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Malaysia Finds Gravesites In Camps Used By People Smugglers

Malaysian authorities say they've discovered numerous gravesites in at least 17 abandoned camps used by human smugglers along the Thai-Malay border. The dozens or possibly hundreds of bodies are thought to be migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Voice of America quotes Malaysia's Home Minister Zahid Hamidi as telling reporters today that the graves had been found near villages used by people traffickers.

"The IGP [Inspector General of Police] and his deputy is currently at the Malaysian-Thailand borders for confirmation and identification of the bodies in the mass grave," he said. "The mass graves area has been identified by VAT 69 [special police force] and PGA [general police force] as being used for human trafficking activities of refugees."

Zahid said at least 17 sites had been uncovered but did not say how many bodies. He did, however, say that each of them contained the remains of between one and four people.

The discovery of the graves follows a similar find earlier this month by Thai police, who unearthed dozens of bodies in similar camps on their side of the border.

The Associated Press notes: "Most of those who have fallen victim to the trafficking networks are refugees and impoverished migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, part of a wave of people who have fled their homelands to reach countries like Malaysia, where they hope to find work or live free from persecution."

Zahid was quoted by AP as saying the sites "have been there for quite some time ... We are still investigating, but I suspect they have been operating for at least five years."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.