Malaysia court charges Thai nationals

A Malaysian court charged four Thai nationals with human trafficking of migrants on Friday over the discovery eight years ago of mass graves near the country’s border with Thailand.

More than 100 bodies were discovered buried deep in the Malaysian jungle in 2015, triggering an investigation into human trafficking in the Southeast Asian nation.

The four men, aged between 30 and 58, were charged under Malaysia’s anti-trafficking in persons and anti-smuggling of migrants law.

The men are alleged to have been involved in the trafficking between 2013 and 2015, and face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty, according to court documents.

After being extradited to Malaysia on Thursday, the suspects will be held in a prison in the northern town of Kangar ahead of their next court appearance on July 25.

The men, wearing white T-shirts and chained together, were brought to a court in Malaysia’s northern city of Kangar, which borders Thailand, near where the graves and trafficking camps were found.

The suspects were among 10 Thai nationals that Malaysia had sought for since 2017 as part of an investigation into the border camps.

The region, known for its porous border, has long been a gateway for persecuted Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in their native Myanmar and economic migrants from Bangladesh.

Smugglers have in previous years brought tens of thousands of Rohingya on a perilous journey over land and sea to Malaysia, a relatively affluent and safe Muslim-majority country.

One of Southeast-Asia’s countries richest countries, Malaysia depends heavily on cheap foreign workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar for its construction, plantations and services sectors.

A 2019 report by Malaysian human rights commissioners and a rights group said a human smuggling syndicate operated in the area from 2012 to 2015.

Migrants were reportedly held in inhumane jungle camps where they faced physical violence and were often denied adequate access to food and water.

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