BEING FRANK: Will we get the whole truth?

As published in Malay Mail today


Being Frank
By Frankie D'Cruz

THE discovery of mass graves and abandoned migrant ‘prison’ camps in Perlis is the most brutal chapter in the flight of the oppressed to Malaysia. 
No one knows how they died but it points to the barbarism of people smugglers and inaction by Asean nations to counter trafficking.
It pains our hearts that there were many horror jungle camps that held migrants who had fled persecution in Myanmar and Bangladesh. 
We will never know if those in the graves were victims of mass slaughter by traffickers, starvation or illness, but it certainly is man’s inhumanity to man. 
This is more proof that our region has plummeted to new depths of monstrosity.
How did we allow the mass killings to happen on our soil? It reeks of incompetence and Myanmar, Bangladesh and Malaysia must get the answers. 
We are told the authorities were aware of smugglers’ camps five years ago, but how could it be that these were only discovered now? 
The revelation brings to focus Malaysia’s record in fighting a scourge that activists claim is run by criminal gangs, likely in cahoots with the authorities.
We know how easy it is to enter our country through the Malaysia-Thailand border. The red flag has been raised on corrupt officers but clearly intelligence on the existence of such detention camps has been sorely lacking.
No country has been able to convincingly demonstrate the scale of the problem, let alone come up with clear ways of how to address it.
Over the past year, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) learnt from hundreds of Rohingya survivors about horrific abuse and deprivation by smugglers on boats in the Bay of Bengal and in camps along the Thailand-Malaysia border. 
Some said they saw people dying from beatings and lack of food. These findings had been shared with governments to push urgent action. Nothing happened.
Smuggling is a problem that requires coordinated efforts by countries in the region, including countries of origin, transit and destination.
Law enforcement measures must be accompanied by efforts to reduce the need for migrants and refugees to turn to smugglers in the first place, including by addressing the root causes driving people to undertake these dangerous journeys.
With Malaysia’s tiniest state Perlis becoming a mass grave, the migrant crisis has deepened and shaken politicians who are struggling to understand and respond collectively to the problem.
The catastrophe has emerged as both a failure of policy and of humanitarian values among Asean nations.
In many human trafficking cases there’s no resolution because there’s no cooperation, despite agreements being in place. 
It doesn’t look like action will come soon, but it looks like we will continue to deal with fleeing migrants.

FRANKIE is editor emeritus of  Malay Mail. He can be reached at frankie@mmail.com.my or on Twitter @dcruzfrankie

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