On Friday, a Malaysian court charged four Thai nationals with people trafficking in connection with the discovery of mass graves along the country’s border with Thailand eight years ago.
In 2015, more than 100 bodies were discovered buried deep in Malaysian bush, sparking an investigation into human trafficking in the Southeast Asian country.
The four men, aged 30 to 58, were prosecuted under Malaysia’s anti-human trafficking and anti-migrant smuggling laws.
According to court documents, the men are accused of trafficking between 2013 and 2015 and face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
The accused were extradited to Malaysia on Thursday and will be imprisoned in a prison in the northern town of Kangar until their next court appearance on July 25.
The men were hauled to a court in Malaysia’s northern city of Kangar, which borders Thailand, near where the graves and trafficking camps were discovered, wearing white T-shirts and shackled together.
The accused were among ten Thai nationals sought by Malaysia since 2017 as part of an investigation into border camps.
The region has traditionally served as a transit point for persecuted Rohingya Muslims fleeing turmoil in Myanmar and economic migrants from Bangladesh.
Smugglers have already transported tens of thousands of Rohingya across land and sea to Malaysia, a comparatively prosperous and secure Muslim-majority country.
Malaysia, one of Southeast Asia’s richest countries, relies significantly on cheap foreign workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Myanmar in the construction, plantation, and service sectors.
According to a 2019 investigation by Malaysian human rights commissioners and a rights group, from 2012 to 2015, a human smuggling ring operated in the area.
Migrants were allegedly confined in terrible jungle camps where they were subjected to physical assault and were frequently refused basic food and water.