A forensics team digging up the remains of a human trafficking victim in Bukit Wang Burma, Padang Besar, in May 2015. FILE PIC

KUALA LUMPUR: Many of the Rohingya migrants who died in the Wang Kelian tragedy could have been saved if police had taken immediate action upon discovering the death camps in early January 2015.

European Rohingya Council ambassador to Malaysia Tengku Emma Zuriana was responding to the New Straits Times’ exposé on the possibility that information on the discovery of the more than 150 graves in the hills of Wang Kelian may have been withheld by certain quarters working in cahoots with human trafficking syndicates.

The police had said during a press conference to announce the discovery of human trafficking camps in Wang Kelian on May 25 that they believed the sites were only vacated three weeks before.

“If action had been taken earlier, we may have been able to save more lives... but because of the delay, we only have graves.”

She said the government should step up efforts to prevent such tragedies from happening and costing more innocent lives.

“We know that the Bangladeshi government has arrested a number of human traffickers who send their ‘goods’ to Malaysia, so it shows that this activity is still happening.

“These victims were supposed to be sent to Malaysia, but the Bangladeshi authorities intercepted them.”

She said it was crucial for the authorities to find every single perpetrator in the Wang Kelian tragedy and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law as a deterrent to others.

“I hope they will be charged. It does not matter if they are ‘sharks’, or ‘small fry’.

“For as long as they are involved, they need to be charged.

“If not, these syndicates will continue doing what they do,” she said, adding that she hoped that the authorities would take immediate action to investigate the findings of NST’s reports.

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani demanded that a thorough investigation be conducted on why police delayed taking action after finding the death camps.

“If they knew about these camps, why didn’t they take action? This issue involves people’s lives.

“If they had taken immediate action, things could have been different. Many lives could have been saved.”

He called for more concerted efforts by Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand to tackle human trafficking in the region.

“There is a need for the international community to work together to tackle human trafficking.

“It does not only involve Malay-sia and Thailand. Bangladesh and Myanmar should also help by using international laws on human trafficking to investigate and prosecute perpetrators.”

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