ALOR STAR - A Rohingya man from Myanmar is believed to be the main agent behind the human trafficking camps uncovered by Malaysian authorities in Wang Kelian near the border with Thailand.
The man, known as Yassin and in his 30s, lives in southern Thailand and might have slipped back to Myanmar after his activities were exposed, Bernama news agency quoted Yusof Ali, deputy chairman of Kedah Rohingya Society in Malaysia (RSM), as saying.
"Based on information received, he is the agent responsible for buying Rohingyas and Bangladeshis from a syndicate in southern Thailand at a fixed price and keeping them temporarily at transit camps in Wang Kelian before selling them to other parties,'' Yusof was quoted as saying.
"Yassin is a big agent of the human trafficking syndicate and his name is known among many Rohingyas who are in Malaysia and were his victims," said Yusof, who has been living in Malaysia for 20 years.
"Because he lives and operates in southern Thailand, Yassin has close ties with other syndicate leaders who are either Thai citizens or Myanmar nationals from the Rakhine community."
Bernama quoted Yusof as saying that Yassin would hold the people he had just bought after their arrival in southern Thailand in a specific location such as a transit camp in the jungle of Wang Kelian before distributing them to smaller agents for a fixed fee.
"The smaller agents or their people would transport these new arrivals to various parts of Malaysia," he added.
He also disclosed that the transit camps in Wang Kelian had been operating for two to three years.
Malaysia said on Thursday that it believed 139 people were buried in graves at the remote detention camps. Deputy Home Affairs Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said initial investigations showed the bodies were wrapped in white cloth, in accordance with Muslim tradition, and were marked with wooden sticks.
In early May, Thai police had uncovered similar camps on their side of the border. They launched a crackdown that disrupted the flow of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar down through Thailand and across the land border into Malaysia.
That left boats loaded with hundreds of starving migrants stuck at sea.
Malaysia and Indonesia recently agreed to let vessels land safely following an international outcry.