Bodies of 26 migrants exhumed in Songkhla

Bodies of 26 migrants exhumed in Songkhla

The bodies of 26 migrants thought to be from Myanmar or Bangladesh have been exhumed as authorities ended their search at a mass-grave site in Songkhla's border district of Sadao yesterday.

In total we have 26 bodies. As far as I know, one is a woman. We still cannot tell the cause of their deaths," said Pol General Jarumporn Suramanee, head of the forensic team.

"There are no more bodies. Every hole has been searched."

Forensic teams, helped by rescue workers, dug out badly decayed skeletons from shallow graves covered by bamboo and a few feet of dirt throughout yesterday, at the abandoned jungle camp, AFP reported.

On Friday, at least 32 shallow graves believed to belong to |trafficked migrants were discovered on a remote and rugged mountain.

The bodies were discovered at a so-called "waiting area" for migrants before they were sneaked through the porous border into Malaysia.

While the cause of the migrants' deaths is not yet clear, the police chief has described the site as a "virtual prison camp", which was seemingly abandoned just days before its discovery.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has issued an urgent order for the Royal Thai Police to find the culprits behind the suspected smuggling of illegal migrants, Deputy Government Spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.

Prime minister acts

"Anyone found involved will be punished. If they are state officials, they will get severe penalties, both criminal and disciplinary. Bad people and crooks who exploit other humans should have no place to stand in Thai society," the spokesman quoted the prime minister as saying.

He said the government was strongly determined to get rid of all forms of human trade and would not allow the country to be used by human traffickers.

Tens of thousands of migrants from Myanmar, mainly from the Rohingya Muslim minority but also increasingly from Bangladesh, make the dangerous sea crossing to southern Thailand, a well-worn trafficking route - often on the way south to Malaysia and beyond.

Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh have also been kidnapped and trafficked to Thailand, after being duped with fake job offers or even drugged.

There have been accusations that government officials, police and Navy officers are involved in the lucrative trade in humans fleeing poverty and persecution.

Deputy national police chief General Aek Angsananont told reporters in Songkhla that police would go after the people responsible for the grave site "no matter how powerful they may be".

The New York-based Human Rights Watch yesterday called on the Thai authorities to authorise an independent, United Nations-assisted investigation, commit to publishing its findings, and bring those responsible to justice, including any government officials involved.

"The finding of a mass grave at a trafficking camp sadly comes as little surprise.

The long involvement of Thai officials in trafficking means that an independent investigation with UN involvement is necessary to uncover the truth and hold those responsible to account," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

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