Press Statement
25 May 2015
Malaysia must seriously address human trafficking, not deny or pay lip service

Lawyers for Liberty is shocked and appalled at the discovery of more than a hundred mass graves of suspected human trafficking victims and dozens of human trafficking camps in the jungles of Perlis, bordering Thailand.

While the news would not come as a surprise especially since the recent discovery of mass graves in Southern Thailand, questions must surely be asked as to how the traffickers have been able to operate with impunity for so many years under the noses of the Malaysian authorities. Such brazen activities could only have been carried out if there were some cooperation or support from authorities who were either directly or indirectly involved.

Civil society have long complained of the plight of Myanmar refugees who flee into Malaysia, and risk ending up being victims in the lucrative human trafficking business between immigration/ local officials and traffickers at the Malaysia-Thailand border. 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.

Despite these credible reports of modern day slavery and human trafficking, the Malaysian authorities have long denied the existence of such activities. The recent knee jerk response by Home Ministry secretary-general Alwi Ibrahim denying the existence of trafficking camps and mass graves even before commencing investigations is symptomatic of the government’s “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” refugee and migration policies.

We call upon the government to seriously investigate these killing fields under our very own backyard and tackle this modern day scourge of slavery and 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.

The government must enforce the anti-trafficking laws and policies properly, not merely paying lip service, in the hope that the minimum they do may be sufficient to remove Malaysia from the lowest possible ranking of Tier 3 in the US Trafficking of Persons Report.

We further call upon the government to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees – with a view to protect and promote the rights of migrants and refugees in the country and region.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty

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