Malaysian villagers recall encounters with Rohingya migrants, human traffickers

Villagers in Malaysia's Kampung Wang Kelian have been bumping into Rohingya migrants and members of the people smuggling syndicate in recent years. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/YOUTUBE
Villagers in Malaysia's Kampung Wang Kelian have been bumping into Rohingya migrants and members of the people smuggling syndicate in recent years. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/YOUTUBE

WANG KELIAN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Villagers in Malaysia's Kampung Wang Kelian have been bumping into Rohingya migrants and members of the people smuggling syndicate in recent years.

They said some of the migrants had come out of the jungle to beg for food and others to pray at a nearby mosque.

According to them, the syndicate members would transport the migrants across the border at night when there were fewer security personnel.

When the Malaysian-Thai border here closed at 7pm, no one would be on duty at the Anti-Smuggling Unit checkpoints, they said.

Villager Ramli Othman, 63, claimed that his most recent encounter with a people smuggler was in December when he accidentally foiled an attempt. The retired security guard said he spotted a lorry in a secluded area some 500m away from the border.

"I went up to the driver and asked him what was he doing.

"He said he was a policeman so I asked him to show me his police identity card but he ignored me, wound up the window and made a phone call," he said.

Ramli said a short while later, 20 people with dark complexion jumped out of the rear of the lorry and started running into the forest.

"The lorry sped off after that, I chased it in my car but it got away," he said.

A food stall operator, who did not want to be named, said she saw two men, who claimed they were Bangladeshis, performing Friday prayers at the Nurul Husna mosque here last year. After that they asked for food and water, she said.

"We didn't think much of it. They couldn't speak Malay so it was quite hard for us to communicate with them. We have not seen them since," she said.

It seems that Rohingya migrants were much sought after by local employers, especially at construction sites, because they worked for low wages.

Bangladeshi worker Mohammad Asadul Islam, 36, said his boss had hired about 20 Rohingya for another construction site.

"I've been there. I also saw some women and children. My friends told me those were Rohingya.

"My boss told us that it costs him more to hire us. We get paid RM50 to RM60 (S$19 - S$22) per day but Rohingya only cost RM20 (S$7.40) per day," he said.