Authorities in Malaysia have discovered several mass graves, believed to contain the bodies of hundreds of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, according to local media reports.
The graves were discovered in in two places in the northern state of Perlis, which borders Thailand. Police officials said that it was unclear how many graves or bodies had been found. Sources that spoke to the Reuters news agency, however, estimated that 30 mass graves had been found.
Bangladesh's Daily Star newspaper reported that one grave contained the bodies of 100 Rohingya migrants. The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group from Myanmar, have been the focus of international attention in recent weeks, as thousands of members of the sect, claiming to be fleeing persecution in their homeland, have been found in perilous conditions at sea.
Several foreigners and villagers from areas near which the graves were discovered have been arrested on human trafficking charges in relation to the discovery, according to a report from the Mingguan Malaysia newspaper, cited by The Malay Online.
A police official told Reuters that forensic teams and police commandos are at the site, which was discovered on Friday. No official confirmation of the number of bodies has yet been given, but police are expected to hold a news conference on Monday.
Smugglers are known to use routes through northern Malaysia to bring Rohingya and other migrants to other Asian nations by boat.
The discovery of the graves came after the secretary-general of the Malaysia's home ministry, Datuk Alwi Ibrahim, said earlier this month that investigations had not shown any human trafficking camps or graves in Malaysia, the Straits Times reported.
Earlier this month mass graves containing migrants were also found in Thailand. Local media reports suggested that the graves in Malaysia were believed to be linked to those discovered in Thailand.
The discovery of the graves in Thailand prompted a crackdown on human trafficking gangs by the Thai authorities. This forced traffickers to abandon their human cargo, leaving thousands stranded at sea as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia pushed their boats back from their shores, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.