PRESS STATEMENT

Set up a credible Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Wang Kelian mass graves and subsequent cover-up

20 December 2017

Lawyers for Liberty refer to the New Straits Times report today “Was there a cover-up in Wang Kelian?” on the discovery of mass graves of human trafficking victims in Wang Kelian, Perlis in 2015 and the subsequent cover-up including by destroying evidence and redacting reports and other papers in the course of investigation.

In March 2017, according to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in response to a parliamentary question, only 4 foreigners were charged for human trafficking offences while 12 PDRM officers who were previously detained were not charged due to lack of evidence.

Such poor investigative and prosecution record on the most shameful human trafficking scandal in Malaysia’s history must be compared to Thailand where at least 62 persons including local Thai officials and a three-star general, were charged and convicted of human trafficking and other offences.  

Civil society has long believed that such extensive and brazen human trafficking operations for so many years under the noses of the Malaysian authorities would not have been possible without the direct or indirect cooperation and assistance of local authorities.

This extensive NST report confirms the long held suspicion of local authorities’ collusion, and most damning of all, the subsequent whitewash investigation and perfunctory prosecution of a few foreigners. In light of the exposé, serious questions must be asked as to why there was such an extensive cover-up and who the authorities were trying to protect?

This report further affirms what civil society has been saying all along, that the government is not genuine in tackling human trafficking and is merely paying lip service and doing the very minimum in order to achieve better human rights ranking.  

Despite credible reports of human trafficking, the Malaysian authorities have long denied the existence of such activities. See for example Tenaganita’s report “The Revolving Door: Modern Day Slavery” published in 2008. In April 2009, a report was submitted to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee by US Senator Richard Lugar entitled “Trafficking and Extortion of Burmese Migrants in Malaysia and Southern Thailand” which detailed human trafficking and extortion in Malaysia and southern Thailand, including damning allegations of collusion between Malaysian authorities and human traffickers in southern Thailand.

We therefore call upon the government to seriously investigate these killing fields at our very own backyard by setting up a credible Royal Commission of Inquiry and tackle this modern day scourge of human trafficking. In order to do so, the government must demonstrate political will to act and hold accountable all those involved, regardless of rank, status or connection.

Malaysia is certainly undeserving of the Tier 2, 2017 ranking in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Malaysia should be returned to Tier 3 i.e. the lowest ranking for governments that do not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty