Thai police find graves at second migrant jungle camp

BANGKOK: Investigators in southern Thailand have discovered five graves at a second remote jungle camp believed to contain the remains of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, police said Tuesday.

The camp was uncovered just one kilometer from a similar encampment on a steep hillside close to the Malaysian border, where forensic teams found 26 bodies over the weekend, all but one buried in shallow graves.

“We found the second camp yesterday evening,” national police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told reporters, saying the location was close to the first camp which lay 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of Padang Besar in Thailand’s southern Songkhla province.

“We also found five graves but cannot yet confirm whether any bodies are in them. Authorities will look into this,” he added.

Rights groups have long accused the Thai authorities of turning a blind eye to — and even being complicit in — human trafficking.

Stung by that notorious reputation, Thailand’s military government has launched a crackdown in recent months, arresting scores of officials.

But the grim discovery of bodies in various stages of decay has vividly illustrated the enormous dangers faced by desperate migrants trying to flee persecution or poverty.

Each year tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and  Bangladesh make the dangerous sea crossing to southern Thailand, a well-worn trafficking route often on the way south to Malaysia and beyond.

Thailand’s southern border region contains a network of secret camps where smuggled migrants are held, usually against their will, until relatives pay hefty ransoms.