LANGKAWI - Some 400 illegal immigrants on a vessel were told to jump into chest-deep water and wade to the shores of Langkawi if they did not want to be shot dead.
Bronok (a sea cucumber) collector Mohd Ridzuan Musa, 20, said one of the immigrants told him that they had no choice but to jump into the sea to stay alive.
Luckily, it was low tide and the water only reached their chests.
"The vessel captain asked them to jump, saying that he had a gun and would shoot them.
"A small boat then came to pick the captain up and it sped off," he said yesterday.
Ridzuan was among the villagers of Pantai Kuala Muda near Padang Matsirat here who helped police gather the illegal immigrants and give them food when they were found early on Monday morning.
They were the first batch of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis found as their boat became stuck at the wave breaker in front of a resort at about 10.30pm on Sunday.
Another group of illegal immigrants was found walking towards the Kuala Temeyong river mouth of Kedawang here at 2.30am, some 10km away from the first location.
Kedah Immigration Department director Mohamad Yusri Hashim had said three boats had dumped the illegal immigrants at the sea here.
However, two sped off.
Mohd Ridzuan said the the villagers, mostly fishermen, helped round up the migrants.
"They looked so pitiful, starving and weak. Many pointed to their stomachs saying they were in pain and hungry.
"The police asked us not to beat them but to bring them together and offer food," he said.
"A Bangladeshi man told me in broken English that he paid RM3,000 (S$1,100) after he was promised that he would be brought to Malaysia in a plane. He ended up on the vessel for two months."
Mohd Ridzuan said it was heartbreaking to see a group of five men hiding in a bush trying to rip the husk off a coconut with their teeth to get at the juice and flesh.
He said he also saw many of them having a little packet each of stale leftover rice tied around the waist.
"The kneeled to thank us when we gave them food and drink. It was painful to watch," he said.
His father Musa Mustapa, 75, (pic) said it was his first time seeing illegal immigrants land on Pantai Kuala Muda.
He said there were such incidents before at nearby Pantai Kuala Melaka.
"The villagers did not scold them. We pitied them. They are victims, too, being exploited by human traffickers.
"They are not orang jahat (bad people)," he said.