Malaysia to erect walls to thwart people smugglers

Malaysia to erect walls to thwart people smugglers
A police officer at an immigration checkpoint in Wang Kelian, Perlis, which borders Thailand, last week. Surveillance at the Customs, immigration and quarantine areas and checkpoints will be tightened, says Malaysia’s deputy home minister.

Kuching - Malaysia plans to erect walls in the northern part of the peninsula to cut off routes used by people smugglers at the porous border it shares with Thailand, after the discovery of mass graves and suspected human-trafficking detention camps in the area.

Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the construction of the walls would probably be more effective in securing the border areas, as the security forces were incapable of monitoring over 100 "rat trails" along the 700km-long border, state media Bernama reported yesterday.

It was not clear how much of the border will be blocked by the walls.

Surveillance at the Customs, immigration and quarantine areas and checkpoints will also be tightened, said Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi.

No one, he added, should be able to travel across the border on their whims and fancies.

"Such leeway was once asked (for) by the state governments to boost the tourism sector," Mr Wan Junaidi told reporters. "But this is high time for me to discuss with the menteri besar of the states concerned that there should be no more nods or hand gestures to cross the border."

Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday said a border fence would be considered in the long run, but he noted that human trafficking syndicates would still find a way to cross over it, Bernama reported.

Malaysian police announced on Monday that they had found 139 graves around 28 abandoned trafficking camps scattered along a 50km stretch of the border in the northern state of Perlis.

Since Thailand's crackdown on human trafficking threw the smuggling routes into disarray, more than 3,500 starving migrants have arrived in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, and others are feared still trapped at sea.

Relatively prosperous Malaysia, which has a Muslim majority, has long been a favoured destination for the Rohingya, who often travel to Thailand by boat, then overland to northern Malaysia.

Malaysia is now considering organising a mini ASEAN summit to tackle the flow of illegal migrants. Foreign Minister Anifah Aman has been tasked with studying the possibility of holding the summit in Malaysia.

"We must find the solutions to this issue at the ASEAN level and also at the international level. The international community should also play its role," said Datuk Seri Najib.

"This is not a responsibility of one country alone; this is an issue that should be tackled collectively."

It was reported that 1,158 Bangladeshis and Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including women and children, landed illegally by boats in Langkawi on May 10.

Malaysia's priority now is to save the lives of the thousands of migrants still stranded at sea and give them temporary shelter, said Mr Najib.

He added that after the one-year pledge to shelter them ends, he would discuss the next step to take with the leaders of other countries, according to The Star.

This article was first published on May 31, 2015.
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