Malaysian police say two cops among 38 nabbed for human smuggling

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Two policemen were among the 38 individuals arrested for human trafficking activities in northern Malaysia and south Thailand.

In a statement Wednesday, Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said close cooperation and partnership between the Royal Malaysian Police and the Royal Thai Police resulted in seven human trafficking syndicates busted.

"The suspects - 21 Myanmarese, 16 Malaysians and an Indonesian - were picked up between March and April this year.

"They comprised agents, syndicate leaders, transporters and two policemen," he said, adding that the individuals were detained under Section 26(A) of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007.

Khalid revealed that the syndicates predominantly prey on Myanmar and Bangladesh nationals.

"They are also believed to be involved in falsifying United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) documents," he said.

Khalid added that between Sunday and Monday, police also arrested 1,018 illegal immigrants on the shores of Langkawi.

"They comprised 555 Banglash and 463 Myanmar nationals. Two vessels used by them were also seized," he said.

The illegal immigrants are currently detained in Langkawi to facilitate investigations pending further action.

Putrajaya has been forced into overdrive as it prepares to cope with a sudden deluge of illegal immigrants, a situation Malaysia has not faced in a long time.

Department heads huddled at an emergency meeting to discuss how to manage the immigrants who were found on Langkawi.

The senior officials were also planning for an even worse scenario - reports say that some 8,000 illegals are still on boats in the high seas, all waiting to land on Malaysian soil in the next few days.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was emphatic that Malaysia could not continue to host thousands of illegal immigrants.

"Malaysia has been showing good human faith, which entices people to come here," said Dr Wan Junaidi.

It is believed that about 25,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims boarded boats headed for Malaysia in the first three months of this year, twice as many as in the same period in 2014.

Most landed in Thailand, where they were held by smugglers in squalid jungle camps.

However, the crackdown by Thailand has forced many boats to stay at sea.

"Up to 8,000 people are still at sea," International Organisation for Migration spokesman Joe Lowry said.

It is believed that the Home Ministry enforcement agencies, including Immigration, have been directed to further strengthen security at sea and land borders.