THIS much we know. Something very horrible happened in 2015 in Wang Kelian, but did it happen with the complicity of the police? In the words of the New Straits Times Probes Team that talked to the people in the know, the Wang Kelian killings were ‘a massive, coordinated cover-up.’ More than 150 remains of Rohingya and Bangladeshis, believed to be human trafficking victims, were exhumed from shallow, unmarked graves in the now infamous killing fields of Wang Kelian bordering Thailand.
You can say the NST, in its award-winning reports, gave the location map of Wang Kelian in Perlis to the world. Not for the world to beat a path to the harum manis mango plantation, but to show it what greed does to certain men. And, as the Probes Team has revealed, some of them are very greedy indeed. They treat their fellow men as chattels to be bought and sold. And they have a method to this madness, too. When these helpless migrants flee persecution in Myanmar and abject poverty in Bangladesh, well-organised syndicates with some help from authorities in Thailand and Malaysia swoop down. They literally cage them until they are able to raise between RM6,000 and RM8,000 each. Most are unable to raise the money and are left to die a slow, painful death. Wang Kelian will forever be etched in the minds of the loved ones of the Rohingya and Bangladeshis who lost their lives in Wang Kelian.
What is established is this: the police in Perlis knew as early as December 2014 of the gruesome goings-on in the camp in Wang Kelian, past steep hills and deep foliage of the forest. But, they chose to keep silent for national security reason. What is nightmarish is that this modern-day slave trade has been going on for some years and it seems to have escaped the very eyes that are supposed to police such a crime. And what is worse, some of the police officers have been accused of being part of the well-organised international slave trade syndicate. If it’s true it, surely was a case of foxes being in charge of chicken coops.
In Thailand, the BBC found Thai traffickers buying boatloads of Rohingya from smugglers and holding them in the jungle until their families paid a ransom. Many perished out of starvation and disease while waiting for the ransom to arrive. Did a similar thing happen in Wang Kelian? Was there a cover-up? Were our officers complicit in such a heinous crime? The best way to find out is to get to the truth by setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry. The truth behind the biggest crime against humanity in Malaysian history needs to be revealed, and, the perpetrators punished. The NST has doggedly, for two long years, pursued the elusive story behind the Wang Kelian deaths. We hope the Pakatan Harapan government will do the same by setting up the RCI. We owe it to the Rohingya and Bangladeshis who were so cruelly murdered to uncover the shame of Wang Kelian, once and for all.