Kuramia, a migrant, paid out Bt95,000 (S$3800) in ransom to save his nephew Kazim, who was being held at a border camp. But he never saw him alive. His nephew's was among 26 bodies recently exhumed from a mass-grave site in Songkhla's Sadao district.
A migrant who escaped that tragic fate has told police he saw a trafficker named Arnua and his henchmen beat Kazim to death. Speaking via an interpreter on condition of anonymity, this survivor said he had heard that more than 500 victims were killed at various camps holding human-trafficking or kidnap victims along the Thai-Malaysian borders.
"I've also heard that thousands of Rohingya migrants were at those camps waiting for promised jobs or for ransom to arrive," he said.
This survivor said he was lured out of Myanmar's Rakhine state six months ago by an offer to find him a job in Malaysia. He ended up in the same camp as Kazim, where between 700 and 800 migrants were held.
"My mum had to sell our family's land to pay for my ransom. That's why I am still safe," he said.
Kuramia said when Arnua first contacted him, he agreed to pay Bt95,000 ransom in exchange for Kazim's freedom.
"But after I transferred the money, he went quiet. Then about 15 days later, he asked for Bt120,000 more," Kuramia lamented.
He said as he did not have any more money, he decided to lodge a complaint with police in Thailand's Nakhon Si Thammarat province.
Kuramia said he was told later that after he made the complaint, Arnua and his henchmen had bludgeoned Kazim to death.
Because the survivor had come forward to testify as a witness, police issued an arrest warrant for Arnua who was then taken into custody.
Further investigation into the case led to the campsite in Sadao, and also to the mass gravesite where many corpses were uncovered.
The survivor from the camp said that during his time there, between 17 and 20 people were killed.
"They were either shot or clubbed to death," he said.
He said victims whose relatives could not afford the ransom would be fatally attacked or left to die.
Assistant National Police Commissioner General Jarumporn Suramanee yesterday said most bodies exhumed from the campsite were already skeletons and only six were decaying remains.