Two dozen skeletons believed to belong to human-trafficking victims have been unearthed in a densely forested area in Malaysia close to its border with Thailand, local police announced Sunday. The skeletons were discovered near where the remains of more than 130 people were found in 28 abandoned human-trafficking camps in May.
"Following on from the operation in which we found ... bodies of illegal immigrants, 24 more bodies have been found and dug up," police said in a statement released Sunday, according to Al Jazeera. The remains are being examined by forensics experts to determine the causes of death. It is unclear whether the skeletons belong to the Rohingya, an ethnic group whose members have been fleeing oppression in Myanmar.
Human-rights activists have accused Thailand of complicity in the plight of people smuggled by boat from Myanmar and Bangladesh who are hoping to find better employment situations in Southeast Asia. Instead, many of the migrants wind up held for ransom by their traffickers in squalid camps hidden deep in the forests along the Thai-Malay border. The remains discovered in May showed signs of starvation and torture.
Thailand’s authorities recently began cracking down on traffickers that have been abandoning crowded boats of migrants in the Andaman Sea west of the Thai peninsula. The U.S. State Department’s annual report on human trafficking released in July accused Thai officials of contributing to the human trafficking crisis in the region.
"Some Thai officials are complicit in trafficking crimes, and corruption continues to undermine anti-trafficking efforts," the State Department said. "In some instances, corrupt officials on both sides of land borders accept payment from smugglers involved in the movement of migrants between Thailand and some neighboring countries."
The report came days after Thai authorities arrested 72 people, including 15 state officials, over suspected links to human trafficking. "For those people who are still on the run overseas, we will work with national police to send them back, according to existing extradition treaties," Wanchai Roujanavong, a representative of the attorney general's office, said at a news conference.