LANGKAWI: As Thai authorities crack down on human traffickers, the smugglers are clearing out their camps.
At least 1,000 illegal immigrants were dumped on the shore of Langkawi after being held captive in the Thai jungle for weeks.
They were brought there by fishing vessels and abandoned on the resort island, about an hour's ferry ride from Satun in south Thailand.
This is believed to be the biggest landing of illegal immigrants in Malaysia and likely to have been triggered by the Thai government's crackdown on human trafficking rings and migrant camps on the hills at the Malaysia-Thailand border.
Another 1,000-odd immigrants were also left in Acheh, Indonesia.
The first batch of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in Langkawi was found at the Kuala Muda beach at Padang Matsirat here at 12.30am yesterday after their boat became stuck at the wave breaker in front of a resort at 10.30pm on Sunday.
Another group was found walking towards Kuala Temeyong river mouth of Kedawang here at 2.30am, some 10km away from the first location.
Sources said they were forced to jump into the sea and wade to the beach as the vessel operators sped off.
They were drenched, exhausted and starving. Most of them were barefoot and some were only clad in sarong without even a shirt.
It is learnt that some had died of sickness and starvation and their bodies had been thrown into the open sea.
Some residents here offered them some buns and water.
Langkawi OCPD Supt Harrith Kam Abdullah said police found 1,051 Rohingyas and Bangladeshis yesterday.
There were 463 Rohingyas - 103 of them women and 61 children as young as three years old - and 588 Bangladeshis.
"We believe they departed from Rakhine state in Myanmar and Bangladesh through their local syndicate. They then sailed through to Thailand en route to Malaysia.
"They were in Thailand for some time before they were sent into Malaysian waters off Langkawi," he said yesterday.
No arrest has been made yet.
Supt Harrith Kam said police would be on the lookout for more illegal immigrants landing in Langkawi.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and fishermen would be roped in to check on any sighting of the illegal migrants.
The boat that was stuck has been seized and all the illegal immigrants are now being held at the Langkawi district police headquarters in Kuah.
Illegal immigrants have been reportedly coming into Malaysia after being duped by a syndicate which promised them jobs.
After the discovery of holding camps and mass graves with 33 bodies in southern Thailand since May 1, the Thai authorities began a crackdown, transferring more then 50 policemen and arresting the mayor and deputy mayor of Padang Besar.