Slovenija)+386
  • Solomon Islands+677
  • Somalia (Soomaaliya)+252
  • South Africa+27
  • South Korea (대한민국)+82
  • South Sudan (‫جنوب السودان‬‎)+211
  • Spain (España)+34
  • Sri Lanka (ශ්‍රී ලංකාව)+94
  • Sudan (‫السودان‬‎)+249
  • Suriname+597
  • Svalbard and Jan Mayen+47
  • Swaziland+268
  • Sweden (Sverige)+46
  • Switzerland (Schweiz)+41
  • Syria (‫سوريا‬‎)+963
  • Taiwan (台灣)+886
  • Tajikistan+992
  • Tanzania+255
  • Thailand (ไทย)+66
  • Timor-Leste+670
  • Togo+228
  • Tokelau+690
  • Tonga+676
  • Trinidad and Tobago+1868
  • Tunisia (‫تونس‬‎)+216
  • Turkey (Türkiye)+90
  • Turkmenistan+993
  • Turks and Caicos Islands+1649
  • Tuvalu+688
  • U.S. Virgin Islands+1340
  • Uganda+256
  • Ukraine (Україна)+380
  • United Arab Emirates (‫الإمارات العربية المتحدة‬‎)+971
  • United Kingdom+44
  • United States+1
  • Uruguay+598
  • Uzbekistan (Oʻzbekiston)+998
  • Vanuatu+678
  • Vatican City (Città del Vaticano)+39
  • Venezuela+58
  • Vietnam (Việt Nam)+84
  • Wallis and Futuna (Wallis-et-Futuna)+681
  • Western Sahara (‫الصحراء الغربية‬‎)+212
  • Yemen (‫اليمن‬‎)+967
  • Zambia+260
  • Zimbabwe+263
  • Åland Islands+358

    image

    Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

    Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

    Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

    Click to comment

    You must be logged in to post a comment Login

    Leave a Reply

    Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

      Follow Thaiger by email:

      Philippines4 hours ago

      China donates US$19.5 million worth military equipment to Philippines

      Travel5 hours ago

      City Guide: Top 5 public parks to visit in Bangkok 2022

      Thailand6 hours ago

      Thailand News Today | 4th vaccine booster dose now available for 10 provinces

      Sponsored2 days ago

      What makes Supalai Icon Sathorn the ideal property choice

      image
      Indonesia7 hours ago

      At least 19 killed Indonesia’s West Papua nightclub fire

      Philippines7 hours ago

      Philippines’ Typhoon Rai destroyed 1.5 million houses in total – IFRC

      Thailand7 hours ago

      Government wants to closely monitor eateries following extension of alcohol curfew

      image
      Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
      Tourism7 hours ago

      Thailand’s Test & Go registration opens on February 1

      Thailand7 hours ago

      Thailand won’t allow entrance exam makeups, other Asian countries do

      Travel7 hours ago

      Survival Guide: Beware of these common scams in Thailand

      Cannabis8 hours ago

      Thailand’s FDA plans “Cannabis Sandbox” entry scheme for tourists

      Thailand8 hours ago

      If pigs could fly: Authorities tackle pork price crisis following swine fever outbreak

      Pattaya8 hours ago

      Pattaya mayor says there will be no festivals, fireworks for Chinese New Year

      Bangkok9 hours ago

      Move Forward member pushes for sex work legalisation as election campaigns heat up

      Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

      Tuesday Covid Update: 6,718 new cases; provincial totals

      Tourism10 hours ago

      CCSA clarifies details on Test & Go, registration opens at 9am on February 1

      Thailand4 months ago

      Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

      Thailand11 months ago

      Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

      Tourism11 months ago

      Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

      Phuket11 months ago

      Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

      Tourism11 months ago

      Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

      Thailand11 months ago

      Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

      Tourism11 months ago

      In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

      Thailand1 year ago

      Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

      Thailand1 year ago

      Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

      Thailand1 year ago

      Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

      Thailand1 year ago

      Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

      Thailand1 year ago

      Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

      Thailand1 year ago

      Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

      Thailand1 year ago

      Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

      Thailand1 year ago

      Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

      Trending